The Titans wrapped up their draft Saturday by trading with Washington to move up eight spots and picking Mettenberger at No. 178 overall in the sixth round.
“We feel good about Jake,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “That doesn’t change our opinion on Jake. We are just trying to make our football team better.”
Mettenberger was their sixth and final pick with players split evenly between offense and defense. He joins left tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan, the No. 11 selection overall, and running back Bishop Sankey of Washington.
The Titans used their first three picks Saturday on defense: tackle DaQuan Jones of Penn State at No. 112 and defensive back Marqueston Huff of Wyoming at No. 122 in the fourth round and inside linebacker Avery Williamson of Kentucky at 151 overall in the fifth.
Drafting a quarterback is a move the Titans considered sooner. They liked Mettenberger after quarterbacks coach John McNulty worked him out just over a week ago, and general manager Ruston Webster was at Mettenberger’s pro day. With nine other quarterbacks already taken, the Titans made their move with other teams trying to trade up for Mettenberger.
“At that point, we felt like it was a low risk-high reward type of situation,” Whisenhunt said.
Locker has missed 14 of 32 starts since being named the team’s top quarterback, and he was out nine games last season as Tennessee went 7-9 costing Mike Munchak his coaching job. Whisenhunt and Webster repeatedly have endorsed Locker as their starting quarterback even as he heals from surgery on his right foot.
Yet the Titans did not pick up Locker’s fifth-year option to avoid being on the hook for approximately $14 million in 2015 in case of injury.
Locker was the eighth overall pick in 2011 and has for 3,974 yards with 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his 18 starts. He had eight TDs with four TDs in only seven games in 2013. Tennessee swapped Locker’s backups cutting Ryan Fitzpatrick for Charlie Whitehurst who is helping teach Whisenhunt’s offense now.
An eight-year veteran, Whitehurst hasn’t thrown a pass since 2011 when in Seattle. Tyler Wilson, signed in late December, also is on the roster.
Mettenberger gives the Titans a big, strong-armed quarterback at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds. Mettenberger threw for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns with only eight interceptions last season. He tore his left ACL in the regular season finale in November and had surgery in January.
Asked about not being drafted until the sixth round, he called this a great opportunity. He declined to comment on a report he had a positive test at the combine.
“The jury is still out on me,” Mettenberger said. “I am going to do everything I can to prove everyone wrong that I am a great player and I am a great person. More importantly that I am a great person. I really want to show that to everyone.”
Mettenberger wound up being the biggest name drafted by the Titans, finally exciting fans on social media. They certainly need some buzz to lure fans back into the stands in Nashville not having had a winning season or a playoff berth in five years.
He started at Georgia where he redshirted as a freshman and was competing with Aaron Murray before being dismissed in spring 2010 after allegedly groping a woman in a bar during spring break. Mettenberger went to junior college before transferring to LSU in 2011, and he improved greatly in 2013 with former NFL coach Cam Cameron as his offensive coordinator.
Titans draft first RB
The Tennessee Titans finally ended the record wait for the first running back selected in the NFL draft grabbing Bishop Sankey of Washington with the 54th pick overall.
How well they do in place of Chris Johnson remains to be seen.
It’s the latest in any draft for the first running back to be taken, and the Titans made the move Friday night after releasing Johnson in April after six seasons l to avoid paying him $8 million. They already had Shonn Greene and signed Dexter McCluster in March, but Sankey brings versatility and the ability to play all three downs in new coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.
“I think this guy is solid and will handle that really well and just completely different as a back,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “Their skill set is not the same, so when you see them on the field, it’s not going to look anything like Chris and he’ll make his own mark.”
Tennessee originally was slotted to draft at No. 42 overall but traded with Philadelphia sliding down 12 spots swapping positions. The Titans also picked up the Eagles’ fourth-round pick, giving them seven in this draft and helping make up for the third round pick traded last year to draft receiver Justin Hunter.
The Titans’ move for Sankey started a run on the position, and Sankey said it felt awesome being the first running back drafted. He said he had a feeling Tennessee would take him after being the only team to fly him in for a visit.
Asked about Johnson, Sankey called the man called CJ2K a tough act to follow.
“We’ll see,” Sankey said. “Only time will tell. No one really knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s up to us to prepare the day for whatever situation we’re put in. that’s something that I’m going to do. Just worry about myself and control that I can control and be the best football player that I can be.”
The 5-foot-9, 203-pound Sankey did most of his work in his past two seasons at Washington with 3,309 of his 3,496 yards rushing coming in that time. He scored 37 touchdowns and averaged 5.43 yards per carry overall. His two-year total is the best back-to-back total at Washington since Napoleon Kaufman had 2,689 yards in 1993 and 1994.
“Really what he brings to us is a great deal of versatility, vision, feet, ability to catch the football, which is what we’re looking for,” Webster said. “The important thing for us in picking one of these backs was to get the right fit for coach’s offense and versatility, the ability to play on three downs was really one of the main criteria.”
The Titans now have used their top two selections on offense after selecting left tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan at No. 11 overall, and they went into this draft looking for a running back after releasing Johnson in April. Johnson ranked second for most yards rushing in the NFL during his six seasons with 7,965 yards, and he left as the franchise’s third-leading all-time rusher. He also never missed a game due to injury.
Scout Marv Sunderland praised Sankey for not missing practices, being a leader and his ability to run both inside the tackles and break long runs. Sankey had a long run of at least 60 yards in each of his last two seasons. But Sankey will be limited this offseason to the Titans’ rookie minicamp this offseason because his class will not be wrapped up at Washington.
Whisenhunt said Sankey will be able to keep up with his team-issued iPad that the running back can take with him, which also will allow the rookie to access video from practices.
“So hopefully that’ll help,” Whisenhunt said.
Notes: The Titans plan to sign 14 undrafted free agents, including Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews. They also were talking to a few kickers. Only Maikon Bonani is on the roster after they cut veteran Rob Bironas in March.