Nashville, Tennessee. Home of rambunctious Bachelorette parties, country music enthusiasts and wannabes, and Broadway aka Honkeytonk Highway. Oh, and the Tennessee Titans.
For whatever reason, the Titans end up being one of the most forgettable franchises in football for me. Maybe it’s their goofy uniform scheme. Perhaps it’s their mediocre history of play; never genuinely terrible, but never truly elite. The Titans were the number one seed in the AFC last year. Did you forget that too?
The point of all this is not to bash the Titans. They have some excellent players. Success hasn’t been completely elusive. They were the number one seed in the AFC last year for crying out loud!
But for all the success in 2021, the Titans are not the team you first think of that is stacked with relevant fantasy players. They traded away A.J. Brown on draft night, one of their few premier fantasy talents. We are left with an elite Derrick Henry and… some other pieces.
But let’s dig into each of the Titans’ offensive positional groups and see what Tennessee has to offer for our fantasy teams. You may be surprised to find there is more talent than first meets the eye.
Our first positional group oozes with that feeling of “meh” that we get from the Tennessee Titans. Veteran Ryan Tannehill leads the quarterback room. When I was talking about how the Titans seem to be a forgettable franchise, maybe it has something to do with their rather forgettable quarterback.
That is not to say Tannehill is useless. Actually, quite the contrary. And I will do my best to convince you that he is a must-own for value hunters throughout fantasy leagues.
For years, I have been beating the drum of Kirk Cousins. While seen as a mediocre quarterback in real life, Cousins has had late-QB1/early-QB2 seasons every season since becoming a full-time starter in 2015. You may not think much of him when the Vikings come into town to play your favorite team. But if you are a value hunter in fantasy, he is a fantastic asset.
Well, let’s talk about Tannehill, then. He is easily forgotten in fantasy leagues, much like Cousins. In July, Tannehill is currently being drafted in startups as QB28. According to consensus, there are 27 quarterbacks worth having over Tannehill.
Look, I get it. Tannehill just turned 34. He isn’t no spring chicken. But QB28 is six quarterback slots behind my favorite value QB, Kirk Cousins. And Tannehill has been arguably a better asset the last three seasons.
When Tannehill joined the Titans, he didn’t get the full-time starting job until Week 7 of the 2019 season. Before reading further, take a wild guess as to where Ryan Tannehill ranked from weeks seven to seventeen in the 2019 season.
Tannehill was QB2. Second best to only the 2019 MVP, Lamar Jackson.
You may be thinking, “yeah, well, he hasn’t been all that good since then, Tim.” Au contraire, mon frere! From a statistical perspective, Tannehill had a fantastic 2020 season, finishing as QB7 in fantasy football. That’s better than the 2020 seasons of Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson.
And yes, his 2021 season took a dip. But nothing that isn’t worth rostering. Tannehill finished as QB12 in 2021, good enough to be a late-QB1. And certainly good enough to be a starter in any Superflex league.
Tannehill is reliable through the air, but where he is sneaky good is on the ground. He is a master of the naked bootleg and has tallied seven rushing touchdowns each of the last two seasons.
The Titans selected Malik Willis in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Tannehill is still the guy in Nashville. Willis slipped all the way into the third round, seemingly because it will take time to develop him as a starter in the NFL.
Until that day comes when Willis is starting under center, Tannehill is a fantastic option for any fantasy owner. Especially owners in Superflex leagues where the QB position is prime real estate.
Some of you may have just scrolled to this section to find out what I have to say about Derrick Henry. The elite back for so many previous seasons is coming off a big foot injury and is now 28 years old. Is Henry still a running back worth valuing highly in your fantasy leagues?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, of course.
Henry did only play in eight games in 2021. But let’s have some fun with the wild stats he put up in those games. And they truly are something to behold; on the scale of the ridiculous Tom Brady career stats, everyone likes to bring up.
In 2021, Henry finished as RB14 in standard scoring leagues. In less than half the possible games. He scored more fantasy points in standard leagues than Dalvin Cook (who played 13 games) and Josh Jacobs (who played 15 games) and scored only two points less than Aaron Jones (who played 15 games).
Do you want to argue that it’s just because we are talking about standard leagues? Fine. Henry was RB16 in 0.5-PPR. He was RB22 in full-PPR. He was still an RB2 in full-PPR leagues, even though he missed half a season!
Let’s have some more fun. Obviously, Henry was RB1 in the weeks when he was healthy. Do you want to guess how long it took for him to no longer be in the top five, even though he wasn’t playing? It took until the completion of week 14 in standard leagues for Henry to fall from RB4 to RB7 on the year.
Do I think Henry may slow down a bit in 2022? Possibly. Do I think his workload could be reduced? Potentially. Am I even considering moving Henry if I am a contender? Absolutely not. King Henry makes kings. He is a cheat code. If he stays healthy in 2022, he is a guaranteed top-five producer. You do not move on from players like this.
