No one knew for sure what new head coach Ken Whisenhunt had planned for the Tennessee Titans. Bringing in free-agent running back Dexter McCluster had many thinking he’d aim to repeat his success with the 2013 San Diego Chargers offense.
But what the Titans would do with their new 3-4 scheme on defense or who else they would add on offense remained a mystery. Would the team firmly back quarterback Jake Locker, or would they draft a franchise passer? Would they draft a new running back to replace the departed Chris Johnson, or just sit tight with Shonn Greene and McCluster?
These questions and more were mostly answered during the 2014 NFL Draft. Let’s break down the Titans’ top picks that can contribute to the fantasy football scene. I’ll analyze how they might contribute to the Titans, as well as your fantasy roster, in 2014:
Taylor Lewan (Round 1 – Pick 11)
Lewan isn’t going to get you any fantasy stats, but he makes a pretty strong offensive line even better. The Titans are aging on the left side and acquired Michael Oher for the right side in free agency. Suddenly they have a future left tackle, as well as a heck of a talent that can play on either side. He’ll likely be a backup as a rookie, or he’ll compete to help out at guard. This obviously helps Tennessee’s rushing attack and should help in an effort to keep Locker off his back, as well.
Bishop Sankey (Round 2 – Pick 54)
Okay, now that we got the meat and potatoes pick for the offense out of the way, we can start talking about the real deal, and that’s Sankey.
A Chris Johnson clone he is not, but Sankey is still a heck of a running back who combines good vision with nice overall athleticism. Sankey isn’t a burner, but he is a normally fluid runner who is shifty and decisive with hitting his holes. He knows how to follow blocks and has enough size and strength to power up the middle when needed.
Sankey has every-down back written all over him, as he also has the speed and hands to be an effective receiver out of of the backfield. His role in year one is likely going to be splitting time as an early down runner with Greene, but with Greene’s age and knee issues, it’s entirely plausible to see Sankey taking over as the lead runner in Tennessee’s backfield.
It’s doubtful Wiz and co. will want to run him into the ground as a rookie, as we can safely expect the roles to be divided up between him, Greene and McCluster.
McCluster is the obvious choice for third downs and clear passing situations, but Sankey has the tools to spot him in those situations. Greene will likely be the first choice for short-yardage and goal-line work, but at the very worst Sankey will rank number two in that area.
Overall, Sankey’s fantasy stock is very much on the rise. If all he has to worry about is Greene for early-down work, he might very well by a RB2 in the making. We do need to consider that it’s possible McCluster could have an even bigger role than we right now anticipate. Still, Sankey has the most rounded game and best upside of any Titans running back and should be the first one drafted. In fact, as it stands, he probably needs to be the first running back drafted, as well.
In standard 12-team redraft fantasy leagues, you can try locating Sankey somewhere in the Round 5-6 range. But that’s just right now. If Greene’s injury persists and talk starts heating up about Sankey getting the majority of the work, his stock will clearly rocket up to more of the 3-4 round range, if not higher.
Zach Mettenberger (Round 6 – Pick 178)
Ah, to the future. Potentially, at least. The Titans already said “no thanks” to Locker’s 2015 option, which means unless he lights the NFL ablaze in 2014, he’s probably not coming back to Tennessee. That line of thinking had many thinking the Titans would consider drafting a new franchise passer with the #11 overall pick, or at least in the first three rounds.
None of that happened. Instead, an arguable first round talent somehow slid right into their hands, with LSU product Zach Mettenberger free falling all the way to the sixth round.
Mettenberger is actually a very good passing prospect, as he has prototypical size, a big arm, outstanding pocket presence and the ability to deliver under duress. He’s also worked in a pro style system and has gone up against some pretty stiff competition in the SEC.
Unfortunately, Mettenberger also has major injury issues. His back came up as a red flag in the final week of the draft season, while he is currently still working his way back from a torn ACL. With knee and back ailments, as well as questions surrounding his mobility and accuracy, Mettenberger understandably slid.
There is no way he should have sniffed the sixth round, though, and is easily one of the best steals of the draft. Locker may not necessarily have to fend off Mettenberger right away in 2014, but he has enough talent and potential to slowly worm his way into the discussion for the 2015 season. Of course, if his knee progresses as expected and Locker doesn’t ball out during preseason, an impressive Mettenberger could shock us all and win the starting quarterback gig as a sixth round rookie.
Should that happen, Mettenberger would suddenly be on the QB2 radar and people might quickly have a whole new look on Tennessee’s offense (and fantasy) potential for the 2014 season.
Ultimately, though, it’s probably going to be Sankey or bust in fantasy football for the Titans this year. Every other spot is mostly spoken for and Sankey has enough natural talent to make a serious impact from day one.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.