Offseason Low Down: Titans Fantasy Preview
Titans Year in Review
2014 Pass Attempts Rank: 24th (513)
2014 Rush Attempts Rank: 29th (356)
2014 Total Offensive Plays Rank: 32nd (919)
2014 Yards Per Play Rank: 18th (5.3)
Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Marcus Mariota
RB: Bishop Sankey
WR: Kendall Wright
WR: Dorial Green-Beckham
WR: Harry Douglas
TE: Delanie Walker
LT: Taylor Lewan
LG: Andy Levitre
C: Brian Schwenke
RG: Chance Warmack
RT: Jeremiah Poutasi
Passing Game Outlook
2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota finished his three-year Oregon career as a 66.8-percent passer with a 105:14 TD-to-INT ratio. Mariota added 29 rushing touchdowns and is an elite athlete for the position, running 4.52 at the Combine with a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot-1 broad jump. Mariota took just five snaps from under center in 2014, however, and was rarely required to make throws into tight windows or with anticipation in the Oregon spread. He does have adequate arm strength and flashed poise on the few occasions he faced pocket pressure in college. By most accounts, Mariota was a revelation at spring practices, showing pinpoint ball placement and grasping the Titans’ offense quickly. With a sub-par supporting cast, Mariota’s immediate impact will in large part hinge on Ken Whisenhunt‘s ability to craft an offense that suits his rookie quarterback’s strengths while minimizing Mariota’s weaknesses. I’m interested in Mariota as an upside QB2, but have very little faith in Whisenhunt, whose won-loss record is 20-44 over his last four years as a head coach, and 3-25 over his last 28 games. While poor personnel does deserve much of the blame, Whisenhunt’s 2014 offense ranked 30th in scoring and 32nd in offensive plays.
A vertical weapon at Baylor, Kendall Wright has been typecast as a slot-receiver only by two NFL coaching staffs, likely because he is small (5’10/196) and not very fast (4.61). Perhaps Wright could be a Victor Cruz type or a poor man’s Antonio Brown on a better team, but the Titans are the NFL’s worst-run team. Wright clashed with Ken Whisenhunt over route running last season, but the two seem to have buried the hatchet, and Wright will return as Tennessee’s most-reliable receiver. 25 years old, Wright has finished 30th and 36th among fantasy wideouts the past two seasons. While the Titans’ dysfunction is a concern for all their skill-position players, Wright has value-pick potential this year. Marcus Mariota is likely to upgrade on Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst, while Wright is a safe bet to lead Tennessee in targets. Often lasting into the double-digit rounds of drafts, Wright is a low-cost and recommended WR4 pick.
No. 40 overall draft pick Dorial Green-Beckham signed with Missouri as the nation’s top high school recruit in 2012, posting a combined 87-1,278-17 receiving line as a true freshman and sophomore. He was kicked out of school in April of 2014 following domestic abuse allegations, and had two prior marijuana-related arrests. Green-Beckham spent last year redshirting at Oklahoma, where he never played but reportedly impressed Sooners coaches with his commitment on and off the practice field. “DGB” is 6-foot-5, 237 and runs like a deer (4.49). He flashed the ability to turn bubble screens into long gains at Mizzou, also dominating in red-zone situations. Green-Beckham missed much of the spring with a hamstring injury, but returned for minicamp and will be healthy for training camp. Green-Beckham’s primary competition for Tennessee’s X receiver job is Justin Hunter, who flopped in the role last season and was arrested on felony assault charges last week. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on Green-Beckham’s re-draft value, but have been gobbling him up recently in the 12th and 13th rounds of best-ball MFL10s.
