A long-running joke in fantasy football has been “Tennessee is where receivers go to die,” and it’s not that far from the truth. This year could be different, however, with a new offensive coordinator in Arthur Smith and improvement along the offensive line.
Tennessee reworked its receiving corps by drafting A.J. Brown in Round 2 and adding Adam Humphries as a slot target in free agency. Brown will battle Tajae Sharpe for playing time, while Humphries has a green light to be the primary guy from the inside spot.
The Clemson product was remarkably consistent from 2016 to ’17 before stepping up his role in the offense last year to log personal bests in targets (104), receptions (76), yards (816) and touchdowns (five). He had scored four touchdowns in his previous three seasons combined. The two biggest factors for Humphries’ statistical improvement can be chalked up to Tampa Bay’s terrible defense and then-head coach Dirk Koetter’s love of throwing the ball.
The move to Tennessee offers a similar role but with far less volume. He’ll man the slot again, which is where Humphries spent more than 78 percent of his snaps in 2018. The aforementioned 104 targets were just eight fewer than Tennessee’s top receiver last year. The Titans ran three-wide or more 71 percent of its passing plays last year, or 13 percentage points behind the Buccaneers. The raw number of plays dramatically favored the Bucs: 346 to 190.
Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, though, Tennessee’s defense is superior to Tampa’s, which will limit the overall number of targets to be dispersed. Furthermore, the quarterback situation — while not great in Tampa Bay — still has been more effective than anything we’ve seen from Marcus Mariota.
This offense should lean heavily on the running game and utilizing play-action passing as a staple of the scheme. In Smith, Tennessee has a first-time play-caller whose style is unknown. His background favors tight ends and offensive line success. I wrote a more detailed view of his background at the time of Smith’s promotion. What no one can be sure of is his temperament for being aggressive or how he’ll respond to in-game changes in flow.
The pecking order on any given play is likely to be Corey Davis, Delanie Walker and then a coin flip between Humphries and RB Dion Lewis. This entire offense’s aerial potential is capped due to Mariota’s personal limitations. There isn’t a great deal of upside for any of the options, especially someone no better than third in the random target share outlook. The third receiver last year saw just 56 targets, and the No. 2 Titans wideout was looked to only nine more times. The overall nature of the offense shouldn’t change radically enough to expect substantial changes in this area.
Fantasy football outlook
Humphries will see his targets, receptions and yardage most certainly regress in 2019, even if it isn’t his fault. There is a small chance his touchdown balance maintains, but he’ll be competing in the red zone with Derrick Henry, Mariota’s legs and Davis’ height.
In just about any other setting, Humphries would be a reasonable WR3 in fantasy drafts. In Nashville, he is no more prolific than an occasional flex play based on a favorable matchup. Humphries has gone undrafted among 68 receivers chosen in early draft, according to FantasyFootballCalculator. His best worth is in PPR formats and as a flier in DFS action, barring an injury to Davis.