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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
Eagles release starting CB Cary Williams
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:53 am ET) The Eagles released cornerback Cary Williams, who started all 32 games during his two-year tenure in Philly. Williams recorded 127 tackles, five interceptions and 24 passes defensed since joining the Eagles.

Williams, 30, was scheduled to make $6.5 million this season with a cap hit of $8.1 million.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


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(11:30 am ET) The Falcons signed linebacker Nate Stupar, a special teams standout, to a one-year extension for the minimum, $585,000, reports ESPN.com. Stupar ranked second on the team with nine special teams tackles, seven solo, while appearing in 15 games last season.

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by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) It's unlikely the Ravens will re-sign receiver Torrey Smith unless he gives the team a hometown discount, reports the Baltimore Sun. Owner Steve Bisciotti recently expressed pessimism about the team's chances of retaining Smith.

Smith, 26, caught a career-high 11 touchdowns last season.


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(10:09 am ET) The Ravens and former running back Ray Rice settled his wrongful termination grievance in January for $1.588 million, sources told the Baltimore Sun. The financial details were not disclosed until now.

In the grievance, Rice had sought $3.529 million in back pay. The Ravens cut him Sept. 8, hours after the release of a video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.

Rice hasn't visited any NFL teams, but he's working out regularly and hoping to latch on with a team this season, the paper said.


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(9:48 am ET) Free agent wideout Brian Hartline, who's spent his entire six-year career with Miami, is visiting the Browns on Tuesday, reports Pro Football Talk. Hartline posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 before dipping to 474 receiving yards last season.

He's never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


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“He’s doing well," Payton told the paper. "He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re really looking at about two or three weeks away from him being 100 percent.”

Byrd had 22 tackles and a forced fumble in four games last season.


Sean Payton hopeful about retaining RB Mark Ingram
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(9:18 am ET) Despite the fact that New Orleans is $22 million above the salary cap, Saints coach Sean Payton expressed optimism about the team's chances of re-signing free agent running back Mark Ingram, per The Advocate.

“I spoke with him today," Payton told the paper Monday nght. "The good thing about Mark is that we’re real close with his agent. We work a lot with Joel (Segal). [GM] Mickey [Loomis] will talk with him quite a bit. Obviously he’s someone that we want to keep. Hopefully we can do that.”

In 13 games last season, Ingram ran for 964 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 29 passes for 145 yards.

According to NFL.com, it's unlikely the Saints can afford to bring back Ingram.


Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


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(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


 
 
 
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