Wide receiver Eric Decker didn’t stay unemployed for long, as the Tennessee Titans signed him to a one-year contract on Sunday. Decker’s wife (Jessie James Decker) is a country singer, so moving to Nashville is the perfect landing spot.
Oh, right – you’re here for the fantasy football impact. Decker is an underrated receiver who averaged 81.5 receptions, 1,085 yards and 10 touchdowns from 2012-15 before injuring his shoulder early last season. He was just about as productive with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith as he was with Peyton Manning.
Decker joins Tennessee’s “exotic smashmouth” attack that had the NFL’s fourth-most rushing attempts last season. But you know what? You don’t give weapons like Decker and rookie Corey Davis (and third-round pick Taywan Taylor) to an up-and-coming QB like Marcus Mariota so you can keep running the ball all the time. Look for the Titans to throw more, perhaps landing closer to the middle of the league in attempts than near the bottom again.
Unfortunately for Decker’s fantasy value, he’ll compete with Davis, Rishard Matthews and TE Delanie Walker for Mariota’s attention. The bet here is Decker will be the Titans’ best fantasy wideout, but not one who will dominate in terms of targets and touchdowns (though he is very good in the red zone). Mariota figures to spread the ball around, and I’ve got Decker at WR34.
As for the other Titans ...
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Corey Davis gets a year to assimilate
Davis was the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, and should be an immediate contributor. However, with Decker, Matthews and Walker around, Davis won’t need to be an alpha dog right away. He’s my WR38, though the potential is higher. Next year will be much better for Fantasy Corey Davis.
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Fantasy bummer for Rishard Matthews
Matthews appears to take the biggest fall after going 65-945-9 last season. Many astute observers have pointed out that the 2016 Titans ran fewer three-wide sets than any team in the league, but as we mentioned above, the acquisition of talented personnel can change things. Still, I’ve got Matthews slotted at WR50. If you took him in an early draft, you’ll probably be disappointed.
Delanie Walker hangs in there
Like the wide receivers, Walker will probably lose some targets due to the plethora of options, but I’m only dropping him from TE6 to TE8 (behind Zach Ertz and Eric Ebron). Walker should remain solid, with Decker threatening his red-zone looks.
Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsDerik Hamilton
Who's the big winner? Marcus is the big winner!
Marcus Mariota looks like the prime fantasy beneficiary here. He got another passing-game weapon, and could have a big season if he continues to improve. BUT … despite what I wrote above about the Titans’ offense changing with the personnel, they’ve still got a very good offensive line and a strong backfield tandem in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry (with Murray remaining the lead back). They’ll probably run the ball a fair amount, especially if they win a lot of games as expected.
That gets Mariota to QB9 in my rankings. I suspect that most others will have him higher, meaning that I won’t own too many shares.
If you’re looking for a reason why Mariota could explode, Mularkey has been a head coach or offensive coordinator for 12 full NFL seasons. On average, Mularkey’s teams have been in the middle of the pack in passing attempts, but four of those teams (2006 Dolphins, 2009-10-11 Falcons) have finished in the top seven in that category. He’s turned quarterbacks loose before.
Note: I didn't move Murray or Henry in my fantasy rankings, as Decker's arrival doesn't appear to move the needle.