In 2017, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had his best season as a pro. It had nothing to do with stats. It had everything to do with the fact that for the first time since stepping into the NFL, Mariota took the Titans to the playoffs.
Tennessee not only garnered a wildcard spot, they upset the Kansas City Chiefs 22 to 21 in a playoff game. This off season, the Titans didn't rest on their laurels. Check out why Tennessee players could help to create a great fantasy football team this season.
NFL Fantasy: Tennessee Titans Fantasy Preview
The Tennessee Titans front office, although happy with the playoff win, weren't satisfied with the playoff win. Tennessee fired head coach Mike Malarkey. They brought in Mike Vrabel. Vrabel had been the defensive coordinator for the Titans' AFC South rival Houston Texans.
Vrabel took one look at the Titans' offense and made what could turn out to be the most important decision for fantasy football fans looking to Titans players this season. He hired then L.A. Rams' offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. How big of a hire could it be?
LaFleur has worked with both Matt Ryan and Jared Goff. Under his play-calling, the Rams developed one of the best offenses in the NFL last season. With LaFleur helping him step up his game, Goff threw for 3,804 yards. He threw 28 TD passes to only 7 picks. He also completed over 62% of his passes. Matt Lafleur running Tennessee's offense should lead to Titans' skill players coming up huge in most season long fantasy leagues.
Check out more info on Tennessee's top skill players.
QB Marcus Mariota
Tennessee drafted the 6′ 4″ and 222 lbs Mariota second in the 2015 NFL Draft. Although Mariota had a great debut, he quickly became an average fantasy football quarterback, failing to bring points each and every week. The reason? Tennessee has always played smash mouth football. Mariota, who never complains about anything, has a skill set that flies directly in the face of smash mouth football.
Marcus can make any NFL throw. He can also use his wheels to get out of danger just like Russell Wilson in Seattle does. Tennessee has never used Mariota's skill set. They especially didn't use his skill set last season. That's why Marcus threw 13 TD passes to 15 interceptions. That's why Marcus threw for only 3,232 yards even though he only missed a single game.
Martiota's QB rating was a dreadful 79.3. Tennessee had a decision to make. Was it Mariota's fault that he was such a bad QB during the regular season? Or, was the system a problem? Obviously, they decided the system was a problem. Landing Matt LaFleur is huge because he'll provide Marcus with a system that flatters his immense skill set.
That means Marcus Mariota should improve this season. He could improve as much as Jared Goff improved from the 2016-2017 NFL Season to the 2017-2018 NFL Season. That means Marcus throws 25 to 32 TD passes while passing for 3,600 to 4,000 yards. Mariota could also lower his interceptions to below 10.
The other thing to keep in mind is that unlike Goff, Mariota has the speed and rushing talent to take it to the house on almost every broken down play. LaFleur knows this, which means Marcus will rush for more than the 5 TDs he rushed for last season.
What does it add up to? If you haven't had your season long fantasy draft, think about Mariota as your starting QB. If you have had your season long fantasy drafts, consider adding Mariota during your DraftKings DFS games every week this season.
Wide Receiver: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe
What's interesting is that even though the Titans played smash mouth football, they drafted Corey Davis in Round 1 in the 2017 NFL Draft. Davis only played in 11 games. He started 9. Still, the Titans didn't utilize Davis at all. Not really because he only caught 34 passes for 375 yards. He didn't catch a TD pass.
In LaFleur's system, Davis should be open more. The problem is that LaFleur creates an offensive strategy, like most good coordinators do, depending on the week. If LaFleur belives opponents will shut down Davis, he'll use Davis as a decoy the way he utilized Sammy Watkins as a decoy in most Rams' games last season. Davis should have a much better season this year than last. I'm not sure how much better it is.
The real key is to figure out which player, Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, is Matt LaFleur's Robert Woods. Woods caught 58 passes for 781 yards and 5 TDs. Rishard Matthews has the inside track to be LaFleur's Robert Woods for the Tennessee Titans.
But, don't sleep on Tajae Sharpe. Sharpe spent the entire off season training with Mariota. He and Mariota have developed a nice rapport. Expect LaFleur to respect that. If Mariota and Sharpe turn it on during training camp, LaFleur will lean on Marcus to Tajae in most weeks.
One more note about receivers is that tight-end Delanie Walker could have a down season. The reason is because LaFleur doesn't often throw to tight-ends. Walker is a great pass-catching tight-end. He's also a great blocking tight-end.
Delanie will play almost every down, but the new offense will force Mariota to go through his reads, and someone will likely be open, before dumping it to Walker.
Running Back: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis
While Todd Gurley is the man in Los Angeles, the jury is out on who the top running back in Tennessee is. LaFleur's offensive system revolves around not only rushing the football with the RB, but also throwing the football to the RB.
That's why the Titans added free agent running back Dion Lewis. Will Lewis take carries away from Henry? There's a big possibility it happens. Actually, there's a big possibility that before Week 1 Lewis is declared the official starter for the Tennessee Titans.
The reason is because Lewis is a better pass-catching RB than Henry. Not only that, but Lewis played in a system at New England that's similar to what Matt LaFleur runs. Lewis should have no trouble picking up LaFleur's playbook. Henry is a smart guy. He'll pick up the playbook as well, the problem is it takes Henry a bit more time to get going once he receives the football while Lewis gets going much quicker.
LaFleur's entire system is based on speed of plays, meaning once the play starts, everybody moves quickly.
There you have it. Draft Mariota and Lewis because they should have breakout fantasy seasons. Also, consider drafting both for your DraftKings DFS games during the season. One more thing to add is that the Titans' offensive line will be one of the best in the NFL this season.
That's another reason Tennessee's offense could provide a 2017 L.A. Rams type turnaround.