August 18, 2009
The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise (Oakland), and we're working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
16. Tennessee Titans
Jeff Fisher's view of winning football isn't complicated. Run the ball effectively. Avoid mistakes in the passing game. Play great, physical defense. List half of your roster as "questionable" during the practice week. Mix well, season to taste, see you in the playoffs (where his team has been in six of the last 10 years). It's vanilla all the way, but hey, it works.
As a result, fantasy owners won't spend a ton of time under the hood of this offense. The Titans have a couple of running backs we have to take seriously. There's talent in the receiving corps, but no one you'll roster with an early pick. And in anything short of a jumbo-sized league, you won't be owning a Tennessee quarterback this fall.
Chris Johnson is the one Titan that comes with a hefty price tag ; his current ADP sits around 10. He might be the fastest back in the league and he's capable of scoring from anywhere on the field (note the TDs of 66, 58, 25 and 21 yards last year). The Titans used him liberally in the passing game (43 catches) and Johnson didn't seem to wear down despite his undersized frame – he went for 5.6 yards a carry in December and handled 294 touches without a hitch. There's enough here to consider Johnson a legitimate No. 1 back, be it for an NFL club or your make-believe team.
There's one rub with Johnson, of course – he's not the guy at the goal line. That's where powerful but pudgy LenDale White(notes) earns his money. White scored 15 TDs last year and most of them were fall-forward jobs: seven scores from the 1-yard line, four scores from the 2, another tally from the 3. He also picked up 300 rushing yards in the fourth quarter, happily plowing through tired defensive fronts and helping the Titans salt away victories.
White's weight has been a long-running issue in his pro career (he got up to 265 at one point in 2008), but he got serious in the offseason and reported to camp this summer at a sleek 228 pounds. He's got no chance to beat out Johnson and you're not going to get much from White as a receiver, but he looks like a good bet for 10-plus scores again. Tennessee's above-average offensive line doesn't hurt the cause, either. White isn't someone you want to be fantasy-invested in every week, but he's not a bad depth play as your third or fourth option in the backfield.
Kerry Collins(notes) returns as the league's most unexciting starting quarterback. He knows what his job is on the field – make good decisions, don't lose the game. If you're not playing in a two-QB league, Collins doesn't even belong on your cheat sheet. He'll throw for about 175 yards a game and probably won't average one TD per start.
Vince Young(notes) is on the roster but he's no threat to steal the job from Collins. Young's been uneven in camp (one dreadful preseason game, one good one) and is in a battle merely to be the No. 2 QB here – Patrick Ramsey(notes) is pushing him. Perhaps Young will get back on the fantasy radar someday when he lands with a team willing to design an offense around his strengths, but that's unlikely to be the 2009 Titans.
The receiving group doesn't really have a true No. 1 target but it's not a terrible group. Justin Gage(notes) made the best of his 34 catches last year, scoring six times and making 19.1 yards per grab. It's not hard to see why he was a basketball standout as a schoolboy. Nate Washington(notes) comes over from Pittsburgh and finally gets a starting gig; he's got the speed to get deep but might not be thick enough to get regular work in the possession game. Bo Scaife(notes) is another ordinary talent but he catches what's thrown his way (58 receptions); Collins generally does his best pitching between the numbers anyway.
Rookie receiver Kenny Britt(notes) might be something in a year or two but you know the obvious caveats with first-year wideouts. He raised some eyebrows last week with a five-catch, 89-yard performance (including a 37-yard score), but he also left that game with a dinged ankle and hasn't been practicing this week. He's got a chance to be the team's No. 3 option when the real games start, but this isn't an offense that's capable of supporting a non-starting receiver for fantasy purposes.
Titan Talk: Rob Bironas(notes) has the setup you want from a fantasy kicker; he's tied to a run-heavy and defense-heavy team that's expected to challenge for the playoffs. He's one of the better long-range kickers in the league (8-for-13 on 50-plus attempts for his career), and the Titans have steered 72 field-goal chances his way the last two seasons. Real men don't target a kicker on draft day, but Bironas should be ranked highly on anyone's sheet. … Kevin Mawae(notes) is the leader of the offensive line and still a heck of a player at age 38, though he's coming off elbow surgery and might not be ready for the start of the regular season. … Rookie tight end Jared Cook(notes) is worth a watch, if not an immediate pick; he's got the speed to get deep and the Titans love throwing to the middle of the field. The Titans consider him athletic enough to be used in some formations as a wide receiver, and Fisher has gone out of his way to praise Cook this summer. … The defense is going to miss space-grabbing DT Albert Haynesworth(notes), but there are still plenty of intriguing playmakers on this unit (LB Keith Bulluck(notes), CB Cortland Finnegan(notes), FS Michael Griffin(notes)). … The early-season schedule doesn't do Tennessee any favors, as the Titans open with four road games in six weeks (including the league debut at Pittsburgh on Sept. 10). Things get easier for the Titans (on paper anyway) after the bye, and as a whole their opponents went 130-126 last year, for whatever that means.
Earlier Juggernauts: 32) Oakland, 31) Cleveland, 30) St. Louis, 29) Miami, 28) NY Jets, 27) Baltimore, 26) Washington, 25) San Francisco, 24) Tampa Bay, 23) Kansas City, 22) Detroit, 21) Seattle, 20) Buffalo, 19) Cincinnati, 18) Jacksonville, 17) New York Giants.