College Career/Draft Team
Did you know Ryan Tannehill started his college career as a wide receiver? Chances are you did because that was most of the draft narrative on him. After two fairly successful years as a WR (101 catches 1,453 yards), Tannehill switched to QB and leveraged his athleticism and big arm to put up 5,450 yards and 42 touchdowns to 21 interceptions during two seasons as a starter at Texas A&M. While he was obviously still raw, his measurables and athleticism fit the mold of an NFL QB, so much so that Miami reached to select him with their 8th pick in the 2012 draft.
Reach being a keyword there. While Tannehill certainly had QB tools, he also was in desperate need of some developmental time on the bench. Which was a strategy that the Dolphins chose not to deploy. That led to some extremely subpar results. Tannehill was inconsistent as a rookie posting more interceptions than touchdowns and a sub 60% completion percentage. In his second year, he showed flashes, but he also showed a lot of grass stains as he was sacked 58 times, an amount that even David Carr could admire. While Tannehill continued to show some modest improvement, his offensive line did not, and Miami began to lose faith in their first-round pick.
After an injury-plagued 2018, the Dolphins decided it was time to move on from Tannehill as they traded him and a sixth-round pick to the Titans for a fourth and seventh-rounder. After Tannehill took over for Mariota in week 7, the Titans did pretty much everything the Dolphins didn't. They surrounded Tannehill with a good offensive line and didn't ask him to do too much. Hand the ball to Derrick Henry, run bootlegs with your athleticism, and quickly get the ball out of your hand. The returns were immediate and impressive, his QBR and Quarterback rating was with some of the league's elites, he posted a 70% completion percentage and a 22/6 touchdown to interception ratio, and was fantasy's #3 QB.
With a year of the offense under his belt, and the addition of AJ Brown to the offense, Tannehill was on the rise. Between Brown's dominant rookie season, one of the better pass-catching tight end tandems in the league, and Derrick Henry being borderline untacklable, Tannehill had all he needed to put up serious numbers. And that's just what he did.
Tannehill had a masterful 2020, posting a 65.5% completion percentage on nearly 200 more pass attempts. He had a 33 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio through the air and even chipped in 266 yards and 7 (!) touchdowns on the ground leading the Titans to an AFC South Championship. He finished as the 7th best QB in fantasy and there was legit MVP buzz, and, it was deserved! A remarkable achievement for a player that was shipped away for basically a fourth-rounder.
The Titan's offense has had an interesting off-season. Let's start with the constants, which would be Ryan Tannehill himself, Derrick Henry, and the offensive line. Tannehill is on year two of his four-year contract, but we will go deeper on his projection later. Derrick Henry is still Derrick Henry.
For the offensive line, they will get a big boost with the return of Taylor Lewan from injury. It's a unit whose specialty is running blocking over pass blocking (finishing 6th in running blocking and 25th in pass blocking according to PFF,) but should see improvement overall with better right tackle play than the dismal performance from that spot last year. With 4 returning starters and promising competition on the right, the offensive line is in good shape.
Where it gets interesting is with the pass catchers. Gone are Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, who accounted for 157 of the 468 total targets for the Titans offense. And enter, one Julio Jones. That’s quite a bit of change in how the passing game scheme will work and how teams will have to guard the Titans. Anthony Firkser remains at TE, he's not quite as dynamic and Jonnu Smith was but is an above-average pass catcher. The interesting thing is their secondary TE. The Titans run a fair amount of two tight end sets and Firsker saw 53 targets despite only playing 32% of their offensive snaps to Smith's 69%. I'm a little surprised they didn't bring in another TE as Geoff Swaim is definitely a downgrade from Firkser as a TE2.
But that's OK because I'd like to reiterate that Julio Jones is on this team!! Still can't really believe it. But with Jones and Brown on the outside, I'm very interested to see how this team performs. It's the ultimate pick your poison. You can't double both of these guys and stack the box. Either Henry is going to have running lanes or you are single covering a top 10 receiver. Glad I don't have to figure out how to guard that.
So, based on an improved offensive line and the addition of Julio Jones, you would have to assume that he is going to outperform his 2020 fantasy totals right? But it can't be overstated how much those 7 rushing touchdowns inflated his numbers. Simple math tells you it's 12% of his total. So while I think there is upside here, I'm not sure he is repeating that touchdown to turnover ratio and I'm very sure he isn't scoring 7 rushing touchdowns again. That being said, Tannehill has been incredible since he took over in Tennessee. This will still be a very run-heavy offense but the weapons and Tannehill's efficiency offset that. I'd peg him as somewhere between the 10th and 14th best QBs in fantasy. He's not going to win you a lot of weeks, but he's also going to put you in contention every week. He's a very consistent back end QB1.
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