The Tennessee Titans knew they were getting a quality wide receiver when they drafted Kendall Wright out of Baylor in the 2012 NFL Draft. They just couldn’t have known he would have developed into a steady starting option so quickly.
After a solid rookie season in which Wright hauled in 64 receptions for 626 receiving yards and four scores, he ascended to No. 1 receiver status in 2013. With Kenny Britt passed up and Wright as the main man in Tennessee’s passing game, he showcased his possession skills by ripping off a whopping 94 catches for 1,079 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
The improvement statistically was clearly drastic, as Wright appeared to be more polished and more confident. What’s more impressive, however, is that he put up such high-level numbers despite lacking any real consistency around him in the Titans’ offense.
To get a better idea of the player Wright has been and the value he’ll bring to fantasy owners for the 2014 fantasy football season, let’s break down his surroundings and gauge his value for the coming NFL season:
Trouble Under Center
Jake Locker has a big arm and is an elite athlete, but he’s erratic and inaccurate. Needless to say, his issues lead to inconsistency, which directly impacted Wright in a negative fashion in his first two seasons. Even worse, Locker was actually the best talent under center the past two years, but couldn’t even stay healthy. That forced Wright to make due with the likes of Matt Hasselbeck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
No wide receiver should go through that type of torture. That’s the reality for Wright entering 2014, as well, as Locker is far and away Tennessee’s best passer and figures to be their Week 1 starter. There is still a lot of promise in Locker’s arm and legs, so Wright could still easily put up even bigger numbers. However, on the bright side, even if his passing situation doesn’t improve, Wright has shown us he can be an elite presence in PPR formats and a decent WR2 in standard leagues, regardless of who is throwing him passes.
Inconsistent Ground Game
Tennessee’s inconsistent and at times predictable offense can’t all be blamed on the quarterback position. Locker looked very good at times, while he was held back routinely by an offense that almost drew out their plays for the opposing defense.
One of the other key issues, though, was a very inconsistent rushing attack. If Chris Johnson wasn’t busting long runs, he was losing yardage, while for every big game he had, he had 3-4 bad ones. The passing game undoubtedly struggled because of it and vice versa.
Tennessee added former Kansas City Chiefs offensive weapon Dexter McCluster to shake things up a bit, while they cut the regressing Johnson. They should still look to add more talent at running back in the draft, though, or this could continue to be a weakness that hampers the entire offense.
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt brings a lot of optimism on offense. He has had major success at all of his stops, creating huge seasons for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Kurt Warner in Arizona and helped revive the career of Philip Rivers last year with the San Diego Chargers.
Whisenhunt orchestrated a very well thought out offense in San Diego last year. While he had a helping hand from fellow offensive guru Mike McCoy, he still had a lot to do with the Chargers being one of the most balanced offenses in the league.
With McCluster envisioned as Whiz’s own version of Danny Woodhead (who he coached in San Diego) and Shonn Greene as his Ryan Mathews, the Titans could quickly take on a similar look to last year’s Chargers team. The new system should mirror that offense, relying on a balanced attack, while utilizing short, quick passes to help Locker make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hands before the defense can get to him or force him into mistakes.
Wright should be one of the main beneficiaries of this new system. After putting up 94 receptions in Tennessee’s offense as it was laid out last year, the sky could be the limit for his production in 2014.
The interesting thing about Wright is that he actually has terrific speed and play-making ability, but his offense and supporting cast held him to a paltry 11.5 yards per catch average in his second season. That should jump in 2014. The Titans will put him in positions to succeed, while their short passes and rushing attack should help open the door to easier deep shots down the field.
Wright has not been a major red-zone threat in his two years in the league, and that unfortunately doesn’t figure to change all that much. His great talent and massive role obviously keep the door open to a 6-8 touchdown (or more) season, but he isn’t a big receiver and the Titans will look more at Justin Hunter (standing in at 6’4”) and their tight ends when in the red-zone.
Still, in PPR formats, Wright’s value is still at a borderline WR1, while his upside is through the roof. If he can tack on a few more scores, he should have little trouble finishing as a top-10 option in those types of leagues. His value isn’t quite as exciting in standard formats due to his lack of scoring ability, but he should still be a solid WR2 thanks to his involvement. Again, if he can find his way into the end-zone a few more times, his value rounds out even better.
Wright is currently being drafted in Round 7 of standard fantasy football drafts, which is about where his value lies. He’s surprisingly being drafted ahead of guys like Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker and Marques Colston. Those guys all have better value, so in standard leagues fantasy owners will want to downgrade Wright just a bit to drop him in their rankings. For PPR leagues, however, Wright should be found several rounds higher.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.