Will Levis’ first significant action this weekend ignited the dormant pilot light underneath the Tennessee Titans offense, throwing for 238 yards, four touchdowns, and just as importantly, no picks. Sure, his No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins got away with an offensive pass interference on the opening score, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pleasantly surprised. Levis’ stock dropped following a disappointing year as a fifth-year senior, but his performance Sunday means hand size as the new pseudo-scientific football evaluation metric.
Six months ago, Levis was collecting dust in the green room waiting for his name to be called in the first round. Reddit misinformation before the draft had Levis being selected first overall by the Carolina Panthers ahead of CJ Stroud and Bryce Young. That obviously didn’t happen. Nor was he taken second overall by Houston.
Levis’ freefall continued into the second day when Titans GM Ran Carthon traded up to the first pick in the second round and tossed him into the Titans quarterback free-for-all with Ryan Tannehill and Malik Wilis. The country watching the worst moments for quarterbacks in slow motion has a tendency to produce battle-tested quarterbacks. Those seconds must stretch into minutes and hours must feel like days. By the time it was over for Levis, his sisters, and girlfriend were part of the pop culture zeitgeist and mentally he was 30.
The placebo of a long draft green room stay is analogous to staying at a Holiday Inn which imbues quarterbacks with a little extra energy to thrive. If Levis can prove Sunday was more than a fluke, he joins an illustrious group of quarterbacks who showed up to the draft clad in their finest threads, and wound up stuck in limbo as the picks passed them by.
Staying in the green room is a powerful predictor of future success. A decade ago, Geno Smith stuck around long enough to read A Dance with Dragons. Smith’s numbers in the opening month of his final season propelled him to the forefront of the Heisman race. However, his stock plummeted amid a closer examination of the proportion of bubble screens and short throws he completed against soft competition in West Virginia’s Air Raid attack as well as concerns over his tiny hands. After a rocky start to his career with the Giants and Jets, Smith has rebounded magnificently in Seattle.
Before he became a quack, Aaron Rodgers was the symbol of the Draft Day stumble. In 2005, San Francisco spent the draft evaluation period deciding between Rodgers and Alex Smith as their No.1 overall pick. However, after Alex Smith’s name was called, Rodgers sank like a rock, not hitting the bottom until Green Bay scooped him up at 24th. Smith had an OK career, but the Niners chose poorly while Rodgers changed the quarterback position.
In 2019, Lamar Jackson’s fall left was equally painful to watch. The former Heisman Trophy winner had been one of the most electrifying dual-threat passers in college football, but there were concerns over his ability to function in a pro-style offense. Even the Ravens drafted a 24-year-old blocking tight end ahead of their future MVP.
Brady Quinn and Johnny Manziel are the only two quarterbacks who endured extended stays in the draft green room and didn’t pan out, but those were picks made by the Cleveland Browns, which counteracts the Green Room Effect. Trust me on this, the science is valid. Next time you see a highly touted quarterback attend the draft believing he’d get to hug Roger Goodell only for him to tumble into the second round of the draft, you can probably bank on them proving everyone wrong eventually.
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