A young quarterback on the rise, a powerful running back duo, a strong offensive line and a diverse wide receiver corp. That’s probably every offensive coordinator’s dream, and that’s what the Tennessee Titans have in store for the 2017 season. The arrival of Eric Decker has added another element to this offense, that even before signing the veteran, the Titans were already seen as one of the most interesting teams for the upcoming season. If you’re are already planning your fantasy season, you must be wondering: what can I expect from the Tennessee Titans skill players in 2017?
Impact on Marcus Mariota
One of the most important traits of Eric Decker is his reliability, especially in the red zone. Since 2012, the former Bronco has scored 33 touchdowns from within the 20-yard line, the second-best in the NFL – behind only his former teammate Brandon Marshall. Since we are talking about his impact in the red zone, Marcus Mariota’s efficiency in this part of the field is remarkable: throughout his career, Mariota’s passed for 33 touchdowns and zero interceptions, with a completion rate of 64%. When targeting a receiver in the end zone, Mariota has completed 59% of his passes and passed for 26 touchdowns. Considering he’s entering his third season in September, that’s even more impressive – he looks like a seasoned veteran. However, there’s the argument that his numbers are so otherworldly in the red zone that he’s due to a regression. While that may be true, that doesn’t make him less valuable for fantasy purposes and the addition of Eric Decker can only help the young quarterback.
Impact on the Rest of the Wide Receivers
In terms of red zone passing, we already know that the Tennessee Titans will greatly benefit from this duo. Nevertheless, the targets that are now going Decker’s way must come from somewhere. Last season, Rishard Matthews was Mariota’s favorite target in the redzone. Matthews caught 6 out of 9 redzone targets for touchdowns. Corey Davis, the 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft, also comes into the equation – his skill set is versatile enough to make him a huge option for Mariota in the red zone. We must also consider Delanie Walker, who had 102 targets in 2016, only 6 behind the team’s leader Rishard Matthews. He plays an important role in this passing offense, and his physicality makes him a great option if the matchup is right.
My first instinct is to tell you to avoid Titans receivers in general. Even though they’re a well-rounded and talented group, putting any of them on your line-up might end up in frustration. In one week, Matthews gets the end zone targets and scores twice; the other week he lays a goose egg and potentially loses you the week. It’s a similar situation we’ve had for years with the Saints’ offense – we can never know who’s going to be Brees’ favorite target in any given week.
Impact on Delanie Walker
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t present you an alternative. While Decker’s addition most probably means a slight bump in the wide receivers’ value overall, Delanie Walker might benefit from it. If the defenses decide to shift their focus to Decker and the other wide receivers, Walker will probably find the space to make a play. If they ignore Walker in the red zone, the veteran tight end will be a great option for Marcus Mariota, and we already know how efficient the former 2nd overall pick can be near the goal line.
The biggest winner of the Eric Decker signing is Marcus Mariota, no questions asked. He now has another reliable target – not only in the redzone but across the field. Decker is an overall great wide receiver; good route running, good hands, great efficiency in the red zone and a great run blocker – Murray and Henry will also benefit. Mariota’s value has increased, and the former Duck has become an even more solid fantasy quarterback. If I had to point the biggest loser, I’d have to say, Rishard Matthews. Corey Davis comes with a top five pick pedigree, and Decker arrives with the reputation of a red zone machine – Matthew’s volume will probably drop considerably, and I don’t see him being more than a WR4 for your team, barring injury. At the same time, Decker and Davis can be valuable depth players for 2017, with Decker as potential WR2 if his redzone superiority is the same in Nashville as it was in Denver and New York.