2020 Tennessee Titans Team Outlook: More to Offer Than Just Derrick Henry

Fantasy owners need to remember there's a whole roster in Nashville with potential growth, so you need to see more than just Derrick Henry when you see the Tennessee Titans.
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Coaching Staff

The Tennessee Titans went 9-7 in each of the last four seasons with two playoff appearances. Head coach Mike Vrabel has an 18-14 record in his first two seasons. All six years of his coaching experience in the NFL comes on the defense side of the ball. Vrabel played in the league for 14 seasons. His ties to New England and three Super Bowl titles were a big part of his path to a head coaching job.

Tennessee worked their way to 10th in points scored (402), and 12th in yards gained. They scored more points than in 2018. The Titans haven't had a top ten offense since 2003.

Arthur Smith shined in his first season running Tennessee’s offense. He worked in the Titans’ system since 2011 with a variety of jobs on the offensive side of the ball. From 2016 to 2018, Smith held the tight end coaches job.

This season the Titans won’t add a defensive coordinator, which puts Vrabel in the power position on that side of the ball. After making strides in 2018 in points allowed (303 – 3rd) and yards allowed (8th), Tennessee regressed in both areas (331 points allowed) and (21st in yards allowed) last year.

Free Agency

The top player lost in the offseason for the Titans was T Jack Conklin, who signed with the Browns. Conklin was an edge in run blocking while only being league average in pass protection.

They parted ways with QB Marcus Mariota after signing QB Ryan Tannehill to a big contract.

Tennessee moved on from CB Logan Ryan, TE Delanie Walker, DE Cameron Wake, CB Tramaine Brock, LB Wesley Woodyard, RB Dion Lewis, CB Tye Smith, DT Austin Johnson, CB LeShaun Sims, LB Daren Bates, K Ryan Succop, and G Kevin Pamphile. The only player to have success last year was Brock.

WR Tajae Sharpe found a new home in Minnesota. The Titans added DE Vic Beasley to their defense after underperforming over his last three years for Atlanta.

Draft

The Titans only had six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.

T Isaiah Wilson was the choice in the first round. His resume is short in college while needing more game experience to improve his vision vs. moving targets in pass protection. Wilson has a beast feel once his foundation skill set improves. His best value out of the gate should come in the run game.

In the second, Tennessee selected CB Kristian Fulton. His first read on him is that Fulton will gain value once the field shortens. He can play physical in at the line of scrimmage while lacking the chase speed to make up for mistakes early in coverage. Fulton will gamble at times, but his instincts give him a thinker feel at this point in his career.

Tennessee stole RB Darrynton Evans in the third round. At first glance, Evans jumps off the rookie running back rankings due to his combination of speed (4.41 forty yard dash) and strength (20 reps in the bench press at the NFL combine). He comes to the NFL undersized (5’10” and 205 lbs.).

Evans attacks quickly after the snap with the idea of making big plays. His movements in space will threaten every level of the defense. He’ll break tackles with the moves and quickness to beat defenders to the hole. Evans needs to improve as an inside runner. I expect him to hold his own in pass protection while having the upside feel in the passing game.

The Titans invested in DT Larrell Murchison in the fifth round. Sometimes smarts, feel, and hard work outweigh some explosive traits. Murchison has an excellent feel for the game, allowing him to find the right amount of space to make plays. His range is limited while owning enough power to hold his ground vs. the run.

Their swing at a backup quarterback was Cole McDonald. He played in a high-volume pass offense where quick reads paid winning dividends. His arm falls short of NFL expectations, but McDonald is working hard to get stronger and add more bulk. Overall, his game takes a big back in value with a shorter passing window—more of a project than a prospect at this point in his career.

With their final pick in the seventh round, Tennessee brought in CB Chris Jackson. His speed earns him a shot in the NFL, but his technique is lacking. Jackson is getting stronger. He can’t take a further step forward without trusting his game.

Offensive Line

The Titans pushed to 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards (2,223) with 21 TDs and 14 runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 5.0 yards per rush.

Tennessee climbed to 21st in passing yards (3,956) with only 29 passing TDs and eight Ints. Their QBs gained only 8.8 yards per pass attempt with only 58 completions over 20 yards. The Titans’ offensive line allowed 56 sacks and 99 QB hits.

LT Taylor Lewan

Lewan has been a top player at his position over his six seasons in the league. His best value comes in pass protection while showing strength in run blocking in most of his years in the league. Lewan is a former first-round draft pick (2014).

