Tennessee Titans - 2014 Preseason #FF Preview
I said it after last year: “I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time”… with Jake Locker.
And yet, another fantasy football season is upon us, and Jake Locker is picked as a potential sleeper again. Granted, he has shown flashes. But let’s face it, the guy has played in 23 games out of a possible 48. Using my abacus here, I have determined that is not even 50%. In fact, Locker has only 18 total starts. Granted, he is the quintessential high risk, high reward guy. In three years, he has a career 57.2 completion percentage. His has thrown a total of 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. In that time, his highest fantasy rank at QB is #28. So, what has changed? Well, there are a few things that make him look a bit more appealing in 2014. For starters, it is a contract year. Look, guys perform when money is on the line, and here is a guy that needs a big year if he wants to make those ends. Also, he now has Ken Whisenhunt as his head coach. Last year, many attributed Rivers resurgence to Whisenhunt’s influence. The question remains, can he have the same impact on Locker? Only time will tell. Locker is currently going undrafted and can be had off the waiver wire if Whisenhunt’s wizardry seems to be working.
Part of Jake’s appeal this season is what he has around him.
Okay, wrong Jake, but Locker has two wide receivers that have been garnering a great deal of attention. To begin with, the highest ranked fantasy WR on the Titans is Kendall Wright. Pyro has him tiered with guys like Brandin Cooks, Golden Tate, and Erik Decker. To be honest, I think I would take all of them over Wright. He only had two games that went over 100 yards last season. Before you say anything, I realize Tate had exactly the same amount, but Tate is now playing with Matthew Stafford. I do love Wright in PPR leagues. Last year, Wright got 140 targets, secured 94 of those for catches and amazingly had only 2 TDs. I have said this before and I will say it again, TDs are not predictable. But, there is no way a guy getting this much action will be held to only two TDs again. Looking at the top 50 fantasy WR from 2013, no other payer was less dependent on touchdowns for his fantasy value. In fact, touchdowns only accounted for 10% of the guy’s total fantasy worth, and he still ended up as the 31st ranked fantasy receiver. Give the guy just three more scores and he would have cracked the top 20 last year. Pyro has given him a preseason rank of 28 amongst WRs. Going with a My cousin Vinny quote: I think that a 28th ranking is about “dead on balls accurate, it’s an industry term”. As of the end of August, Wright is going in the 8th round in 12 team leagues.
I realize I already took a nose dive by starting this preview off with a White Snake video, but HEY, sometimes you have to roll the dice. I am going to try and right this ship by giving you two of my favorites rolled into one video. Here is Levon Helm signing “Tennessee Jed” on Letterman.
One of my favorite Robert Hunter songs is the segue into another Hunter: Justin Hunter. Pyro likes him as a sleeper candidate. In fact, many people are keeping their eyes on this kid. He causes a mismatch with most any defender. He is a freak. The guy is 6”4’, runs a 4.36 and has a 39.5’ vertical leap. With just 18 receptions in his rookie season in 2013, he doubled Wright’s TD totals with 4. Even though the kid only caught passes in 8 games, he put up at least 100 yards twice. If you want Hunter, you have to pay a price. His late August ADP has him going in the late 9th early 10th rounds for 12 team leagues. Pyro puts him two tiers below Wright in their final preseason collective tiers. He is joined with high up-side guys like Kenny Stills, and Mike Evans, just to name a few from that tier. Unquestionably, these young guys have that “it” factor. In Whisenhunt’s offense, I can easily see two receivers becoming fantasy gems. In fact, Hunter might have a higher ceiling than Wright, but certainly has not shown the consistency. At that point in the draft, I would weight drafting him with my other receivers. If I have a couple of those high ceiling/ low floor guys, I would stay away. If I find myself with some Reggie Wayne type players, than Hunter is exactly the type of guy I would be targeting in those later rounds.
