Over the past few seasons, the Tennessee Titans have been one of the worst organizations in the NFL. The Titans have finished with a winning record just once since 2008, which was their last playoff appearance. Tennessee has a meager 18 wins in the last four years, including five total victories over the past two campaigns.
It’s been bad.
For the first time in quite a while, though, there is some optimism surrounding the Titans. Most of it traces back to the play of their quarterback, Marcus Mariota. If you have a good quarterback, you’ve got a chance, and it appears the Titans have a young centerpiece around which to build.
Both Mariota and fellow rookie Jameis Winston had superb rookie seasons. In 12 games played, Mariota threw for 2,818 yards, 19 scores and 10 interceptions. He ran less than expected, totaling 34 attempts for 252 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was an 87-yard run. Mariota’s yards-per-attempt clip of 7.62 ranked 10th in the league while his 235 passing yards per game checked in 27th.
In our rankings, Mariota slots in as QB5, barely edging Winston for a top-five spot. While Mariota will likely improve his skills as he gains experience, there are a couple factors outside of his control which will play a big part in his development. First, can Tennessee surround him with good players? Secondly, how will Mike Mularkey do as the full-time coach?
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Tennessee landed the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and they may use the first choice to take an offensive lineman, with Laremy Tunsil likely being the first offensive lineman off the board. That would be a boon to Mariota’s fantasy prospects, as well as his overall life expectancy, as the Titans gave up a league-high 53 sacks in 2015. The pounding led to Mariota missing four starts with MCL injuries in each knee. I think Tennessee had a solid 2015 draft, and another good draft in 2016 would only enhance Mariota’s prospects for future success.
As for Tennessee’s coaching situation, the hiring of Jon Robinson — who spent 12 years with the New England Patriots — as general manager had some thinking the Titans may target Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to be their head man. It was exciting to think of a bright offensive mind like McDaniels getting to work with Mariota. Instead, Tennessee retained interim coach Mike Mularkey, which is, frankly, a lot less exciting. Malarkey owns an 18-39 record and went 2-7 in 2015. Selling the chance to coach a talent like Mariota, it seems like the Titans could’ve hired — well, what’s the nicest way to say this — a better coach. With that said, how Robinson drafts over the next handful of years will likely have a bigger impact on the organization than who the coach is for 2016.
Getting to see action in seven games, Mettenberger completed 60.3 percent of his passes, averaging a paltry 134 yards per game while tossing four touchdowns and seven picks. This may be all you need to know about Mettenberger: In 2013, he quarterbacked an LSU offense which featured Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue — and somehow they lost three games.
I really liked Cobb’s vision, aggressiveness and feet coming out of college, and he displayed those skills in 2015. The only problem was how little of a chance he got to show what he can do. The fifth-round pick started the year on injured reserve and saw action in just seven games. His numbers were poor as he amassed just 2.8 yards per carry on 52 attempts. Cobb did close the year with 19 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown in the season finale in what was his only game with over 13 carries. He’s ranked as RB48 in our rankings, the highest of any Tennesse back, and figures to go into camp next summer with a shot to emerge from a jumbled backfield.
Sankey was the first running back taken in the 2014 draft (54th overall pick), and it’s hard to imagine a less inspiring first two seasons. He was a healthy scratch three times in 2015, finishing the season with 47 carries for 193 yards (4.1 YPC) and one score. In his two-year career, he’s rushed 199 times for 762 yards and three touchdowns, adding 32 receptions for 272 yards and another score. He’s shown flashes, and he has the ability to be a good receiver, which could help him get on the field more in 2016. He ranks five spots behind Cobb in our rankings. Sankey, like Cobb, could be a nice buy-low option, and now may be the best time to pursue a deal. If either emerges as the clear-cut top back, their price tag will rise. The situation will be one to monitor all off-season.
An all-purpose back, McCluster was a decent streaming option whenever Tennessee was a big underdog. When he was healthy, he had a role on third downs and was usually a safe bet for around eight touches per game. In 11 games, McCluster caught 31 passes for 260 yards and one touchdown, adding 247 yards (4.5 YPC) and a score on the ground. He will be in a contract year in 2016.
Andrews went undrafted in 2014 but landed with Tennessee as a free agent. He emerged this past season as the Titans’ lead runner, pacing the team in rushing attempts (143), yards (520) and touchdowns (three). The 3.6 yards per carry won’t get anyone too excited, but he’ll likely toss his name in the hat for carries in 2016. Between Andrews, Cobb and Sankey, Andrews is the least talented of the three candidates for the lead role.
