After tumbling out of the first round of the NFL draft, Will Levis found a home with the Tennessee Titans, who traded up Friday night to select the former Kentucky quarterback with the No. 33 overall pick.
After not taking a quarterback in Thursday’s first round, the Titans made an aggressive move for their potential quarterback of the future one night later by agreeing to a trade with the Arizona Cardinals, who acquired a second-round pick (No. 41 overall) and third-round pick (No. 72) in this year’s draft and a third-rounder in 2024.
“Last night was tough,” Levis said. “I knew that what was meant to be was going to happen. It’s one of those things where you feel like you’re going to handle yourself and be composed, but then the waterworks started flowing and just emotions got overwhelming.”
The Titans also received a third-round pick (No. 81) from the Cardinals to land Levis, who was widely projected to be selected in the first round Thursday but was still available ahead of Friday’s second round.
Levis, who left Kansas City, Missouri, to return home Friday, said he was “ecstatic” to get a call from the Titans, who had also hosted him for a pre-draft visit.
“I ended up where I was meant to be, and I’m just looking forward to competing and getting started,” he said.
Levis became the fourth quarterback selected in this year’s draft and joins Houston‘s C.J. Stroud (No. 2 overall pick) and Indianapolis‘ Anthony Richardson (No. 4) as rookie signal-callers in the AFC South.
“Those are my guys,” Levis said. “I was extremely happy to see them go where they did. As long as they’re not playing me, I wish them the best. [It’s] definitely going to be cool to have a lot of young quarterbacks in that division.”
Levis completed 65.4% of his passes last season at Kentucky for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The two-time captain finished his career with a 17-7 record as a starter, tying Terry Wilson for Kentucky’s second-most quarterback wins since 1993.
With veteran Ryan Tannehill expected to be the Titans’ starter this season, Levis will get the opportunity to spend a year in an understudy role. At age 35, Tannehill’s contract has two voidable years at a combined $9.2 million in cap charges after the 2023 season.
Barring any setbacks, Levis will take over as the starter in 2024 if the Titans void the remaining two years on Tannehill’s deal. In the meantime, Levis will compete with Tennessee’s 2022 third-round pick, Malik Willis, to be Tannehill’s backup under new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly.
“I just want to learn from them,” Levis said of Tannehill and Willis. “They already have a lot more experience and are going to be able to teach me a lot of things. I just want to be a great teammate to them. … I just want to make sure I do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Levis said his toe feels good after being a “pain in the foot” the second half of last season. He sat out Kentucky’s final game, a 21-0 loss to Iowa in the Music City Bowl.
“My feet is something that I feel like is one of the strengths of my game,” Levis said. “To not have that, it sucks. But I mean that’s the nature of this game.”
Levis said he’s had the toe examined by some of the top foot doctors in the country and added that his toe has been 100% since early February.
The Titans started their draft Thursday night by taking Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski at No. 11 overall as they continued rebuilding their offensive line.
This is the second straight draft the Titans have traded up and drafted a quarterback. Former general manager Jon Robinson, who was fired in December, traded up last year to take Willis out of Liberty at No. 86 overall.
Willis started three of the eight games he played, and he threw for 276 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns before being benched for Joshua Dobbs, who was signed Dec. 21 to help get Tennessee into the playoffs.
Tannehill passed for 2,536 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.