2017 Projections: Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans
In this series, I use an internal version of the Projection Machine to explore likely outcomes for offensive players on all 32 NFL teams.
The Projection Machine employs a top-down approach that builds on team-wide assumptions to develop expectations of offensive output. I will use staff averages to help guide the inputs underlying the projections. Check out this article for further information on the process used by the RotoViz team. All 2017 Tennessee Titans projections are based on PPR scoring.
The Titans won nine games in 2016. Pythagorean win percentage and Vegas expect a similar outcome in the coming season. As a result, the team is projected with a consistent scoring margin and is expected to continue favoring the run while operating at a slow pace. Given these assumptions, the Projection Machine forecasts 508 passing and 470 rushing attempts.
|Scoring Margin||Pass Tendency||Pace Tendency|
|League 75th percentile||1.00||0.02||0.85|
|League 50th percentile||-1.25||-0.01||-0.85|
|League 25th percentile||-3.75||-0.04||-2.70|
|Titans 2017 (Projection)||-0.80||-0.04||-1.00|
Henry Needs Murray to Falter
Derrick Henry has been touted as a league winner all summer. He profiles as a workhorse back with an exceptional combination of size and speed. Given DeMarco Murray’s success as the lead back in Tennessee, it’s easy to imagine the younger rusher finishing as a top-12 back if given the role. The upside is there and it can’t be denied, but so is Murray. Unless he gets injured, it seems unlikely that Henry will be anything more than a rotational flex player.
The RotoViz staff expects Murray to control the sweeping majority of Titans’ RB work with 55 percent of rushing attempts and a target share of 11 percent. His projection assumes above-average efficiency and places him among the best RBs in the league. Henry is slated with 28 percent of carries and only four percent of targets. 75th percentile efficiency, for an RB2, is assumed but his workload will need to substantially increase for him to finish as a fantasy RB3.
The staff average projects Murray for 240 points. With a standard deviation of 11, per the RotoViz Draft Lab, he’s expected to score between 229 and 251 fantasy points. Henry’s projections average 122 points with a standard deviation of 15.
What Are Drafters Doing?
Eric Decker landing in Tennessee was a disappointment, but his ADP of WR42 is way too low.1 Throughout his career, he’s bee a prolific touchdown scorer, crushed fantasy points over expectation and routinely gone for over 200 points.
His workload will be limited within the Titans offense, but a solid touchdown rate and target share of 22 percent will allow him to significantly outplay his ADP. He’ll be vying for targets with Rishard Matthews and Corey Davis, but the RotoViz staff sees him as the clear number one. After all, he held his own when playing with Brandon Marshall in New York and Demaryius Thomas in Denver. In fact, Decker managed to finish as WR8 in 2012 and WR9 in 2013 playing behind Thomas. In Marshall’s 2015 WR3 season, Decker finished as WR14. Clearly, he’s a talented receiver and it’s hard to imagine a rookie beating him for the Titan’s WR1 duties. But the staff isn’t even convinced that Davis is his main competition.
Matthews is projected with 18 percent of targets and Davis 17. Both are expected to be moderately effective but neither looks like a fantasy starter. Davis is projected as the lowest-scoring member of the trio but is being drafted ahead of Decker and Matthews in redraft leagues; this is wrong.
With an average projection of 206 points and standard deviation of 29, Decker is expected to score between 177 and 235 fantasy points. He figures to be a solid WR3 and is worth drafting a round or two early.
Matthews is pegged for 153 points and a standard deviation of 26. Davis is expected to accrue 147 points with a standard deviation of 26.
Walk This Way
Delanie Walker is a fantastic fantasy tight end. He’s finished in the top eight for three seasons running and will be the second-most targeted player on the team. He has the potential to go for over 200 points and possesses a high floor. The Staff projects him with a target share of 19 percent and strong efficiency.2
The staff average projects Walker with 190 fantasy points and a standard deviation of 15.
Mariota Will Live Up to Expectations
Marcus Mariota just missed a top-12 finish last season. He threw for 26 touchdowns, scored twice on his legs and rushed for 350 yards. Drafters are keen on his 2017 prospects and the RotoViz staff agrees. Mariota will build off of his 2016 performance, becoming a more efficient passer and increasing his yardage while remaining a threat on the ground. Mariota has finished as a weekly starter in nearly 50 percent of games played and goes for 25 plus points a quarter of the time.
Mariota’s average projection assumes 279 fantasy points with a standard deviation of 30.