The Tennessee Titans were merely an average football team in 2013. It has been that way for several seasons. That finally led to the firing of head coach Mike Munchak and the hiring of (hopefully) offensive wizard, Ken Whisenhunt.
That’s potentially the turning table Tennessee needed to get back into serious contention for the AFC South division and a playoff spot. However, that’s far from the last stone that needs to be turned over. Whether or not Jake Locker is the true future at quarterback is one huge question that needs answering, while the Titans brass also needs to make a decision on star running back Chris Johnson.
It looks like Locker will at least get a chance to compete to start again in 2014, while CJ2K looks to be on his way out as a cut candidate thanks to shaky play and a meaty contract.
The last real issue on Tennessee’s roster to consider then (at least on offense), is what happens when wide receiver Kenny Britt heads out the door. The 25-year old Britt undoubtedly brought talent and potential into Tennessee, but has been an overall disappointment thanks to multiple knee injuries and a regression in his performance over his final two seasons.
While Britt clearly wasn’t the same guy in 2013, he’s still young and has done enough in past years that Titans fans will come away disappointed and wondering what could have been.
After all, Britt exploded onto the scene as a rookie, putting up over 700 receiving yards and then scored nine touchdowns in 12 games in his second season. He was off to a huge start through three weeks in 2011, but another knee injury ended his run. He would really never be the same in Tennessee again.
Losing Britt is a catch-22, but there still is good to be had here. Most notably is the fact that the Titans seemingly got by without Britt as a top option in the passing game the past year. In fact, Britt suited up for 12 games, but Tennessee only used him to the tune of 11 receptions on the season.
Britt was needed so little thanks to the emergence of second-year wide receiver Kendall Wright, who paced the team with a career high 94 catches for 1,079 receiving yards. Nate Washington also continued his underrated play and eventually helped make Britt expendable by catching 58 balls and falling 81 yards shy of back to back 1,000+ yard seasons.
Rookie receiver Justin Hunter also stepped up his play in spurts, hauling in 18 receptions for 354 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
So, with Britt on the way out, Titans fans (and fantasy football owners, as well) will want to know the landscape of Tennessee’s wide receiving corps in 2014.
Firstly, the actual pie chart for targets and receptions doesn’t change much in regards to Britt being there or not being there. He caught 11 balls and simply didn’t affect anyone else. However, with Britt being a price cut, the Titans may add one more to the mix by parting ways with Nate Washington (owed over $4 million), as well. If that happens, the Titans will suddenly have to find a dependable option to make up for nearly 70 receptions.
On top of that, Tennessee will also need to figure out a way to get someone who could do the things Britt could do. He was an excellent play-maker who could move the chains and be a force in the red-zone. Without him playing that role in 2013, the Titans struggled inside the 20 in the passing game. Look no further than a combined nine touchdowns between Hunter, Washington and Wright to see how much of a factor that really can be in the passing game.
Naturally, having an inconsistent rushing attack and instability at quarterback (Locker’s injuries and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s moderate talent) also plays into it, but the Titans not having a legit stud in the red-zone surely needs to be addressed.
Then again, it’s entirely possible Hunter is that guy already. He had more touchdowns that Britt, Washington or Wright, and at 6’4’’ has the size, ball skills and athleticism to turn into a terror. He also has the speed to be useful in the open field, which could quickly help the Titans become a tough passing offense to defend.
Of course, that hinges not only on Hunter developing into the guy Tennessee drafted him to be, as well as Locker or whatever quarterback the Titans bring in, playing better than what we saw under center in 2013.
On paper, it looks like it might work, and for fantasy purposes, Hunter is going to be looked at as one of the top fantasy sleepers available at the wide receiver position. He’ll certainly be tagged as a boom or bust pick, though, while Kendall Wright will be the possession guy who should be a fairly safe bet to chase down another 90+ catch season.
In that same breath, Wright’s much more talented than a possession guy that averages the 11.5 yards per catch he did a year ago. He’s not the big target Hunter is, but he has excellent speed and quickness, and has visibly been under-utilized as a deep threat. If Tennessee wants to succeed in the passing game, they’ll have to switch up the way they use Wright to maximize the potential of the rest of their wide receivers.
Ideally, the Titans would bring back Washington at a lower rate and he could stick around to help allow Hunter to be brought along a little more slowly. If that happens, Hunter’s upside would still exist and he could focus more on being the red-zone asset Tennessee needs, rather than becoming an every down receiver over night and risking failure.
That’s the state of the Titans with the receivers that should be in play for 2013, but what about Britt? He’s stated publicly that he fully plans on being “someone’s” number one wide receiver in 2014, and his agent has even gone as far as to say that Britt wasn’t given a “fair shake” in Tennessee.
While Titans fans can probably agree that’s not the reality, it still is worth wondering if Britt can still be a force in fantasy football and the NFL in general. The reality is, he still has the size and ball skills to do just exactly that. Staying healthy and finding a team willing to take the chance will be the key in his bid to turn his career around, however.
While it’s early, teams like the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens could all sniff around to see if Britt is anything close to the guy he used to be. With a need for an upgrade at the No. 2 spot for those franchises, it’s not crazy to think he could sign on and make a squad as a starter. Let’s just hope he ditches the dream of turning back into an elite receiver overnight.
This post comes from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on the NFL visit Fantasy Football Overdose – your online source for anything about fantasy football.