|By Rob Warner, Wednesday, August 21, 2013|
Jake Locker enters his 3rd NFL season in a make or break year as the former first round pick has yet to impress (just 14 TDs and 11 INTs in 16 games). Matt Hasselbeck is now in Indianapolis backing up Andrew Luck and former Bills starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was signed by the Titans as an insurance policy in case Locker can't take the next step. The Titan offense averaged just 21 PPG in 2012, but a reinforced interior O-line could lead to improved production provided CJ2K can return to his 2009 form (topped 2000 yards). The Titans spent heavily on former Buffalo LG Andy Levitre and used a top-ten pick on Alabama RG Chance Warmack. Levitre is undersized and not considered to be a great run blocker and Warmack will likely face growing pains, so the immediate impact is to be determined. The Titans' passing offense ranked 21st in the NFL last season as Kenny Britt floundered, but rookie Kendall Wright showed flashes and will be joined by 2013 2nd round pick Justin Hunter to form one of the more intriguing WR corps for dynasty leaguers. The WRs will be relied on much more this season as TE Jared Cook followed the free agent money to St. Louis. Former 49er Delanie Walker is penciled in atop the Titan TE depth chart, but he's a significant decline in the receiving department from Cook.
QB Jake Locker - Gamble (high risk)
UPDATE (10/22): Locker missed two games (weeks five and six) with a hip injury be returned under center for the seven loss to San Francisco passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Through five games, Locker is averaging just 209 YPG with eight touchdowns and only one interception. He's added 18 carries for 127 yards and could make for decent bye week filler in week 10 (vs Jacksonville) and week 14 (vs Denver).
PROFILE: The 8th overall pick of the 2011 draft has yet to justify his draft slot and could find himself in a camp battle with former Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Locker suffered shoulder injuries that limited him to 11 games in 2012 and he topped 20 fantasy points just once. An improved offensive line will likely lead to a greater focus on the run as the Titans would be wise to utilize Locker as more of a game manager (had just four games with 35+ pass attempts in 2012). Locker does possess moderate dual threat ability, as he finished with 40 carries for 291 yards (27 YPG) last season. The addition of rookie WR Justin Hunter paired with Kendall Wright and knucklehead Kenny Britt form a group of solid weapons, but Locker will need to overcome accuracy questions and stay healthy in order to be considered anything more than a low end QB2 in his 3rd NFL season.Injury Status: Injured Reserve
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - Quality Backup
The Harvard alum signed a 2-year contract with the Titans to serve as the backup / insurance for oft injured starter Jake Locker (recovering from shoulder surgery). Fitzpatrick started all 16 games for the Bills in 2012 and completed 61% of his passes for 3,400 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. His limited arm strength and questionable decision making would be a downgrade for the Titan WRs if he ends up under center this season. With Locker's injury history, Fitzpatrick remains one of the better backups to stash late in drafts as he could very well see a handful of starts this season.
RB Chris Johnson - Solid/Safe Pick
UPDATE (10/22): Johnson is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and has yet to score a rushing touchdown through seven games. On the plus side, in the week 7 loss to San Francisco CJ scored a long distance receiving TD for the second straight week and is averaging 25 yards per game through the air. Despite the pedestrian production, CJ remains a solid buy low candidate with a favorable schedule on the horizon including two matchups with Jacksonville (weeks 10 and 16).
PROFILE: An improved interior offensive line with veteran Andy Levitre and first-round pick Chase Warmack could enable CJ2K to flirt with RB1 numbers as he enters his 6th NFL season, but the presence of potential goal line vulture Shonn Greene is concerning. CJ has topped 1,400 total yards in each of his five NFL seasons, but his inconsistency has been frustrating for fantasy owners. His value in a PPR league is elevated when you consider he has averaged 46 catches per season during his career. Targeting CJ in rounds 2-3 as a high end RB2 is the ideal scenario (he's currently being selected as the #14 fantasy RB according to ADP data). Johnson could produce lower end RB1 numbers this season in an offense that should be more explosive provided Jake Locker can take the next step and force defenses to respect the passing game.
