|By Shawn Childs, Saturday, August 19, 2017|
The Titans tied for first place in the AFC South with their first winning season (9-7) since 2011, but they failed to make the playoffs for the eighth straight season. Tennessee improve by 127 differential points (+3) from 2015 (-124) and 187 from 2014 (-184). Mike Mularkey returns for his second full season as head coach. He has an 11-14 record with the Titans and 27-46 in his NFL career with no playoff appearances. Mularkey has 23 years coaching of experience in the NFL. Terry Robiskie returns for his second season as offensive coordinator after spending eight years as the wide receiver's coach for the Falcons. Terry has been a coach in the NFL since 1982 with six seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator. Tennessee moved from 28th in points scored (299), and 30th in yards gained to 14th in points scored (381), and 11th in yards gained. Dick LeBeau will run the defense for the third year after leading the Steelers' defense for the previous 11 years. LeBeau has been part of two Super Bowl titles while failing as a head coach for the Bengals from 2000 to 2002 (12-33). The Titans did a nice job allowing fewer points (378 - 16th), but they allowed more yards on defense (20th - 12th in 2015).
Tennessee lost CB Antwon Blake and CB Jason McCourty in their secondary. McCourty was a league average starter while Blake struggled in a limited role. LB Sean Spence signed with the Colts after being a league average player in a rotation role last season. The Titans brought in CB Logan Ryan and S John Cyprien. Both players played well in 2016, and they should improve this defense. S Demontre Hurst and S Brynden Trawick were added to compete for backup roles. DT Sylvester Williams signed a three-year deal in March.
WR Kendall Wright will get a fresh start with the Bears, and TE Anthony Fasano will fight for a backup role in Miami.
Tennessee lost G Brian Schwenke, G Chance Warmack, and T Byron Bell from their offensive line. All three players had minimal playing time in 2016 due to various reason. The Titans signed G Tim Lelito for depth on the line.
The Titans had a pair of picks in both the first and third rounds. They added WR Corey Davis and CB Adoree' Jackson with their first two picks. Davis has a great resume at Western Michigan. He projects as high volume receiver with scoring ability. Corey has an edge in his route running while still needing improvement to gain an edge at the next level. He needs to show he can consistently beat press coverage. Jackson looks to have all the base skills to be a top end corner. His vision is above average with offering playmaking skills. He'll also add value in the return game. Adoree' needs to prove he can handle elite CBs due to his size (5'10" and 186 lbs.).
WR Taywan Taylor and TE Jonnu Smith were added in the third. Taylor has a very good release with upside as a route runner. He'll add value after the catch while needing improvement in his hand catching ability. His next step is showing the capacity to get open against higher level CBs. Smith had multiple stars at this year's NFL Combine while flashing speed, strength, and quickness. Jonnu has questionable hands while needing to develop his route running skills.
In the fifth round, Tennessee drafted LB Jaylon Brown. His best asset will come in pass coverage while offering some value in against the run as long as he has a clean run at the line of scrimmage.
OL Corey Levin was added in the sixth. He does a lot of things well leading to possible upside. Levin should be an asset in the run game with enough vision and feel to handle himself in pass protection. He needs to add more strength while playing with more power.
With three picks in the seventh round, the Titans invested in LB Josh Carraway, OT Brad Seaton, and RB Khalfani Muhammad. Carraway has the talent to be a plus defender once he loses the pretty boy style when faced with a bigger fight. Solid tackler while offering value in the pass rush. Josh plays his best when he has a clear edge in his matchup with a defender. Seaton has the foundation to play at the next level in pass protection while needing to improve his technique and strength to add value in the run game. Muhammad is an undersized (5'7" and 170 Lbs.) speed back, but he needs to add bulk to earn playing time at the pros.
Tennessee had the third best rushing offense (2.187 yards) in the NFL. They gained 4.6 yards per rush with 16 rushing TDs. Their ball carriers only had eight runs over 20 yards and 59 runs over 10 yards. They had 43 negatives runs.
The Titans finished 25th in passing yards (3,541) with 29 passing TDs and 11 Ints. Their offensive line allowed 28 sacks.
LT Taylor Lewan continues to play at a high level. He played well in both run and pass blocking. Lewan is a former first round draft pick (2014).
LG Quinton Spain earned a starting job last summer after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He played in 14 games while offering above the league average value at his position.
