Eric Decker is a great receiver, and he’s produced on each team he was on. He is a staple of consistency, regardless of situation. He’s got it done with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, had his two best seasons with Peyton Manning and had 8 touchdowns the year that Tim Tebow was a part time QB on the Broncos. He’s also consistently underrated each year at draft time, because we aren’t excited when we draft him. We know what we’re getting, but I personally like to draft guys like that; someone who I can put in my lineup and I know he’ll give me something, and there’s always that chance of him scoring – he’s always had a nose for the end zone. He landed in Tennessee after the Jets released him, and Marcus Mariota now has an excellent veteran receiver to throw to.
The Titans ranked 4th in the league in rushing attempts in 2016 and 28th in passing attempts. That’s their mentality, and that’s how their team is built. One of the best offensive lines, excellent between-the-tackles running backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, and an early-in-career Mariota learning the ropes. Run to set up the pass, make it easier on your QB, try not to put him in a bad position. All this tells us that we shouldn’t invest that much in this Titans passing game, as it might not be able to sustain much WR fantasy relevance aside from maybe one receiver. That one receiver was Rishard Matthews last year, and even he was touchdown dependent. He only had 65 receptions, but almost had 1000 yards with a very healthy 14.5 yards per reception. The year before that in Miami, he had a 15.4 yards per reception. He’s a very talented wide receiver.
The team did, however, invest heavily in the wide receiver position in the draft, selecting Corey Davis with the #5 overall pick and traded up in the third round to get Taywan Taylor. And now with the addition of Decker, that’s called putting pieces around your franchise QB. I think the Titans start passing the ball more as Mariota enters his third year, and with Corey Davis, Eric Decker, and Rishard Matthews, that’s quite a WR combo that can definitely improve this offense. They don’t have to depend on the run quite as much anymore. The question remains, however, how many of these guys can the Titans sustain as far as fantasy production goes? Even if they throw 10-15% more passes in 2017, there isn’t enough room for three wide receivers to be fantasy relevant. One can probably be a mid to low-end WR2, one a WR3, and the third not so relevant.
Corey Davis has the skills to be a superstar receiver in the NFL. His route running is superb, and he can win the 50/50 balls that you want your #1 receiver to haul in. His NFL.com draft profile actually compares him to Eric Decker of all people, and he will have a great mentor to show him what it takes to make it in the NFL. However, rookie wide receivers rarely come out of the gate and crush it to become a WR1 in fantasy. There are a few exceptions, one of them being Odell Beckham, Jr. They can get close to a 1000-yard season, but they are less dependable.
Decker is the veteran on the team, has proven it against the best the NFL has to offer, and is still at a point in his career where he can produce. Because of that, I see Decker being the alpha early in the season and getting a lot of Mariota’s targets. Decker becomes a dependable receiver where he goes, and for a young QB, that’s where he’ll be looking. He’s an asset in the red zone as well, where the Titans did very well last year. Remember, Matthews wasn’t getting a ton of red zone targets – many of his TDs were deep passes. I think that this pushes Matthews down the totem pole as far as targets go and he will be much harder to count on, but he will have his games. Decker has the best chance to emerge out of this offense as the highest scoring wide receiver at the end of the year from this team, with Corey Davis being a close second.