LG Rodger Saffold

Saffold signed a four-year $44 million contract in 2019. His game was elite from 2012 to 2014 as a pass protector while developing into an excellent balanced player over the previous four seasons. Safford did allow more sacks than expected last year.

C Ben Jones

Jones now has six straight years on his resume, where he’s been a league-average player or better in all areas. Jones hasn’t missed a game over his past six seasons after being drafted in the fourth round in 2012.

RG Nate Davis

Davis struggled in his first season after getting drafted in the third round in 2019. He allowed too many sacks while also grading poorly in run blocking. Coming into the league, his skill set bolds well for a power run game where his ability to move will help create openings in space. Davis may have a limited range in pass protection if he needs his hands to slow down an oncoming rusher.

RT Isaiah Wilson

Wilson should move right into the starting lineup in his rookie season after getting drafted in the first round. He fits right into the Titans style of offense in the run game. Wilson adds power to their rushing attack on the right side of the offensive line.

Offensive Line Outlook

Tennessee has one of the best offensive lines in the run game. The Titans need improvement in the play on the right side of the line in the passing game to push this offense to an elite level.

Offensive Schedule

The data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).

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This information is based on 2019, which will work as our starting point for 2020. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.

2019 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2019.

2019 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.

2019 Adjustment is based on the 2019 league average and the 2019 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.

The Titans have four games (CLE, CIN, and JAX X 2) that look favorable for their rushing offense. Baltimore's defense presents the most significant problem while having four other matchups (BUF, CHI, and IND X 2) vs. defenses that allowed fewer than the league average in rushing yards in 2019.

On the passing side, they have three favorable games (DET and HOU X 2). Tennessee may struggle to throw the ball in six other contests (DEN, CHI, CLE, BAL, PIT, and BUF), with the latter three presenting the biggest test.

Offense

Last year the Titans had success as a high volume rushing team. After the change to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, Tennessee added big-play ability to their passing game. They ran the ball 49.8 percent of the time while gaining a league-high 8.8 yards per pass attempt. Their one glaring weakness last year was the 56 sacks allowed by their offensive line.

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Here’s a look at the early projections for Tennessee, which will be fluid all summer after taking in all injury updates and training camp news:

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Quarterbacks

Ryan Tannehill

The change to Tannehill at QB for the Titans led to 234 points (33.4 per week) over the final seven games. Over this stretch, he gained 2,270 combined yards with 21 TDs and four Ints. His best value came in Week 12 (299 combined yards with four TDs) and Week 14 (410 combined yards with three TDs). He had two touchdowns or more in 12 of his final 13 starts, which included the playoffs.

Despite his high level of success, Tannehill still averaged under 30.0 passes per game while Tennessee piled up rushing yards (1,916) and TDs (14) on the ground.

The Titans signed him to a $118 million deal in March. Based on receiving weapons, WR A.J. Brown is a stud in the making, but WR Corey Davis continued to underachieve his first-round draft value.

A real tricky player as his 2019 success rated well, and Tennessee should be able to build on that path this year. My conservative projections for Tannehill in May came to 4,041 combined yards with 28 TDs and 12 Ints. I’ll go out on a limb and say he sets a career-high in both passing yards (4,208 in 2015) and TDs (28 in 2014). Fantasy owners have him priced as the 17th quarterback option in the early draft season with an ADP of 109.

Other options: Logan Woodside, Cole McDonald

Running Backs

Over the past three seasons, the Titans’ RBs averaged 382 rushes for 1,698 yards and 17 TDs with 57 catches. In 2019, Tennessee rode Derrick Henry to 5.05 yards per catch with a step forward in yards per catch (9.02). Touchdowns should be plentiful while coming up short in chances in the passing game.

Derrick Henry

Henry was more steady than explosive over his first nine games (806 yards with eight TDs and 11 catches) in 2019, while averaging 3.9 yards per carry. The change to Ryan Tannehill led to an incredible run over his next eight games (203/1273/11 with ten catches for 71 yards). Over this span, Henry had six games with 149 yards rushing or more and four games with multiple TDs.

He had two highlight three-game stretches (532 combined yards with five TDs and six catches and 67 combined yards with four TDs and three catches). Henry had the most success in Week 17 (32/211/3).

His only weakness when matched up with the big boys at RBs is the lack of value in the passing game (18/206/2). Power runner with a chance to push over 375 touches this year. I have projected for 1,741 combined yards with 17 TDs and 31 catches with 325 combined touches. Fantasy owners have him priced as the sixth running back drafted with an ADP of eight.

I’m a fan of RB Darrynton Evans, who may work his way into a third-down role in the passing game.

