In-season, I’m pumping out content faster than editing can keep up with. I don’t want to hold the recaps for hours waiting on perfection. We will correct errors after the fact, but for now – forgive any of my gaffes. I dictate some of my notes, and the computer software or Siri interpretation can be comical. I try to correct them all before publishing it, but I miss it sometimes…in the 50,000+ words I pen each week during the season (not including all the emails). I’m moving fast, and want to get the product out there ASAP at 98% ‘good’…vs. big delays trying to get to 99.9% craftsmanship. So here you go…
This was perfect trap game – Tennessee looking ahead/past a bad Jacksonville team…a team that isn’t really all that bad. With a coaching change lights an inspirational fuse, playing at Jacksonville, the Titans never had a chance. The Titans were blown away early…and often in this game. Once Marcus Mariota got hurt…it was all over in the second half.
Tennessee misses the playoffs after impressively beating KC and Denver in back-to-back weeks to pull closer to a showdown in Week 17 for all the AFC South marbles…the Titans’ division title hopes were derailed by the Jaguars, of all things.
The Jaguars were inspired by the coaching change…to some degree fearing for their jobs in 2017. Especially Blake Bortles. In addition, Doug Marrone is pretty savvy – he used Bryan Walters and Corey Grant more than Gus Bradley did…among many other things Marrone changed up. I like the Jags to finish out 2016 by whacking the Colts in the Week 17 finale.
— The main thing I watched to re-watch from this game was Corey Grant (9-27-0, 1-5-0/3 targets). He took a career-high nine carries in this game, and I wanted to see how he looked (in general) – did he have his speed/burst back after offseason knee surgery? It’s critical to evaluate Grant because T.J. Yeldon got hurt early in this game and was out (now on I.R.). Chris Ivory got hurt late and left the game for good. Denard Robinson has been on the shelf. It is possible Grant is the starter, the most experienced RB the Jags will have in Week 17…facing a dreadful Colts run defense. It is Grant’s best chance to shine so far in the NFL.
I thought Grant looked pretty quick on this tape. There was not a ton of space for him to operate in this game, so there were no ‘wow’ moments. You can see he’s quicker than most everyone (or everyone) on the field but like Jerick McKinnon – little space to show off their skills. Grant is not a classic RB, not terrific instincts between the tackles…he’s better used for 5-7 carries and 5+ targets a game…a guy you design bubble screens for and get out into space, etc. He’s a Tyreek Hill, Taylor Gabriel type of player – home runs waiting to happen. If he gets the start in Week 17…you’re betting on the homerun play.
Please see an earlier, specific post today on Corey Grant – it has more background and videotape to consider…if you’re eyeballing Grant for Week 17 or as a dynasty stash.
— Blake Bortles (26-38 for 325 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) will be an interesting case study for 2017. As goes Bortles, so goes Allen Robinson (9-147-012 targets) and friends for fantasy.
You and I would assume a new head coach comes in and would make it clear that Bortles is not ‘their guy’. You’d assume some kind of QB change is coming. However, I would bet that an NFL team like the Jags that has constantly made mistakes will make the typical ‘NFL mistake’ with Bortles – the new coach will come in with favorable reviews of Bortles because the NFL intelligentsia said it is so. They football analysts are locked in with Bortles, so they’re going to protect him. The new coach will assume they can ‘fix’ Bortles. He won’t…and that decision will waste a year+ of making a better transition.
As long as Bortles is QB, then Allen Robinson is a WR1 candidate in fantasy. Once Bortles is done…ARob is a WR2+. I think Robinson is a talent, but all they’ve been doing for two years is throwing hail mary/jump balls to Robinson out of despair/familiarity. A legit coach and legit QB will do more than blindly throw passes to Robinson all game.
— Titans’ CB Valentino Blake (9 tackles) is making the most of his extended playing late in the season, for IDP. He’s averaging 6.7 tackles and 0.67 PDs per game the past three games.
— Jalen Ramsey (4 tackles, 4 PDs, 1 INT/returned for a TD) is amazing. When he was on Rishard Matthews he totally shut off Rishard…as he has done to most every WR this season. In most seasons, Ramsey would be a slam dunk Rookie of the Year or at least Defensive Rookie of the Year. I doubt he gets a vote for ROY and probably finishes top 3, but not #1 in D-ROY.
