After being released by the Jets on June 12th, Eric Decker wasted no time finding a landing spot with the Tennessee Titans. There was interest from several teams, including the Ravens and Browns. The 30-year-old veteran wideout signed a one-year contract, joining the pool of accumulated weapons in Nashville this off-season. The Titans snagged the NCAA’s all-time leader in receiving yards, Corey Davis, with their first round pick in the 2017 NFL draft in the hopes of boosting an unremarkable receiving crew. Decker and Davis look to be the top receivers on the squad, with Delanie Walker continuing to contribute consistently at tight end.
The Titans strengthened their running game in 2016 with the additions of Demarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, but 2016 rookie Tajae Sharpe’s inconsistency and injury woes disappointed many a fantasy player and the Titans, of course. So, it’s no surprise that they refocused on this position in 2017, but it sure does seem like a lot of mouths to feed, no? Let’s do a rundown. Mariota now has receivers Eric Decker, Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker, Tajae Sharpe and additional rookies Taywan Taylor (WR) and Jonnu Smith (TE). Clearly, the Titans wanted to surround their QB with options in the hopes to improve on a rocky 8-8 2016 regular season. Let’s talk about how Decker might contribute on his new team.
Decker : A Veteran Asset
As some of you may know, I’m an Eric Decker fan. Prior to his injury-riddled (torn rotator cuff, hip) 2016 season, Decker represented one of the most consistent fantasy receivers and one that was chronically undervalued. He reached 1000+ yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns in 3 out of his last 5 seasons. In 2015, 2013, and 2012, Decker ended the fantasy season as a top 3 red-zone receiving target and saw 34% of red zone targets for the Jets in 2015. He finished in the top 30 fantasy WRs during seasons 2013-2015 (#8, #28, #11, respectfully).
I know, if you got burned last season, it might be hard to trust this 30-year-old. Reports indicate that Decker is now at full health and though he is getting older in years, last season represented the first time he has ever missed a considerable amount of time in his NFL career. He’s a good fit for the WR2 across from Davis and I expect him to be on the field for majority of snaps. Look for him to build chemistry with Mariota as the QB recovers from a broken leg and increases to full participant at training camp.
Fantasy Impact: Titans
The addition of Decker has a definite fantasy impact, with Rishard Matthews taking the biggest hit. Matthews usage will plummet, with him most likely only seeing consistent snaps in 3-receiver sets. On a team desperate for weapons, Matthews received 108 targets in 2016 and ended with 945 yards on 65 catches and 9 TDs. There’s little chance for him to retain numbers even close to this, barring an injury to either Decker or Davis. I have him as a fantasy WR5 for 2016.
The biggest benefit goes to Marcus Mariota, for obvious reasons. His receiver corps is stocked to the gills, so now he just has to get 100% healthy so he can participate in training camp and build necessary chemistry with his mostly brand new receivers. I’m not saying he gets a huge bump, but Mariota has top 10 fantasy QB upside this season.
Corey Davis looks to remain as the uncontested WR1 for Tennessee and I don’t see Decker’s addition negatively impacting his upside. After dealing with an ankle injury, Davis participated fully in mini-camp and says he’s 100 percent healthy. He’s a fantasy WR3 with WR2 upside, if his transition to NFL is smooth and he develops chemistry with Mariota and his new offense. The Titans aren’t new to rookie disappointment, so we can move forward with cautious optimism given Davis’ talent level. He is currently ranked similarly to Decker on most fantasy sites, so it should be interesting to see how this plays out with ADP come draft day.
Delanie Walker gets a bump down for me with Decker addition, mainly because he will be competing with both Decker and Davis for red zone targets. Walker isn’t a young buck himself (will be 33 at season start), but still should manage top 10 fantasy TE numbers this season. It’s hard enough to find consistent TE fantasy production, so that is still safe with Walker; however, his ADP may be too rich for me given some of these new factors in the offense. Last season, he saw 22% of red zone targets and 20% of overall target share, so look for these numbers to drop some.
I don’t see much impact on the running game, except Demarco Murray may see a few less red zone targets, as he led the team in 2016 with 23% of the overall red-zone target share. The offense has the potential to be very balanced if Mariota can step up his game this year.
With so many newbies joining the ranks in Tennessee, adding a veteran player that can help mentor was a great move by the franchise and Decker looks to benefit. If he does well and stays healthy, he could see at least 1-2 more seasons of solid fantasy production and find himself a home to round out his NFL career.
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