Tennessee Titans Fantasy Football Projections for 2017
Which Tennessee Titans players will be fantasy assets in 2017?
Odds are that if you’re reading this, you play fantasy football, either with your friends in seasonal league or on daily fantasy sites. As frustrating as it can be, fantasy football makes Sundays all the more exciting. Every NFL team contributes to fantasy football in some way, and the Tennessee Titans are no exception.
Last season, Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, and Rishard Matthews immensely helped plenty of championship squads. Players like Delanie Walker and Derrick Henry also could’ve contributed, if played during the right weeks. This season, the Titans will have more fantasy football assets.
Let’s see who they will be.
Note: all stats derived from MyFantasyLeague.com (full PPR scoring from Weeks 1 to 16).
Despite struggling in Weeks 14 and 15 from a fantasy perspective, and having to leave midway through Week 16, Marcus Mariota was the No. 11 quarterback in fantasy last season. Buoyed by an eight-week mid-season stretch where he averaged 26.7 fantasy points per game, Mariota showed off the kind of ceiling as a fantasy quarterback that he flashed as a rookie. Even during a rough four-week start to the season, Mariota averaged 13.8 fantasy points, which is not a horrible floor for a late-round quarterback.
Going into 2017, the narrative will change slightly. Based off early drafts, Mariota is going much earlier than last season, coming off the board as QB10 at an average pick of 105.74. With an assortment of new, dynamic weapons at his disposal, Mariota has all the makings of a top 10 fantasy quarterback in 2017, but be wary of spending too much draft capital on him. Considering he’s coming off a major injury and could be rusty to start the season, it may be a better investment to target Philip Rivers or Tyrod Taylor in later rounds. All that said, I took him in round nine in my first draft and I feel confident about him paying dividends.
Projection: Every-week QB1; QB7 Overall
The No. 5 overall running back in fantasy football last season, DeMarco Murray returned to bonafide RB1 territory in his first year in Nashville. With a stellar offensive line in front of him, Murray channeled his Dallas Cowboys form on his way to 291 fantasy points. Slowed by a toe injury for much of the latter half of 2016, Murray’s production didn’t tail off like it should’ve. His lowest output was the dreadful Week 16 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he totaled just eight fantasy points. Murray went over 12.5 fantasy points in every other game and was one of fantasy football’s most consistent players.
His 2017 outlook is rosy, but it’s fair to wonder whether he can replicate his 2016 production when considering the changes coming to the offense. Derrick Henry is sure to have at least a slightly larger role, and the Titans drafted two wide receivers and an athletic tight end. The good news is that his ADP (average draft position) isn’t too high right now. He’s going as RB9 in the early-to-mid-first round, behind one-year uncertainties like Jay Ajayi and Jordan Howard. Murray’s pass-catching ability also boosts him in PPR leagues.
Projection: Must-start RB1; RB10 overall in standard leagues, RB7 overall in PPR leagues
Coming off an impressive rookie season where he was somewhat blocked by Murray, Derrick Henry will be hoping for more work in 2017. Henry ran for 490 yards on just 110 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring five touchdowns. When he got the ball, he did damage, and he even looked smooth in the passing game; he caught 13 balls for 137 yards. Henry finished the year as RB46, which is impressive considering his light workload.
His second season should feature more carries and receptions, especially with Murray nearing age 30. It’s tough to get a good projection for him because we can’t know how much the coaches will use him, but I’m expecting a season where he explodes in some games and ends up with around eight touchdowns.
Projection: Matchup dependent RB3; RB27 overall
Slow out of the gate in his first year with the Titans, Rishard Matthews exploded over the final 12 games of the season. He caught nine touchdowns during that stretch, becoming Mariota’s favored target in the red zone. He also stretched the field vertically on occasion, and was the Titans’ most effective deep threat, even though that’s not really his game. Matthews finished the 2016 season with 65 catches, 945 yards, and the nine scores. His knack for finding the end zone made him a valuable fantasy football commodity.
The interesting thing about Matthews is that he wasn’t as valuable in PPR leagues. In full PPR scoring, Matthews actually finished as WR22, compared to WR13 in standard scoring leagues (these are the numbers through Week 17). The arrival of two rookie wide receivers might take away some of his work between the 20’s, but his red zone rapport with Mariota is undeniable. A repeat of last season shouldn’t be expected though.
Projection: Every-week Flex option with high scoring potential; WR24 in standard, WR30 in PPR
Drafted fifth overall in 2017, Corey Davis is the No. 1 wide receiver that the Titans have lacked for a decade-plus. At 6’3″, 209 with uncommon breakaway speed for a man his size, Davis is going to provide the Titans offense with a dynamic that they haven’t had in a very long time.
The question, in fantasy football, is how quickly Davis will become that guy for the team. Davis is coming off a serious ankle injury that has taken several months to recover from, and rookie receivers always have a learning curve. I’m expecting him to contribute heavily in his first year, but his ADP is too high for my liking right now. He’s going as WR31 at pick 58.38, about 37 spots ahead of Matthews. Matthews is the safer value at this point in time.
Projection: Dicey WR3 until comfort/role is established; WR31 in standard, WR28 in PPR
The Titans’ other drafted wide receiver, Taywan Taylor might be the team’s most interesting draft selection. They traded up 11 spots to get him, so they clearly value him highly. The Titans might be hoping he can be the player they expected Kendall Wright to be, but Taylor showed better after-the-catch skills in college than Wright. His ability to work in the middle of the field out of the slot is going to be massive for the offense.
As I loosely mentioned above, we can’t really know how rookie wide receivers will fare in their initial season, but Taylor might have a clean avenue to receptions given how much room he’ll have to operate in the middle of the field. Taylor is currently being drafted as WR87, but I could easily see him having a similar season to Sterling Shepard’s rookie 2016 (65 catches, 683 yards, eight touchdowns, WR35 in PPR).
Projection: WR4/Secondary Flex in PPR; WR50 in standard, WR41 in PPR
One of the most consistent tight ends in football since joining the Titans, Delanie Walker has shown no signs of slowing down despite heading into his age 33 season. His consistency in real life has translated to fantasy life, where he’s been a top eight tight end in each of his past three years. He’s also finished top five at the position over the last two years.
At some point, his production will decline, and it could start this year with Davis, Taylor, and Smith in the fold. Still, he has at least one more year before Smith starts threatening his catch and touchdown totals. Walker is a safe pick in the middle rounds at a volatile position.
Projection: Every-week TE1; TE7 overall
Rookie tight ends usually don’t contribute much in their first year, so don’t expect Jonnu Smith to be a fantasy football asset in 2017. If Walker were to get hurt for any period of time, however, Smith would become a must-add off the waiver wire. We’ve all heard the comparisons to Walker, and their skill-sets are similar enough to expect decent production from Smith if he had to step in and play Walker’s role.
Projection: TE1 if Walker is injured; TE40 overall
The fantasy football landscape has changed in terms of drafting defenses. It used to be common to be the first one to draft one, taking a premier defense and using it for the entire year. But with the advent of “streaming” in fantasy football, it’s become smarter to target specific offenses with your defense choices. This is where the Titans could come into play. Facing Blake Bortles twice a season will make them a popular streaming option and a popular late-round pick in best-ball leagues. With the improvements made to the secondary, this unit should be middle-of-the-pack in terms of fantasy production.
Projection: DEF15 Overall