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Tennessee Titans Writers
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The Titans have continued to be one of the more run-oriented teams in the NFL since they dedicated themselves to Derrick Henry as a true workhorse back. In 2021, when Henry was healthy, the Titans averaged 35.5 rush attempts per game and proved to remain faithful to that philosophy even after Henry was injured, averaging 32 rush attempts per game for the rest of the season. The Titans have found the most success while running the wide zone scheme (outside of the left and right tackles), with Henry running it 42.6 percent of the time. While running wide zone in 2021, as opposed to other concepts, Henry averaged the most yards per carry, had the most missed tackles forced, and carries that went for 10 yards or more. The heavy emphasis and success of the run game have allowed Ryan Tannehill to find wide-open receivers downfield for chunk gains. It is a proven formula and one that should persist in 2022.
Ryan Tannehill has seen significant swings as the starting quarterback for only two full years. In 2020, he had the luxury of having his key offensive weapons healthy, and the offense ran like a well-oiled machine that produced efficiency through the air and on the ground. Tannehill lost Derrick Henry for half of the year while A.J. Brown and Julio Jones combined for 11 missed games. Still, Tannehill helped the Titans earn a bye week into the AFC Divisional Round, where they eventually fell to the Cincinnati Bengals. Tannehill is ultimately the medium that expresses the effectiveness of the run game through the play action, and he has fulfilled that role proficiently over the past three years. He has been consistent as the starter, and with the offense healthy again, he won't be asked to do much else in 2022.
Malik Willis was selected in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft after the Titans traded up four spots to select him. Willis was incredibly productive as a runner while playing quarterback at Liberty, rushing for 1822 yards over the past two years and being infamous for his cannon of an arm. However, he lacks the dimensions of the position between his rushing capabilities and deep ball. Namely, he needs to be able to see the field better. Willis offers tremendous upside through his athleticism but will have to at least serve as a backup behind Ryan Tannehill in 2022. Realistically, Willis may have to do the same in 2023 until Tannehill's contract is voidable in 2024. There is, however, a scenario where Willis would be called upon should Tannehill falter. The inherent run-heavy structure of the offense would do well to mitigate Willis' shortcomings as a quarterback. The upside may be too hard for the coaching staff and the fans alike to resist.
Derrick Henry remains the centerpiece of the Tennessee Titans' offense in 2022. Henry's significance has been reflected in his volume and dominance, which has remained unrivaled for the past several years. He suffered an ankle injury in Week 8 of 2021, which forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season. Before that, Henry was number one in rushing yards and was the fantasy football RB1 by a wide margin. He'll be in the final stretch of 28 years old when the 2022 season begins. Based on historical trends, Henry is on the decline of his career. But his contract and prior production suggest another massive workload in 2022.
Dontrell Hilliard experienced a career revival after being elevated from the Titans practice squad in 2021 and performed well enough during Derrick Henry's absence to earn a one-year contract. While the rushing volume will defer back to Henry, Hilliard is expected to serve as the second running back should the Titans not draft a running back of note. Juius Chestnut signed on as a UDFA. He's a stout running back that runs with great contact balance and has deep sleeper potential. Cjestnit is currently battling fellow rookie Hassan Haskins for back up duties. Hassan Haskins was a fourth-round selection and served as the primary early-down running back at Michigan in 2021. Haskins stands out as one of the more physical runners of this class but offers little else. However, his physical style fits the run-heavy approach of the Titans and is expected to help keep the offense on schedule as D'Onta Foreman did in 2021.
Ever since the departure of Corey Davis at the end of the 2020 season, the Titans have been a team on the hunt for their next reliable wide receiver two. Julio Jones did not work out in 2021 and was released in the 2022 offseason after missing seven games. In Jones' wake, The Titans decided to bring in another proven veteran by acquiring Robert Woods from the Los Angeles Rams. Although we did not see a significant decline in production in 2021, Woods has been a full go during training camp and the ACL injury he suffered in 2021 seems to be completely behind him. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine joined the Titans as a UDFA in 2020. After being a virtual non-factor during his first year, he was called on to contribute in 2021 while both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones were on and off the field. He's a physical receiver who plays with minimal fear of contact. Westbrook-Ikhine is officially listed as the WR2 on the Titans depth chart and sleated to start in two wide reciever sets due to Treylon Burks' struggles in the offseason.
Treylon Burks was selected in the first round after the Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles. While slightly less athletic, Burks is a perfect complement to Brown's style of play in the Titans' offense. At Arkansas, Burks was a yards-after-the-catch aficionado and constant threat for a house call from anywhere on the field. Burks still has room to develop into a complete receiver, but the nature of the Titans' offense offers ample opportunity for production for receivers of Burks' profile. Burks, however, has been struggling in the offseason, causing apprehension with the Titans. He started with the Titans second team offense in their first preseason game. It's possible he still opens the year as a starter with better performances. Kyle Phillips was a four-year receiver at UCLA drafted in the fifth round. He profiles as a slot receiver but plays tough for his size. In 2021, Phillips was responsible for 48 percent of UCLA's touchdowns in the 11-of-12 games he was active. His biggest knock is his wasted movement during his routes. Phillips is trending in seeing starting snaps in three-wide sets over Burks to begin the year should he continue to mature as a route runner during the preseason. Second year wide receiver Racey McMath has been placed on injured reserve with a hip injury. Even in the deepest of leagues, there isn't any fantasy appeal with McMath.
