National Football League
Titans post-draft roster analysis: Will Levis makes Malik Willis the odd man out
National Football League

Titans post-draft roster analysis: Will Levis makes Malik Willis the odd man out

Published May. 9, 2023 1:18 p.m. ET

The Titans produced one of the league's worst offenses in 2022, and that was a big reason they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018. 

In response, they're bringing in an all-offensive 2023 draft class: offensive lineman Peter Skoronski (first round), quarterback Will Levis (second round), running back Tyjae Spears (third round), tight end Josh Whyle (fifth round), offensive lineman Jaelyn Duncan (sixth round) and receiver Colton Dowell (seventh round).  

How does the group impact Tennessee's depth chart for the upcoming season? And what does it mean for the team's hopes of staying competitive in 2023? 

A breakdown: 


Quarterbacks (2): Ryan Tannehill, Will Levis

For now, Tannehill is the starting QB. But the Titans traded up eight spots to take Levis with the second pick of the second round, a clear indication that they see him as their potential quarterback of the future. 

There's a world where Tennessee rides into 2023 with Tannehill as QB1, and if the season starts rough, the team hands the keys to Levis. There's another world where the Titans, pleased with Levis' progress, look to expedite that process, looking to trade Tannehill before September. A quarterback injury with another team this spring or summer would increase Tannehill's value. 

Malik Willis, a third-round pick last year, is the odd man out as long as Tannehill is on the roster. Levis is going to be on the team, and the Titans don't typically keep three quarterbacks on the 53. 

Running backs (4): Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Hassan Haskins, Julius Chestnut

The Titans have invested fourth- and third-round picks on running backs in back-to-back years (Haskins, Spears), a sign they're starting to plan for life after Henry, who's 29 and entering the last year of his contract. But as long as Henry is on the roster, he figures to be the engine of Tennessee's offense. Last season, he had a league-leading 349 carries for 1,538 yards and 13 touchdowns, plus career-highs across the board as a pass catcher: 33 catches for 398 yards. 

Wide receivers (7): Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Chris Moore, Racey McMath, Colton Dowell, Mason Kinsey 

On paper, this is one of the worst wide receiver rooms in the NFL. Moore (free agency) and Dowell (rookie) might add quality depth, but they're not needle movers. For this group to be respectable, Burks must stay healthy (he played just 11 games as a rookie) and become a true No. 1 receiver. Philips, a training camp and preseason star last year as a fifth-round rookie, also needs to have a big season. 

Tight ends (4): Chig Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco, Kevin Rader

Okonkwo is the Titans' best returning pass catcher from a year ago, now the team's undisputed top tight end. Similar to Burks, there's a lot of pressure on the former Maryland standout to become a top-notch player at his position to keep the passing game respectable. Tennessee heavily utilizes multiple tight end sets, so Whyle and Wesco should have significant roles as well. 

Offensive line (10): Andre Dillard, Peter Skoronski, Aaron Brewer, Daniel Brunskill, Nicholas Petit-Frere, Dillon Radunz, Jaelyn Duncan, Corey Levin, Jamarco Jones, Jordan Roos 

The Titans' revamped offensive line is younger and more athletic, dotted with new faces — Dillard and Brunskill from free agency, Skoronski and Duncan through the draft. But getting the unit to play as one could take time. Tennessee will have three new starters up front, and one of the returning ones — Brewer — is playing a different position, moving from left guard to center. 

Peter Skoronski on his football journey

Former Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski, the Titans' first-round pick, sits down with FOX Sports’ Geoff Schwartz to discuss his path to the NFL.

Defensive line/outside linebackers (7): Jeffery Simmons, Teair Tart, Denico Autry, Naquan Jones, Sam Okuayinonu, Jayden Peevy, Curtis Brooks, Harold Landry III, Arden Key, Rashad Weaver 

The Titans should still have one of the league's top defensive lines. The hope is that Landry, Tennessee's sack leader from 2019-21 who missed the entire 2022 season with a torn ACL, returns to form for 2023. Key is a slightly younger, more athletic version of DeMarcus Walker, who had a career-high seven sacks in his lone season with the Titans. 

Inside linebackers (5): Azeez Al-Shaair, Monty Rice, Luke Gifford, Chance Campbell, Ben Niemann, Jack Gibbens

David Long Jr., who signed with the Dolphins in free agency, was the emotional leader of the Titans defense. He won't be easy to replace. But Shaair could blossom as his replacement. He had been overshadowed for years in San Francisco playing alongside All-Pro Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. It's also time for Rice, a 2021 third-rounder, to step up as a starter. 

Defensive backs (8): Kevin Byard, Amani Hooker, Kristian Fulton, Roger McCreary, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Caleb Farley, Elijah Molden, Josh Thompson 

Byard and Hooker are still one of the league's best safety tandems, but there's intrigue at cornerback. Murphy-Bunting, a free-agent acquisition, bolsters the experience at the spot, though it's unclear whether he or McCreary will start outside. 

Health will go a long way to determining how good this group can actually be. Fulton and Molden missed six and 15 games last season, respectively. Farley, a 2021 first-round pick, hasn't proven that he can stay on the field. 

Special teams (3): Caleb Shudak (PK), Ryan Stonehouse (P), Morgan Cox (LS), Hassan Haskins (KR), Julius Chestnut (KR), Kyle Philips (PR), Mason Kinsey (PR)

Look for the Titans to bring in competition for Shudak. He was in a tight training camp battle with veteran Randy Bullock last season but landed on the PUP list in the summer and appeared in only one game in 2022. Kinsey, who has appeared in three games for the Titans since 2021, makes the roster as a punt return option. 

Big picture 

The Titans still have a strong defense, they still have Henry and their offensive line is younger and more athletic, which could pay dividends for the run game and pass protection. All of that is encouraging. But with Tennessee's nonchalance toward the receiver position this offseason, it's hard to believe its 2023 offense will be much better than the one last year, which ranked fifth-worst in the NFL in scoring (17 points per game). This is a team that looks like it took a step backward in closing the gap with the reigning AFC South champion Jaguars

The Titans are somewhere between a rebuild and remaining competitive in the playoff hunt at the same time, with young players who need to play mixed with core veterans still in the fold (Henry, Tannehill, safety Kevin Byard, etc.). How the team fares at the start of 2023 could determine how quickly Tennessee looks to get Levis on the field. 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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