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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)

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Player News
Jets list Muhammad Wilkerson as questionable Sunday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(3:11 pm ET) The Jets listed defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots.

Wilkerson has missed the last three games with a toe injury and was a limited participant all week at practice.

Also listed as questionable on the Jets’ final injury report of Week 16 were wideout Saalim Hakim (quad) and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder).

The Jets listed the following players as probable: Antonio Allen, Willie Colon, Percy Harvin, Chris Johnson, Nick Mangold and Calvin Pryor.


Vikings LB Anthony Barr will undergo season-ending knee surgery
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:24 pm ET) Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced Friday that linebacker Anthony Barr will undergo knee surgery which will cost him the final two games of the season, according to Pro Football Talk. Barr, the ninth overall selection in this year's draft, finished his rookie campaign with 70 combined tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

"He played great," Zimmer said of Barr. "Played great. And he's a great football player. Good kid. Studies hard, does everything right. He's very conscientious, hard working. . . . He's already excited about getting back, getting this fixed and getting going."


Bears rule out Chris Conte, Robbie Gould for Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:19 pm ET) The Bears have officially ruled safety Chris Conte (back) and kicker Robbie Gould (right quadriceps) out for Week 16, according to ESPN. Chicago is an 8 1/2-point underdog at home vs. Detroit.

Cowboys' Jones: I'm 'pretty positive' DeMarco Murray will play
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday he's "pretty positive" running back DeMarco Murray will play Sunday against Indianapolis, 10 days removed from surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand, per CBSDFW.com.

"Murray and Martin I'm pretty positive about having the ability to play them," Jones said.


Falcons list Roddy White, Harry Douglas probable for Week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:03 pm ET) The Falcons have listed three wide receivers on its final injury report for Week 16 against New Orleans. Julio Jones (hip) was the only wideout that failed to practice this week and was deemed questionable. Roddy White (knee) and Harry Douglas (foot) were ruled probable.

Meanwhile, the rest of the injury report included safety William Moore (foot) and guard Jon Asamoah (back) as questionable. Cornerback Josh Wilson (hand) was designated as probable.


Cam Newton, Roman Harper among notable probables for Panthers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:59 pm ET) The Panthers have listed seven players on its final injury report for Week 16 against Cleveland, four of which were deemed questionable. Those four include linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle), guard Amini Silatolu (knee), running back DeAngelo Williams (hand) and cornerback Carrington Byndom (hamstring).

Meanwhile, safety Roman Harper (thigh), quarterback Cam Newton (back) and linebacker Thomas Davis (knee) were listed as probable.


Panthers don't sound optimistic about DeAngelo Williams' status
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:55 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams was officially ruled as questionable for Sunday's game against Cleveland, but coach Ron Rivera did not sound optimistic about his playing status, according to the team's official website. "He's still uncomfortable" when it comes to pass blocking with hand.

If Williams plays, he'll be using a cast to protect his broken hand. If he does in fact sit out a third consecutive game, Jonathan Stewart will get the start. Carolina has moved from a 3-point to a 3 1/2-point favorite at home in Week 16.


Bills list C.J. Spiller as probable for Sunday's game vs. Oakland
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:54 pm ET) The Bills announced running back C.J. Spiller will be added to the 53-man roster and is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the Raiders.

Spiller has not played since breaking his collarbone Oct. 19.

The Bills are 6 ½ point favorites over the Raiders Sunday.


Panthers waiting on doctors before naming Cam Newton starter
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:51 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters he will not name a starting quarterback on Friday, but was impressed with the way Cam Newton practiced this week, per the team's official website. "We'll have a good feel tomorrow," Rivera said, who is waiting for doctors to officially clear Newton.

Newton sat out Week 15 after suffering two small fractures in his back when he was involved in a car crash 10 days ago. He's officially ruled as probable for Sunday's game against Cleveland. Carolina has moved from a 3-point to a 3 1/2-point favorite at home in Week 16.


Falcons WR Julio Jones officially questionable for Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:45 pm ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) sat out Friday's practice and was officially designated as questionable for Sunday's contest against the Saints in Week 16, per the team's official website. Jones has not been able to practice since suffering the injury Week 14 against Green Bay.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jones will have a "big test run" on Saturday to determine his status for his team's NFC South showdown against the Saints. If his hip feels healthy enough from Saturday's workout on Sunday, he'll play. If he gets the red-light for the second consecutive week, Harry Douglas would get the start. Atlanta is a 6-point underdog at New Orleans.


 
 
 
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