RB Shonn Greene - Quality Backup
UPDATE (10/22): Greene missed four games following a knee scope and has just five carries for 20 yards on the season. He's expected to return to goal line vulture duties when the Titans return from the week eight bye --- Jackie Battle will likely move back to third on the depth chart.
PROFILE: The former Jet signed a 3-year $10 million contract to serve as CJ's backup, but word out of Titan camp is that Greene will also see a large amount of the red zone looks (which could keep him on the fantasy radar, despite a less than impressive 4.0 YPC average over the past two seasons, as the feature back for the Jets). The Iowa alum has proven to be nothing more than a plodder during his first four seasons, but has been very reliable (missed just 3 games to date). It is worth noting that in short yardage situations (less than 2 yards to go) Greene was below average in 2012 as he carried 33 times for 85 yards (2.57 YPC - NFL average was 3.1YPC); on the plus side, he scored seven touchdowns. It remains to be seen how much work Greene will see, but he is worth stashing (especially in leagues that are more reliant on TD-scoring, as head coach Mike Munchak has named Greene their goal line back for now).
WR Kenny Britt - Solid/Safe Pick
UPDATE (10/22): With the trade deadline approaching on October 29th, Britt's name has been mentioned often has he's fallen out of favor with the Titans. The soon to be free agent had just eight catches for 67 yards on the season and needs a change of scenery to have any fantasy relevance.
PROFILE: The oft injured / off the field nightmare is entering the final year of his contract and will need to prove his health / maturity in order to remain in Tennessee. There is no doubting Britt's upside, but he has yet to top 800 yards in any of his first four seasons in the NFL, while missing 19 games due to injury / suspension. Early word from camp is that Britt's knees are close to 100% and if he can match his career highs in 45 catches (2012), 775 yards (2010) and nine touchdowns (2010), Britt could justify a big pay day when he hits free agency after the season. Britt is best drafted as WR3, but has the potential to put up borderline WR1 numbers if Jake Locker improves his accuracy.Injury Status: Out - None
WR Kendall Wright - Bye Week Fill-in
UPDATE (10/22): Wright has emerged as a solid PPR option in the first half of the season as he's hauled in 40 passes for 433 yards (62 yards per game) but has just one touchdown limiting and remains a mediocre WR3 option in standard scoring leagues as the #1 WR in the Titans run heavy offense.
PROFILE: The 20th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Baylor showed flashes of his potential during his rookie season. The Titan passing game floundered last season, finishing 22nd in the league on the shoulders of over the hill Matt Hasselbeck. Wright led the team in receptions (64), but his yardage (626) and touchdowns (4) were far from starting fantasy caliber. At just 5'10, 195, Wright will continue to serve as a possession WR that will see the bulk of his targets on slants, making him a better option in PPR leagues. The drafting of Justin Hunter and addition of free agent Kevin Walter could also cut into Wright's workload as he enters his sophomore season. Draft him as a WR4 with upside (especially in dynasty leagues).
WR Nate Washington - Bye Week Fill-in
UPDATE (10/22): Washington's fantasy relevance has been heavily dependent on the occasional big play. With Locker under center, Washington topped 100 yards receiving in weeks three and four. He had just four catches for 45 yards with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center so his fantasy prospects are looking much better now that Locker has returned to the lineup. On the season, Washington is averaging 63 yards per game and has scored two touchdowns. His PPR value is very limited as he has just 26 catches on the season but his ability to hit the big play should Washington a solid lower end WR3 / bye week filler in standard leagues.
PROFILE: Washington followed up his career year in 2011 (74 catches for 1,023 yards - only 1000 yard season of his career) by regressing back to his mediocre self as he finished last season with 46 catches for 746 yards and 4 TDs. The soon to be 30 year old WR has two years and $9 million remaining on his contract, which has led some to suspect that a potential release or trade is possible. Washington is too far down the depth chart to be fantasy relevant, especially on a Titan offense that is expected to focus more on the run game after the investments to the offensive line.
