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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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2014) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

 
 
 
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