In this weekly column, I explore some young players who haven’t made much of a consistent impact to date. Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap or moderate trade. However, this week I’m going look at two Tennessee Titans – wide receiver Kenny Britt and quarterback Jake Locker. Acquiring any of these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years. I will focus on their most recent matchup to draw the majority of my insight.
Kenny Britt, WR TEN
I’m going to cheat once again on the second and third year concept. This troubled wide receiver played 31 games during his first three NFL seasons. There are 16 games in a season so technically he hasn’t played in over three seasons yet. Mr. Britt has character concerns galore and I might be putting that lightly. He has been known to get into car chases with the police, likes to hang out with troubled friends from the old neighborhood, sometimes resists arrest and has substance abuse issues with both alcohol and drugs.
Britt is also no stranger to the training room. In 2010, he missed five games due to injury. The young, troubled playmaker missed 13 games due to multiple injuries to the same knee in 2011. He missed the first game of 2012 due to suspension, but he could not have played as he injured his other knee compensating for the injured one. Both of his knee injuries flared up again in Week Three, so he sat out the following week. I know for many he sounds like a lot of trouble, perhaps even more than he is worth. His redeeming value is his fantastic talent. In 31 games played prior to 2012, he has 101 receptions for 1,765 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Now he finally gets a quarterback to grow with in Locker. As far as his game against the Jets, with Antonio Cromartie on his hip, it definitely went in favor of the all-pro cornerback. Britt just had three targets on the night and managed to come down with only one of them for seven yards. He did look good on that sideline route as he caught the ball at its highest point away from the defender. The other two passes thrown his way were 40+ yard rainbows that did not connect. Locker loves to throw the ball deep and let his receiver find the ball, but against double coverage Britt could not break free. He was an asset in the run game as he blocked his man on almost every play.
Considering his injury issues and general attitude concerns, Britt is having a steady, but unspectacular year. He has 41 receptions for 527 yards with three touchdowns on 79 targets. The young receiver can still be had at a WR3 price while offering you WR1 upside. I’m not going to invest in him higher than a WR3, but he is worth trading for or targeting in a start-up in the eighth round or beyond. He definitely comes with risk so make sure you have other options when you invest in him.
Jake Locker, QB TEN
Some considered him a West Coast version of Tim Tebow when he came out of the University of Washington last year. While he may be lacking in charisma, Locker has grit in spades. Playing against the Jets on Monday night, he was very mobile and looked comfortable in the pocket. The young quarterback tends to roll out to not only avoid trouble, but to open up his receivers downfield as coverage breaks down the longer a pass play develops. He benefits when he concentrates his vision on half the field. He seems to be more effective outside the pocket. Unlike Tebow, he looks to throw first, and run only when it is necessary.
Locker has a very strong arm and is not shy about using it; however, he is more accurate throwing the ball on short and intermediate passes. He only connected on a few of his 10+ yard attempts against New York and finished with a modest 13 completions on 22 attempts for 149 yards passing. Most of the passing yardage was after the catch production when the signal caller hit the receivers in stride on routes less than ten yards down the field. Locker did take two long shots with Britt and just missed on a 55 yard pass to Kendall Wright. The rookie receiver just misjudged the throw and let it miss his outstretched hands. I hope the second year quarterback learns to be a bit more patient as he almost threw an interception trying to fit the ball between two defenders near the end of the first half. Locker seemed a bit limited in this game without a true receiving threat at the tight end position.
The Titans coaches called his name a few times on designed runs to take advantage of his athleticism. Locker finished the day with seven carries for 43 yards with a rushing touchdown. That 13 yard score was a called sweep where he had four blockers in front of him and he rumbled his way from one end of the field to the other on his way into the end zone.
It’s easy to see the development of young quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, then wonder what happened to Locker’s development. Please keep in mind, the young quarterback saw limited action his rookie season (four games in which he played sparingly) and has only played in eight full games this season. Locker needs time to develop and he has been productive this year as a QB2. So far, he is completing 57.6% of his passes for 1,884 yards while throwing nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Perhaps next year if the Titans manage to re-sign Jared Cook or get Taylor Thompson more involved, Locker will get a chance to thrive with the short passing game. A young, developing quarterback needs the kind of safety valve that a good pass catching tight end can provide. This would also complement his commitment to a long passing game featuring Britt and Wright. His rushing totals of 256 yards on 32 attempts with three touchdowns is a good start and makes him harder to game plan against than most quarterbacks. I’m not convinced he will ever be in the QB1 range, but I’m confident that he will continue to improve his game.