And if you don’t have Henry, he just became the most affordable he has been in years this offseason. Especially if a rebuilding team is rostering him. Kick the tires and find out what it might cost you to acquire him. It may come back to bite you if he gets hurt again and fully breaks down. But the risk is worth the reward for a league winner like Henry.
The Rest of the Backs
Additionally, in the Titans’ running back room are Dontrell Hillard and rookie Hassan Haskins. Haskins is at least a bit interesting from a dynasty perspective, but his value is essentially zero to a contending owner if Henry stays healthy. He is more of a handcuff for Henry’s owners than anything else.
As mentioned earlier, the Titans traded away their premier wide receiver, A.J. Brown, to the Eagles during the 2022 NFL Draft. Brown had been in contract disputes with the Titans, and the organization decided to move on. They got a first-round draft pick in return for him and used it to draft Arkansas standout Treylon Burks.
Burks now becomes the new alpha of the Titans’ wide receiver room. Well, hopefully, at least. Since the combine process started last Spring, there have been plenty of rumors and concerns surrounding Burks. The Titans spent the 18th overall pick on Burks, but that makes him the sixth WR in the draft. Should we be concerned that five other teams thought a better receiver was available than Burks when drafting?
It isn’t the most reassuring fact that Burks was passed five times for other receivers. But it would not be the first time the best receiver was passed up in the first round. Justin Jefferson, now one of the best wide receivers in football, was the fifth receiver in the first round in 2020, behind Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Jalen Reagor. It is certainly possible that these other teams passing on Burks have their evaluations mixed up.
Regardless, Burks is a 6’2”, 224-pound alpha receiver with blazing speed when he gets going in the open field. He may make Titans fans forget about A.J. Brown quickly. Then again, he may be a total bust. That is the spectrum we always have to be aware of with rookies.
Meanwhile, the Titans hadn’t finished changing their receivers between 2021 and 2022. They also brought in Robert Woods in free agency. Fresh off an ACL injury, “Bobby Trees” is an interesting player to evaluate. On the one hand, he was a consistent dynasty asset for years with the Rams. On the other, he is 30 years old, coming off a significant knee injury, and joining a new team in a new system.
While Woods was fantastic from 2018 to 2020, averaging over 1,100 yards and almost 90 catches per season, his yardage totals gradually decreased as the years went on. Also, leaving a high-powered offense like the Rams for a more run-heavy team like the Titans does not bode well.
Still, I think Woods is intriguing enough to try to acquire him where he is affordable. If he can return healthy this season, Woods is a fantastic option to be a WR2/WR3 in PPR leagues.
Best of the Rest
Rookie Kyle Phillips is the only other wide receiver interesting enough to discuss on the Titans. Phillips was not the athletic profile that made GMs lick their chops in the draft process. He is 5’11” and 181 pounds and ran a rather pedestrian 4.58 40-yard dash. For reference, Burks ran a 4.55 40 even though he’s 43 pounds heavier.
But Phillips has been impressive in camp, according to reports, and may position himself as the starting slot receiver for the Titans. Again, camp hype is camp hype, so it is hard to know if we should believe this. But in deep leagues, Phillips may be worth a stash.
The 2021 Titans tight end room was a lowly group led by Anthony Firkser. Firkser has since departed for Atlanta, and a former Falcon comes into Nashville: Austin Hooper.
The Titans were pretty disappointing from a fantasy perspective at the tight end last season. If you combine Firkser’s totals with Geoff Swaim (returning in 2022) and Mycole Pruitt (also off to Atlanta), you still only end up with 646 receiving yards. They did, however, account for 8 of the 22 receiving touchdowns for Tennessee a year ago.
In comes Hooper, who has had an exciting career up to this point. His last two years in Cleveland were relatively lackluster, finishing as TE23 and TE27. But before this, Hooper had back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in Atlanta. In 2019, his last year as a Falcon, he finished as TE7.
Could his struggles in Cleveland be a case of feeling a little brown? Odell Beckham seemed to get over this illness quickly when he moved on to the Rams last year. Or is Hooper destined to be a middle-of-the-road tight end?
I think Hooper has a strong chance to have a bit of a resurgence in Tennessee for his career, but I’m not sure this will correlate with fantasy success. Even in Hooper’s strongest years, he was a late TE1 player. If we anticipate a return to form to that degree, Hooper is still a bit of a dime-a-dozen guy. He’s worth a pickup if he’s sitting on waivers or a stash in a deep league. But I would not anticipate him as anything more than a fill-in on a bye week for your better rostered tight ends.
Best of the Rest
And after Hooper, there isn’t much going on in the Titans tight end room. Geoff Swaim will not bring us fantasy success, and I don’t expect rookie Chigoziem Okonkwo to be a household name this season. I’d bet my money that most of you are reading his name for the first time in this article.
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