The start of NFL training camps is rapidly approaching, which means that Fantasy Football drafts are not far behind.
The Tennessee Titans had one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2020 and this season they feature a number of players who should be appealing to fantasy owners. To help with the pre-draft process, All Titans at SI.com will break down the players who will (or might) show up on draft boards.
Today, tight end Anthony Firkser.
Why you should draft him: Firkser is in line to be a starter and the Titans’ primary tight end for the first time in his career. Undrafted out of Harvard in 2017, he has been an emerging and important role player for the Titans over the past three seasons.
He set career-highs with 39 receptions and 387 receiving yards last season. That was just two receptions fewer than the man he will replace, Jonnu Smith, who played more than twice as many snaps on offense (Smith is now with New England courtesy of a lucrative free-agent deal) . Among all of the team’s receivers with at least 20 receptions, Firkser’s 73.6 catch percentage was tops, and two-thirds of his receptions went for first downs.
Perhaps a preview of what lies ahead was his Week 6 performance against Houston, the time last season he played more than half the snaps on offense. In that one, he caught eight passes (on nine targets) for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Why you shouldn’t draft him: Tennessee remains a run-first offense built around two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry. When it comes time to throw this season, quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have two Pro Bowl wide receivers from which to choose – Julio Jones and A.J. Brown – and another wide receiver option, free agent Josh Reynolds. Plus, coaches want second-year running back Darrynton Evans to be more involved in the passing game as a change-of-pace to Henry.
It is possible, maybe even likely, that an increase in playing time will not mean a substantial rise in Firkser’s statistics because there will be limited opportunities for him to be the primary option in the pass game.
Plus, he is not blessed with eye-popping physical gifts. Consider that he has just one touchdown reception in each of the last three years, and his catch percentage in the red zone last season (57.1) was well below that same number in any other area of the field.
Notable number: 3. That is the number of receptions Firkser made in 2020 on play-action passes. What it means is that 36 of his 39 catches came in obvious passing situations rather than those in which the defense was distracted by Henry. In other words, the defense was thinking pass first yet Firkser managed to get open and make the play.
They said it: “The opportunities will be dictated by his ability to get open, and a lot of that comes with his ability to develop his man-to-man route craft, which he’s obviously displayed here for a couple years. He’s made a lot of big plays for us in a lot of situations. … He’s a skilled receiver in the passing game, but I think he’s still ready to make that next step. He’s a guy that’s never satisfied.” – Luke Steckel, tight ends coach.
Bottom line: Just because Firkser will be the Titans’ starting tight end does not mean that fantasy owners should consider him an every-week option. The best-case scenario is that he produces several big weeks among a number of pedestrian ones. More likely, he will have one or two big games and a bunch of just OK ones, unless one or more of the wide receivers get hurt. Draft him no earlier than the 10th round, and hope his big games come when he is in the lineup.