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Offseason Primers: Tennessee Titans

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The word potential is thrown around in Fantasy Football and the NFL but if there ever was a team with potential in 2013, it's the Titans.

They have a former first-round pick at quarterback, a proven speedster and former first-round pick at running back, two former first-round picks at receiver, a member of the NFC Champion 49ers at tight end, an offensive line that includes two proven tackles and a highly-paid newcomer at guard, three young and athletic linebackers, three crafty veteran safeties, a nice mix of defensive linemen including two pretty good pass rushers, a Hall of Famer as head coach and a Hall of Famer as offensive line coach.

You'd think a team with this kind of talent would be 16-0, but they were 6-10 in 2012 and 9-7 without a playoff appearance in 2011. The Titans haven't made the postseason since 2008 and the thinking is that if they don't do it this year, there will be massive changes.

2012 Touches Leaders
696 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Chris Johnson 312 (276 car., 36 rec.) 44.8%
Kendall Wright 65 (64 rec., 1 car.) 9.4%
Nate Washington 46 rec. 6.6%
Kenny Britt 45 rec. 6.5%
Jared Cook 44 rec. 6.3%
Jake Locker 41 car. 5.9%
All Others 143 20.5%

That puts a lot of pressure on an offense that hasn't had much stability. Dowell Loggains is the new offensive coordinator after Chris Palmer faltered and was fired last year. He'll attempt to be the first play caller since Mike Heimerdinger's first run with the Titans to last longer than three seasons. The offensive line is getting yet another makeover, this time with Andy Levitre as the big-time free-agent signing (last year it was Steve Hutchinson, who stunk). Guard Robert Turner also joins the O-line.

Tight end Jared Cook vented over not being used enough and wanted the expensive wide receiver franchise tender this offseason. He didn't get it, leading to his departure to St. Louis. He was replaced by Delanie Walker. Matt Hasselbeck won't have the chance to pilot the offense if given the chance as he was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick as the backup to starter Jake Locker.

The defense made an attempt to get better by signing two veteran safeties to go with one of their own, suggesting some philosophical changes in their sub-packages. And the addition of a former starting tailback has raised plenty of questions about what's going on in Tennessee's backfield.

It has to be enough for this team as owner Bud Adams becomes more and more desperate to win as he gets older. Though they share a division with the equally-challenged Jaguars, they still watched as the Colts made an incredible turnaround in 2012 and the Texans dominated for much of the year. For the Titans to compete, the potential of all of their additions and former first-round picks must be met.

That would sure be nice for Fantasy purposes.

Chris Johnson -- Declining value

2012 Target Leaders
540 pass attempts
Kendall Wright 104 19.3%
Kenny Britt 90 16.7%
Nate Washington 89 16.5%
Jared Cook 72 13.3%
Chris Johnson 49 9.1%
Damian Williams 45 8.3%
All Others 91 16.8%

When Fantasy owners were fed up with Johnson last year, they could bench him. The Titans weren't able to do the same, but now they can (in theory). Coach Mike Munchak insists newcomer Shonn Greene will be part of the game plan beyond goal-line and short-yardage carries as the team moves to a two-back approach. The thinking is that Greene could get in for 10 touches a game with the potential to get a 50-50 split if Johnson starts slow for the third consecutive year. While that hurts Johnson's Fantasy value, you cannot ignore that he topped 1,400 total yards in each of his two production plagued seasons, averaging 91.9 total yards per game.

In that two-year span Johnson had at least 92 total yards 15 times (eight last year), making him nearly a 50-50 proposition to get at least mediocre Fantasy numbers. However, when he didn't get to those 92 total yards he went scoreless in 15 of 17 games, so he's far more boom-or-bust than top-shelf running backs should be. As for Greene stealing goal-line work, it's a non-issue. Johnson had just nine carries inside the 10 last year, converting only one score from 2 yards out in Week 17. Frankly you should only feel good about Johnson if you get him in Round 3, but if we're talking late Round 2 you're probably not hurting yourself too bad.

Kenny Britt -- Mid-round value

If Kenny Britt is ever going to turn his career around, this is the season to do it. He's healthy, he's shed all of his outstanding legal issues and he's entering a contract year, a virtual trifecta for him. If he buckles down and focuses on football he can more than outplay his draft average. Britt finished last year with three touchdowns in his last six games and three games with 10-plus Fantasy points in his last five, so there is some thought that he can still be helpful in Fantasy. Between his knees, his brain and his quarterback there's a lot of risk here, but it's not like he'll cost you a valuable pick on Draft Day. If you can sneak him onto your roster in Round 9 or later you're doing more good than harm.

Kendall Wright -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Jake Locker Undrafted
Chris Johnson 20-30 overall
Kenny Britt 95-105 overall
Kendall Wright Late-round pick
Nate Washington Undrafted
Delanie Walker Undrafted
Rob Bironas Final-round pick
Titans DST Undrafted

There's a fairly realistic chance Wright will start every game for the Titans opposite Britt, though that hinges on Nate Washington's status. If Washington agrees to a pay cut and has a good camp, Wright could get pushed to the slot and play around 60 percent of the time like he did last season. That wouldn't be good, but then again Wright has solid speed even though he didn't show it much last season and could play more on that merit alone. He also caught 61.5 percent of his team-high 104 targets, a way better percentage than Washington and Britt. Though he ended last season with a whimper (he had seven Fantasy points or less in each of his final nine games) he's got enough upside with more snaps in his future to warrant a late pick as a reserve receiver.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard 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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