C Ben Jones made a step forward in his game last year after moving from the Texans to Tennessee. He's yet to miss a game in his five-year career after being drafted in the fourth round in 2012. The talent at the RB position helped him finish with a winning grade in 2016.
RG Josh Kline was picked up off the waiver wire in early September. He ended up playing 14 games with best success of his career. He's improved slightly in each of the last two years.
RT Jack Conklin hit the ground running in his rookie season after being picked eighth overall in 2016. Jack has an edge in strength with plus hands and technique. Even with some speed, Conklin may lack the quickness and athletic ability to handle left tackle early in his career. Jack finished being the best lineman on this roster last season.
This team runs the ball well with a developing young QB who is more than a game manager. This offensive line is one of the better lines in the league with strength at both tackles and center. The guards look to be along for the ride.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing TDs touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing TDs (TDS).
This information is based on 2016, which will work as our starting point for 2017. We'll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2016 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2016.
2016 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL last year.
2016 Adjustment is based on the 2016 league average and the 2016 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat and the basis for strength of schedule.
The Titans have three games vs. teams with risk defending the run (SF, CLE, and MIA). They have three matchups vs. teams with some upside in their rushing defense.
Tennessee faces five teams (JAX X 2, HOU X 2, and ARI) that rated highly in their pass defense in 2016 plus four below par matchups (SEA, BAL, CIN, and LAR). They have only two games vs. the Colts who have some risk in the passing game.
The Titans ran the ball 48.7 percent of the last year with only 499 pass attempts. This offense should continue to be a balanced offense with improving value scoring TDs.
The Titans' defense has a favorable schedule for both their rushing and passing defense. I don't think they have one bad matchup against the run with 49ers showing the most strength in 2016. Tennessee will face two teams with weakness rushing the ball (LAR and BAL).
They have four games vs. teams with poor passing offenses (SF, LAR, and HOU X 2) plus two other favorable games (MIA and CLE). Their toughest matchups defending the pass comes against SEA and IND X 2.
Tennessee ended up second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (1,413) with ten rushing TDs. They allowed 4.0 yards per rush and ten runs over 20 yards. Their success was partly due to only 22.2 rushing attempts per game (2nd lowest total in the league).
The Titans struggled in pass coverage (4,307 yards - 30th). They allowed 25 passing TDs with 12 Ints and 40 sacks.
DT Sylvester Williams is a former first-round pick (2013). He's settled into an early defender with value against the run and minimal success rushing the QB. Williams will compete with DT Austin Jackson who Tennessee selected in the second round in 2016. He projects a run clogger with limited value in the pass rush. His best asset is his strength while possessing a good feel for the game leading to solid tackles for his position. Johnson needs to improve as an attacker, which will help him win more battles at the point of contact. DT Jurrell Casey has 27.5 sacks over the last four seasons, but his game lost value over the last couple of years while remaining an asset. The other defensive end options look below league average.
LB Derrick Morgan and LB Brian Orakpo combined for 19.5 sacks with both players offering a slight edge in their overall games. LB Wesley Woodward isn't the every down player he was in 2012 with the Broncos. He finished with 57 tackles in 2016, which was his lowest output since his rookie season. LB Avery Williams has over 100 tackles in the last two seasons with 5.5 sacks. The Titans need LB Kevin Dodd to make a step forward after playing only nine games in his rookie seasons due to a foot injury that may still have some lingering pain. He has a short resume of value in college while seizing his opportunity in 2015. Dodd plays with speed and power while showcasing winnable vision and anticipation. For continued success at the next level against better talent, Kevin needs to improve his pass rushing moves while improving his hands.
S Kevin Byard played in 16 games in his rookie season leading to strength in his play. Byard has playmaking skills with a good feel for coverage when asked to read and react. He has excellent size (5'11" and 216 lbs.) with a nice combination of speed (4.44 forty) and strength (22 reps in the bench press at his pro day). S Da'Norris Searcy looks to be a weak link in the secondary with job loss risk. CB Logan Ryan played the best ball of his career in 2016 with the Patriots while showing growth in each season in the league. He has 41 defended passes and 13 Ints over 64 games played in the NFL. Tennessee expects rookie first rounder Adoree' Jackson to move into the starting lineup. His skill set is interesting with upside, but teams will challenge him with their best WRs with size.
