Note: While much of the fantasy football research is trying to assess how players will behave when they go to a new team, it is also vital to understand what the old team is doing to replace those players. It is an opportunity for players to step forward and fill the void. In this series, we’ll look at six teams that have had key starts this off-season and need to find new ways to replace key fantasy production.
One of the NFL’s heaviest bouts he has a lot to make up for in his receiving game.
The Tennessee Titans lead the NFL this off-season in the target percentage cleared by a large margin. The entirety of the passing pie in Nashville isn’t all that big – the team has been the last 10 in passing attempts and the top 10 in running attempts in each of the last three seasons – but a huge chunk is there for the conquest. after AJ Brown was traded, Julio Jones was released and Anthony Firkser was left in free agency.
There are 351 goals up for grabs from seed no. 1 of the AFC 2021. This is the second most vacated goal in the NFL, behind only the Chiefs (360). Due to Tennessee’s low pass rate, these 351 goals represent a whopping 67.1% of its total, according to 4for4.com.
Brown saw a record 105 goals for the team in 2021, Jones was third on the team with 48 and Firkser and free agent Chester Rogers tied for fourth place with 43 each. Tennessee’s best return receiver is Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. He was targeted 57 times a season ago, the second on the team.
Of course, the Titans’ offense revolves around running back Derrick Henry, who finished in the top 10 in running yards in 2021 despite missing nine games. This forced the team to rely on Ryan Tannehill‘s boom thicker in the second half of 2021 and its production decreased accordingly. Expect Coach Mike Vrabel to lean heavily on a healthy Henry once again, meaning there may be even fewer goals to get around.
Tennessee’s addiction to running doesn’t negate the void in its receiver room, and there’s a value for fantasy managers to reap depending on how it is filled. The Titans front office recognized what they missed in the off-season and brought in a trio of pass receivers to fill that gap. Enter the substitutions.
Burks is Brown’s heir apparent. Tennessee used the 18th pick in this year’s draft, which it acquired from Philadelphia in the Brown trade, to acquire his replacement. With that selection, the Titans got what they hope will be Brown 2.0, only cheaper. Burks compiled 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns of 66 catches during his junior year in Arkansas. He has a better average of 16 yards per catch in college and is a dynamic threat yard after catch.
The recent history of first-year receivers making a quick impact is promising for Tennessee’s first round. Burks’ workload may seem similar to that of his predecessor: he will have to do a lot with little. Brown saw a record 84 rookie targets and managed to turn 52 catches in 1,051 yards. Burks has a lot of advantages, but it will by no means have a monopoly on the target share.
Scroll to Continue
My colleague Michael Fabiano dubbed Burks a winner among players in novice skill positions, writing “while Burks still has some work to do on his running course, he is able to see a lot of targets in an attack that doesn’t have much experience at close range beyond Robert Woods, which brings us to our next Titans pass receiver.
The former Rams receiver tore his ACL in November and was traded to the Titans in the off-season for a sixth round in 2023. He was on the field for the OTAs with a knee brace and showed no signs of lameness. Woods also offered a positive update on his recovery from injury in a recent public appearance.
With over 7,000 yards in his career and a couple of 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, Woods is Tennessee’s most experienced catcher. He had 556 yards on 45 catches in nine games when he fell in 2021. Woods was never a deep threat or volume touchdown scorer. However, he is a solid possession receiver whose strength as a blocker will fit in perfectly with the Tennessee smashmouth identity.
It is unclear how he will recover from the injury. Until last season, Woods had never lost more than four games in a season. The number of targets he sees, regardless of his recovery, is bound to decrease due to the nature of the Titans’ attack. Woods was targeted 129 times in his last full season – no Titan has seen so many goals since 2015. Woods is used to sharing the workload after playing alongside Cooper Kupp for years in Los Angeles, plus his skill set is very different from Burks. They should form a respectable 1-2 pair.
Hooper’s fantasy revival could come to Nashville. His two seasons with the Browns have been largely disappointing considering what he has shown with the Falcons. While Hooper fails to take advantage of his TE1 trends since his time in Atlanta, he’s a much better target for Tannehill than Firkser or Geoff Swaim, neither of whom broke 300 yards in reception last season.
Tannehill has a positive history when it comes to targeting tight ends. Even with limited options last season, seven of his 21 touchdowns hit the mark. Jannu Smith was one of Tannehill’s favorite targets the previous season. Smith made 41 passes for 448 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, the second most of the team. Hooper’s depressed receiving numbers in Cleveland were, in part, a result of the Browns’ propensity to get the ball rolling, just like the Titans. If anything, his 6’4 ”frame will be useful around the goal line.
Considering the pass receivers that Tennessee has lost and the subsequent moves they have made to fill those gaps, not much confidence is placed in returning skill position players. Often, vacated goals get channeled into the running back position, but that won’t be the case with Henry, who has fewer than 100 career catches.
The Titans’ cocky WR3 and returning best receiver, Westbrook-Ikhine, doesn’t have much off-season fanfare from a fantasy standpoint. Tennessee decided to bring him back on a one-year contract, but if Woods is in good health on week 1, don’t expect to see him employed in many three-width receivers – the Titans managed 11 staff at the third-lowest rate in the NFL, according to Sharp Football Stats.
Tennessee manages 12 staff members above the league average, which would put Geoff Swaim back frequently with Hooper. The new faces in Nashville will lead the pass capture corps, but Tannehill is familiar with Westbrook-Ikhine and Swaim. Still neither profile as fictional contributors.
More fantasy and NFL coverage: