QB Matt Hasselbeck
Unable to come to terms with the Seahawks on a new contract, Hasselbeck found a willing suitor in Tennessee. With the Titans, Hasselbeck will keep the starting quarterback job warm until rookie first-round pick Jake Locker is ready to take over. Hasselbeck is coming off a trying season in Seattle, where he put up the worst production of his career (when healthy for the majority of the season), throwing for 2,998 yards with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. In 2011, look for him to retain the starter’s job as long as he is healthy and productive and the Titans remain in playoff contention. With his 34 touchdown passes and 44 interceptions over the last three years, and his having missed time due to injury in each of those seasons, and with the Titans not expected to challenge for a playoff spot, his time as Tennessee’s starting quarterback figures to be a short one. Furthermore, the team’s crop of receivers and tight ends hardly inspires confidence. If he can somehow overcome all of that, he may be suitable as your QB2. Otherwise, hands off.
QB Jake Locker
The future looked bright for Locker when the Titans used the eighth pick in the draft to acquire him; it looked even brighter when Kerry Collins announced his retirement. But things got decidedly darker when the team signed former Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck, who will open the season as the starter. The book on Locker coming out of Washington was that he possessed all the necessary measurables and intangibles to be an NFL quarterback but he had an issue was his accuracy. So it was no surprise when Hasselbeck was signed. Given Hasselbeck’s injury history, however, look for Locker to end up under center at some point this season and to start by season’s end if the Titans are out of the playoff picture.
RB Chris Johnson
After his historic 2009 season in which he set the NFL record for most yards from scrimmage (2,509) and became just the sixth running back to rush for over 2,000 yards, there was strong sentiment that Johnson would see his production decline because of his heavy workload from the previous year. Sure enough, Johnson wasn’t as dynamic, and his production also suffered due to Tennessee’s poor quarterback play. His numbers dropped to 1,364 rushing yards and 245 receiving yards with 12 total touchdowns, bumping him down to fifth place in the fantasy running back rankings. Entering 2011, there are two concerns with taking Johnson at the top of fantasy drafts: his contract situation and the team’s passing game. CJ2K is holding out for a new contract, but that situation figures to get resolved since his salaries for the next two years are incommensurate with his production. The passing attack will be lead by former Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck, but there are major question marks at wide receiver and tight end. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Johnson will be facing eight- and nine-man fronts on rushing downs. That means another otherworldly season is unlikely, but he is definitely a top-three fantasy running back, assuming he shows up for Week 1.
RB Javon Ringer
Ah, life is lonely as the top backup for the most dynamic running back in the league, and that is Ringer’s lot in life. The 2009 fifth-round pick played behind Chris Johnson and Lendale White in his rookie season before being elevated to Johnson’s main backup last year. Ringer carried the rock just 51 times but was solid in his limited touches, scoring two touchdowns and gaining 239 yards for a 4.7 yards-per-carry average. That makes him a must-have handcuff for owners of CJ2K. The Titans did use a fourth-round pick on Jamie Harper, however, so Ringer has competition for the spot. Keep that in mind on draft day.
WR Kenny Britt
After a solid 2009 rookie season with over 700 receiving yards, Britt was on the verge of establishing himself as one of the top receivers in the league when a hamstring injured sidelined him last year. He ended the season with 42 receptions for 775 yards and nine touchdowns despite playing in just 12 games. Even more impressive was that he put up most of his production in just ten games (he failed to get a target in Week 1 and had only one target in the game in which he was injured). In those ten games, he averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game, which would have ranked him third in the league in that category behind only Brandon Lloyd and Hakeem Nicks. The talent is clearly there. Unfortunately, what’s not there is common sense. Since entering the league, Britt has missed OTAs because he was so out of shape, been ticketed for driving without a license, been arrested for outstanding traffic tickets, been accused of not paying a bail bond he obtained for a friend, been investigated for being in a bar fight, pleaded guilty to careless driving, and was charged for resisting arrest after plainclothes police officers suspected he was in possession of marijuana because they smelled it on him and saw him holding what appeared to be a marijuana cigar. The last incident occurred a day after he appeared in court on traffic charges. This all begs the questions: how did he get into Rutgers, and how did he manage to keep up his grades there? Or, why do I want a guy with this much risk (in addition to Tennessee’s risk at quarterback) on my fantasy team? I’m here to help answer those questions. I can’t speak for Rutgers, but as for the rest: You don’t want the risk. At this point, a suspension seems likely. Let others go there.
WR Nate Washington
The Titans acquired Washington as a free agent two years ago with the expectation that he would blossom in Tennessee with additional playing time. Suffice it to say, that hasn’t happened. And after five years in the league, it’s not about to. Washington had 40 receptions for 631 yards and three touchdowns in his last year with Pittsburgh and has averaged 44.5 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns with Tennessee. This guy is the quintessential definition of a one-trick pony. Run straight, Nate, clear out for CJ2K, and maybe we’ll chuck it to you deep. Yawn. Is that not enough evidence to avoid him in your draft? How’s this? Of his 104 fantasy points from last year, 44 came in three games. In the other 13 games, he averaged 4.6 points per game. Don’t be surprised if the rebuilding Titans go with one of their youngsters ahead of Washington in the starting lineup.
WR Damian Williams
Williams didn’t do much to excite fantasy owners in his 2010 rookie season, posting modest totals of 16 receptions for 219 yards. The former third-round pick rarely saw the field other than when injuries struck, but he has a decent chance of earning significant playing time this season. Randy Moss is gone, Kenny Britt could be suspended, Justin Gage hasn’t done enough to justify his 2011 salary of $3.5 million, and Nate Washington hasn’t done enough to justify his starting position. Williams figures to be the team’s top backup, at worst, and perhaps their go-to if Britt is suspended. He rates as a deep sleeper but one worth monitoring in the preseason.
WR Justin Gage
Coming off of two disappointing seasons, there’s a decent chance Gage will be on the unemployment line by opening day. In fact, barring a renegotiation or a suspension or an injury to Kenny Britt or Nate Washington, it’s almost a guarantee. The Titans will look to get 2010 third-round pick Damian Williams more involved this season, and that will likely spell the end of Gage’s run with the Titans.
TE Jared Cook
The Titans are not expected to re-sign Bo Scaife in 2011, so Cook will get his first chance for significant playing time. He possesses good size at 6’5” and 246 pounds and is one of the faster tight ends in the league. That’s why he was touted as an athletic tight end coming out of South Carolina in the 2009 draft, and that’s why the Titans used a third-round pick to acquire him. Unfortunately, he rarely saw the field until the tail end of the 2010 season. The results were promising, however, with Cook catching 15 of his 21 targets (a tidy completion percentage of 71.4) for 196 yards and one touchdown, averaging 8.5 fantasy points per game during that stretch. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck likes throwing to tight ends, and you can expect the same from rookie Jake Locker if he is inserted into the starting lineup. Cook is definitely worth a look in dynasty leagues and as your TE2 in redraft leagues.