2014 Fantasy Preview for the Tennessee Titans

Frederick Breedon

With a new offensive system coming to Tennessee under new head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, Brad Duffendack lets you know the Titans you should be targeting in your fantasy drafts and some sleepers to look for in the late rounds.

The Titans have not been very relevant in the league since winning the division in 2008. They have only surpassed a .500 season just once since that year. This has led to impatience within the team and the firing of head coach, Mike Munchak, after three seasons. The new era with Ken Whisenhunt has begun this year as he gets his second chance as a head coach. He was fired from the Arizona Cardinals shortly after leading them to a Super Bowl. He is considered to be a great offensive mind and has specialized in revitalizing the careers of many veteran quarterbacks. This should help Jake Locker as he will have one final chance to prove that he can stay healthy and be the Titan's franchise quarterback.

The entire offense should see an uplift in fantasy production with Whisenhunt at the helm mixed with a defense in transition to a brand new scheme from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton. It will likely take at least a couple years for the Titans to lift themselves from the bottom of the league as they will work to supplant the roster with players that will better fit their new schemes. In the mean time, however, they will still have many pieces on the current roster that will be major contributors for fantasy leagues.

QUARTERBACKS - Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, Zach Mettenberger, Tyler Wilson

Jake Locker has become the Darren McFadden equivalent for quarterbacks. He teases with top-10 potential, but his seasons are always cut short due to injuries. At his current ADP, I'd be willing to risk taking him again as a late upside stash pick. If Locker can stay healthy, Whisenhunt could help to turn his career around the same way he helped Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Phillip Rivers with theirs. This will be Locker's last chance to prove that he can be the franchise quarterback for this team.

Charlie Whitehurst has been making his way around the league as a backup from San Diego, to Seattle, back to San Diego, and now follows Whisenhunt to Tennessee. From what we've already seen of Whitehurst in limited playing time, I would not be very excited if he is the quarterback to take over if there is another Locker injury.

Zach Mettenberger from LSU was drafted by the Titans in the sixth round as a developmental quarterback. He is one of the best from this draft class when it comes to arm strength. He is also one of the least mobile quarterbacks from this draft class and still needs to improve his accuracy and decision making. I don't have as much faith in Whisenhunt with young quarterbacks as I do with veterans because of the failure with Matt Leinart in Arizona. However, if Mettenberger happens to get the chance to replace Locker at some point this season, he will be one to keep an eye on.

RUNNING BACKS - Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle, Leon Washington, Antonio Andrews, Waymon James, Collin Mooney (FB)

Bishop Sankey is a rookie from the University of Washington and was the first running back drafted this year. He might not be equal to the talent of Gio Bernard, who was the first back taken in the 2013 draft, but he fell into the best fantasy situation to produce immediately as a rookie. With Chris Johnson being forced out during the offseason, Sankey should be the featured running back and has the all-around talent to produce as a rusher and receiver. His weakness in the run game is his vision, but the Titan offensive line is stacked with talent that should open up holes for him and get him to the second level. There, he can use his explosiveness and elusiveness to break away for big plays as he did so many times in college.

Shonn Greene should still be heavily involved as the short yardage and goal line back. The Titans signed him for a lot of money from the Jets last offseason mainly due to his stellar 3rd down conversion rate.  He likely won't have many yards gained throughout the season but could get double digit touchdowns. He should only be targeted in the RB4 range or later as there should be better options with more upside around the time he'll be drafted.

Everyone should keep a close eye on the fantasy position designation for Dexter McCluster. He is currently listed as a receiver on most sites because of his previous role with the Chiefs. This year in Tennessee, he will likely be used as a 3rd down back similar to how Whisenhunt used Danny Woodhead in San Diego. If Sankey cannot display the necessary skills to stay on the field as the main 3rd down back, McCluster should fill that role and greatly enhance his fantasy value.

Jackie Battle is another journeyman short yardage power back. He could fill in for Greene if he misses games for any reason and there wouldn't be much of a drop off. He has also been lining up at fullback during practices to give him more opportunities to be on the field.

Battling at the end of the depth chart for a roster spot will be the 32 year old, Leon Washington, and Antonio Andrews, the undrafted rookie from Western Kentucky. Washington had the talent to possibly be something great while with the New York Jets. However, a brutal knee injury derailed his career and has since been relegated to being only kickoff return specialist. Andrews has potential to earn a spot on this roster as a downhill runner that can get what's blocked for him. He showed good pass protection skills while attending the Senior Bowl but needs to work on his ball security to gain enough trust to get any signigicant playing time.

WIDE RECEIVERS - Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Justin Hunter, Marc Mariani, Michael Preston, Isaiah Williams, Jaz Reynolds, Brian Robiskie, Julian Horton, Derek Hagan, Derel Walker, Rico Richardson

Kendall Wright had a breakout season last year with 94 catches for 1,079 yards and that was mostly with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. The knock on Wright is that he only had two touchdowns for the season. He should improve those numbers with Whisenhunt as he likes to feature the slot receiver in his offense. Whisenhunt had success last year in San Diego with Eddie Royal and the rookie sensation, Keenan Allen, lining up as the slot receiver. Wright should be targeted as a WR2, and I could see him reaching low WR1 numbers if Locker stays healthy.

Justin Hunter looks to be moving up the depth chart this season to being a starter in his second year. He should be used predominantly as the deep threat receiver. He has good long speed and the ability to high point the football. He suffered through some growing pains early last year as he tried to learn the offense and work on his route running but improved at a rapid pace toward the end of the season. He likely won't catch more than 75 passes for the season but could still breakout with many explosive downfield plays.

Nate Washington has been very reliable for the Tennessee offense in recent years and is familiar with Whisenhunt from his former days with the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he will likely be demoted to the #3 receiver this year behind Wright and Hunter. Due to his inconsistency and the decreasing amount of targets available to him, I would only consider him in deeper leagues as a WR6.

TIGHT ENDS - Delanie Walker, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Dorin Dickerson, Adam Schiltz, Jason Schepler

In the first year of his career as a starter, Delanie Walker broke out for 60 catches for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns. He is a favorite as a sleeper tight end this year as he is currently being drafted just barely inside the top-20 at the position. He will turn 30 this year but does not have much wear and tear after serving as a backup to Vernon Davis for his entire career in San Francisco before signing with the Titans. With defenses putting a focus on stopping Wright and Hunter taking the top off the defenses, Walker could see plenty of looks in the passing game as the tough, middle of the field target.

Behind Walker on the depth chart is the seasoned veteran Craig Stevens and the third year project Taylor Thompson. Stevens is mainly used as an in-line blocking tight end and has only maxed out at 23 catches in a season for his career. Thompson has intriguing athletic ability as a converted defensive end continues to try to develop and make a contribution to the team before they give up on him.

The Titans also just recently signed Dorin Dickerson. After his tenures with the Texans, Bills, and Lions, Dickerson has lined up as a receiver, a tight end, and even a fullback. He is versatile weapon that has been struggling to find his best position fit in the league but continues to intrigue teams enough with his athletic ability to earn a roster spot.

The Titans have been projected by many as having one of the worst rosters in the league but still holds many fantasy options that I would like to target for this season. Kendall Wright and Bishop Sankey would be the top options for the team. Justin Hunter, Delanie Walker, Shonne Greene, Dexter McCluster, and Nate Washington could all be mid- to late-round targets as well. With a defense in transition moving to a brand new scheme, the offense will be required to make up a lot of points and yards if they intend to keep up with their opponents. This is never good news for an NFL team but sweet music to the ears of fantasy teams.

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