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Washington State’s Luke Falk plays waiting game, finally gets scooped up by Tennessee Titans with 199th pick

UPDATED: Sat., April 28, 2018, 7:42 p.m.

Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) rallies his team during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) rallies his team during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 11, 2017, at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The 2018 NFL Draft turned into a brutal waiting game for Luke Falk. Good thing the former walk-on knows plenty about being patient.

Falk’s name didn’t come up until almost 2 p.m. on Saturday, but in at least a few regards, the Washington State quarterback couldn’t have been happier about his draft position.

The Tennessee Titans gave Falk his NFL shot when they selected the Pac-12 record-holder with the 25th pick of the sixth round in Arlington, Texas. That’s significant for Falk because it’s the same spot Tom Brady was selected in the 2000 Draft. Falk, an avid fan of Brady, has gone to great lengths to follow the training regimen, nutritional tips and lifestyle habits of the New England Patriots quarterback bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Nashville, Tennessee, is also the home of Falk’s older sisters, Alexa and Natalee, who moved south to pursue careers in country music.

“I am not going to lie – it was a pretty grueling process,” Falk said in a Titans news release. “When I finally got the phone call and saw my name up on the TV, it was nothing but gratitude. I am so grateful.”

Falk heads to Tennessee to join – and potentially back up – a fellow Pac-12 record-setter, former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Falk, a native of Logan, Utah, smashed Mariota’s conference record for total offense, but couldn’t quite catch up to the Heisman Trophy winner’s 136 total career touchdowns. Falk finished with 123.

Falk and Mariota share the same agent, Chase Callahan of Rep 1 Sports.

The mobile and elusive Mariota enters his fourth season as Tennessee’s starter, but Falk, a pure passer, could challenge Blaine Gabbert for the Titans’ backup job. Gabbert signed a two-year deal with the club in March. Tyler Ferguson and Alex Tanney are the other quarterbacks on the Tennessee roster.

Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur set up a workout with Falk in Logan a few months ago, so Falk’s already had an early glimpse of the Titans playbook.

“I am so excited to be a Titan, and do whatever I can to help the team,” Falk said. “I am so happy I got picked by a great organization, a great staff. I am just so happy that I have an opportunity to go and compete and have a chance to help the team.”

Experts left Falk out of the top flight of draft-eligible quarterbacks – a group that included Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and UCLA’s Josh Rosen – but some of them pegged him as the next best passer available, or second to Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.

Instead, nine quarterbacks were chosen before the Titans took a chance on Falk, who fell below Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta and Western Kentucky’s Mike White.

Falk’s draft, not unlike his career at Washington State, was a “long and winding road” as described by ESPN’s Mel Kiper on the live broadcast from AT&T Stadium.

“You look at Luke Falk, 6-4, 215, he has the size, he can manage the pocket,” Kiper said. “He can make accurate throws. Arm strength is the issue with Luke Falk and he holds the ball too long and takes sacks. He won’t just throw the ball away. But he’s a cerebral kid, he’s got a professional approach. There’s a lot to work with there.”

Most projections had Falk going in the third round and the quarterback himself thought there was a chance he’d go in the late first or early second, telling ESPN’s Adam Schefter as much in a podcast early this week.

There could be a few explanations for Falk’s slide down the draft board.

Quarterbacks who’ve played in Mike Leach’s Air Raid system have a hard time adjusting to the NFL’s pro-style schemes and typically don’t have long pro careers. Falk’s predecessor at WSU, Connor Halliday, ranks sixth on the Pac-12 career passing yards leaderboard but went undrafted and didn’t make it out of Washington Redskins camp after signing a free-agent deal.

Falk also wore a hard cast on his non-throwing wrist most of his senior season after being injured in a game against Boise State. He had surgery in December and wasn’t all that accurate during the throwing portion of the NFL Combine, though he fared much better at Utah State’s Pro Day in his hometown of Logan.

He doesn’t boast the arm power that many of the QBs drafted before him possess, but as Kiper notes, that’s something he can develop once he arrives in Tennessee.

“Can you improve arm strength? Yes he can,” Kiper said. “I think he’s a guy, good mechanics, he understands the game and with Luke Falk, I think this is a really nice pick at this point of the draft.”

Tennessee general manager Jon Robinson said Falk “was kind of sticking out at the top of our board.” He continued, “To add a guy like him who has had a really productive college career, and with his work ethic and his mindset at the position, a guy to work with, come in here and compete for the 90-man roster for a spot. I am really excited to add Luke.”

Falk’s credentials are well-known to WSU fans. He set Pac-12 and WSU career records for passing yards (14,486), passing touchdowns (119), total offense (14,086), plays (2,306), completions (1,404), attempts (2,055) and 300-yard games (30). Ask Falk and he’ll say he’s most proud of becoming the winningest QB in school history, with 27 career victories.