Titans fantasy football team preview: Can Derrick Henry finally reach his potential?

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The Yahoo Fantasy analysts will preview all 32 NFL teams between now and the end of July as training camps open. We’ll tackle pressing season-long fantasy questions, Best Ball tips (new on Yahoo for 2019) and team win totals. Next up, the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee suffered another season in which their franchise quarterback, Marcus Mariota, dealt with a myriad of injuries. The offense as a whole could find no real footing because of it. Yet, from December 2 to December 22, the Titans rattled off four straight wins and nearly made the playoffs.

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Those wins were powered in no small part by running back Derrick Henry, who literally Hulk-ed out the final few weeks of the season. Henry ended up as the 14th-best fantasy RB on Yahoo, but early in the season 14th would have sounded like a fool’s bet. That said, we all remember what Henry did those couple of games from Week 14 forward, and fantasy players will be looking for the potential of a repeat performance in 2019.

Titans impact players
Titans impact players

FACT or FICTION

Bruising running back Derrick Henry will rank inside the position’s overall top-15 come Christmas in .5 PPR.

Brad: FICTION. Down the homestretch last season, Henry ran with the ferocity of a war rhino from Black Panther. Finally, he resembled the impossible-to-tackle Heisman winner during his dominant Alabama days. As the lion’s share rusher Weeks 14-17, he amassed 606 total yards, seven touchdowns and a pace-setting 26.1 fantasy points per game. On the year, only Nick Chubb compiled more yards after contact per attempt (Chubb: 4.47; Henry: 4.21).

Head coach Mike Vrabel and OC Arthur Smith have talked up Henry this offseason, boasting he will be the centerpiece of the offense. If adhered to, he should toe the line of the top-15 working behind a Tennessee line that ranked No. 9 in run-blocking efficiency last fall. Still, his limited role as a pass-catcher means Henry will need to cross the chalk consistently, a risky proposition after he witnessed eight or more men in the box 32.1 percent of the time in ‘18. Pencil me in for a RB16-RB20 finish.

Andy: Here’s a classic case in which the format isn’t perfect for the player. Henry has never caught more than 15 balls in any pro season. And still, he has a decent chance to challenge for the NFL rushing crown and score double-digit touchdowns. Entering camp, he seems to be this team’s offensive centerpiece. No running back in the game rushed for more yards or delivered more TDs than Henry over the final five weeks last season. I’m gonna say FACT.

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Let’s price Corey Davis

Is perpetual underachiever Corey Davis OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED at his current 71.7 (WR32) ADP?

Brad: PROPERLY VALUED. Davis is one of the virtual game’s ultimate teases. At times, he’s drop-dead gorgeous, piling up high-catch volumes with the occasional touchdowns. Other instances, he gives all of his zealots the cold shoulder, tallying single-digit performances in PPR. In 2018, he fell short of the 10 fantasy-point threshold in the format nine out of 16 games. For a player with tantalizing skills, his underachievement is maddening.

Last season, Davis attracted 26.4 percent of the target share and was one of the league’s featured red-zone options, qualities that speak to his WR2 upside. However, Mariota, who would be a last-round pick in your local darts league, has failed the WR in realizing his true potential. Davis’ ninth-worst on-target percentage (79.3) is a perfect summation.

Though the Titans will again have the services of Delanie Walker and added A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries, Davis should again cross the 100 targets threshold. If Mariota suddenly starts hitting the bull’s eye, the wideout will crack the WR top-30. If not, another string of frustrating performances are on the horizon.

Liz: OVERVALUED. Davis managed four games inside the top-24 fantasy producers at the position last season. Sure, there are reports that his “chemistry” with Marcus Mariota is growing, but that’s peak offseason click-fodder. The Titans found what worked down the stretch last season … leaning on Derrick Henry. Frankly, that’s the only piece of this offense I’m interested in acquiring next season.

Not only did Tennessee average the ninth most rushing attempts per game in 2018, but they also called just 432 passing plays last year. Furthermore, they added the sure-handed Adam Humphries (73.1% catch rate, WR11) in free agency and drafted the hyper efficient A.J. Brown in the second round of April’s draft. As such, Davis’ already streaky volume figures to dip. Plus, trusting Mariota (or Ryan Tannehill) feels foolishly optimistic.

Can Mariota finally put it together?

Marcus Mariota has only once surpassed 22 combined touchdowns (pass/rush) in his four-year career. OVER or UNDER 22.5 total TDs for the maligned QB this fall?

Andy: UNDER. Not only do we have the usual health issues to worry about, but now there’s a very real threat he’ll be benched for Ryan Tannehill after he vomits up one of those 13-for-30, 139-yard games. Anything is possible in the NFL, but a career year for Mariota certainly seems unlikely.

Liz: UNDER. Mariota clearly hasn’t missed a leg day since the close of the 2018 season. As much as I would like to see him put together a full campaign, however, I’m just not buying his ability to stay on the field. I’m clearly not the only one, as the Titans’ front office saw it necessary to add Ryan Tannehill.

But it’s not just the fact that he has yet to post a full sixteen-game effort in his four year career. It’s also the lack of red zone attempts (QB22) in tandem with a stagnant number of rushing attempts. The stats just don’t add up to a breakout season, which is why he’s my QB29 heading into 2019.

Best Ball Bargain Bin

Brad: A.J. BROWN. Brown is a developed route runner who carved up zone defenses in SEC play as Ole Miss’s primary slot receiver. He caught 73 percent of his targets while gaining an appreciable 7.1 yards after the catch per completion. He’ll be expected to handle a more versatile role, but his dependability, ability to generate separation and brawn should complement Davis beautifully. If everything falls into place, a 55-700-5 campaign is attainable. With an 181.8 ADP (WR72), he’s a free square on the bingo card.

Liz: A.J. BROWN. Man, I wish I could say this about Taywan Taylor, for whom the stars have unjustly never aligned, but the truth is Brown could easily close out 2018 as the Titans leading receiver. His poise and polish figure to make him an excellent security blanket for Tennessee’s middling QB, but his target share won’t be enough to boost the rookie into honest-to-goodness fantasy relevance. Not with Adam Humphries added to the mix and not in an offense that averaged the second fewest pass attempts (27.3) per game in 2018. FF: 48-597-4

Mad Bets (From FanDuel Sportsbook): Tennessee 8 wins OVER (+115) or UNDER (-135)

Brad: UNDER. Tennessee is tied with Tampa with the sixth-toughest schedule per projected Vegas win totals. Weighing Mariota’s unreliability, 9-7 seems unattainable.

Andy: UNDER. When a team has this sort of quarterback trouble, it’s almost impossible for me to predict a winning season.

Stay tuned for more Fantasy Football team previews!

AFC East: Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots

NFC East: Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Washington

AFC South: Colts | Texans | Jaguars | Titans

NFC South: Buccaneers | Saints | Panthers | Falcons

Follow Brad: @YahooNoise

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

Follow Andy: @AndyBehrens

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