With the 2022 NFL Draft in the books and Free Agency mostly wrapped up, it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming season. Throughout the off-season, I’ll be looking at some position groups that featured new additions and could have a new look come September. Today I’m back looking at the receiver group for the Titans. It’s a group that’s nearly completely flipped, which could be a good or bad thing for last year’s top seed in the AFC.
The 2021 Tennessee Titans
The Titans had an incredible 2021 season. The team battled massive injuries, including to star running back Derrick Henry. And yet, the team managed to finish 12-5 and earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs. While the Titans’ playoff run ended in the Divisional Round, it was still a successful season. All that came despite the struggles of the receiver room.
Prior to the season, the Titans seemed to have made big moves. The team returned third-year standout A.J. Brown to lead the receivers, made a move to snag Julio Jones, and signed former Rams receiver Josh Reynolds. All that seemed promising. And yet, the Titans never really saw it come together on the field.
Reynolds lasted five games and caught ten passes for 90 yards on 13 targets. He finished the season with the Detroit Lions. Jones finished the season as a Titan, but his impact wasn’t felt on the field. He appeared in 10 games, catching 31 passes for 434 yards and a touchdown on just 48 targets. Brown, meanwhile, also missed time with injury. He played in 13 games, catching 63 passes for 869 yards and five touchdowns on 105 targets. It was the lowest yardage and TD numbers of his career and his least efficient season.
While the big names struggled, the Titans patched their receiving room together with young players who stepped up. Nick Westbrook-Ihkine caught 38 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns on 57 targets, second-most on the team. Chester Rogers, meanwhile, caught 30 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown on 43 targets.
The Rookie and the Vet
It seemed clear the Titans would address the receiver situation this off-season. Jones is now a free agent who isn’t expected to return. On the first night of the draft, the Titans made a big splash by trading away Brown to the Eagles, who gave him a lucrative new contract. Immediately after, the Titans used the First-Round pick acquired in the Brown trade to draft Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks, who had drawn comparisons to Brown in the pre-draft process.
Burks is 6’3”, 225 pounds, and figures to be a premier weapon in the Titans’ offense. He caught 146 passes for 2,399 yards and 18 touchdowns in three years with the Razorbacks. In 2021, he caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was viewed as a top receiver and a receiver-rich draft and gives the Titans another weapon. But he’s not the only weapon.
Before the draft, the Titans had already worked to re-build the receiver room by acquiring former Rams receiver Robert Woods. Woods tore his ACL in November, just before the Rams made a Super Bowl title run. After the Rams signed Allen Robinson this off-season, they traded Woods to the Titans for a Sixth-Round draft pick in March.
Woods was initially drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2013. While he showed flashes in the low-volume pass offense of the Bills, he exploded after coming to the Rams in 2017. He caught 367 passes for 4,626 yards and 23 touchdowns in four and a half seasons with the Rams. Combined with Burks, Woods gives the Titans a solid pair of new receiving options for veteran Ryan Tannehill or rookie Malik Willis.
The 2022 Tennessee Titans
Burks and Woods figure to be the leading options for the Titans’ receiving corps. Beyond them, the team returns Westbrook-Ikhine, who was a solid contributor in 2021, and second-year receiver Dez Fitzpatrick. Woods is the most experienced receiver, with most of the options on the roster young players that haven’t had much experience.
That leaves the Titans’ receiving corps with plenty of questions. Woods is recovering from a torn ACL. He seems to be making good progress, but the injury occurred later in the season—in mid-November. Woods is bullish; he’ll be ready by camp but shared the Titans are taking a more cautious approach. Given the current depth chart, that approach makes some sense. Beyond Woods, it’s a lot of young players learning the game and the position—and that includes Burks. He has good talent, but his road to development will likely be more difficult if Woods can’t line up opposite him.
The Titans have a thin receiving corps with several unknowns. The team also moved to grab a veteran pass-catching tight end in Austin Hooper, which should relieve some pressure on the receivers. It’s also not been a high-volume offense when it comes to passing, something that doesn’t figure to change. In 2019, when Tannehill took over from Marcus Mariota, the Titans finished 21 in passing yards. In 2020, the team was 23, and in 2021, the Titans were 24.
I suspect that Woods will be good to go by the start of the season, and he and Hooper will be primary targets. The Titans completed 359 passes in 2021, and I suspect that Tannehill will start throughout the season, and the passing game remains relatively flat. In the end, Woods will likely lead the Titans with around 90 targets, with around 70 for Burks, 70 for Hooper, and 50 for Westbrook-Ikhine.
In terms of fantasy, I think Woods will push for WR2 numbers at the season’s end, with Hooper a decent option at TE and Burks in the WR3 range for his rookie year.
Matthew Fox is a member of the FSWA. He’s a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ Homer. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.