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Should You Draft Him?: Tennessee Titans

No football player has spawned a more bizarre obsession with his personal stats than Chris Johnson. Every week during the regular season the deafening roar of whether or not Johnson has lived up to his fantasy draft position nearly drowns out the fact that the Tennessee Titans are a football team that plays actual, real-life games.

I remember reading a recap of a terrible 38-14 loss to the Houston Texans last season where Johnson was talking like the offensive execution was a big success because he managed to rush for 141 yards. The Titans spent most of the fourth quarter of that game feeding Johnson the ball a ridiculous amount of times because apparently getting him his stats was more important than, I don’t know, actually trying to win the game.

So will our national nightmare of worrying about Johnson getting enough yards come to an end? As long as he continues to be the only compelling player on that roster in fantasy and real life, probably not. Did you know that the Titans haven’t sent a single player to the Pro Bowl over the last two seasons? That’s crazy. Do you know how easy it is to get to the Pro Bowl? After replacement selections due to injury, players deciding they don’t want to go, and everyone who makes the Super Bowl not being allowed to participate. I think I might have been selected for one.

In 2009, David Garrard got in on the strength of a 7-9 season where he passed for a whopping 15 touchdowns. In the last two seasons, not one of the 53 players on the Titans roster managed to cobble together a good enough season to be considered one of the four or five or six best in the conference at their position. What I’m saying is, while I hate that people seem to believe that Johnson’s fantasy stats are the single most important order of football business in Nashville, when you see how little the other 52 guys are bringing to the table, I kind of get it.

But low expectations bring low fantasy draft position, so this football dungheap just might be hiding some quality sleepers. Let’s pick through this and find out who’s worth drafting.

(ADP = Average Draft Position. Figures are based on 12-team standard scoring leagues. Kickers will be ignored because real football players beat them up and steal their lunch money.)


Jake Locker (ADP: Undrafted):


On paper it looks like he should have some good upside. He can move, he has a good pass catching running back that defenses have to respect, and his receiving corps is pretty solid. Unfortunately, he doesn’t look capable of coming close to fulfilling his potential when he’s actually on the field. Shoulder injuries are cause for concern, he didn’t pass for more than two touchdowns in any game last season, and the interior offensive line upgrades were probably intended to bolster the run more than the pass. Ordinarily, your high upside guys show occasional flashes of brilliance before breaking out, and Locker just didn’t have them last season. He could break out and make for a good free agent pickup down the line, but ignore him on draft day.

Should you draft him?
No.


Ryan Fitzpatrick (ADP: Undrafted):


Hey, did you know he went to Harvard?

Should you draft him?
No.


Chris Johnson (ADP: 17th Overall):

There’s actually something good about the intense scrutiny of Johnson’s fantasy performance and overwhelming disappointment he gives everyone. Because “Johnson” and “fantasy” in the same sentence carry such rotten connotations, he’s fallen all the way to the 14th running back off the board, which is good value. For all the complaints about his unreliability, he’s only missed one game in his five-year career, and he’s gained at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each season, and even in his worst year he was a top 15 points-per-reception back. On average he’s going a full four spots lower than Matt Forte, despite the fact that Johnson is coming off a better fantasy season and has a higher ceiling. All in all, Johnson will still be frustrating, and the incredible 80-yard touchdown sprints will be mixed in with a few stinkers where he scores less than five points, but now that he’s more of a high-end No. 2 running back as opposed to an early first-rounder that you lay all of your hopes and dreams onto, owning him is much more palatable.

Should you draft him?
Yes.


Shonn Greene (ADP: Mid-Round 13):


I have personal issues with Greene. I blame him for ruining my 2010 fantasy season. That bad taste has caused me to be more down on him than I probably should be, because he’s been a solidly reliable low-end No. 2 running back for the last two seasons. Seeing him slowly plod is almost as bad as watching baseball, but the consistent gains add up. He’s better in short yardage than Johnson and he’s a massive upgrade over Javon Ringer, so he should see a lot more carries than the previous No. 2 Titans RBs have in recent years. Greene probably figures to be used like LenDale White was five years ago. I really doubt he’ll manage to score 15 touchdowns like White did in 2008, but seven or eight is plausible. Equally plausible is 600-800 rushing yards. That’s good production for a 13th-round pick, and the full workload he’d assuredly get if anything happens to Johnson makes it all the better.

Should you draft him?
Yes.

Kenny Britt (ADP: Late Round 8

): I recommend drafting Britt based entirely on his upside. He’s the healthiest he’s been in a while, he avoided trouble and suspension this offseason, and as a player entering a contract year who somewhat understands how much is at stake, this is probably as focused as you’ll see him. There are lots of hurdles to clear, since focus and prolonged good health have escaped him so far in his career, and his potential for elite production is also dependent on improved accuracy from Locker, but if everything comes together, you’ve easily got a top 12 receiver. I know this sounds redundant because it seems like every team in the NFL has some young receiver who gets pub because of his upside, but this is different. Britt is not just some guy with a good 40-time. His talent level is special. I’m talking Brandon Marshall or Larry Fitzgerald special. I don’t really think he’ll hit his ceiling, but you’re not going to find more upside in Round 8.

Should you draft him?
Yes.


Nate Washington (ADP: Undrafted):

If Washington was my son, I would show up to his games and boo him. His 1,000-yard season in 2011 when he took over for Britt was a nice and welcome surprise for fantasy owners, but the career stats really tell the story here. He has one fantasy relevant season out of seven. The Titans drafted Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter in the last two years in order to cleanse themselves of all that Washington stink as well as they could. He’ll need an injury or two to his fellow receivers before he sees significant targets.

Should you draft him?
No.

Kendall Wright (ADP: Mid-Round 13):
Now this is what I was talking about before when I said I needed a supposed high-upside guy to show flashes of his potential before I would consider him worthy of a flier. Wright did that as a rookie. All of the offseason news about him is positive. He’s lost 15 pounds, and he’s apparently catching everything thrown his way in practice. More experience and more time to build a rapport with Locker should help him settle nicely into the possession receiver role. He’s basically everything you want in a late-round receiver: usable as a starter in a pinch, and a potential every-week play.

Should you draft him?
Yes.

Kevin Walter/Justin Hunter (ADP: Undrafted):
It will be a stretch for a team quarterbacked by Locker to produce two fantasy relevant receivers. Three or more just isn’t going to happen. Hunter is worth a look in dynasty leagues, because the Titans wouldn’t have traded up for him if they didn’t like what they saw, and Walter has managed one decent fantasy season in 10 years as a pro. Ignore.

Should you draft him?
No.

Delanie Walker (ADP: Undrafted):
He is going to be taking over Jared Cook’s old job as the Titans starting tight end. Cook’s 2012 stats extrapolated to a full 16 games would have made him the No. 15 tight end in standard scoring leagues. Walker is not as good as Cook. Therefore, by the transitive property I declare Walker to be undraftworthy.

Should you draft him?
No.

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