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Eric Decker to Tennessee

After playing with the NYJ QB circus, Decker has to be thrilled with the stable QB situation in Tennessee.In a move that is sure to make his wife, country-singer Jesse James-Decker happy, Eric Decker is headed to the country music capital: Nashville, Tennessee.

After spending three seasons in New York with the Jets, Decker will enjoy a major quarterback upgrade from the Jets’ “options”. Third-year passer Marcus Mariota is 10th in Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt (7.66) and third in passing touchdown rate (5.5%) among qualified passers over the past two combined years.

For a barometer of the scale of Decker’s quarterback upgrade in Tennessee, his primary quarterback over the last two years, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is 32nd-of-43 in Adjusted Yards per Attempt (6.25) and 21st in touchdown rate (4.5%).

That’s a rather sizable upgrade.

What’s more, Marcus Mariota has also been one of the most prolific red-zone passers in his short career to-date. In fact, no quarterback has a higher passing touchdown rate in the red-zone (inside of the opponents’ 20-yard line) than Mariota over the past two years (35.1%). Tom Brady is second in red-zone touchdown rate (32.4%) while Andrew Luck is third (30.3%) in that span.

Whew.

While Decker will certainly enjoy much improved quarterback play, the Titans’ pass catching corps is looking very crowded. Obviously, second-year GM Jon Robinson just selected Corey Davis (No. 5 overall) and Taywan Taylor (No. 72 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. We also have to consider Rishard Matthews, who led Tennessee in targets (108) last year, and veteran tight end Delanie Walker has averaged 118 targets per season with Mariota at the helm.

Even with sub-par talent, the Titans have spread the rock around to their receivers and tight ends over the past two years:

Year

Name

Pos.

Team

Targets

Target Share

2015

Delanie Walker

TE

TEN

133

26%

2016

Delanie Walker

TE

TEN

102

22%

2016

Rishard Matthews

WR

TEN

108

21%

2015

Kendall Wright

WR

TEN

60

17%

2016

Tajae Sharpe

WR

TEN

83

16%

2015

Harry Douglas

WR

TEN

72

15%

2015

Dorial Green-Beckham

WR

TEN

67

13%

2016

Kendall Wright

WR

TEN

43

12%

2015

Justin Hunter

WR

TEN

31

10%

2016

Harry Douglas

WR

TEN

22

9%

2015

Anthony Fasano

TE

TEN

42

8%

2016

Anthony Fasano

TE

TEN

14

5%

 

In Decker’s case among the Titans’ new-and-improved pass catchers, it’s fair to assume he’ll resume his normal slot role with Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis flanking him out-wide in three-wide receiver sets.

In his last full season in 2015, Decker ran 68% of his routes from the slot, per Pro Football Focus.

The only issue, now, is allocating targets. The Titans’ receiving core is far from a skinny usage tree.

It’s almost a guarantee that the Titans will run more ’11-personnel’ (3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 RB) in 2017 given their dramatic upgrades at receiver. The Titans ran the third-fewest plays out of 11-personnel (42%) in 2016.

It’s also definitely possible the Titans will continue to be a low-volume, slow passing offense meaning one of Decker, Davis, and Matthews will fail to really break free at their respective average draft positions.

Last year, the Titans ran the fifth-fewest passing plays per contest (31.5) and they were the seventh-slowest offense in terms of seconds between plays, per FootballOutsiders. That’s not a cocktail to support multiple fantasy receivers and Delaine Walker, who has finished as TE6 (2016) and TE3 (2015) in PPR Points per game in Marcus Mariota’s first two years.

The good news: All three of the Titans’ wide receivers are sort of reasonably priced.

When there is obvious ambiguity on a team in terms of projecting targets, it’s always best to take a cost-sensitive approach. Average draft position hasn’t settled in yet based on the news, but as of now (June 19th), rookie Corey Davis is the WR31 in cost, Eric Decker is WR40, while Rishard Matthews is WR43.

Again, we’ll have to see where value shakes out, but it’s tough to really see a clear fantasy target amongst the bunch. Matthews is coming off of his best pro season in which he finished as the WR23 (Points/Game), but the Titans obviously view him as a secondary piece as opposed to a true No. 1 target.

Decker’s health concerns – he’s returning from off-season shoulder and hip surgeries – should keep his cost palatable, at least. By the time fantasy cost settles in, Decker and Rishard Matthews may just settle in as the values if rookie Corey Davis remains in separate tier of average draft position. Regardless, Decker’s move to Tennessee just locks in Marcus Mariota as an obvious candidate to blow past his mid-June average draft position (QB10).

Graham Barfield
Senior Analyst

Graham is a senior analyst for Fantasy Guru and works closely with statistics to produce quanitative analysis for complementary weekly content. He will be appearing before the season and during the season on The Fantasy Guru Podcast with John Hansen and Joe Dolan. Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter at @GrahamBarfield.

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