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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Tennessee Titans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Chris Johnson was terrible in 2011. He was drafted as a Top 5 overall player but finished as just the No. 17 running back. He finished behind 24 quarterbacks, 10 wide receivers, two tight ends, one kicker and seven DSTs in Fantasy points.

We hope that Johnson's struggles were the result of his contract situation. He signed a six-year deal worth $55 million following a holdout and then managed just eight games with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. He only had four games with 100 rushing yards and scored just four touchdowns. It was easily the worst season of his career.

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Coach Mike Munchak blamed Johnson's woes on conditioning and a poor supporting cast, and the Titans seemed to fix both issues. Johnson has been working out with the team in Tennessee this offseason, which is a departure from his normal routine. The Titans also added standout left guard Steve Hutchinson, should get Kenny Britt (torn ACL) back at 100 percent and drafted another receiver in Kendall Wright.

All of these things will help Johnson succeed, and Fantasy owners should still have faith in him as a No. 1 option. He's still worth drafting in Round 1 in all leagues. The best thing about Johnson is he remains a featured running back in a league full of tandems. He is not going to lose carries to the likes of Javon Ringer or Jamie Harper.

As bad as Johnson was in 2011, he still had 319 touches (262 carries and a career-high 57 catches). Only eight running backs had more carries and only four had more total touches. Johnson is going to get his looks, and the production should follow. He has three years of at least 1,480 total yards and 10 touchdowns, and a good barometer for his production this year should be what he did in 2010: 1,609 total yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson is easily capable of doing that again in a comeback campaign.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matt Hasselbeck ND
Jake Locker ND
Running Backs
Chris Johnson 1
Javon Ringer ND
Jamie Harper ND
Wide Receivers
Kenny Britt 5
Nate Washington 10
Kendall Wright 12
Damian Williams ND
Lavelle Hawkins ND
Tight Ends
Jared Cook 13
Kickers/Defense
Rob Bironas ND
Titans DST ND
ND -- not expected to get drafted

Breakout ... Jared Cook, tight end
We hope Cook can build off his strong performance to end 2011. He had 36 Fantasy points in his final three games, all against division opponents, with 21 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown. The problem for Cook is consistency, as he scored just three touchdowns for the season and has just four in three years. But he could be headed toward a breakout campaign after catching 49 passes for 759 yards last year. Even if he duplicates those stats with an additional three touchdowns, that would bring him on the cusp of a Top 10 tight end from last year's stats (he finished as the No. 15 tight end with 83 Fantasy points). Cook is worth drafting as a No. 2 tight end with upside with a late-round pick in the majority of leagues, and hopefully this is the season he has a breakout performance.

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Impact rookie ... Kendall Wright, wide receiver
The Titans drafted Wright out of Baylor in the first round of the NFL Draft, and he is expected to earn playing time right away. He could see significant action if Britt is slow in his recovery. Wright was a star at Baylor, where he teamed with fellow first-round pick and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III on 108 catches for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. His career total of 4,004 yards receiving is 1,300 yards more than anyone who preceded him. Speed is the name of his game, but he doesn't have great size (5-foot-10), which is why he could see plenty of time in the slot with Britt and Nate Washington outside. Still, Wright has a ton of upside and is worth drafting in seasonal leagues with a late-round pick. There could be a couple of weeks where Wright ends up starting for Fantasy owners, especially in deeper leagues.

Sleeper ... Jake Locker, quarterback
Locker might not open the season as the starter for the Titans, but he has more upside than Matt Hasselbeck. In the two games where Locker attempted at least 19 passes he had at least 18 Fantasy points in a standard league. By comparison, Hasselbeck had just six games with at least 18 Fantasy points despite starting all 16 games. Locker has a lot to prove before Fantasy owners can count on him, but he's someone to keep on your radar. If he starts for the Titans at any point this season he could post quality stats, and you might end up adding him off the waiver wire. We'll find out how Locker does in an open competition against Hasselbeck in training camp, but we like what we saw from Locker in 2011 and hope for more this year.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
NE @SD DET @HOU @MIN PIT @BUF IND CHI @MIA bye @JAC HOU @IND NYJ @GB JAC
We're not sure if a defense will get tested as much as the Titans to start the year since they begin the season with the Patriots, Chargers, Lions and Texans. It should mean some high-scoring games for sure. That trend changes toward the end of the season when the Titans will take on offenses that are more their speed, though that does not include a Week 16 game at Green Bay. And here's hoping Johnson truly rededicates himself to his craft this offseason. The only challenging run defenses in store for him are the Texans, Steelers, Bears and Jets. Maybe he can get to 2,000 total yards again after all.

Training camp topics

The quarterback battle between Hasselbeck and Locker will be interesting, and Fantasy owners will keep an eye on how Johnson does and where Wright lines up. But the focus will be on Britt and his recovery from last year's torn ACL. Britt suffered the injury in Week 3, but prior to going down he was headed toward a third-year breakout campaign. He had 14 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns in two games, and he could have been a star for Fantasy owners.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Chris Johnson 262 carries, 57 catches
Javon Ringer 59 carries, 28 catches
Nate Washington 74 catches, 2 carries
Jared Cook 49 catches
Lavelle Hawkins 47 catches

We hope that Britt shows up again, especially with his knee at 100 percent. Injuries are a concern for Britt since he also missed four games in 2010 with hamstring problems, but he has 15 touchdowns in limited action over three seasons and the size (6-foot-3) and skill to succeed.

If his knee is fully healthy, especially after undergoing a second procedure in May, then Britt should be drafted as a solid No. 2 Fantasy receiver in Round 4 or 5. But we would be cautious and draft him in Round 5 or 6 as a No. 3 option, and hopefully he can outperform his draft value with an outstanding campaign.

Injury update

Britt (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Washington (knee; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:56 pm ET) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


 
 
 
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