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2016 Fantasy Football Team Outlook - Tennessee Titans

Tennessee made some of the splashier off-season moves by adding two legit starters at the same position and ditching a player who some thought were destined for stardom. Whether it works remains to be seen, but this year's Titans offense should definitely be a much different version of itself.

In the search for an end to an eight year playoff drought, they figure to lean heavily on the running game, backed by a short passing attack. This conservative approach doesn't figure to produce many fantasy superstars, but there could be some sneaky value to be had.

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Marcus Mariota is a franchise quarterback and the immediate future of the Titans. At least he'd better be. The Titans took Mariota #2 overall because they envision him as more than simply a dual-threat QB, but a pocket passer with escapability. He ran less frequently than anticipated, carrying the ball 34 times for 252 yards. He was effective when on the move, averaging 7.4 Y/A, including a long of 87. Still, he did not make a Cam Newton-like impression as a rookie and will need to show more big play ability to be considered a fantasy starter. As a passer, he completed 62.2% of his throws with a 19:10 TD-to-INT ratio. Those numbers should increase with experience, but the second-year QB is sorely missing a veteran receiver he can depend on, outside of TE Delanie Walker.

There is no doubt Mariota has star potential, but for the 2016 season he remains in the uncomfortable tween years of his development. You know it's coming, but it's going to take some growing pains before he fully matures. He is a QB2 who carries a higher risk/reward gap than most backups on a weekly basis. In standard re-draft formats, target him no earlier than the 12th round and only if you have a fairly dependable QB ahead of him. #2 QB Zach Mettenberger threw seven INT compared to four TD and is not remotely worth adding should Mariota go down.


Running Back

As running backs are often compared to cars, here's a fitting analogy. Last year, Tennessee had a stable full of Pintos and in the off-season they upgraded to a pair of Escalades. In 2015, the Titans' leading rusher was Antonio Andrews with 520 yards, no RB scored more than three TD and their only run longer than 50 yards came from Marcus Mariota. The Bishop Sankey trial is officially done, and the Titans now boast one of the fiercest two-headed monsters in the league. DeMarco Murray will try to recapture the magic of his league-leading 2014 campaign after escaping the clutches of evil genius Chip Kelly. He will be used in a similar fashion to his Cowboys days, as a north-south runner who will see plenty of action on early downs. Of course, Tennessee's offensive line is nothing close to Dallas in terms of run-blocking, so expectations should be tempered.

The other wrinkle in Murray's value is the presence of Derrick Henry. The Titans took everyone by surprise when they selected the Heisman winner in the second round, just weeks after signing Murray. While this could turn out to be brilliant strategically for the team by pairing up their runners and hedging their bet against a Murray injury, given his history, it is maddening for fantasy owners. Either RB could be a starter on the majority of teams in the NFL, but now they must share carries.

Halfway through the pre-season it still remains unclear what the gameplan will be on a weekly basis, but it is most probable that Murray will carry the ball 15-20 times a game, while Henry falls between 12-15. It is unlikely to be a hot-hand situation, so the veteran Murray will remain the starter until further notice. Dynasty leagues should have already jumped all over Henry, whereas Murray is a RB3 at best. In redraft leagues, Murray gets the nod as a low-end RB2, with Henry a smart handcuff. Or you could screw over the owner who takes Murray by picking Henry a round later and dangle him as trade bait throughout the year. You wouldn't do that type of thing though, would you?


Wide Receiver

By far the most fascinating receiver corps to watch in training camp has been the Titans' revamped group. A prime example of why you should never draft before mid-August, Dorial Green-Beckham went from trendy sleeper to the trash pile in Tennessee. Questions about his work ethic and conditioning were answered in a resounding way when he was shipped off to Philadelphia for essentially nothing. Taking his place on the first line is newer, trendier sleeper Tajae Sharpe. At first glance, it seemed putting a fifth-round receiver out of UMass was done to send a message to the rest of the team.

After watching him in action, it would seem that Sharpe is rightfully earning his spot. New GM Jon Robinson has no allegiance to the incumbents, so performance should win out over draft position. This may be trouble for former second-rounder Justin Hunter, who is firmly on the roster bubble after contributing just 22 REC, 264 YDS, and a lone TD. The 6'4", 203 lb receiver out of Tennessee has hauled in just 68 passes over three seasons and his days may be numbered.

Kendall Wright has missed a bulk of training camp with a hamstring injury, but figures to retain a starting spot when he returns, possibly in time for Week One. He was thought to be a big play receiver coming out of Baylor's dynamic offense, but averaged 11.3 Y/R, good for third on his own team behind veterans Harry Douglas and Delanie Walker. He has become more of a possession receiver and doesn't appear destined for fantasy stardom. Rishard Matthews, a free agent addition from Miami, is firmly embedded as the slot receiver and makes for a decent WR4 in PPR formats. He lacks big play ability, however, and can be ignored in standard scoring leagues.

Andre Johnson was brought in to add a veteran presence to the team, but he has to prove that last year's dismal performance wasn't a sign that he is on his last legs. He is not a guarantee to make the roster. Harry Douglas and second-year man Tre McBride are also fighting for their jobs. All told, this group is very much a work in progress and presents a great deal of risk for fantasy owners. Sharpe is by far the most intriguing of the bunch, but should only be drafted in dynasty formats. Otherwise, you can safely ignore this group without losing sleep.


Tight End

Like a fine Tennessee aged whiskey, Delanie Walker is getting better with age. The 30 year old nearly posted a 100 catch season and finished with 1,088 yards and six TD. His career progression shows that a repeat is certainly possible, although the Titans' brass would certainly prefer to see the receivers contribute more so that Walker is not relied on quite so much. Taking Walker as a TE1 is not a sexy pick (let's be honest, the term "sexy" has no place in fantasy sports), but he carries much less risk than players like Tyler Eifert, who is coming off surgery, or Coby Fleener, who is still learning a new offense. If you want a dependable tight end without pulling the trigger too early, take a chance on high-upside RB/WR in rounds 4-5 and then secure Walker as a safe pick in the 6th or 7th.



Ryan Succop returns as the Titans' kicker with little fantasy value. He made just 14 FG last season, placing Tennessee 31st among all teams in FGM. A stronger running game and just plain old luck figure to increase that output somewhat, but there is no reason to have him on your active roster.



While the Titans' offense is a promising unit with young players on the rise, the defense remains static as a lower-end option. Michael Griffin led the team with 66 solo tackles and Avery Williamson was first with 102 combined tackles. Sacks were hard to come by, with Brian Orakpo and Jurell Casey tied with seven apiece. Without a true pass-rushing threat, this unit lacks stopping power. As a result, the Titans totaled just 11 INT, with no player recording more than two. As a team, the Titans ranked 21st in both interceptions and fumbles recovered. If you're looking for IDP help, look elsewhere. Orakpo has been a top-flight player in the past for Washington, but the defensive line must be stronger if he or any player is to have a real impact.


Fantasy Outlook

The Titans are a team on the rise, but how quickly is the question. Mariota is the big name on the roster, but the running backs are bound to be the heart and soul of this offense. Focus on the runners, but don't overpay for the names or past successes. Neither Murray nor Henry will achieve RB1 status unless the other is out of the picture. Perhaps the only dependable receiver on this team is tight end Delanie Walker, who may still be undervalued as the sixth TE drafted on average. While I love Mariota as a player, I won't trust him in fantasy until 2017.


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