Each year, ESPN fantasy football expert, Matthew Berry, puts out an article containing information he gathered during discussions with coaches and team personnel during the NFL combine. These annual articles have a self-described “pretty good” track record recently. Specifically, Berry cites his very early identification of Darren Waller as a valuable tight end last offseason. Those who took note of this information were likely rewarded greatly in their season long fantasy football leagues last year. Below, we dissect one piece of early speculation mentioned by Berry in his article, and how it may impact individual players and their fantasy value.
After speaking with a trusted source from the Titans, Berry reported that Tennessee is expected to place the franchise tag on Derrick Henry this year and allow Ryan Tannehill to test the market. This may come as a surprise to some, as Tannehill led the league in yards per attempt and completion percentage last year. One would think that a team would be reluctant to give up a quarterback who played so well for them the year prior.
However, one must also keep in mind the way in which Derrick Henry absolutely dominated on the ground down the stretch in 2019. He finished the season as the league’s leading rusher with 1,540 yards, 16 touchdowns, and he averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The Titans will certainly want to lock that talent down, as workhorse backs are tough to find these days.
There is a chance the Titans can retain both players by placing the transition tag on Tannehill, but they still run the risk of losing him without the franchise tag. One other tidbit in Berry’s article that is worth mentioning, is that he places the Tennessee Titans among the top three teams most likely to obtain Tom Brady’s services for next year. If they can acquire this Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career, perhaps they would be less worried about losing Tannehill.
The Fantasy Impact
If the Titans place the franchise tag on Derrick Henry, he is going to be a bonafide RB1 no matter who is playing quarterback. He will be going off the board early in the first round of every draft and you would be lucky to have him on your team. Mike Vrabel knows what he has in Henry and he is not afraid to use it. Henry was fully unleashed on opposing defenses last year for the first time, as prior offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur had preferred a RBBC approach. Assuming Vrabel keeps the same mindset in regards to using Henry as a workhorse, he should finish as a top 5 running back in 2020.
Ryan Tannehill showed a new level of his game once he took over as the starter for the Titans last season. He demonstrated a good arm, good decision-making, and the ability to make plays with his legs as well. He proved to the NFL that he deserves to be a starting quarterback, and if the Titans allow him to test the waters there is bound to be interest from multiple teams. If Tannehill remains with the Titans he is likely to be a QB1, as they will look to build on all they accomplished in the 2019 season. If Tannehill and the Titans part ways, a lot of Tannehill’s ability to succeed in 2020 will depend on the caliber of his new offense, which would become more of a wait and see situation for fantasy owners.