I know this defense played well vs. the run in 2016, but I could see regression in 2017. The Titans have four possibly five players of value on defense with a couple needing to prove their worth. I expect risk in coverage especially against teams with depth in their receiver core. The pass rush will be the key to their Fantasy value this season. I'm not feeling Tennessee as long term playable option.
QB Marcus Mariota - Solid/Safe Pick
Over the first four games in 2016, Mariota came out flat. He averaged 231 passing yards per game with four TDs and five Ints. His game was impressive in TDs (23) over his next nine starts. During this stretch, Marcus had over 270 yards passing in five games. He let Fantasy owners down in the high-stakes market playoff round in Weeks 14, 15, and 16 (467 combined yards with a TD in two games). His season ended in Week 16 with a broken right leg that required surgery. Tennessee expects him to be ready for training camp, but I'm sure they will limit his reps over the summer to get him ready for the start of the year. Over two seasons in the league, Mariota has an 11-16 record with 49 combined TDs. His value as a runner (94/601/1) offers strength from the QB position, but it's below his expected value based on his college resume. This season Tennessee may limit his rushing attempts early in the season. The addition of Corey Davis to this offense gives Marcus more firepower in the passing game. The Titans sack rate fell from 9.3 percent in 2015 to 4.9 percent in 2016. His floor should be over 4,000 combined yards with 30+ TDs. Tennessee will run the ball well and score rushing TDs, so Mariota will come up flat at times. I like his game and respect his weapons to offer more upside in his third year in the league.
RB DeMarco Murray - Gamble (high risk)
The better back in Tennessee in 2016 was clearly Murray. He finished with 346 touches for 1664 combined yards with 53 catches and 12 TDs leading to him being a great value pick in Fantasy drafts. Over the first ten games of the season, DeMarco had seven games with over 100 combined yards and 10 TDs. The Titans played four of their last six games on the road plus two tough defenses at home (DEN and HOU), which led to Murray fading (79 yards per game with two TDs and 16 catches). He had over 18 touches in his first 14 games. On the year, Tennessee ran the ball 408 times for 1833 yards and 14 TDs from the running back position plus 65 catches for 501 yards and three TDs on 81 targets. There's a great RB opportunity in this offense, but the Titans have an elite option behind him waiting to steal his job. DeMarco is a special player, and he isn't going to go away if he's healthy. He just does too many things well plus Tennessee has strength on the offensive line. I'll throttle back his touches to 275 just to cover the upside of Henry leading to about 1,400 combined yards with 50+ catches and close to 10 TDs.
RB Derrick Henry - Fantasy Handcuff
Henry will have to work a lot harder to have success in the NFL as his window to break long runs will be much smaller. He has excellent size (6'3' and 247 lbs.) with more speed and quickness than meets the eye. Derrick runs with patience while following his blockers until he sees daylight. His stiff arm will offer an edge at the second and third level of the defense while his vision is better than expected. In his junior season at Alabama, Henry rushed for 2219 yards on 395 carries, which led to 28 rushing TDs. The Tide barely used him in the passing game (11/91), but he did make a couple of big plays catching the ball in 2013 and 2014 (six catches for 194 yards and three TDs). Even with a ton of touches (406), Derrick had low mileage in his college career (602/3591/42 with 17 catches for 285 yards and three TDs). His opportunity never developed in 2016 due to Murray playing a high level. Derrick finished with 123 touches for 627 yards, five TDs, and 13 catches. He only had one game with more than 20 touches (97 combined yards with a TD and four catches). Derrick gained 4.5 yards per rush and 10.5 yards per catch compared to 4.4 and 7.1 by DeMarco. Greatness is waiting to happen while his floor raises to 200+ touches in 2017 for 1000+ yards and sneaky value in TDs. If Murray goes down with an injury, Henry will be a top 10 back at the minimum.