WR Kevin Walter - Deep-league Only
UPDATE (8/13): Walter is likely to miss all of training camp following July back surgery to repair a disc. His inability to play in preseason games will limit his chances of making the final roster in a crowded Titan WR corps.
After spending seven underwhelming seasons in Houston, the 32 year old possession WR signed a 1-year contract with the Titans. The Eastern Michigan alum had 41 catches for 518 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. Over the last six seasons, he's averaged 654 yards (42 YPG), while totaling 24 touchdowns (career high 8 TDs in 2008). Barring injuries, Walter is likely to see limited playing time, making him best left on waiver wires except in the deepest of leagues.Injury Status: Out - Back
WR Justin Hunter - Dynasty Only
UPDATE (10/22): The rookie has yet to catch more than one pass in a game and is not a fantasy option barring injury to Kendall Wright or Nate Washington. He has just three catches for 58 yards through seven games -- but made his limited targets count scoring two touchdowns. Hunter is merely a dynasty league option for now.
UPDATE (8/13): Hunter is struggling with drops in training camp and the Titan coaching staff have been questioning his mental make up, which could bury the rookie on the depth chart. He should be off the fantasy radar unless you are in a dynasty league.
The Titans traded up to select Tennessee WR Justin Hunter with the No. 34 overall pick, sending the No. 40 and 216 overall picks to the 49ers, in addition to a 2014 third-rounder. Hunter regained his explosiveness following a 2011 knee injury. In 2012, he totaled 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. A full year removed from ACL surgery, Hunter posted impressive results at the combine (4.44 forty, 39.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-4 broad jump -- longest of any WR). He's battled a hamstring injury in camp and is positioned in a crowded Titan WR corps with Jake Locker under center ; the 6-foot-4, 202-pound wide out is nothing more than a deep round flier. He has been compared to AJ Green, but dropped a disturbing 12% of his targets in his final collegiate season. This will need to be cleaned up before the Vol alum makes an impact at the NFL level.
TE Delanie Walker - Bust (overvalued)
UPDATE (10/22): He's already topped his career high with three touchdowns through the first seven games but is averaging just 34 yards per game on 23 catches. You are better offer looking elsewhere for a bye week filler as Walker is utilized more for his blocking.
UPDATE (8/13): Walker had a knee scope that is expected to keep him out for the the first two preseason games.
PROFILE: Jared Cook signed a free agent contract with the Rams, so the Titans decided to fill some of the void by inking former 49er Delanie Walker to a four-year, $17.5 million deal. The soon to be 29 year old figures to be the Titans' every-down TE, but is known more for his blocking abilities (should be a boost to CJ2K's fantasy value). Walker has struggled with drops during his career and never topped 30 catches during his seven seasons in San Francisco. With the addition of rookie Justin Hunter to the WR corps, Walker will be hard pressed to produce anything more than low end TE2 numbers in his first season with the Titans. Keep an eye on 2nd year player Taylor Thompson as he might be the best receiving option among the Titan TEs, but playing time will likely be an issue.Injury Status: Out - Concussion
PK Rob Bironas - Solid/Safe Pick
The 35 year old kicker from Georgia Southern resigned with the Titans on a 2-year contract. He enters his 9th NFL season as one of the best long range kickers in the league (22-of-31 from 50+ yards in his career), but is coming off a disappointing 2012 (25 for 31 -- his worst percentage since 2006). Bironas has yet to miss a game and his big leg makes him well worth targeting as the Titans offense has added some pieces which should allow them improve on their 21 PPG average from 2012.
Tennessee Defense - Bye Week Fill-in
The Titan defense allowed the most PPG (29) in the league in 2012, but for fantasy purposes they can serve as an adequate bye week filler. Their defense totaled 39 sacks and 19 INTs last season and totaled five DEF/ST touchdowns. Provided your league rewards special teams scoring, the Titans are worth considering for leagues that require two DEF/ST selections as Darius Reynaud amassed three return TDs in 2012.