Austin Hooper now steps in as a much-needed presence at the tight end position in Tennessee. While he does not stand out in any part of his game, his experience and versatility over the years are welcome. Anthony Firkser was adequate in 2021 but offered little upside at the position. Hooper will now see northward of 90 percent of the receiving routes and operate as the primary receiving tight end. Chigoziem Okonkwo was drafted out of Maryland and profiles as the second pass-catching tight end behind Austin Hooper. Okonkwo proved himself to be the fastest tight end of this class after running a 4.52 40-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine. At Maryland, he was primarily deployed as a halfback, in-line seam stretcher, in the slot, and was given the ball on end-arounds. He profiles as the second coming of Jonnu Smith on the Titans and might make an immediate impact in his rookie year. Geoff Swaim and Tommy Hudson operate as the pass-blocking tight ends on the team. Swaim will show up in the end zone a few times this year but expect to see the back of their jersey's in the trenches more often than not.
- LT Taylor Lewan
- LG Aaron Brewer
- C Ben Jones
- RG Nate Davis
- RT Dillon Radunz
- Jamarco Jones, Nicholas Petit-Frere [R], Jordan Roos, Daniel Munyer
Left tackle Taylor Lewan remains the strength of this decent group. Lewan is the captain and a run-blocking mauler when healthy. Center Ben Jones and right guard Nate Davis are solid if unspectacular players. Right tackle will be a competition between Dillon Radunz and rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere (Third round, Ohio State). Left guard will also change from last season, as long-time substitute Aaron Brewer will step in for Rodger Saffold, who departed in free agency.
Bullock has been a kicker that teams have looked to replace for a good part of his career, and his tenure with the Titans may end in the same fashion as his stints with Houston and Cincinnati. He wasn't terrible with the Titans last year, but he was only 8-for-13 from 40-49 yards, and the team only let him try one kick from 50+ (he made it). Shudak was behind All-American Keith Duncan at Iowa until 2021, when he went 7-for-7 from 40-49 yards and 4-for-6 from 50+, so he should give Bullock a run for his money to be the Titans kicker in 2022. It will only cost the team $600,000 in dead cap if they let Bullock go. No matter who wins the competition, this is one of the worst places for a fantasy kicker, and the eventual winner should not be on your draft target list.
Seven players returned a kickoff for Tennessee last year, and six are gone, leaving Dontrell Hilliard as the frontrunner by default heading into 2022. Expect Tennessee to bring in more competition over the offseason.
Tennessee's options at punt returner are even dimmer than kickoff returner as free agent Chester Rogers fielded all 30 attempts for the team last year. Hilliard had 15 punt returns back in 2019, which makes him the most experienced player on the roster. Look for Tennessee to remedy that at some point this offseason.
The Titans team defense had a strong 2021 fantasy campaign, with a top-five finish in sacks and scoring defense along with three defense/special teams scores. They fattened up on the weak Jaguars, Steelers, and Dolphins defenses and posted outstanding results against the Chiefs, Rams, and Colts. Trading away A.J. Brown during the draft may make their offense very stoppable, which could tire out a previously strong run defense. They retained Harold Landry to keep their edge duo with 2021 free agent addition Bud Dupree. The hope is that 2021 first-round pick Caleb Farley and 2020 second-round pick Kristian Fulton are starting to get into their prime and anchor a beleaguered pass defense. An opening week date against the Giants makes them streamable and draftable in the last round, but there are few other streamable matchups other than inside the division after that.
This defensive unit finished top 10 in sacks, scoring 43 overall. 8.5 sacks came from defensive end Jeffery Simmons, who is coming into his own after his third season in the NFL. Finishing with 55 total tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, Simmons finished last year as the DT4, and we have watched him increase every major statistic every year he has been in the league. If he is still classified as a defensive tackle, he is a must-own in any IDP league. Even as a defensive end, he was a top-10 scoring defensive lineman. With only three years under his belt, Simmons may still be under-the-radar and must be acquired if possible. Denico Autry added nine sacks of his own, registering one sack in four of his last five regular-season games. Finishing with 31 total tackles leaves a lot to be desired here, but he has proven he can take down the quarterback effectively. Having only played in 12 of 18 games, Teair Tart didn't move the needle much in his third year and only registered 16 total tackles.
