Entering last season, the Tennessee Titans felt they had one of the better one-two punches in the NFL at the wide receiver position with A.J. Brown (now with the Philadelphia Eagles) and Julio Jones (currently a free agent).
That hope died on the vine.
Injuries limited Brown to 13 games and Jones to 10, and the latter looked like a shell of his former self after coming over from the Atlanta Falcons. Brown generally played well, but the team didn’t want to pay top dollar and traded him to Philly on draft night for first- and fourth-round picks.
With the first-round selection, the Titans drafted Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks, a physical specimen they hope will step into the void created by Brown’s departure. The Titans also picked up another veteran to replace Jones in the person of Robert Woods, who became expendable when the Los Angeles Rams signed Allen Robinson in free agency.
Although it might be tempting to slot the first-rounder into the top spot, we’re going to stick with the player that has NFL reps under his belt. Woods has never been the most dynamic of targets, topping 1,000 yards in a season just twice in nine years in the league, but he’s a reliable chain mover who can also make some things happen on jet sweeps and reverses — the 30-year-old ran for 473 yards on 68 carries over his last four seasons in LA, a healthy 6.9 yards per rush.
Proving he’s back at full health will be the first test for Woods, who tore his ACL last November in a game against the Titans. He’ll have roughly 10 months to get right before the season opener, and given how much quicker players have been recovering that seems like a reasonable goal. The veteran rates as far and away the most accomplished receiver on the roster, and that should make him a popular target for a risk-averse quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.
The sixth and final receiver selected in the first round of this year’s draft, Burks boasts similar physical credentials to the man he replaces — Brown checked in at 6-foot-1, 226 pounds, Burks is listed as 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. The Arkansas product has good speed and more elusiveness than you might expect from someone who can run through tackles. Beyond Brown, another popular comp was San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, whose physicality was put to exceptional use in 2021.
Where Burks has a long way to go is as a route runner. Much of his work in college came around the line of scrimmage, and that may be what we see a lot of in Year 1 with a steady diet of screens, quick outs, and slants to simply get the ball in his hands and let him create.
Tennessee’s leading returning receiver, Westbrook-Ikhine finished second to Brown in receptions (38), receiving yards (476), and TDs (4). Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Indiana in 2020, Westbrook-Ikhine has good size, is a capable blocker in the running game, and has shown the ability to line up both outside and in the slot. He’ll likely fill the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, though he could slide down based on the progress of several young wideouts, including fifth-round pick Kyle Philips and second-year pros Dez Fitzpatrick (5-49-1) and Racey McMath (2-8-0).
Fantasy football outlook
Barring injury or a setback, Woods and Burks are the names to focus on in Tennessee. The veteran is likely to be Tannehill’s primary read on developing passing plays while Burks figures to contribute more on quick hitters.
Both wideouts belong around that WR3/WR4 threshold, so it comes down to what you’re looking for on draft day. If you want a steady producer, Woods is your guy. If you’re rolling the dice on upside, Burks is the better option. There should be increased overall concern for pedestrian performances by both based on the quarterback situation, injury recovery, offensive system, and a learning curve.
Anyone manning the No. 3 role has fringe value based on the right matchup and can be ignored on draft day, however.