Fair warning, again, I am going to scream when this slight happens.
— How about Rishard Matthews’s (3-31-1/9 targets) 2016?
56 catches for 831 yards and 8 TDs (so far) after a slow start for several weeks in Tennessee. You lost faith in me, didn’t you? Thought I was wrong about Rishard, huh? He’s the Titans’ #1 WR heading into the 2017 offseason. I dropped him from redraft teams too when he faded off early, but picked him back up before anyone else woke up on him – because ‘I knew’.
Dig this, though…
If you ignore the first four weeks of the 2016 season, when Matthews was behind Andre Johnson and Tajae Sharpe (becauseMike Mularkey is a genius), and then ignore the DEN-KC-JAC crushing schedule of shutdown corners to face to end to 2017 (he won’t draw the AFC West again in 2017) – look at his averages per game as a starter not bottled up by the AFC West CBs…
14.7 FF PPG (19.8 PPR) on 5.1 catches (7.6 targets) for 68.7 yards and 1.0 TDs per game (over seven isolated games).
Speaking of Rishard Matthews and Marcus Mariota. Both were impressive – slower starts, great middles, faded to the end because of KC-DEN matchups. It glosses over how great both of them were this season – Mariota a top 5 QB for the middle part of the season. It makes me think how great some of our ‘Most Undervalued’ calls were in the summer of 2016 in our Fantasy Football Draft Guide. Don’t think you need a draft guide? Then you missed out on several, season-changing gems…these guys changed fantasy teams middle of the season.
From our draft guide special report this summer:
QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
*June ADP #14 QB, #15 consensus expert rank on FantasyPros…vs. FFM #5-7
Let me give you the overview chatter why I think this could be big, but then allow me to share some fuzzy math why there could be something excellent for FF about to happen here.
First off…I did NOT love what I saw with Mariota as a passer in college. I was with the crowd that felt he struggled throwing the ball downfield in a gimmicky offense. I’m going to say this until I’m blue in the face: I have a feeling, for the next few weeks/months/years – “I have to get it over it.” The era of me trying to find the ‘Next Tom Brady’ is dead/dying. The future may belong to spread QBs, who make quick decisions to throw the ball, and tear apart holes in the defense pre-snap…while totally neutralizing the pass rush with due to how fast passes are leaving the QB’s hands. I assume defenses will drop back more into coverage to stop this, but then these spread QBs can run the ball at will…if they have speed like Mariota.
Did you know Mariota ran a 4.52 40-time at the NFL Combine, along with a 6.87 three-cone? That’s best-in-class type athleticism for an RB or WR. Mariota can destroy teams with his feet…and that’s the extra boost waiting to happen for FF 2016+. Do you recall his 87-yard TD run against Jacksonville last year?
One of the reasons why I think Mariota is flying under the radar is because of his missed time in a few games due to injury, which masked over his real output. Mariota was dealt a low blow hit in Week 6 vs. Miami, and he tried to finish the game, but was replaced in the 2nd half, and then missed a few weeks after…and probably came back too early. In that Week 6 game, he ended up with one of the worst statistical performances of his rookie campaign. He also left Week 15 very early (after 6 passes), never to return for the rest of the season. Most statistical calcs of his 2015 performance count those contests as two full games played (the partial Week 6 and 15)…watering down his numbers, big-time.
What if you ignore those two games, and look at his other 10 games?
His output in 10 contests – his 2015, less Week 6 and 15:
256.7 yards passing per game
1.8 TD passes/0.8 INTs
25.2 rushing yards per game, with 2 rushing TDs
19.9 FF PPG (4pts per pass TD) – fifth-best among FF QBs, comparing everyone else as is.
If I’m right, Mariota may be one of the best new-era QBs coming into the league. Jared Goff is more ‘Brady’. Carson Wentz is a slower, 4.77+ runner, and suspect as a passer. Jameis Winston blows. Mariota may be the better, taller, faster, smarter Derek Carr – both masters of the new-era quick decision/quick pass.