Darrynton Evans

In 2018 in college, he worked more as a change of pace back (179/1187/7), which led to 6.6 yards per rush and minimal chances in the passing game (12/87/1). Last year Evans developed into a lead runner with value on three downs (1,678 combined yards with 23 touchdowns and 21 catches on 276 touches). His best game came in Week 2 against Charlotte (19/234/3).

Evans brings plus speed and change of pace value. The Titans will get him on the field, but he projects more as an upside handcuff with minimal opportunity.

Other option: Dalyn Dawkins, Senorise Perry, Khari Blasingame, Shaun Wilson, Cameron Scarlett

Wide Receivers

There hasn’t been an excellent opportunity for wide receivers in the Titans’ offense over the past three seasons. In 2019, the addition of A.J. Brown led growth in catches (172), receiving yards (2,582), and TD (16) with similar targets (256) as in 2017 (245) and 2018 (266). Their wide receivers gained 15.01 yards per catch, leading to 66 percent of the Titans’ passing yards.

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A.J. Brown

Brown was my favorite rookie receiver in 2019, and I drafted in almost every league. Unfortunately, he was a tough start over the first 12 games due to the Titans only looking his way 54 times (4.5 targets per week).

Over this stretch, Brown shined in three contests (3/100, 3/94/2, and 4/135/1). His season ended with three stellar games (5/153/2, 8/114/1, and 4/124/1) over the final four weeks while averaging 9.3 targets in these showings.

Despite his explosiveness, defenses did take him away in the playoffs (1/4, 1/9, and 3/51). There is a lot of intrigue here supported by his league-high in yards per catch (20.2) and catches over 40 yards (8). The trick is getting him closer to eight targets per game, which would give him about a top-12 WR opportunity.

When doing the first run of the 2020 projections, Brown ranked as the tenth wide receiver in PPR leagues with 82 catches for 1,228 yards and nine TDs. His early ADP (39) paints him as the 14th wide receiver drafted. An outstanding player who looks to be an upside WR2, especially if other owners overlook him on draft day.

Corey Davis

Davis remains a mystery to the Titans and fantasy owners after getting drafted in the first round in 2017. He looks to be in a free agent next year with Tennessee looking to move on after his underperforming start to his career.

WR A.J. Brown jumped ahead of him as the WR1, which led to only 4.6 targets per game. Davis gained under 50 yards in 14 of his 18 games (including in the playoffs). His only two contests of value came in Week 4 (5/91/1) and Week 7 (6/80/1).

The bottom line for me is Davis doesn’t make tough catches in tight coverage while rarely making big plays. Bet on the come in his fourth year in the league, but snake eyes may be staring back at you at the finish line. I set his bar at 55 catches for 715 yards and five TDs with an ADP of 242.

Adam Humphries

Over his first four years in the NFL, Humphries improved each season. Last year he finished with 37 catches for 374 yards and two TDs on 47 targets with one game of value (6/93). His catch rate has been elite over the last three years (73.5, 72.4, and 78.7), which commands respect from the coaching staff and quarterback.

In 2018, he set career highs in catches (76), targets (105), receiving yards (816), and TDs (5) as the WR3 for Tampa.

Possession type wide receiver that will be found in the free-agent pool in most redraft leagues.

Other options: Kalif Raymond, Cody Hollister, Cameron Batson, Rashard Davis, Trevion Thompson

Tight Ends

Tennessee will look for their tight ends at the goal line, leading to 20 TDs over the past three seasons. Delanie Walker (74/807/3) was a big piece of the passing game in 2017 with success in 2015 (94/1088/6) and 2016 (65/800/7) as well. The Titans relied on a rotation of options at tight ends over the last two seasons, which still resulted in productive results.

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Jonnu Smith

With Delanie Walker out of the picture for more of 2019, Smith secured over 70 percent of the playing time at tight end for the Titans.

Unfortunately, his bump in snaps led to about 46 percent of the catches (76) and receiving yards (948) while ranking lower (42.1 percent) in overall targets (107) for the TEs on Tennessee.

Smith teased in Week 8 (6/78/1) but followed up with only nine catches for 48 yards on 13 targets over his next four games. Tennessee gave him over five targets in just two contests.

Improving for sure, but his ceiling doesn’t look high enough to project over a mid-tier TE2 at this point in his career. I expect 54 catches for 613 yards and four TDs while being drafted as about the 16th TE in the early 2020 draft season with an ADP of 143.

Other options: Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Cole Herdman, Parker Hesse, Tommy Hudson

Kicker

Greg Joseph

Joseph failed to win the Browns kicking job last preseason, which led to him sitting out the first 15 weeks in 2019.

