NFL Team Preview: Will Julio Jones addition make Titans a fantasy football juggernaut?

·7-min read

We’re previewing every NFL team to get you ready for the 2021 season. Our analysts will tackle pressing fantasy questions and team win totals, in order from the squad with the least amount of fantasy relevancy all the way to the most talented team. Next up, the 5th-ranked Tennessee Titans.

Should Derrick Henry receive more discussion as the potential No. 1 pick in drafts, or is his receiving floor still a hindrance?

Liz: Over the last three seasons, Henry has been a top-15 producer. After his Week 14 breakout in 2018, however, his numbers skyrocketed … and they've kept getting better!

FF’s RB3 overall in 2019, King Henry paid no attention to the naysayers who declared his fourth pro campaign a fluke. Instead, his efficiency improved — despite setbacks along the offensive line — as his YPC rose to an impressive 5.4 and he recorded the most breakaway runs (21) and evaded tackles (112) in the league.

In an offense that called the second most running plays (31 per game) last year, and with Julio Jones stretching the field, Henry’s FF output figures to remain elite. He’s obviously not going to catch a lot of balls — unlike CMC or Dalvin Cook, both of whom are ranked ahead of Henry — but his anomalistic skill set doesn’t require a massive target share in order to be elite. Assuming he stays healthy (he’s only missed two games over his five-year career, a calf strain in 2016, and a hamstring issue in 2019) a top-five or better finish is well within reach.

Andy: Henry is still only 27 years old, his injury history is as clean as it gets and he just rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 scores. There are no perfectly safe fantasy bets at running back, but you really have to go hunting for red flags with Henry. He's great. I have no quarrel with anyone who wants to select him first overall; it's almost inconceivable that a healthy Henry wouldn't finish as a top-three back in any scoring format. I can't recommend him as the No. 1 pick in full PPR because he's essentially spotting CMC something like 80 fantasy points, based on projected receiving volume. 

Matt: Henry has overcome the lack of receiving work every step of the way during his career — but it’s still a real worry. If variance just swings the other way and he isn’t a touchdown behemoth, the lack of a floor would bring down his overall stock. Still, there isn’t much negative to mark for Henry. Tennessee swinging the trade for Julio Jones did a lot to move the overall offensive needle in a positive direction for this team. That matters a great deal for its workhorse back. I’m cool with Henry as a top-three selection.

Twelve wide receivers separate A.J. Brown (5th) and Julio Jones (11th) in our positional rankings. Before the Jones trade, Brown had top-scoring WR upside but now that claim might be too bold. Who would you rather have at ADP in 2021?

Matt: Absolutely give me Brown. I have all the respect in the world for Julio Jones and believe he will be a difference-maker for Tennesse when he takes the field in 2021. His presence alone took them from a fringe playoff team to a solid bet to advance deep in the postseason, in my eyes.

This take is all about Brown, however.

I strongly believe that he’s an elite talent and at any moment, could offer up the type of statistical season to let the masses know that’s the truth. I’d still project Brown for the lion’s share of this team's passing pie due to his familiarity with Ryan Tannehill, his enormous ability, and the fact that he’s entering the apex of his career — whereas Jones is certainly leaving it. Brown might not have the WR1 overall in his range of outcomes anymore simply because of volume. But the fact that we were discussing that as a possibility just a few months ago tells you what kind of talent we’re dealing with here.

A.J. Brown #11 of the Tennessee Titans
We haven't even seen the best A.J. Brown yet. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Andy: Either? Both? One of the best things about this team's offense for fantasy purposes is that points and yards will be dominated by only three guys: Brown, Jones, and Henry. There are few mysteries here. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith are now out of the mix for Tennessee, leaving 157 targets unclaimed. No one should be surprised if Brown sees a career-high in targets this season — perhaps 120 or more — while Jones matches him. This is pretty close to a Thielen-Jefferson situation, which we should embrace. If you're gonna make me choose only one at ADP, I suppose it's Julio. But, again, I'd be happy to land the pair.  

Liz: Jones is moving from a squad that recorded the fourth-most pass attempts last year to one that recorded the third-fewest. We know the engine of Tennessee’s offense is Derrick Henry and the running game. However, the exits of Jonnu Smith and Corey Davis free up over 150 looks. So it’s entirely likely that both Brown and Jones will average upwards of 8 targets per game. The question then becomes: would managers prefer to have the young WR on the precipice of a potential Year-3 breakout, or the future HOFer approaching the twilight of his career? Personally, Brown’s ability to move inside and out — as well as his dominance in the red area of the field (11 TDs in 2020, a number that Jones has never managed over his decade in the league) — makes him the more attractive option.

Ryan Tannehill, Brown, Jones, and Henry are the headliners, but is there a sleeper worth drafting in best ball or season-long on this team?

Andy: Tight end Anthony Firkser's ADP has taken a nosedive following the Jones trade, but that guy is still looking at a significant jump in snaps and targets. Jonnu Smith caught eight TD passes on just 65 targets last season, and Firkser could find himself with a similar red-zone role. If he simply finishes with 6-8 touchdowns, he's going to rank as a starting-caliber tight end. I'm still interested.

Liz: Josh Reynolds is a talented receiver who's been coached by one of the brightest offensive minds in the game ... and has a heck of a catch radius. Last year with the Rams he managed a snap share of over 72 percent (20% in the slot), posting a 52-618-2 stat line as the team’s No. 3 WR. There’s not enough passing volume in Tennessee to make him fantasy relevant, especially as he’s expected to work behind both Brown and Jones. However, given Julio’s advanced age and injury history, there’s a large possibility Reynolds becomes one of this year’s hottest waiver wire pickups.

Matt: I’ll keep an eye on Anthony Firkser at his ADP. The Titans were already a hyper-efficient offense and I confidently believe they massively upgraded the WR2 position subbing out Corey Davis for Julio Jones. If the Titans keep up the touchdown drives we’ve come to know and love, Firkser could be a big winner here, even if we can’t project him for too many targets. There is no reason to discuss any other player on this roster.

Tennessee Titans projected 2021 fantasy contributors

QB: Ryan Tannehill

RB: Derrick Henry

WR: A.J. Brown / Julio Jones

TE: Anthony Firkser

Tennessee Titans O/U on 9.5 team win total from BetMGM

Scott: I'm a little surprised the number comes in this low. The Titans have five straight winning seasons, Ryan Tannehill has emerged as a legitimate star quarterback, and the AFC South looks like a division with two punching bags at the bottom. Sure, the Titans still have a spotty defense, and Tannehill will have to prove he can maintain his level of production without departed OC Arthur Smith. But I believe in Tennessee's infrastructure, and I also like that the extra Titans game is a home match against a suddenly ordinary Saints team. The Titans can get to double-digit wins again. 

Follow Andy: @andybehrens

Follow Liz: @LizLoza_FF

Follow Matt: @MattHarmon_BYB

Follow Scott: @scott_pianowski

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