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Titan Up: Why It’s Time To Buy The Titans Offense

If you told me in July of 2019 I would be writing an article on buying the Tennessee Titans offense, it’s very likely I would have called you crazy, yet here we are. When the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, nobody could have predicted that going into his fifth NFL season he would have had five different offensive coordinators. Since drafting Mariota, the Titans have spent two first-round selections on the offensive side of the ball, one being Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin, and the other Western Michigan star wide receiver Corey Davis. As disappointing as the Tennessee Titans offense has been in the Mariota era, which has now lasted four seasons, two head coaches, five offensive coordinators, and one playoff appearance, I took a deep dive into why now the time is to buy in dynasty leagues. 

As an analyst it’s always so easy to avoid the “bad offenses” when talking about dynasty fantasy football players, however, it’s important to realize just because things have been bad that doesn’t exactly mean they always will be. Just as a head coach or new general manager can change the culture of a franchise so can talented players, and as I discuss here the Tennessee Titans have plenty of those players. 

Arthur Smith – OC

Arthur Smith takes over as the new offensive coordinator in Tennessee after the departure of Matt LaFleur who took over as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. The Titans continue to look for consistency on offense making Arthur Smith the fifth different play-caller that Marcus Mariota will work with. Despite another new coordinator, the Titans offense is likely to look similar in 2019 as Smith has served on the Titans coaching staff for eight years, he’s spent the last three seasons as the teams’ TE coach. During his time as the TE coach, Smith coached Delanie Walker to back to back 65+ catch seasons with at least 800 yards in two of the last three seasons. The biggest concern with new offensive coach Arthur Smith is his lack of play-calling experience while he has coached under Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey who have proven to be good play-callers in their time, it remains to be seen how Smith does in this role. 

The Numbers

Before we jump into breaking down the offensive pieces, let’s take a look at the Titans offense as a whole. I looked into the numbers of the past four seasons even though the offensive coaching staff has constantly changed the results haven’t been much different. 

  • 2015: 28th in Points/30th in Yards/25th in Pass Yards/25th in Rush Yards
  • 2016: 14th in Points/11th in Yards/25th in Pass Yards/3rd in Rush Yards
  • 2017: 19th in Points/23rd in Yards/23rd in Pass Yards/15th in Rush Yards
  • 2018: 27th in Points/25th in Yards/29th in Pass Yards/7th in Rush Yards

It’s safe to say something needs to change for Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense if they are going to be respected as a legitimate passing offense in 2019. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has said the offense will remain mostly the same, but those comments don’t quite make sense if you look at what the Titans did this off-season. The Titans brought in slot WR Adam Humphries from Tampa Bay signing him to a 4 yr/$36 million contract as well as drafting one of the most polished WRs in the draft, Ole Miss product A.J. Brown. The safe bet was that the Titans are trying to emphasize the short passing game to help keep Marcus Mariota protected as well as become a top 20 passing offense in the NFL, something they have failed to do since drafting Mariota. At the end of the day, the Titans will rely on playing defense and running the ball, with that being said the NFL is a passing league and you must be able to keep a defense guessing and score points. The Titans have struggled to do this in the Mariota era, only one time have they finished as a top 15 offense in points scored was in 2015 which was easily Mariota’s best statistical season as a passer. With the best weapons that Marcus Mariota has played within his short NFL career, the 2019 season is a big chance for the Titans to show what they can do in the passing game. 

Marcus Mariota – QB

Once one of the most sought after QBs in dynasty, it’s almost like the former Oregon Duck QB and Heisman winner is now an afterthought in the dynasty community. According to DLF most recent super flex ADP data Marcus Mariota has an average draft position of 92 which is good for QB27, behind 41-year-old Tom Brady. Based on talent alone I know there aren’t 26 QBs I would put ahead of Mariota in dynasty but when you look into the numbers the argument can be made that he is ranked appropriately. The biggest concern with Mariota has been his health, now entering his fifth season as the Titans starter he has yet to play 16 games in a season. The poor passing numbers can be attributed to the constant change at the offensive coordinator position, but some of this has to be put on Mariota as well. I mentioned his best statistical season in 2016 when he completed over 61% of his passes for 3,000+ yards, 26/9 touchdown to interception ratio while adding 349 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Those numbers placed him as the QB12 that season. Mariota has failed to finish higher than QB18 in any of his other three seasons as the starter in Nashville. In 2018 Mariota was able to complete a career-best 68.9% of his passes with the addition of Dion Lewis to the short passing game. The Titans have added legitimate weapons to the offense which should give the fifth-year quarterback his best chance to increase his passing numbers and hopefully, the play calling is better than years past.

