Not convinced that Zach Mettenberger was the answer at quarterback, the Titans used the 2nd overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft to acquire Marcus Mariota. The Oregon product was touted for his accuracy, arm strength and ability as a runner in college but comes to the NFL with little experience running a pro-style offense. While Mariota rates as a solid dynasty prospect, we aren’t sold on his ability to emerge as anything more than a low end QB2 as a rookie. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt will have to adapt the offensive philosophy to suit Mariota’s experience as a no-huddle, spread-offense quarterback at Oregon. That is easier said than done. Rookie quarterbacks have generally have success when aided by a solid offensive line, a strong running game and some decent playmaking options in the receiving game. The Titans have question marks in all three areas. It takes a leap of faith to predict that Mariota will provide consistent fantasy production in 2015.
As the first running back taken in the 2014 draft, Sankey joined the Titans with the expectation that he would emerge as a solid starter in his rookie season. However, his production failed to meet those expectations and there has to be some major concern in Tennessee that Sankey will never live up to his draft status. At just 5’9″ and 2009 pounds with solid but not great speed and marginal elusiveness, he looked overmatched as a rookie, failing to relegate veteran retread Shonn Greene to a purely backup role. By season’s end, Sankey had amassed just 572 rushing yards while averaging 3.7 YPC and finding the end zone twice. He was also only marginally more productive as a receiver, catching 18 of his 24 targets for 133 yards. During the offseason, the Titans beefed up their offensive line and used a 5th round pick on Minnesota running back David Cobb while drafting fullback Jalston Fowler in the 4th round. With the offense more heavily tilted to a power rushing attack, Sankey is not guaranteed to win the starting job from Cobb in 2015. He rates as a low end RB3 with some major risk and little upside given the state of the Titans offense. It’s worth remembering that the Titans view Dexter McCluster as a solid option in the passing game, further tainting Sankey’s fantasy value.
Taken in the 5th round of this year’s draft, Cobb has a chance to make an impact as a rookie on a Tennessee team that struggled mightily to run the ball effectively last season. Bishop Sankey failed to prove he was worthy of starting as a rookie in 2014, opening the door for the team to draft Cobb in 2015. At 5’11” and 229 pounds, Cobb has traits that are better suited to the physical running style that head coach Ken Whistenhunt wants to employ. While draft reports indicate that Cobb is a decent pass protector, he wasn’t much of a receiving threat at Minnesota, and that will limit his workload if he is unable to supplant Sankey in the starting lineup. However, he has a decent chance of making that happen and rates as a solid RB4 with some upside next season.
Signed prior to last season to a three-year, $9-million contract with $4.5-million in guarantees and another $3-million available through incentives, McCluster did his best to make the Titans look foolish to signing him to such an outlandish contract, gaining just 328 yards and scoring once on 66 touches while averaging 3.3 YPC and 7.6 YPR. Outside of the return game, McCluster never displayed any playmaking ability during his four years in Kansas City so it’s anybody’s guess as to why the Titans thought he would discover it as a Titan. While that’s bad enough, the situation seems even worse considering the Titans have indicated that they want to get him more involved in 2015. It goes without saying that McCluster has zero fantasy value.
After topping 1,000 receiving yards in his 2nd year in the league in 2013, Wright regressed badly in 2014, catching 57 of his 93 targets for 715 yards and six touchdowns. If it weren’t for the touchdowns, it would have truly been a disappointing season for Wright’s owners. As a slot receiver, his reception to target percentage of 61.2% is hardly awe inspiring and that holds true for his career average of 11.3 yards per reception. While a portion of his lack of production last season can be blamed on the Titans quarterback play and the fact that he missed two games, it is worth noting that the Titans weren’t a whole lot better at quarterback in 2013. Truth be told, the 5’10”, 195 pound Wright lacks playmaking ability and never should have been taken 20th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s a slot receiver who doesn’t get enough separation and has trouble finding the end zone with just 12 touchdowns in three years on 336 targets. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he rates as a low upside, WR4 who could see his snap count reduced in favor of Harry Douglas, who was signed to a modest three year contract in the offseason.
