Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire
For the first time since 2008, the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs. Once there, they beat the Chiefs in come-from-behind fashion, including a crazy play where Marcus Mariota threw a TD to himself. Not only that, but they even had a lead against the Patriots before eventually falling in the divisional round. The Titans were a good team last year.
The Tennessee Titans gave up 22 more points than they scored, they only won 9 games in the regular season, and their quarterback had to catch his own pass in the playoffs because seemingly nobody else could. The only two teams they beat in their division lost their quarterbacks for the year. The Titans were not a good team last year.
A fitting theme of the Titans last year was uncertainty. Would we get the good Titans or the bad ones each week? It’s appropriate, then, that a lot of their top fantasy options come into 2018 with the same uncertainty. Will he get all the carries? Will the playoff renaissance continue? Is he too old? Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Derrick Henry, RB
The highest rated fantasy option for the Titans in 2018 is running back Derrick Henry, and he is our first of many questions. Henry is currently considered a low-end RB2 (ADP at rb21) and his fans are hoping that this is the breakout year. Henry had 110 carries in 2016 followed by 176 in 2017. If the same increase repeats, we could be finally looking at a full workload and a safe RB2 floor. The downside to Henry, though, is that he doesn’t get the passing work. He has caught only 24 passes over his two seasons, and Dion Lewis was brought in to catch the ball. That being said, Henry should still get enough touches to make RB2 and he could be looking at a big ceiling if Lewis were to get hurt (like he did in 2015 and 2016). I like Henry at his current ADP in standard leagues, though I would downgrade him to RB3 in PPR leagues.
Dion Lewis, RB
Dion Lewis signed a free agent deal with the Titans over the off-season worth $20 million. This is good money for a running back, and it shows the Titans plan to use him. Last year he had 180 carries and 32 receptions while finishing as the rb12 overall. However, that whole “Derrick Henry” situation lingers. If Dion Lewis was the only back in town, I would love him. However, Henry should be the lead dog, while Lewis comes in to spell as needed. I would expect something like 125 carries and around 50 targets. There could still be value for both guys, but it’s going to be tight. I have Dion Lewis as a RB3 in standard leagues and a low-end RB2 in ppr leagues. If anything happened to Henry, Lewis would immediately have RB1 upside in all formats.
Corey Davis, WR
Corey Davis had a rocky first year, catching 34 passes for 375 yards over 11 games. To make things worse, he didn’t catch a touchdown all regular season. He was battling a hamstring injury, but this was still a huge disappointment for the man drafted 5th overall by the Titans. Rookie wide receivers do tend to struggle though, and Davis made up for his slow start by catching two touchdowns in two playoff games, all while looking the part. So, do we believe the regular season results, or the playoffs and the hype of a first round talent? Davis is going as the WR27 in drafts, and that feels way too high for someone who hasn’t proven it. Other receivers in the same range are Michael Crabtree (#26), Chris Hogan (#29), Sammy Watkins (#30), and Pierre Garcon (#34). I think Davis has a high ceiling, but I’ll let someone else pay the current price until I’ve seen more.
Rishard Matthews, WR
Rishard Matthews is entering his third season with the Titans, and he might be the “surest thing” on the roster. He’s not a world-beater, and he probably won’t ever win you a week. However, Matthews is about as safe as it gets. He only had one game last year with fewer than 4 targets and only 3 games with fewer than 5 (For context, Julio Jones failed to see 5 targets once and A.J. Green failed twice). Those 5 targets mean we can expect roughly 3-4 catches and 60 yards per game, plus some good touchdown upside. That’s a steal for a guy currently going as WR52. To be clear, I like Corey Davis more than Rishard Matthews, but Matthews has more value where he is being drafted. Think of Matthews as a WR3 going at WR5 price.
EDIT: This has been an odd preseason for Rishard Matthews. He had a mystery illness, saw some time on the PUP list, and the team seemed happy to tell us nothing while it all happened. Then, Matthews fired his agent and negotiated a terrible contract extension that seems to put all the cards in the Titans’ hands. Matthews still looks like a wr3, but Taywan Taylor is lurking.
Delanie Walker, TE
Apparently Delanie Walker heard me hyping up Rishard Matthews’ “safety” and he would like to have words outside. That’s fair. Walker has been with the team longer, has put up 800+ yards in 4 straight seasons, and he averaged 5 touchdowns per year over those 4 seasons. The only knock against Walker is his age (33), but the team just re-upped him for three more years. Walker’s consistency extends to the “per game” level, having caught at least 3 passes in every single game last year. He might be the safest tight end in the whole league. The only real knock I have against Walker is that the tight end position tends to get overbid once the top three go (Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz) and Walker often gets swept up in that rush. The being said, I would happily take Delanie Walker at his current ADP (TE#7) and I would personally rank him as my TE4, just ahead of Evan Engram.
Marcus Mariota, QB
Marcus Mariota’s pro career has been a mix of good (his 4-TD debut against the Bucs in 2015, the entire 2016 season, the wildcard playoff game against the Chiefs) and bad (the 2017 season, the constant injuries) and it feels like fans have cooled on him. Mariota had 26 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions in 2016, and everyone expected the jump last year. I did too. It just didn’t happen. I personally blame the offense (exotic smash mouth?) and the frequent injuries. Luckily, the offense has changed (good!). Un-luckily, the injuries might just be a yearly occurrence we have to expect. I still see big upside for Mariota with all the weapons he has, along with his natural gifts as a runner. Marcus Mariota has QB1 upside if he stays healthy all year long, and his current price at QB#17 means you can take him in the last rounds. That sounds good to me.