This chart shows where the Titans have ranked over the last four years as a passing offense, even though Mariota’s lone QB1 finish was in 2016. As dynasty owners, we are looking for more of the numbers from the 2015 season to support fantasy production. The Titans have never finished higher than 21st in the NFL in the past four years in pass attempts per game. I’m betting on the Titans changing that in 2019 with the number of playmakers currently on their roster. Marcus Mariota is a true dual-threat QB if he can settle in as an average passer, he instantly can outperform his expectations this season, as well as help, support his WRs and RBs to productive fantasy seasons, his health is everything. 

Ryan Tannehill 

The Tennessee Titans are fully aware of the injury concerns with Marcus Mariota and while he is likely on a one-year prove-it deal before the team invests in him long term, they did the smart thing trading for Ryan Tannehill as his backup. Tannehill comes over from the Dolphins after a huge dip in production the last two seasons after a three year stretch from 2013 to 2015 where he threw for over 12,000 yards and 70 touchdowns. The former college WR turned NFL QB has also struggled to stay on the field in the past two seasons, he joins the Titans to give them a similar athlete behind center if Mariota goes down to injury again. It’s unlikely Tannehill challenges a healthy Mariota for the starting job, but he can do his best as a backup to keep the offense moving, which is much more than we can say for Blaine Gabbert last season who appeared in eight games throwing for 626 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. 

Derrick Henry

The former Alabama Crimson Tide RB turned in his first 1,000-yard season as well as his first double-digit touchdown campaign in 2018, helping him finish as the RB16. The biggest concern here is how Henry managed to put up these huge numbers but still didn’t finish as an RB1, this is directly attributed to his lack of pass-game work even though his 15 receptions in 2018 were his most in any of his first three seasons. While most around the dynasty community feel Henry is one of the safest bets going into 2019 as far as being a fantasy producer in the Titans offense, I don’t think I would be investing in him as a dynasty asset. Derrick Henry is a 25-year-old RB entering a contract year with over 500 carries it’s likely if he’s used as an every-down back his production will take a big hit and there is no reason for the Titans to use him in that way with veteran Dion Lewis still on the roster. Henry is most productive late in games wearing down a defense or as a power back in short-yardage and red zone opportunities. This is where Henry is most valuable for both the Titans and dynasty owners, you can’t expect every RB to be elite it’s just simply not the case and when you accept Derrick Henry for what he is, a high-end RB2, it will make life much easier on yourself. The Titans offense is going to lean on their running game early and often in 2019, new O.C. Arthur Smith has praised Henry and insisted he will feed him this year which makes sense in a contract year but it’s very likely the Tennessee Titans starting RB in 2020 is still in college as I type this article. 

Dynasty Nerds – Dynasty PPR RB Rankings

See all Rankings…

Dion Lewis 

The former New England Patriot joined the Titans in 2018 and did what he does best, turned in an RB28 finish with 900 total yards, mostly contributing in the passing game with 59 receptions. The veteran RB produced on only 214 total touches in 2018 and if he was able to score more than two touchdowns, he would have finished much higher a year ago. Dion Lewis will continue to be the “buy” for me from the Titans backfield as long as he’s getting snaps, he will continue to put together startable weeks for your dynasty team at a fraction of the price of his running mate Derrick Henry. If the past four years are any indication of what is to be expected then Lewis should see his chances, Tennessee has finished top 15 in rushing yards in three of the last four seasons. Dion Lewis fits perfectly into the passing game RB role in this offense, his carries should be limited to 150 or less but his work in the passing game as both a receiver and picking up blitzes will keep him on the field as well as keep Derrick Henry fresh late in the season. 