Apparently not convinced that fellow man-child Justin Hunter would establish himself in 2014, the Titans acquired his replica in Dorial Green-Beckham in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. At 6’6″ and 225 pounds with solid speed and outstanding athletic ability, the sky is the limit for Green-Beckham. And he had plenty of time last year to stare at the sky because he missed the entire year after being suspended by Missouri. With off the field concerns and having missed a year, it is foolhardy to expect him to provide consistent production during his rookie year. In fact, it won’t be a surprise if his main role is on jump balls in the red zone. He rates as a decent option in dynasty leagues but is waiver wire material in redraft formats as a player whose fantasy output will be touchdown reliant playing on a team that will struggle on offense.
Million dollar body, 10 cent brain. Meet Justin Hunter. Already on notice in Tennessee given the team’s selection of Dorial Green-Beckham in the 2nd round of this year’s draft coupled with the free agent signings of Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks, as well as head coach Ken Whisenhunt’s cryptic comments that “you either get it or you won’t be in this league anymore”, Hunter may have cemented his spot in the doghouse with an offseason arrest for stabbing, cutting, malicious intent and felonious assault. That doesn’t sound very nice and there is a chance that it could lead to a suspension at some point in 2015. A freak athlete with solid size at 6’4″ and 210 pounds (he spent the offseason bulking up), it appears that the proverbial light will never go on for Hunter.
After busting in his only season with the Colts, catching a woeful 38 of his 68 targets for 405 yards and four touchdowns, Nicks joins the Titans in 2015 hoping to resurrect his once promising career. While that was likely a wise choice given the Titans lack of proven wide receivers, the truth is that Nicks isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. His contract only included $100,000 in guarantees. Last year highlighted his lack explosiveness, averaging a career low 10.7 yards per reception. He will compete with Justin Hunter, rookie 2nd round pick Dorial Green-Beckham and Harry Douglas to play outside with Kendall Wright manning the slot position. Since he is just 27 and was once expected to emerge as one of the league’s top 10 wide receivers, Nicks is worth monitoring in the preseason.
After a reasonably solid six-year stint in Atlanta, Douglas was signed to a three-year, $11.25-million contract by the Titans in the offseason. Although he mainly operated out of the slot for the Falcons, that position is occupied by Kendall Wright in Tennessee so Douglas is expected to play both inside and outside in 2015 and he has had some access in that type of role, catching 85 passes for 1,067 yards and a pair of scores in 2013. While that’s the optimistic side of Douglas’ story, we expect that he was signed to provide depth at wide receiver more than anything. The Titans would love for 3rd year player Justin Hunter and rookie 2nd round pick Dorial Green-Beckham to emerge as outside threats with Wright continuing to man the slot. Also in the mix to play outside is former Giant and Colt Hakeem Nicks. It’s a muddled mess for Tennessee at receiver heading into training camp. Unless Douglas somehow emerges with a meaningful role, we can’t endorse him as fantasy worthy in 2015.
In his first season with the Titans in 2013, Walker finished as the 12th ranked fantasy tight end. Last year, he ranked 9th. What’s in store for Walker in 2015? Let’s go out on a limb and predict another lower tier TE1 ranking. The Titans will swap out a host of pretenders at quarterback for Marcus Mariota (okay, maybe that’s not being fair to Zach Mettenberger) and some pieces have been moved around at wide receiver, but overall the situation remains very similar to 2014. While it’s hard to fall in love with a 30-year old tight end coming off career highs in targets (106), receptions (63) and yards (890) playing in what figures to be an offense that will rank in the lower third of the league, you could do worse than Walker. Although his upside is limited, his floor is as a mid-tier TE2. We’re fine grabbing him as a lower TE1 due to his low risk factor.