Finally, we round off the Titans passing game with tight end, Delanie Walker. Last year was his 8th season in the league. He is a late bloomer even by tight end standards. His 2013 campaign saw career highs in most statistical categories. He ended the year with 571 yards from 60 receptions and totaled 6 touchdowns. Walker finished as the 12th best fantasy tight end. As Houdini says, career year beware. I would wager last year’s numbers are his ceiling. With the depth of talent at the position this year, I do not think his numbers will find him near the top 12 in 2014. Pyro has him rated as #20 for their final preseason ranking. I dropped him in my dynasty league last week, no one made a move to pick him up on the waiver wire. Now, once the season starts, that might be a different story, there are just too many guys with similar ceilings and there are several potential break-out candidates at the position this year.
If you have been listening to the Fantasy Fire podcast, then you know Houdini loves him some Bishop Sankey. Pyro likes this rookie above all others. In fact, Sankey is placed in the high 20’s for running backs. Some other guys in that collective tier are Toby Gerhart, Chris Johnson, Pierre Thomas. If you want to find out who else goes in that tier, check out the podcast episode 26: show 139. The boys dive into their collective tiers.
The bottom line is this: Tennessee has the 8th best rushing schedule this year. Plus, Bishop Sankey has the fastest path to RB#1 out of any rookie in the NFL. I generally use one or two sites for my ADP references. I checked a few others on this one. Sankey is undoubtedly the highest ranked rookie running back out there. On average, as of the end of August, the guy is going in the late 5th round to early 6th round, in 12 team leagues. In mock drafts I have done, I have had no problem taking him in the 5th, and would not mind the 4th, depending on who is out there. In his three years at the University of Washington, his lowest yards per carry average was 5.0. In his final season, his average was 5.7. In that same year, he accumulated 1,870 rushing yards and score 20 times. Oh yeah, he is a dual threat, he scored another 6 TDs off receptions, there were only three games his last year he did not catch a pass. Out of 13 total games his final season, he crossed the end zone in every single contest. He went for over for over 90 yards rushing in all but two games. Finally, the biggest sign that points to Sankey starting sooner than any other rookie running back is quite simply, the guy in front of him: Shonn Greene. In fact, Greene is being taken after Sankey in all of the ADPs I checked. While I like many a rookie this year. If you listened to the PPR podcast, you know my love for Terrance West (even if my wife does not). While I still like West over Tate, I think Tate will have a longer leash. There’s also Carlos Hyde, but the 49er’s are in no rush to sit Gore down. Comparing all of the situations out there, Sankey is sitting pretty. This is a huge reason he cracks my preseason top 20.
So, Shonn Green is the only thing really standing in the guy’s way. Let me ask you this: How many of you even drafted Shonn Greene on you fantasy teams in the past, let alone, would give him the keys to the organization as RB#1? That is plum crazy, and I know crazy.
Green came into the league in 2009. Just to keep Houdini happy, I will give him his props. When he went to Iowa, he was chewing up yardage. He was the Big Ten player of the year in 2008. In fact, he was the only RB in the FBS to rush for at least 100 yards in every game that year. However, once he made it to the NFL, he struggled a bit. His two most productive years were 2011 and 2012 were he finished as 18th and 15th ranked fantasy running back respectively. If you look a little closer, you will see his yards per carry average has decreased in almost every season. In 2009 it was 5.0, then 4.1, to 4.2, down to 3.9, and finally 3.8 as of last year. In 2013, he was in a complimentary role to Chris Johnson, Green only carried the mail 77 times. After Chris Johnson was released last year and signed by the Jets, the Titans were faced with a telling decision. If they were confident in Greene’s skills, then why take him as the first running back selected in the 2014 draft, especially considering their weakness at other positions? The Titans were in need of a corner back after they lost pro bowler Alterraun Verner. Also, with their woes at quarterback, many speculated they were going to grab a QB, but with a lack of talent at the position, it was not a sure thing. They ended up with Mettenberger in the 6th round. Out of all their needs, they turned to the running back position first. You know Green can’t get the job done, I know it, and obviously, the Titans executives knew it and showed their hand when they picked Sankey. Shonn Green will likely be used in a complimentary role, but sooner rather than later, Sankey’s talent will out weigh any inexperience he has shown. I still like West for his pure talent, but he may not get a chance to really put up some numbers until later in the season, Sankey, through sheer volume of work, could become the highest scoring fantasy rookie running back this year.