Over five games for the Titans between the regular season and the playoffs, he finished with only one successful field goal while making all 18 of his extra points.

Last year Tennessee scored 54 touchdowns, but they created only 18 field goal chances. In his rookie season, Joseph flashed upside by making 17 of his 20 field goals (85.0 percent) while showing more risk in his college career (57-for-82 in field goals). More of a bet on the Titans’ offense than the leg of Joseph.

Defensive Schedule

Tennessee’s defense will be challenged by the Ravens’ run game while having six other midtier games (MIN, BUF, IND X 2, and HOU X 2). They have three matchups (PIT, CHI, and CIN) against teams that struggled to run the ball last year.

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The Titans don’t have one game against a team that threw the ball well in 2019. Seven games (DEN, PIT, BUF, CHI, BAL, and IND X 2) offer a significant edge for their pass defense plus two other favorable games (MIN and CLE). They have the best schedule in 2020 against the pass based on last year’s stats.

Defense

The Titans climbed to 12th in rushing yards allowed (1,672) in 2019 while allowing 14 TDs and six runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained 4.0 yards per rush while averaging only 25.9 rushing attempts per game.

Tennessee fell to 24th in passing yards allowed (4,080) with QBs tossing 25 TDs and 41 Ints. Their defense had 43 sacks while holding offenses to 7.3 yards per pass attempts.

DE Jeffery Simmons

Before the 2019 NFL Draft, Simmons suffered a torn ACL in his left knee. The Titans still thought enough of him to draft him 19th overall.

He offers a disruptive skill set that will improve the run defense and add pressure to the pass rush. His next step in his development is understanding what teams are trying to do against him and staying home in his assignments. Simmons will be an impact player when at full strength.

After missing the first six games last year, Simmons made 32 tackles with two sacks. His play vs. the run graded favorably.

DT DaQuan Jones

Jones played all 32 games over the last two years, but he recorded only one sack while continuing to be an asset defending the run. The Titans signed him to a new three-year contract in March of 2018 for $121 million. Last season Jones had 42 tackles and three defended passes.

DE Isaiah Mack

The second defensive end position looks to be in flux, with no one standing out as a top option. Mack only made one start last year after joining the Titans as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He didn’t offer an edge in any area.

LB Vic Beasley

In his fifth year in the league, Beasley posted his second-highest total in sacks (8) and a career-high in tackles (42). His play continues to fade vs. the run while struggling to make consistent tackles.

LB Jayon Brown

Brown set a career-high in tackles (105) in 2019 with some growth in pass coverage (one Int, eight defended passes, and one TD). His plays improved against the run for the second straight year. In 2018, he played much better when rushing the quarterback (six sacks).

LB Rashaan Evans

In the first round in 2018, LB Rashaan Evans was the choice at pick 22. Evans should be a great linebacker vs. the run where his speed, vision, and instincts will offer an edge. He’ll add value to the pass rush while needing to prove his worth in pass coverage. His challenge at the next level will be overcoming weaker talent on the defensive line compared to his years at Alabama.

Last year he doubled his output in tackles (111) while adding 2.5 sacks. Evans played well in both seasons in the NFL against the run.

LB Harold Landry

Landry has a chance to be an impact pass rusher thanks to his speed and quickness. He has strength, but he doesn’t have the size (6’2” and 255 lbs.) to beat NFL linemen consistently on the defensive line. Harold needs to improve when asked to change direction.

In his second year in the NFL, Landry picked up nine sacks with growth as well in tackles (68). He pushed his way to a top player in run support.

CB Malcolm Butler

Butler is a cornerback that offers more risk than reward. Receivers will score plenty of TDs with failure in yards allowed and a rising completion rate against. Butler missed the final seven games of the regular season with a broken wrist.

CB Adoree Jackson

Jackson has the feel of a developing cornerback. He’s a former first-round draft pick (2017). His best play comes in coverage, which tends to allow short yards per catch with improved play in touchdowns allowed. He missed five games with a foot injury.

S Kevin Byard

Byard has been a top player at safety over the last three seasons. He continues to be an impact player in run support (84 tackles) while making plenty of plays in coverage (five Ints and nine defended passes).

S Kenny Vaccaro

Vaccaro has never played well in coverage in his career, even with receivers catching low yards per catch in most years. He’ll add value vs. the run while adding a sack or two per season.

Team Defense Outlook

Tennessee has talent at linebacker and with one top player on the defensive line. I don’t trust their cornerbacks while their safeties should add value to their defense. Viable top 12 defense, but they don’t have enough playmakers in their secondary.

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