If I’m wrong…it means the NFL/the Titans are not embracing the spread/quick pass systems as fast as I thought, or defensive coordinators figured out how to stop spread/air-raid offenses. Most see Mariota as a QB2 with upside for FF 2016+ because he ended 2015 on a whimper. Because of his feet, to go along with solid enough passing skills in a quick tempo passing game, he might be a top 5 Fantasy QB this season…especially in a 4pts per pass TD league.
Mariota’s 2016 schedule is mostly favorable, and he has a terrific LATE bye week – Week 13. The only schedule issue: Weeks 14–15, Denver/Kansas City back to back. In a redraft, you want Mariota as a QB2 with the upside to be your #1 as needed or a great trade chip. If the league figures out how to stop the quick passing game…then Mariota may struggle a bit for passer numbers but may go wild with his feet. In a Dynasty format, he’s an investment who could pay off as a perpetual top 5 QB for FF, for years.
WR Rishard Matthews, Tennessee
*June ADP (PPR) #65 WR, #63 consensus expert rank on FantasyPros…vs. FFM #37–41.
No doubt, you know I’ve loved Rishard Matthews since he entered the league out of Nevada in 2011. I complained for years that he was a potential superstar hiding away in Miami, and that the Dolphins were totally missing the opportunity – and for years I was just a deranged lunatic… But in 2015, I became a mild genius. No one questions that Matthews does have NFL-starter abilities now.
My argument for Matthews in Tennessee – and I believe it was a much better choice for him than going to New England – is that he could be the Titans’ #1 wide receiver in 2016 – Mariota’s main target guy.
Consider that Matthews was given a pretty handsome contract by Tennessee on purpose. New England was in there hot and heavy, and I always thought the Patriots would steal Matthews from right under the NFL’s noses for years. Matthews spurned the Patriots, and chose the Titans… Why? It was a slight difference in money, but going to New England is heading to a much greater franchise than the Titans. So why the Titans? I’m going to assume that the Titans’ coaching staff assured Rishard of what they want to do with him. I don’t think they signed him to a decent deal just to be a third or fourth wide receiver.
Matthews is not a replacement for Dorial Green-Beckham, per se, because they have two totally different styles of play. They are apples and oranges to compare. The comparison for Matthews is probably more with Kendall Wright – and Rishard Matthews is beyond superior to Wright. That’s not a total slam on Wright, but Matthews is bigger, stronger, more athletic, with much better hands than Wright. If given the choice to have one of them for the 2016 NFL season, if you were an NFL GM, you’d want Matthews ahead of Wright every time.
Now, I’m sure the Titans are going to roll with a three wide receiver set often – Wright, DGB, and Matthews. Here’s where I believe Matthews won’t get lost in the shuffle amongst them – because Mariota excels at a certain style of passing game, the ‘quick hitter’ passing game. Mariota identifies the mismatch, and fires bullets moments after he gets the ball in his hands. In the quick passing game, Mariota is neutralizing any pass rush, and hoping to pick the right mismatch to allow his receiver to catch a short pass, but turn it into something more. This type of game is not favorable for the very thin-framed Kendall Wright. The quick passing game opens receivers up to taking hits from defenders in short spaces – you have to be tough-minded and physically tough with tremendous hands. I just described what Rishard Matthews may be better at than any wide receiver in the entire NFL. I think it’s possible that Marcus Mariota is going to fall in love with Rishard Matthews, partly because of Matthews’ skills, partly because Mariota doesn’t have a ton of other options outside of Delanie Walker whose skill sets enhance his style of passing game.
When you consider the current ADP of Matthews, and compare that to what would happen if he were at/near the top of the Titans’ targets per game – he’s a screaming steal right now.
If you look at any of the WRs outside the top 50 ADP for 2016, there are three guys I could see being their team’s top receiver for Fantasy. Pierre Garçon for Washington, but he is surrounded by a ton of talent. Josh Gordon, who’s currently not in the NFL, and Rishard Matthews, who is the best all-around wide receiver the Titans have, and one that they acquired on purpose. I love what could happen here this season with Matthews.