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Tennessee football: Pros and Cons of Titans potentially drafting Hendon Hooker

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Less than a week ago, rumors were swirling that the Tennessee Titans wanted to trade up to draft Anthony Richardson. Now, Tennessee football quarterback Hendon Hooker is shooting up numerous NFL Draft boards, and rumors are the Titans are interested in him. What type of fit would he be in Nashville? Here are the pros and cons of Hendon Hooker to Tennessee.

Pro #1: Deep-ball accuracy

Ever since they decided to build their offense around Derrick Henry, the Titans’ offense has been pretty simple. It runs through him and the interior offensive line. The quarterback’s job is to be able to throw a perfect deep ball on play-actions just as the defense is caught off-guard. There aren’t many reads to make.

Nobody fits that better than Hendon Hooker. He made very few reads in Josh Heupel’s system with Tennessee football, and he threw lots of deep balls. His accuracy on those throws is incredible and would make the Titans’ power rushing attack an even bigger threat.

Con #1: Titans’ OL

This whole power run game with a beautiful deep ball by the quarterback was predicated on an elite interior offensive line. The Titans did that behind Ben Jones, Roger Saffold III, Nate Davis and Taylor Lewan. None of those players are on the team anymore.

Down the stretch of this past season, the offensive line was a shell of what it was the previous year, when it got the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Now, there are so many questions surrounding the unit that any quarterback’s career could potentially be sabotaged if they go there.

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Pro #2: Hendon Hooker can take a hit while throwing

A huge reason Ryan Tannehill beat out Marcus Mariota to become the Titans’ starter in 2019 was the fact that he could make a throw while being hit, something Mariota couldn’t do. Hooker has the same quality. He showed multiple times last year he could make an accurate pass while being hit.

This ties into the deep-ball accuracy part of the system. By relying so heavily on play-action and for plays to develop, the Titans quarterbacks have to be willing to get hit while delivering an accurate ball downfield. Few have both traits in this year’s draft, but Hooker does.

Con #2: Injury issues

Between a bad offensive line and a need to be willing to get hit in the Titans’ system, Hendon Hooker is a sitting duck when it comes to injuries. The most notable example of that is his torn ACL on a non-contact play that occurred last year to end his season.

However, Hooker also got hurt against the Florida Gators, and in 2021, he missed the last drive against the Ole Miss Rebels due to injury. Although the details are shady, he also missed time with the Virginia Tech Hokies due to injury. All of this is a concern for a franchise that needs a quarterback to be willing to take a hit.

Pro #3: Mobility

Beyond being able to deliver an accurate deep ball and take a hit while throwing it, the Titans’ system requires a quarterback to have a certain level of mobility. They have used Ryan Tannehill on multiple designed quarterback running plays, and as a former wide receiver, he executed that well.

Hooker is more mobile than Tannehill. A reason for Joshua Dobbs’ struggles with the Titans is the lack of arm strength. He kept them in that last game with his mobility, though. Hooker has the arm strength and that same mobility, so he would be a great fit.

Con #3: Titans’ system could soon change

Mobility, arm strength and the ability to take a hit are crucial in this system for the Titans. However, there’s a huge caveat to all of this. The Titans’ system may change within a year. As we already mentioned, they have basically replaced their entire offensive line from the past four years.

Beyond that, they have a new offensive coordinator, and Derrick Henry is on the last year of his contract. With a new general manager in Ran Carthon, they could be looking to go in a different direction in a year. Given the questions surrounding Hooker’s lack of successful completions on a second read, this could be a big issue.

Pro #4: Intangibles

Hooker very seldom threw to anybody beyond his first read with Tennessee football, and that leads to the question of whether or not he was a product of Josh Heupel’s system or as good as his stats indicate. Even if he’s a product of Heupel’s system, though, he can adapt.

Everybody outside of Justin Fuente who has been around Hooker has nothing but positive things to say about him. There’s a reason Virginia Tech fans sided with him over Fuente. Hooker is smart, he’s clutch, he’s mentally tough, he’s a great guy, and he’s a leader. As a result, even if the system changes, even if he struggles with second reads, he’s mentally able to overcome that.

Con #4: Questionable offensive coaching for Titans

Todd Downing is the worst offensive coordinator the NFL ever saw. He single-handedly cost the Titans their best shot at the Super Bowl two seasons ago, and things got significantly worse this year with him. Although he’s gone, things aren’t much better, and it’s worth noting all of this failure was under Mike Vrabel, who was still there.

Tim Kelly replaces Downing. He joined the team in 2022 as their passing game coordinator, just as their offense got bad enough for them to miss the playoffs for the first time in four years. Before that, he was offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans as they were horrible. Simply put, the future isn’t bright with Kelly, and Hooker could see his career sabotaged by joining Kelly.

Pro #5: Ryan Tannehill’s contract

Given how few second reads he made with Tennessee football, it’s pretty clear Hooker needs at least a year to develop. However, since he’s 25 years old already, he can’t afford to sit for too long before he showcases his abilities. The Titans are a perfect situation for that.

Tannehill is entering the final year of his contract. After this year, the Titans could turn to Hooker, who will have had a year to develop, and they could have him on a rookie scale while they add even more talent around him. It’s the perfect situation, one the Kansas City Chiefs did with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. Could that work out here?

Con #5: Poor track record for Titans at QB

There’s no denying the Titans have whiffed on quarterbacks ever since Steve McNair. Vince Young was a disaster, even if his failures were half on Jeff Fisher. After that, though, they wagered their future on Jake Locker, to the point that they didn’t even go all out to land Peyton Manning when they had a shot.

Mariota was the experiment after Locker, and the Titans didn’t hit their recent stride until they benched him. Simply put, they’ve been unable to find a quarterback, but they’ve been committed to mediocrity in the process. This shouldn’t affect Hooker, but could the culture of failure be a problem? That’s worth paying attention to.

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