Harry Douglas, Justin Hunter, and Hakeem Nicks are also in the mix for snaps in Tennessee’s wideout corps. Signed to a three-year, $11.25 million deal in March, Douglas is likeliest of the group to earn a role in sub-packages as a slot-Z receiver who can be used interchangeably with Kendall Wright. Turning 31 in September, Douglas is entering his eighth NFL season and has never finished as a top-30 fantasy wideout. He’s scored eight TDs on 419 career targets. 24-year-old Hunter is still worth monitoring because of his size-speed combination, but has all the symptoms of a chronic underachiever, and ultimately a bust. Although Nicks is only 27 years old, he has entered the stage of his career where he’ll be annually fighting for roster spots. His one-year, $1.4 million Titans contract contains just $100,000 guaranteed. Nicks’ burst and lateral movement were all but eliminated by a series of lower-leg injuries with the Giants.
Likened to Antonio Gates by Ken Whisenhunt last offseason, Delanie Walker took a big step forward in his second season as a full-time player. He showed legitimate seam-stretching ability en route to a top-eight finish among tight ends, ranking fourth at the position in yards (890) and leading the Titans in targets (103) and receptions (63). Walker also earned a top-three PFF run-blocking grade among tight ends. Walker is a complete tight end on a team otherwise short on proven pass-catching talent. New quarterback Marcus Mariota throws the ball best in the short to intermediate range, which is where Walker runs most of his routes. Walker won’t suddenly become a weekly difference maker, but he’s a fine low-end TE1 pick at his 11th-round ADP.
Running Game Outlook
Bishop Sankey was a polarizing figure coming out of Washington last year, and continues to polarize. While Sankey was a productive college back with terrific Combine measurables, his hesitant, tip-toeing running style translated poorly as a rookie, averaging 3.74 yards per carry behind the same line known-plodder Shonn Greene averaged 4.17. Sankey also graded out extremely poorly in pass protection per Pro Football Focus’ charts, ranking 53rd among 57 qualified backs. Sankey’s proponents point to running back success stories following inefficient rookie years (e.g. LaDainian Tomlinson) as well as Sankey’s top-ten PFF “Elusive Rating,” which attempts to account for a rusher’s success rate beyond his blocking. Sankey was a high draft pick and has a lot of opportunity, but I’m skeptical that the way he runs is viable for a true NFL lead back. Sankey did flash promise early last year in a change-up role, before averaging 3.48 yards per carry over his final 12 games. While Sankey may still develop into a useful committee piece, the fact that he exhibits no tangible strengths — only weaknesses and mediocrity — has me avoiding Sankey in fantasy drafts.
Fifth-round pick David Cobb will battle second-year UDFA Antonio Andrews for “big-back” carries in training camp. Cobb (5’11/229) was a bellcow at Minnesota, averaging 5.15 YPC on 562 college runs and scoring 20 TDs. With 4.73 speed, Cobb has drawn comparisons ranging from Shonn Greene to Stevan Ridley. Andrews (5’10/225) is another speed-deficient (4.76/4.82) grinder who gained 137 yards on 21 carries (6.52 YPC) last preseason. The Titans were willing to involve as many as four backs on game days in Ken Whisenhunt‘s first year. In what will likely be a low-volume, low-scoring offense, neither Cobb nor Andrews will be appealing in re-draft leagues unless one emerges as a clear-cut feature runner, which seems unlikely. Cobb has a lot of buzz in the fantasy community, but I think he’s being overdrafted at his ninth-round ADP. The In all likelihood, the Titans will be a bad team that uses an RBBC. No thanks.
Vegas Win Total
The Titans’ Vegas Win Total is 5.5 games, tied with the Raiders and Jaguars for lowest in the league. While Jacksonville and Houston appear beatable inside the AFC South, Tennessee’s non-division schedule is difficult, taking on the AFC East and NFC South plus Oakland and the Browns in Cleveland. I think GM Ruston Webster finally had a good draft this year, but his past failings have buried the franchise with a bottom two or three roster, and Ken Whisenhunt‘s sustained inability to field competitive teams is major cause for worry. It is conceivable that Marcus Mariota electrifies the offense, Dick LeBeau turns the defense into a competent unit, and the Titans surprise. I’ll be betting against those things happening, projecting Tennessee at 4-5 wins.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.