Last updated: July 24th at 2:34pm ET.
Titans 2016-2018 Offensive Profile
2016-2018 Pass Attempts Rank: 28th, 28th, 31st
2016-2018 Rush Attempts Rank: 4th, 14th, 9th
2016-2018 Play Volume Rank: 22nd, 29th, 29th
2016-2018 Yards Per Play Rank: 11th, 18th, 23rd
Unaccounted for Targets from 2018: 28 (30th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2018: 7 (32nd)
Projected Starting Lineup
QB: Marcus Mariota
RB: Derrick Henry
WR1: Corey Davis
WR2: A.J. Brown
SLWR: Adam Humphries
TE: Delanie Walker
LT: Taylor Lewan
LG: Rodger Saffold
C: Ben Jones
RG: Nate Davis
RT: Jack Conklin
Titans Passing Game
This is Marcus Mariota’s make-or-break year in the final season of his contract after Tennessee traded for Ryan Tannehill, potentially shortening Mariota’s leash. GM Jon Robinson did not draft him, and head coach Mike Vrabel wasn’t on staff for the Mariota pick. Mariota’s disappointing 2018 season deserves context, however, after he suffered a pinched nerve in his elbow in Week 1 that was aggravated several times over the course of the year and prevented Mariota from firmly gripping the ball. Injuries have been a recurring theme for Mariota, of course, with multiple MCL sprains, a hamstring strain, and an ankle fracture already on his resume. Mariota told reporters he packed on ten pounds this offseason by eating more pasta before bed. In Ken Whisenhunt, Mike Mularkey, Jason Michael, Terry Robiskie, Matt LaFleur, and now rookie OC Arthur Smith, Mariota has been inundated by offensive-coaching turnover during his four years in the league. While Mariota’s dual threat keeps his ceiling intact, his inconsistency and questionable job security on a run-first team give Mariota a scary floor.
Corey Davis enters a 2019 volume squeeze after finishing top 20 at his position in targets (112) last year. Davis promisingly improved his yards-per-route-run finish from 74thamong 93 qualifiers as a rookie to 30thamong 96 as a sophomore, but the Titans’ offseason moves suggest they want less reliance on an individual pass catcher. In addition to Delanie Walker’s return after missing 15 games, Tennessee signed slot specialist Adam Humphries and drafted A.J. Brown in the second round, while new OC Arthur Smith has publicly committed to a run-first attack. Humphries’ addition in particular figures to cut down on Davis’ slot opportunities, problematic since Davis was by far at his best working inside last season. Still only 24 years old and entering his third season, Davis is an intriguing Dynasty buy-low target with ample long-term upside. In the near term, Davis is just a mid- to late-round, talent-chasing season-long dart.
A.J. Brown needed only three seasons at Ole Miss to set school records for career receiving yards and 100-plus-yard games, earning unanimous first-team All-SEC honors in each of his two years as a starter. Brown’s tape reminded me of JuJu Smith-Schuster as a violent post-catch tackle breaker with standout ball-tracking ability after starring as a prep outfielder and signing with the San Diego Padres out of high school. Plus sized (6’1/226) and plenty fast (4.49), Brown checks nearly every box to project as a solid pro. Unfortunately, Brown’s near-term path to opportunity is limited in a run-first offense that bulked up on receivers this offseason and is missing just the NFL’s third-fewest targets from last year’s team.
Adam Humphries chose the Titans over the Patriots in signing a four-year, $36 million contract to give Mariota a high-percentage option in the middle of the field. Not a big-play threat, Humphries caught 72.9% of his targets over the past two years in Tampa Bay and ran 83% of his 2018 routes in the slot. Humphries’ penchant for commanding short-distance throws was often a thorn in the side of other Bucs pass catchers, however, and the passing pie is far more limited in Nashville. Even as a quality real-life pickup by the Titans, Humphries is a low-ceiling fantasy bet whose appeal is limited to deep PPR leagues.
Delanie Walker turned seven targets into four catches and 52 yards last Week 1, only to suffer an ankle fracture and dislocation in the fourth quarter, ending his year. Walker sat out most offseason activities but estimated he was “85%” in May and was cleared for 7-on-7 work during OTAs. Walker is difficult to be bullish on considering the pass-unfriendly state of Tennessee’s offense coming off a gruesome injury at age 35, but his ADP has been cost friendly. New OC Arthur Smith has been Walker’s position coach for the last five years, and no other Titans pass catcher maintains a stronger rapport with Mariota. An 800-plus-yard receiver in each of his previous four years, Walker is one of my favorite late-round TE2s.
Titans Running Game
Derrick Henry shared time ineffectively with Dion Lewis for last year’s initial 12 games before erupting for 238 yards and four TDs on only 17 carries in a thrilling Week 14 Thursday night destruction of the Jaguars. Then-OC Matt LaFleur put the offense on Henry’s back thereafter, and Henry capitalized for averages of 22.5 touches and 151.5 yards with seven scores over Tennessee’s final four games. Both coach Mike Vrabel and new OC Arthur Smith have stated this year’s offense will be built around Henry behind a line that added LG Rodger Saffold and third-round power-blocking RG Nate Davis, and gets RT Jack Conklin back from recurring knee injuries. LT Taylor Lewan is suspended for the first four weeks, although top backup Dennis Kelly has made 73 career starts and should fill in capably. Henry has never established passing-game value in the pros, but he is a prime breakout candidate in position to contend for the NFL lead in carries. Henry also happens to be in his contract year.
If Tennessee’s last four games provide a template for how Vrabel wants this year’s offense to run, Dion Lewis may end up an afterthought. Lewis’ per-game touches dipped from 15.0 to 8.5 in the final month, and he finished dead last among 47 qualified running backs in Football Outsiders’ rushing Success Rate. Lewis’ No. 2 role on the Titans is safe, but he’s devolved into a late-round stab at best in PPR leagues.
2019 Vegas Win Total
The Titans’ win projection is 8.0 games after finishing 9-7 in each of the past three seasons. Working against this year’s team is the NFL’s fourth-toughest schedule based on Opponent Win Totals, potential quarterback controversy, and a run-first philosophy that may lead to big box-score things for Derrick Henry but is ultimately suboptimal in today’s NFL. With point differentials of +3, -22, and +7 in 2016-2018, Tennessee was pretty fortunate to eke out winning records in all three years. That sets up for potential 2019 regression to the mean and another reason I’m backing the under on eight victories.