Titans' Locker OK with watching and learning for now

There is no right way to groom a young quarterback. Peyton Manning played right away and is a surefire Hall of Famer. Ryan Leaf started early and headlines a big list of first-round quarterback busts.

On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre, and then exploded when finally given the chance to start after three years as a backup. But Akili Smith sat and watched for two years, and he didn't learn enough to even merit a second look in the league once the Bengals gave up on him.

But in an NFL where a quick return on investment is becoming increasingly the norm, four of the first five quarterbacks taken in the 2011 draft will be starters as of Sunday when Christian Ponder supplants Donovan McNabb in Minnesota.

In an off-season where a lockout wiped out valuable work time, and a college game increasingly dependent on the pro-unfriendly spread offense, Carolina's Cam Newton, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert, and now Ponder, will all be starting as rookies.

That fifth QB who is still waiting is Tennessee's Jake Locker, who was the second quarterback taken behind Newton, going eighth overall. While the others play, Locker insists he is happy with the situation he finds himself in - learning at the feet of veteran Matt Hasselbeck.

“I said going into the draft that I was going to make the most of whatever opportunity I was given, and I'm very thankful to have the opportunity that I have here. And I believe it's one that's gonna benefit me tremendously in the long run,” Locker told TitanInsider.com. “I'm not resentful that I didn't get a different situation. I'm happy to be here.”

It will take a few years to completely evaluate, but if Locker remains an understudy as a rookie, it will be worth watching his growth curve as quarterback compared to the other four in the future.

Follow me on Twitter @TitanInsider247 and @terrymc13

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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