Naquan Jones finished last year with 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks, making him the most notable backup on the line. Coming off just one full year, it will be interesting to see if he trends upwards or down. Da'Shawn Hand started his NFL career with a decent rookie campaign registering 26 tackles with three sacks and two forced fumbles for the Detroit Lions but since has recorded zero sacks and only 27 tackles. At 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds, he is a big-body space-eater who will likely not contribute much. Larrell Murchison will be going into his 3rd year and hasn't appeared on the stat sheet much. A fifth-round pick out of NC State, Murchison will need to have some splash plays, or he could be a bubble roster guy. The same can be said for Kevin Strong Jr., who has registered 25 tackles in his three years.
- Rashad Weaver, Nate Hall, Joe Jones, Dylan Cole, Monty Rice, Tuzar Skipper, Ola Adeniyi, Kobe Jones, Justin Lawler
Late last season, the Titans claimed inside linebacker Zach Cunningham from the Houston Texans off of waivers after he was cut toward the end of the season. Not often are players of his caliber readily available without some sort of compensation. He will now have a full offseason of work to become familiarized with his former defensive coordinator in Houston, head coach Mike Vrabel, and his new teammates. Outside of his rookie year, last year was the only time he finished a season under 100 total tackles. He finished with 91 total, largely due to his midseason move and subsequent benching the week prior. He is a top-tier IDP fantasy linebacker and should be an immediate contributor in his new role with the Titans. This won't come without some competition, though as we have seen David Long Jr contribute when healthy. He was sidelined seven straight weeks after being placed on IR with a hamstring injury, but the 23-year-old had 66 total tackles through eight games played. As mentioned before, this team will sack the quarterback, and Harold Landry contributed 12 of these, the most from the linebacker corps. Pair that with 75 total tackles, and you have yourself a real threat from the edge. On the other edge, you have Bud Dupree, who seems to be slowly fading out of IDP relevance and wasn't much of a contributor last year, registering only three sacks and 17 total tackles.
The most notable backup was then-rookie third-rounder Monty Rice, who was a consistent contributor until a late-season injury and the arrival of Zach Cunningham. Unfortunately for Rice, we never got to see what a backup role looked like with Cunningham in the mix, but should get an answer, barring any injury. Rice gives the Titans great depth at an IDP position that contributes the most points in standard-scoring leagues. Another notable backup was Ola Adeniyi, the current backup to Bud Dupree. As mentioned previously, Dupree has seen his best days behind him, and the young Adeniyi was a decent contributor from his backup spot with 21 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He has a shot to potentially move into Dupree's role, seeing as he registered more tackles and just .5 sacks less on significantly less playing time. The NFL can sometimes be a young man's game, and the 24-year-old has a prime opportunity to prove he can take a starting role from a veteran like Dupree.
- Buster Skrine, Chris Williamson, AJ Moore Jr., Jamal Carter, Rodney Clemons, Elijah Molden, Chris Jackson, Shyheim Carter
It's no secret that the best of this group was safety Kevin Byard. A stat sheet stuffer, Byard finished the season with his 5th straight 80+ tackle season and had five picks and 13 defended passes. The cherry on top of this great season was his ability to get into the end zone, scoring touchdowns against the Jags in week five and the Rams in week nine. You can't ask for much more production from a safety, and Byard finished as S1 in IDP standard scoring leagues. As far as known commodities in IDP leagues, Byard fits the bill and will continue to put up titanic numbers from his safety spot. While not playing a full year due to injury, his counterpart in the safety spot Amani Hooker was a consistent contributor when healthy. Even though he missed five weeks, he still registered 62 tackles, one pick, and four defended passes. If he plays a full 17 games, Hooker will surely replicate and even improve upon these numbers in his fourth year. The other two listed starters are still relatively young, most notably third-year man Kristian Fulton who played in all but four games and registered 40 tackles, 14 defended passes, and two picks from the corner position. His counterpart Caleb Farley is a second-year man who didn't play much but will be called upon to take a heavier load this year.
The biggest name currently listed as a backup was Buster Skrine. Skrine was signed at the end of last year after being a free agent for most of the year. He was signed to replace corner Janoris Jenkins and contributed immediately, registering 17 total tackles, one pick, and three defended passes in just five games. He will be 33 years old at the start of next season but has always been a decent contributor in terms of fantasy points. He may be past his prime, but he will give the Titans good depth and leadership in a young, exciting secondary. Last year, the best performer of the backups was rookie corner Elijah Molden who compiled 62 tackles, one pick, and four defended passes. He also played in all but one game. Lots of tackles for corners usually mean he was targeted by opposing quarterbacks to throw at, but this is no surprise for any rookie. It doesn't matter if you can get this many tackles from the cornerback position. Teams need to be aware of Molden. Another young backup, Chris Jackson contributed slightly to the team in his role; 34 tackles and four defended passes is a good showing for a backup corner. He missed five games and is going into his third year, so we will see if he can become more of a contributor moving forward.