Tennessee Titans: 2014 Outlook
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Football > Teams > AFC South > Titans > Outlook

Tennessee Titans

By Jeb Gorham, Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jake Locker's fourth season is going to be one to watch. His return from Lisfranc surgery has gone very well, and he is actually ahead of schedule. Locker needs to focus on a few key aspects of his game this season to be productive--namely his movement in the pocket and his completion percentage. Locker has a great offensive line and this should help him work to improve; however, another underwhelming season or a string of injuries would force the Titans to find a new QB for the future. The addition of Bishop Sankey from the draft will provide Locker a tough rusher that can help the passing game succeed. Locker is probably best left on the waiver wire until he produces something on the field.

Editor's note: It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Titans decide to keep Locker as their franchise QB after this season. For example, if they don't make the playoffs, how well would Locker need to play in order to be re-signed? The former Washington Huskies star is in a contract year and may be one season away from the end of his career. If that isn't motivation, nothing is.

Ken Whisenhunt wanted Whitehurst over Ryan Fitzpatrick, so he got his way. That's all Whitehurst has at this point. If Locker misses any time this season, the veteran Whitehurst will play. Now 31 years old, if he were any good, we would have probably noticed by now. He is not draft worthy.

DYNASTY STUD: We here at FFToolbox have Sankey ranked as the 25th-best running back; considering his situation, that may not be high enough. This ranking would make him a borderline RB2 pick. Some experts have him listed as a potential bust given his poor game tape showings, but he is going to produce at a high level. Shonn Greene is aging quickly and his knee injuries of years past are still bugging him. Sankey was the first running back taken in the draft and with his comparisons to Tiki Barber, he will be a guy to watch. The job in Tennessee is all his and Sankey has an excellent offensive line that will help guide a run-heavy attack. Sankey is a Top 3 or 4 pick in dynasty rookie drafts with serious short- and long-term upside.

Dexter McCluster makes the move from Kansas City to join Tennessee this season. McCluster is the guy we love to watch with his speed and natural abilities, yet has never put it together to produce much of a fantasy season. In his new home he will have to compete for carries with Bishop Sankey and Shonn Greene. McCluster's role in the running game will be a work-in-progress as the offense feels out the return of Jake Locker. The best guess is that McCluster will be used as a change-of-pace and on specialty plays where the Titans look to get him the ball in open space. If he is successful with his opportunities, he might get more snaps. He is a high-risk option due.

Editor's note: If we are to assume Greene is a bust, McCluster could walk into a larger role. The reality is that Greene is still in prohibiting McCluster's path toward more touches. There is some upside given McCluster's speed, but it is limited to very deep leagues.

Could Shonn Greene be over the hill at 28? He very well could be. Greene's knee injuries have hampered his offseason progress and he has had two surgeries in nine months on the same knee. With the RB1 role locked up by rookie RB Bishop Sankey, Greene will take a permanent back seat. The former Iowa runner will be a bust, as much of his career would havve indicated. Though it's not all doom and gloom, since this season could provide some limited opportunities (such as short-yardage carries). Greene's low ceiling and disappointing athleticism make him a bust candidate.

Kendall Wright is a solid WR2 and a better WR3 pick. His 158 grabs over his first two seasons look good on paper, but (as a slot receiver) might not be what you are looking for. His low yards per reception and low TD totals make him a slightly less coveted fantasy play. Ken Whisenhunt likes Wright and will work to get him involved, so the former Baylor Bears WR might be worth a better look this season. The big downside is Wright may only produce starter-quality stats in PPR leagues and will be reliant upon an injury-prone QB and an undependable offense.

Editor's note: Wright's high-volume reception total will be difficult to replicate, especially if he cannot form the same type of chemistry with Locker. He is the safest fantasy WR on the team though.

Justin Hunter looks to be on the upswing as a wideout making strides toward fantasy prowess. Hunter is a huge target and has red-zone appeal for Jake Locker. This season, Hunter moves up to the WR2 spot opposite Kendall Wright (displacing Nate Washington). Wright tends to get the slot looks and that means Hunter becomes the big play guy on the outside. If Locker can get the ball into the vicinity of Hunter, he has the ability to make plays. Shawn Jefferson (the Tennessee WR coach) has high expectations for Hunter and thinks that in his second season the former University of Tennessee WR will be a difference maker. Given his WR ranking and fantasy owner doubts in Locker, Hunter becomes a sleeper pick in redraft. He also has dynasty value in what has to be a much-anticipated 2014 campaign. Based on his ADP (116.09, WR49), Hunter ranks as a low WR4 or high WR5, yet could end up playing like a WR3 pick. Take a shot on this upside prospect.

Editor's note: Hunter was ahead of Cordarrelle Patterson and Da'Rick Rogers on the depth chart when the trio was at the University of Tennessee a couple years back. Patterson may be a different sort of playmaker, but this speaks to Hunter's big-time potential.

Nate Washington is now 30 years of age and has slid down the depth chart to WR3 behind Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. This is not the only reason Washington can be considered over the hill. The other reason is the shift in offense toward Whisenhunt's run-first schemes. Washington will see some action, but with Wright mainly in the slot and Hunter still working to improve his game and consistency on the outside. All observations and guesses point to a season of decreased production for Washington as the Titans' younger options emerge.

Whisenhunt has compared Walker to Antonio Gates. Fantasy owners drool at these types of comparisons. Ranked by FFToolbox as 15th-best TE, he will be a safe draft pick for the position; in all actuality, he may prove much more useful on your fantasy roster. If all goes as planned (and Whisenhunt can get Walker involved in the passing game and working with Jake Locker), we might see a better line than last season -- produced 60 catches, nearly 600 yards and six TDs. Walker's physical play is appealing and if given more opportunities, he could jump up the TE radar as a low-end starter.

Editor's note: A more efficient running game could open up the middle for Walker. He will likely never be a top-flight fantasy player; however, there is still room for growth and statistical improvement to carry him into the TE1 conversation.

Craig Stevens is listed as the TE2 and merely participates as a blocking tight end and special teams. His participation in the passing game is extremely limited and he has no real fantasy value. Taylor Thompson has more offensive value at TE3 on this roster.

The Tennessee defense has no real place to go but up. The big change this season will be Ken Whisenhunt's move from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme. The 3-4 places greater responsibility on the nose tackle and outside linebacker positions. If Sammie Lee Hill, Al Woods, Akeem Ayers, Derrick Morgan and Shaun Phillips can boost their roles, the 3-4 might help with the team's defensive woes. While in this transitional stage, the Titans could struggle. They have almost no fantasy appeal right now as most teams need a year or two to gel into a new scheme.


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