Corey Davis

  • 2017: 11 Games Played/9 Games Started/34 Receptions/375 Yards/0 Touchdowns
  • 2018: 16 Games Played/16 Games Started/65 Receptions/891 Yards/4 Touchdowns

If you are a believer in the Titans passing offense getting to the next level, you don’t need to look any further than Corey Davis being the reason why. Corey Davis left Western Michigan in 2016 after being named Consensus All-American as a senior, he ranks as #1 all-time in receiving touchdowns after racking up 52 touchdowns in his career to go along with his 5,000+ receiving yards. The Titans WR is entering his third year in the NFL and still looking for his first 1,000-yard season. Despite the struggles of consistency at QB, Davis did manage to haul in 65 receptions for nearly 900 yards in 2018. The Titans have finished 28th and 31st in pass attempts in Davis’ first two seasons in the NFL, this has had a direct effect on the pass catchers fantasy production. Only two teams had fewer passing touchdowns than the Titans (16) in 2018, Corey Davis is waiting to break out but the Titans desire to run the ball has limited him. The former Western Michigan star caught all four of his career receiving touchdowns in 2018 making him responsible for exactly one-quarter of the Titans receiving touchdowns. As dynasty owners we have been spoiled in the past, specifically, 2014 when the rookie WRs broke out so fast that it was just expected when you drafted a WR that the player should produce instantly, that however isn’t usually the case. It’s a vastly different offensive league now than it used to be, but Corey Davis is on track to be a typical third-year breakout WR, which is fine. I looked back at two WRs that took longer to breakout and were great NFL WRs. Tim Brown took six years before he hit 900+ yards, Terrell Owens didn’t record his first 1,000-yard season until his third season both of these players ended up in the hall of fame. I’m not saying Corey Davis is on his way to Canton but it’s fair to give him time to breakout especially when the odds have been stacked against him in a run-heavy offense with inconsistent QB play. 

A.J. Brown

  •  2016: 11 Games Played/29 Receptions/412 Yards/14.2 YPC/2 Touchdowns
  • 2017: 11 Games Played/75 Receptions/1,252 Yards/16.7 YPC/11 Touchdowns
  • 2018: 12 Games Played/85 Receptions/1,320 Yards/15.5 Yards/6 Touchdowns

A.J. Brown was drafted 51st overall in the 2019 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans after posting 2,984 receiving yards in his short career at Ole Miss which was good enough for the sixth-best yardage total in SEC history. The Titans desire to spend a high pick on another pass-catcher is a big reason why I’m buying the Titans offense now at their cheapest price in dynasty. The former Ole Miss WR is a two-sport athlete who was also drafted to play professional baseball by the San Diego Padres in 2016. There is little doubt in my mind how good Brown is. He holds the Ole Miss record for career receiving yards as well as holding single-game records for receiving yards and receptions and finally single-season record holder for both receptions and touchdowns. Pairing up A.J. Brown with Corey Davis gives Marcus Mariota no excuse to not become a higher volume and more efficient passer in 2019. The Titans now have two strong WRs who will play together for at least the next two seasons, regardless of who plays QB for the Titans in 2019 and beyond they will have a great chance to succeed given the weapons on the Titans offense. 

Adam Humphries 

After leaving Tampa Bay Humphries joins the Tennessee Titans to hopefully fill the same role as the slot WR to open up the short passing game. While only starting 17 of 60 career games Humphries still adds great value to a passing game, he posted career highs in receptions (76), yards (816) and touchdowns (5) in 2018. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer also saw a career-high 105 targets in 2018 there should be plenty of time to create chemistry with Marcus Mariota after hauling in 137 receptions the last two seasons it would seem the Titans have a plan in place to get Humphries involved in the offense. In PPR leagues Humphries has value but with the touchdown limitations as a passing offense, he will be overlooked in most dynasty leagues, at this point you have to believe things will change in Nashville if you are buying the standout slot WR. All three WRs for the Titans bring a good skill set to the offense it would make sense to get these players involved instead of turning around and handing the football off 40+ times a game and relying on your defense to win football games. As dynasty owners, we can only hope I’m right on this one, regardless, acquiring potential breakout talent for cheap is never a bad idea. 

