2020 Tennessee Titans Outlook
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.
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.
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.
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.
QB Ryan Tannehill, TEN - Sleeper (undervalued)
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).
RB Derrick Henry, TEN - Stud (low risk)
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). I'm a fan of RB Darrynton Evans, who may work his way into a third-down role in the passing game. 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.
RB Darrynton Evans, CHI - Gamble (high risk)
Reportedly having fumble problems in practice. You can't do that in the NFL, so keep an eye on the Titans and what they do to address.
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.
WR A.J. Brown, PHI - Stud (low risk)
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. An outstanding player who looks to be a surprise WR1.
WR Corey Davis, NYJ - Quality Backup
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.