The Tennessee Titans drafted Jake Locker No. 8 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, ahead of players who started as rookies such as Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton, yet he has managed to fly completely under the radar over the last year.
Matt Hasselbeck has been firmly entrenched as the Titans' staring quarterback, leaving Locker to make do with repetitions with the second team offense.
But Locker isn't going to be kept quiet much longer. In fact, he's already splitting first team reps with Hasselbeck this year.
Starting in the preseason of his rookie year, Locker has looked impressive in the limited game action he has received. Locker finished the season with a 99.4 passer rating, four touchdowns and not a single interception.
His talent is evident. He has a strong arm, quick feet and play-making ability — all traits Hasselbeck lacks at this point in his career.
Hasselbeck may have a better grasp on Tennessee's offense, and his awareness and ability to break down coverage is better than Locker's. But his physical shortcomings are stunting the growth of the Titans offense.
This offense could be quite dangerous in a few years. First-round pick Kendall Wright joins Kenny Britt at wide receiver to give Tennessee a pair of formidable options at the position. Throw former 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson into the fold, and the Titans have explosive play-makers to turn to all over the field.
But the offense can't reach its true ceiling until the players form chemistry with one another. Hasselbeck is standing in the way of that.
Locker's first stint as an NFL starter won't be without bumps in the road, but those bumps are going to be there regardless of whether Locker starts this year or next. His talent is undeniable. He showed the ability to take the Titans to a different level offensively in his brief spurts of playing time last season. The Titans believed in him enough to make him the No. 8 pick overall last April. Why delay the inevitable? Let the kid play.
Tennessee may have a chance at the playoffs this season, and maybe Hasselbeck is a safer option at quarterback. But Hasselbeck is not going to help the Titans win a Super Bowl. Locker might.
Locker has learned all he can from the veteran. His next step is on the football field as a starting quarterback.
The competition between Locker and Hasselbeck will continue throughout training camp, but if Locker continues to perform like he has, the Titans won't have any choice but to start the youngster.