I’m all in on Green-Beckham. I have him as the No. 22 overall player and No. 19 receiver in our Top 100 rankings. I think this is the type of party where you need to arrive early, like Allen Robinson was 12 months ago. I believe Green-Beckham’s price tag is about to skyrocket in 2016.
Green-Beckham entered his rookie year as something of a project — a player who had a lot of the physical tools but needed refined. That’s not much different than a majority of rookie receivers, but the difference is how mouth-watering said physical tools are. He is 6-foot-6, 237 pounds and ran a 4.49 40-yard dash. That sounds fake.
Green-Beckham did enough this year to get the dynasty community all riled up. He finished the season with 32 receptions for 549 yards and four touchdowns, finding the end zone on each of his first two career catches. He did that despite playing in just under 56 percent of the Titans’ offensive snaps, a number which should rise considerably in 2016. While a lot of the things Green-Beckham struggled with prior to 2015 — namely route running and consistency — are still issues, he started to show signs of improvement towards the end of the year.
From Week 13 to Week 15, he caught 14 passes for 285 yards and one score, including a pair of 100-yard games. Yes, I cherry-picked his best three-week stretch of the year, but he didn’t start seeing consistent usage until Week 11 so there wasn’t a lot from which to choose. The point is: he started showing the ability to produce as an NFL wideout. He should get all the playing time he can handle in 2016, and as Mariota continues to improve, it will only help Green-Beckham.
Wright started with a bang, racking up 104 yards and a touchdown in the 2015 opener. In Week 3, he caught seven passes for 95 yards and another score. It went downhill from there. Wright battled through an assortment of injuries, most notably a knee issue, playing just 10 games and totaling 36 receptions for 408 yards and three scores. You don’t need a calculator to tell you how little he produced after Week 3. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Wright may be a nice buy-low target this off-season. It wasn’t that long ago (2013) when Wright posted total of 94 catches for 1,079 and two touchdowns with Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick splitting quarterback duties for Tennessee. He’ll probably be the third option in the passing-game hierarchy, but he can be a solid slot weapon.
Hunter seems to be a forgotten man, but I’d caution against completely writing him off. One, he does have physical talent. Two, he just had his most efficient season, albeit in a small sample size, prior to getting injured. Three, Tennessee’s receiver depth chart is pretty weak, so he should continue to get chances.
There is no doubt Hunter is a frustrating player. Not only has he hardly improved on the finer points of being a receiver, but his effort, at times, appears to be lacking. He plays with the aggressiveness of a butterfly. With that said, Hunter made some strides in 2015, catching 22-of-31 targets for 264 yards and one score, playing in just nine games due to an ankle fracture. Even when he suited up, he only played 36 percent of Tennessee’s offensive snaps. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal and should be motivated to not be terrible.
Douglas finished with 36 catches for 411 yards and two touchdowns, playing in the first season of a three-year deal. He almost certainly won’t play out the duration of the contract in Tennessee. He may not even be there in 2016. The Titans can save $3 million next year by releasing him. Douglas is about as relevant in fantasy as Jeb Bush is in the Republican Party.
Walker was the Titans’ best fantasy player in 2016. He ended the year as TE5 in PPR formats, recording career-best numbers in catches (94), yards (1,088) and touchdowns (six). One of the most under-appreciated players in the league, Walker has averaged 989 yards per year over the last two seasons. Entering his age-32 campaign, there’s no reason to think Walker can’t keep producing in the final year of his contract. He may lose some targets to Green-Beckham, but he’s going to be a safety valve Mariota utilizes often when the offensive line breaks down.
Anthony Fasano and Phillip Supernaw
In his 10th season, Fasano hauled in 26 passes for 289 yards and two scores. With Walker out of the lineup in Week 2, Fasano came up with 84 yards and a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns, but he never caught more than three balls in a game the rest of the way. He’s set for free agency after the 2016 campaign. As for Supernaw, who the 25-year-old is on the books for $600,000 in 2016. He caught just three passes in 2016. Look for the Titans to add a tight end this off-season or possibly extend Walker.
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No Tre McBride love, eh? I have higher hopes for him than Hunter at this point.
Thanks for mentioning him. I probably should’ve listed McBride. He specialized in the return game in 2015 and was only targeted twice (both in Week 16), catching two balls for eight yards and a score. With Hunter and Wright both in contract years in 2016, I’d say it’s unlikely both will be back in Tennessee in 2017. Hunter and Wright both have trouble staying healthy, so if Tennessee does cut Douglas this off-season, McBride could have a role at some point next fall. I do think Tennessee will look to add a wideout via draft or free agency. McBride is worth keeping tabs on, though.
I don’t follow politics. Are Jeb Bush and Douglas a buy or not? lol
A fine article, but I’d leave the politics out.