Titans Fantasy Preview

Hayden Winks
Rotoworld



2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,805 (12th)

Offensive Touchdowns: 50 (3rd)

Offensive Plays: 949 (30th)

Pass Attempts + Sacks: 504 (30th)

Rush Attempts: 445 (10th)

Unaccounted for Targets: 103 (17th)

Unaccounted for Carries: 78 (15th)

 

Coaching Staff

Sidelining Marcus Mariota for offseason flier Ryan Tannehill proved to be the best in-season change across the NFL last season. The full splits are below, but the Titans went from 16.3 points per game in Mariota’s six starts to 28.9 points per game in Tannehill’s 11 starts. They ran hot enough to reach the AFC Championship and showed enough to believe in them in 2020 within reason. Coach Mike Vrabel is one of the top player’s coaches in the league and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will be a head coaching candidate next year if the Titans don’t regress too much. That is the looming question for real-life and fantasy football purposes. Can the Titans’ run-heavy, bull-dozing attack work for another 16 games? 

 

2019 Titans Stats

Mariota

Tannehill

Winning Percentage

0.333

0.692

Points Per Game

16.3

28.9

Yards Per Game

291

379

Yards Per Play

4.8

6.5

 

Passing Game

QB: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Cole McDonald

WR: A.J. Brown

WR: Corey Davis, Cody Hollister

WR: Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond

TE: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt

 

Finally removed from coach Adam Gase’s leadership, Ryan Tannehill smashed career highs in yards per attempt (9.6), touchdown rate (7.7%), and expected points added per dropback (+0.24) in 2019. Unfortunately, these are unsustainable rates, just look at his 4.8% expected touchdown rate and the Titans’ absurd 76% touchdown rate on red zone trips. That second number was by far the best in the NFL. For Tannehill to remain relevant in standard-sized fantasy leagues, he’ll need to pass the ball more (25.4 pass attempts in 13 starts last season), and highly efficient quarterbacks like Tannehill typically only pass the ball two more times per game on average the next season. A slight increase won’t be enough for Tannehill to repeat his fantasy QB9 per-game finish from 2019. However, the market seems to know this, so I’m more than fine with Tannehill and his QB19 average draft position. I’m expecting him to be a recommended QB2 streaming option many weeks this year. That won’t be the case early with @DEN, @MIN, vs. PIT, and vs. BUF making up four of the Titans’ first five games.

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Evaluating A.J. Brown’s 2020 fantasy outlook is a bit of a push and pull. On one hand, Brown has the makings of a top-10 talent at the position. He’s simply too physical, too creative, and too crisp of a route runner to not be a total stud moving forward. Brown didn’t average a league-leading 12.5 yards per target by accident (min. 50 targets). Unfortunately, Brown’s receiving rates are completely unsustainable. That starts with his position-leading +215 yards after the catch over expected and continues with his +4.7 receiving touchdowns over expected. To compensate for the negative regression, Brown will need more volume to live up to his WR15 average draft position. Remember, Brown only averaged 5.4 targets in the 13 games with Tannehill. I project him for around 6.5-8.0 targets per game, making his current price tag slightly too rich for me. An inconsistent WR2 season seems like the most likely outcome for Brown, but I admit this is a very scary player to fade just because he’s so talented.

If we are worried that A.J. Brown isn’t getting enough targets, what does that say about Corey Davis and Adam Humphries’ 2020 fantasy outlooks? Davis will man the outside alongside Brown, but the former first-rounder only averaged 8.6 PPR points on 4.5 targets in his 12 games with Tannehill last season. Because the Titans declined their fifth-year option on Davis, he’ll at least be playing in a contract season this year. Still, he’s off the radar in standard-sized redraft leagues with Tannehill expected to regress. Slot receiver Adam Humphries only caught 2.8 passes in the seven games with Tannehill, so he’s not a recommended option in 12-team leagues. Humphries will probably be on the field for just under 50% of the Titans’ dropbacks.

Apparently the new wave among fantasy analysts is to wait for tight ends, and Jonnu Smith is one of those late-round targets that other analysts are circling. Smith does check a few key breakout boxes. He’s a 93rd percentile SPARQ athlete (4.62 forty) entering the prime of his career as a 25-year-old and already holds a quality 8.2 career yards per target average (10.0 YPT last year), but there are still serious volume concerns. In the 13 games with a red-hot Tannehill last season, Smith only averaged 3.6 targets and 30.8 receiving yards, and for the entirety of the 2019 regular season, Smith finished as the TE31 overall per game. He most likely will end up as a touchdown-dependent TE2 in fantasy, making him a risky pick at his TE17 average draft position. Anthony Firkser is still around to steal some snaps from Smith.

 

Rushing Game

RB: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins

OL (L-R): Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, Isaiah Wilson

 

Derrick Henry cashed out this offseason after posting career highs in rushing yards (1,540), rushing touchdowns (16), and yards per carry (5.1) in 2019. There are simply few people on the Earth that share his size and speed, making him a no-brainer top-five pure runner right now. Henry should be projected for the most carries in the league after handling 303 last season, but we shouldn’t expect to see quite as high rushing production because of natural regression. For example, Henry scored 6.2 more rushing touchdowns than expected based on his adjusted-usage last season. With that said, Henry could find himself on more third downs this season, and thus could smash last year’s receiving line of 18-206-2. The Titans lost Dion Lewis this offseason and are looking for more weapons in the passing game. Henry is a fair selection anywhere in the back-half of Round 1, particularly in non- and half-PPR leagues. I’ve only been drafting Henry when he falls into my lap around No. 8 overall in PPR leagues.

Third-round rookie Darrynton Evans fills in for Dion Lewis. My scouting report on Evans can be found here, but to sum it up, I think he’s a capable committee member in the NFL. At Appalachian State, Evans averaged 6.6 yards per carry on his way to 1,187 rushing yards as a sophomore before setting career highs in rushing yards (1,480), touchdowns (18), and receptions (21) last season. At the Combine, Evans ran the forty in 4.41 seconds, so he checked boxes throughout the entire draft process. He’s the most underrated pure insurance back in fantasy leagues and is someone I’ll be heavily overweight on in bestball formats just in case Henry misses time. Evans can be had after the 15th round in many drafts. The next back on the Titans depth chart is 183-pound undrafted free agent Dalyn Dawkins who has 11 carries through two NFL seasons.

The Titans Offense ranked 6th in run-blocking and 11th in pass-blocking last season according to PFF. It was a rock-solid unit, particularly in short-yardage and on play action. The 2020 unit will be slightly weaker because they lose RT Jack Conklin to the Browns and will be replacing him with rookie Isaiah Wilson, the 350-pound first-rounder from Georgia. You can read my scouting report on Wilson here. On the interior will be RG Rodger Saffold, C Ben Jones, and RG Nate Davis. It’s a slightly above-average group all around.

 

Win Total

Despite Ryan Tannehill’s 9-4 record as starter including playoffs, the Titans’ win total sits at a very reasonable 8.5 games. This does feel like a trap given all of the negative regression coming Tennessee’s way, but I actually like the over. The Titans face the second-easiest schedule according to opponent win totals, and the team didn’t lose much this offseason. The core of the offense remains in tack, and the defense has some young pieces that seemed poised to take the next step. I think the Titans have a better chance of winning nine or 10 games than seven or eight, making them legit contenders for the AFC South title.

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