Taywan Taylor 

  • 2017: 16 Receptions/231 Yards/14.4 YPC/1 Touchdown
  • 2018: 37 Receptions/466 Yards/12.6 YPC/1 Touchdown

Taywan Taylor seems to be the odd man out with the additions of Brown and Humphries and based on the limited production of the Titans pass game recently that’s a fair assessment to make. It’s likely Taylor will need an injury or two to see significant playing time but he’s still worth a roster spot on your dynasty team. Despite only starting 9 of 29 games in his career, when called upon Taylor is a solid WR who can help the Titans offense. The 3rd year WR is never going to jump off the screen at you as being the best player on the field but he will always be a solid WR who is constantly trying to get better. The evidence of this is Taylor improving his catch rate from 57% as a rookie to 66% in his second NFL season. Acquiring the fourth-best WR on the Tennessee Titans should cost you almost nothing and there’s a very real chance he will need to wait until he’s on another team to reach his potential, but dynasty is all about taking shots on flier type players in hopes they breakout. I don’t have a ton of confidence here, but I still think stashing Taywan Taylor at the end of a bench in a deep dynasty league is well worth it. 

Delanie Walker 

2006 seemed so long ago when Delanie Walker was drafted a posted an abysmal two receptions for 30 yards his rookie season. Flash forward to the start of the 2019 season and Walker looks to suit up for his 14th NFL season after posting five straight seasons of 60+ receptions from 2013 until 2017. Delanie Walker will turn 35 before training camp and is coming off one of the most devastating ankle injuries I’ve ever seen. The Titans will most likely sit the veteran TE until week one as he has been recovering from injury and is currently at about 85% full health. There might still be some Titans magic with Walker who has grabbed 16 touchdowns since Marcus Mariota has taken over as the starting quarterback, but buyer beware this is likely the end for one of the unsung heroes of dynasty TEs. 

Jonnu Smith

It’s now or never for the 23-year-old TE who stepped into a starting role due to the Delanie Walker injury last season. Jonnu Smith has left a lot to be desired for dynasty owners over his first two seasons, his 38 receptions, 400+ yards, and 5 touchdowns just haven’t been enough to justify him as a viable starting TE in dynasty leagues. The good news is Delanie Walker is old and Jonnu will see all the first-team reps throughout training camp and into the preseason. It goes without saying in dynasty that TEs typically need three to five years before they break out, here’s to hoping its year three for Jonnu Smith. The young TE started 25/29 games in his career and despite only being targeted 60 times in two years he has hauled in 38 of those passes. There isn’t a ton of hope Jonnu Smith will break out in this offense as he’s likely going to be asked to block a lot, but his value is based on red-zone looks, he can potentially score five or more touchdowns to be a decent TE option for your dynasty teams. It has seemed for so long the Titans relied on their TEs, mostly Walker, to produce in the passing game because they just simply didn’t have the weapons. Now they have legit talent on the outside and in the slot. This could mean a bigger dip in production for the TEs, however, if you’re an owner of Walker or Smith at least you have hope with their ex-position coach Arthur Smith now being named the offensive coordinator. 

This is a smart way to rebuild in dynasty, I know we all desire to win and compete every season but if you play in as many leagues as I do there are times when you don’t have a top tier team. The trick to rebuilding is a commitment to a strategy, many dynasty players lack this discipline because like a kid when a new shiny toy is flashed in front of our face, we jump at the chance to get it. Investing in low production offenses who maybe a year or two away from a potential breakout is the best way to improve your team long term without having to wait and depend mainly on the rookie draft. I look forward to breaking down a few more offenses and their players who fit these criteria in the future. Championship teams aren’t built overnight but stick around here for all the #NerdHerd content and you’ll be high fiving your way to a dynasty title quicker than you think. 

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