WR Corey Davis - Sleeper (undervalued)
Immediate Breakout Candidate! The most impressive thing about Davis on draft day was the high praise from long-time NFL WR Steve Smith. He knows what it takes to have success in the NFL, and he painted an impressive picture of this young man in my eyes. Corey was TD machine (46 over 39 games) over his last three seasons at Western Michigan. Over four years in college, Davis caught 331 passes for 5278 yards and 52 TDs. Last year the Titans WRs only caught 160 passes for 2,141 yards and 16 TDs on 280 targets, which was a huge improvement over 2015 (130/1665/11 on 239 targets). Marcus Mariota is a very good QB with a solid feel in the red zone, but Tennessee is going to have success rushing the ball in close. Their WRs should get a few more chances in 2017 putting Davis in a position to get about 45 percent of the WR targets (about 135 targets if WRs have 300 targets). He'll win many jump balls plus he does a nice job tracking the deep pass. Corey has the accelerator to turn a short screen pass into a long TD. He runs well in the open field with the ball in his hands plus his second gear creates instant separation after the catch. Davis will have value in fades at the goal line and enough quickness to score on slants. He'll represent the number 84 well in his career. My floor for him in his rookie season is 70+ catches for 1,100+ yards and double-digit TDs. Corey did suffer an ankle injury before 2017 NFL Combine, but he should be ready for training camp.
WR Eric Decker - Quality Backup
After four straight productive seasons in the NFL, Eric had his season cut short after three games due to a hip injury that required surgery. He expects to be ready for opening day. Over the last 4+ seasons, Decker averaged 5.2 catches per game for 70 yards and 0.66 TDs on 8.10 targets. He has three years with double digit TDs and three years with over 1,000 yards receiving over that span. His skill set works best as a WR2 in an NFL offense. The Jets released him in June, leading to Decker moving to a better offense, but there will be more competition for targets. His resume is long enough where Eric should emerge as the WR2 at the very least in this offense. His bar is lowered to 65/850/7 unless Davis doesn't come along as quickly as expected.
WR Rishard Matthews - Quality Backup
After a slow start to the season over his first four games (3/26, 4/40, 3/32, and 2/82), Matthews turned into a scoring machine (nine TDs over his last 12 games). His best success came in three games (9/122, 4/105, and 9/114/1) over the last six weeks of the season. Rishard finished with 65 catches for 945 yards and nine TDs on 108 targets setting career highs in all area. The addition of Davis is going to hurt his value for sure. He'll have plenty of competition for targets, so a 50/650/5 type season looks to be in the cards.
WR Tajae Sharpe - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over his last two seasons at UMass, Sharpe caught 196 passes for 2,600 yards and 12 TDs. He drew a lot of attention last summer leading to his name climbing in the late draft season. The Titans gave him a great opportunity in Week 1 (7/76 on 11 targets), but his game just was ready to make an impact in his rookie season. Tajae finished with 41 catches for 522 yards and two TDs on 83 targets. He had a poor catch rate (49.4). Possible improvement in his second year in the league while sliding a step down on the depth chart.Injury Status: Out - Foot
WR Taywan Taylor - Dynasty Only
Based on his junior and senior seasons at Western Kentucky (86/1467/17 and 98/1730/17), Taylor could move quickly up the Titans' depth chart at wide receiver. Taywan has the foundation to succeed at the next level, but he'll have a learning curve while playing against better players in the secondary. Player to follow over the summer.
TE Jonnu Smith - Dynasty Only
Over four years in college, Smith caught 178 passes for 2001 yards and 18 TDs highlighted by his sophomore year (61/710/8). Jonnu has plenty of talent with the speed, the strength, and the athleticism to make plays at the next level. He just needs to improve his route running while doing a better job when given a chance to catch the ball. A vertical threat with some value as a blocker.
TE Delanie Walker - Solid/Safe Pick
With better options at WR in 2016, Walker had a step back in opportunity (102) from his great 2015 season (94/1088/6 on 133 targets). He finished with 65 catches for 800 yards and seven TDs, which led to him ranking 5th in TE scoring in PPR leagues. Delanie now has three straight high-level seasons while entering 2017 at age 33. Last year the Titans completed 77 passes to the TE position for 1,010 yards and seven TDs on 124 targets. In 2016, Walker had one impact game (9/124/1) and two other games with 20+ Fantasy points in PPR leagues (6/83/1 and 7/84/1). Solid, steady option at TE, but decline should be expected due to his age. Let's put him down for 60/700/5 while not overpaying for possible fade.
PK Ryan Succop - Not Draft Worthy
There has been an improvement in Ryan's game since he moved to the Titans. Over the last three seasons, Succop made 88.7 percent of his 62 field goals including six of 10 from 50 yards or more. Unfortunately, he averaged 21 field goal attempts per season. In the last two years, Ryan made 68 of 72 extra-point tries. Solid leg who plays for a team with an improving offense. The Titans will score TDs in close so his chance may still rank below the top kickers in the league. Matchup option with an opportunity to add long term value.