The NFL Draft is just a few days away, and without a doubt the most notable storyline is where Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will land. And depending on what happens with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, it could wind up being the pick that has the biggest impact on the Colts in 2015 - moreso than their own 29th overall pick and any of their other eight picks.
If the Titans were to draft Mariota, it would set them up in the long-term, but it likely wouldn't result in an immediate turnaround like drafting Andrew Luck did for the Colts in 2012. If Chip Kelly and the Eagles were able to move up to take the quarterback, the Titans would likely gain a nice haul of draft picks to be able to continue to build their team. But another possibility has become a central talking point over the past few weeks and it could have significant implications on the Colts and the rest of the AFC South. These talks place Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers as a potential trade target for the Titans, with the Chargers grabbing Mariota and the Titans landing Rivers.
Without a doubt, these are just rumors at the moment, but there are a lot of them. Clearly, something is up - the Chargers do like Mariota, and there are some questions regarding Rivers' future with the team. If you're not caught up on the issue, Bolts from the Blue's John Gennaro wrote a nice breakdown on Sunday that is worth a read. Simply put, Rivers doesn't want to play in Los Angeles (where the Chargers might really move to) and he's only under contract for one more year. The Chargers have also worked out Marcus Mariota and seem to really like him. The Titans, on the other hand, don't seem sold on Mariota despite needing a quarterback. That's where the trade rumors got started and they certainly haven't stopped since, and they make a lot of sense. It's impossible to know what will really happen, but at the very least, the trade rumors make sense.
So how does this impact the Colts? Let's say the Chargers and Titans do work out a trade to send Philip Rivers to Tennessee. That would mean that the Titans - who were arguably the worst team in the NFL a year ago - would be getting one of the league's top quarterbacks. He has thrown for over 4,000 yards in six of the last seven season and has thrown at least 30 touchdown passes in four of those seasons, and despite some injuries that he has suffered, he hasn't missed a game in the last nine seasons (before which he wasn't the starter). Interestingly, he had what was perhaps his best career season in 2013 while playing for offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Now, Whisenhunt is the head coach of the Titans and in need of a franchise quarterback - because, as with most head coaching jobs, Whisenhunt needs wins to stick around, and there's only so many you can get without a good quarterback.
Should Rivers come to the Titans, he would instantly make them competitive. I hesitate to say they would be a good team, and even being an average team would be a huge improvement, but Rivers is a top quarterback who can be a franchise player. There are only so many of those guys in the league, and even though Rivers is 33 years old, he likely could still give the Titans five or so years of good play at the game's most important position. The Titans are a team lacking a lot of talent, but getting a key starter at the most important position would be a huge step forward.
Regardless of what happens with the Titans and the second overall pick, the Colts will still be the clear-cut favorites to win the AFC South. But if Philip Rivers were to end up in the division, he would face the Colts twice a year and could cause them some issues.
We don't know who the Colts will get, nor do we know what the Titans will do with their second overall pick, but I think it's entirely possible that the pick that has the most impact to the Colts in 2015 could be that number two pick, because if the Titans grab Rivers, two pretty easy games on the schedule for Indy wouldn't be looking quite as easy anymore.