Things are changing for the Tennessee Titans and that just might mean some positive results in fantasy football. Of course, there’s no guarantee all the changes will be positive right away, nor is it completely clear who will benefit the most.
All we know right now is that new head coach Ken Whisenhunt is an offensive mind, is fresh off of a productive season calling plays for the San Diego Chargers, and he has a vision.
Considering this is a guy who got the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl and helped revive a seemingly drowning career for Philip Rivers, fantasy owners may want to take notice.
Wiz also shed a lot of dead weight upon his arrival in Tennessee, as star wide receiver Kenny Britt and star running back Chris Johnson were both let go. They were cost effective moves, and also good morale moves, as both players were arguably starting to kill positive momentum.
Johnson’s departure opens the door for Shonn Greene at running back, while no more Britt means the younger wide receivers in Tennessee now have one less annoying body to compete with.
But who is going to benefit the most from the arrival of Wiz and the two big cuts? We can already forget about Kendall Wright. He careered last year in just his second season and is already a safe fantasy weapon now.
There are at least three guys who could step up for the first time and reach Wright’s level, though.
Let’s break each down and see just what needs to happen for them to reach a high level of success and help your fantasy team in 2014:
Jake Locker (Quarterback)
As injury prone and inconsistent as Locker has been through his first three NFL seasons, there is still loads of upside here. Even if he doesn’t suddenly turn into an efficient and consistent NFL quarterback that wins games on a regular basis, he at least has the physical tools to project well in fantasy football.
For either to come to fruition, Locker first needs to stay healthy. He’s recovering from a Lisfranc injury (of the foot), but is expected to be fully 100% healthy when OTA’s roll around in May. With his health actually favoring him, then Locker would need to thwart off any competition around him for the starting gig. At the time of this writing, Locker’s main competition is former San Diego Chargers backup, Charlie Whitehurst.
In other words, he has no competition.
It’s slightly troubling that the Titans didn’t pick up Locker’s 2015 option, but when the guy was going to be owed almost $15 million and has yet to play more than 11 games in a year, it only makes sense.
Whisenhunt didn’t draft Locker, and everyone knows Locker is not a finished product – nor one that can even stay on the field. With no real competition, Locker will only be battling himself when it comes to his ability to stay on the field and then make the right decisions when he’s on it.
As far as that goes, it’s anyone’s guess if it actually works out. The Titans have pieced together a pretty stout offensive line, while they’ve added even more pieces in the draft (Taylor Lewan at tackle and Bishop Sankey at running back). Add in Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Dexter McCluster and Delanie Walker, and Locker actually has a pretty solid supporting cast.
Whisenhunt is the final piece. He helped revive Kurt Warner’s career and got the Arizona Cardinals of all teams to a Super Bowl, and helped revive Philip Rivers’ career last year in San Diego, as well.
There’s nothing to “revive” for Locker, but it’s worth wondering about if Wiz can work his magic and be the guy that finally helps Locker realize his potential.
Locker absolutely has the size, arm and athleticism to be a truly special player – both in the NFL and as a fantasy weapon. It’s up to him to make it happen. For now he’s nothing more than a QB2 with intriguing upside, though.
Dexter McCluster (Running Back)
Shonn Greene figures to be the early down back to get 2014 started, while exciting rookie back Bishop Sankey will likely work his way into a change of pace role of sorts. If it comes down to Sankey or McCluster operating as the team’s third down back, though, chances are at least for now the more experienced McCluster is going to get that spot.
McCluster was signed on to take over the “Danny Woodhead” role of Wisenhunt’s offense, as he boasts similar size and skill-set. Like Woodhead, McCluster is best when put in open space, is an adept receiver out of the backfield, and is extremely agile and elusive. He’s slated to become a huge part of what the Titans are going to do on offense. He’s mostly going to be used as a receiver out of the backfield, but thanks to his experience and vision as a true runner, he could also see around 100 carries, as well.
Overall, McCluster might finally be in the best situation of his career. He projects to get around 170-180 total touches if he can fill Woodhead’s shoes, and if the other pieces around him can do their jobs to help him do his.
Justin Hunter (Wide Receiver)
Hunter isn’t necessarily the last breakout candidate in Tennessee, but he’s one of the more appealing options. Hunter had an up-and-down rookie season, largely thanks to major inconsistency at the quarterback position, a fairly predictable offense and a role that came and went.
At the very minimum, he should be deployed as the Titans’ No. 3 wide receiver in 2014, while acting as a legit target in the red-zone. We already saw him take over this role in spurts as a rookie, and it was one he displayed an ability to thrive in. Hunter is a raw talent, but he has a terrific size and speed combination, as well as excellent ball skills.
He probably can only go as far as Locker can take him, but in this new offense, everyone seems to have a little bit more upside than they did a year ago. Hunter is absolutely one of those guys, and needs to be on the fantasy radar as a second year receiver who could potentially make a big leap.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.