Scheme and Metrics fantasy team preview- we’ll take a look at each of the 32 teams and look at a combination of offensive scheme/philosophy and some player metrics to give us something else to think about when drafting our fantasy squads this summer. In this edition, we’ll look at the Tennessee Titans.
• The Titans no longer have OC Matt LaFleur (Yay!) but they promoted TE coach Arthur Smith, and we have no idea what we’ll get this year. Smith did say that he wasn’t looking to overhaul the offense- hopefully he was just being nice to his former boss. The Titans ran a prehistoric offense that ran too much against stacked boxes, but in their defense, Marcus Mariota couldn’t feel his hand for most of the season, so maybe the running game was used out of necessity. Until we see otherwise, there’s definitely concern that we’ll continue to see an unimaginative and conservative offense.
• Derrick Henry has 97th-percentile speed and 88th-percentile explosiveness- he’s a home-run hitter if there ever was one, but if you’re looking for agility, he’s in the 28th-percentile, so what we have is a between-the-tackles grinder with long speed.
• A.J. Brown is fast (90th-percentile speed score), but he’s pretty much average in terms of burst and agility, so I don’t see him being a better target than Corey Davis outside or Adam Humphries in the slot. He’ll more likely profile as an outside WR over time.
• Adam Humphries may have benefited from the pass-heavy system (as well as familiarity with the QBs) when he was in with Tampa Bay because he’s slow and has little explosiveness (26th-percentile in each area) with just 43rd-percentile agility.
• Mariota is finally healthy, and the coaching staff decides to use analytics to let him throw out of heavy personnel (12 and 13), when defenses have their base defense on the field. This allows the offense to be in more friendly down and distance situations than they’ve seen in the past. They also run the football when they have three WRs (11 personnel) on the field to give henry more seven-man boxes. Overall, we finally have an offense that makes good use of its personnel, and they finish up in the middle of the league while being solid for fantasy.
• The offense remains predictable and they face far too many obvious-passing downs. In addition, Mariota simply isn’t a good QB, and his inability to make quality throws consistently renders his weapons largely ineffective.
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• Mariota has always been terrible throwing from 11 personnel, yet the coaches kept using it. Also, by running on early downs, they consistently put the QB in long-distance situations. To make matters worse, he played much of the year with a nerve issue in which he couldn’t feel his fingers. If he’s healthy and if the coaching staff decides to throw more out of run formations, we’ll see if Mariota can be successful- both in fantasy and reality. With an ADP of 147, I’m out on him, unless I find out in August that the offense will change with the times- if it does, I’d draft him at ADP because he has good weapons.
• While many assume Derrick Henry has been a bust in his first three NFL seasons, he’s averaged between 4.2-4.9 YPC in each season while missing just a single game in his rookie season. That said, he’s only handled 167 carries per year, and clearly wasn’t earning regular work until he had four-straight strong performances to end 2018. He also doesn’t project to me much of a receiver, though he’s caught about 2 passes per game. His ADP of 34 makes sense because it considers the fact that although he’s a lead RB on his team, he’s far from earned his place as trustworthy to fantasy owners. Those willing to take him near his ADP could get a steal if he builds on last year, but don’t forget, many RBs with fresh legs have had great finishes to seasons when seeing an uptick in volume, and then reverted to mediocrity the following season.
• Dion Lewis was a really bad fit for the Titans offense last year- they ran from obvious run formations, so Lewis didn’t see the light boxes and running lanes he saw in New England. Also, the coaching staff was quite unimaginative when using his as a receiver- they rarely got him schemed into space. The team looks set to commit to Derrick Henry, and unless the offense was completely revamped with a basis in analytics, Lewis will be miscast and will waste away his fantasy and football career with this team. Unless I hear in August that the coaches will fix the offense (not likely, I’m out on Lewis, as much as I like him as a player).
• Despite poor usage, Corey Davis posted 65/891/4 in a worst-case scenario last year, and now entering his third season in the league, don’t be surprised if he takes another jump forward, even if the play-calling remains terrible. One thing to be concerned about is that he had a 26.4% target share in 2018 and now A.J. Brown has been drafted and Delanie Walker is back, but in reality, these could make things better for Davis, as he looks like he can be an elite player- and with an ADP of 85, I’m buying, but remember, I do qualify as a Davis truther at this point.
A.J. Brown- It doesn’t help that he’ll likely be on a run-heavy team that won’t throw the ball enough to make many receivers good fantasy options, but he’s also a rookie and could find himself fourth in the pecking order for targets (don’t forget Delanie Walker is back at TE). Sure, I can see Brown as a dynasty asset, but thinking he’ll overcome the mess that has been the Titans offense seems a bit of a reach.
• Delanie Walker was always a top TE in fantasy after leaving the 49ers a number of years back until a broken ankle ended his 2018 season after 1 game. It’s not too complicated- he has chemistry with Marcus Mariota, he’s an excellent receiver, and he likely still has gas in the tank, even at age 35.He’s now being drafted well after pick 100, so if you waited to draft a TE, he’s a great one to target, and he should be a solid weekly starter.