Every NFL team seems to have a cursed position somewhere on the roster that they just can’t get right no matter how many different approaches they try. For the Bears, that position has been quarterback. For the Buccaneers, it’s kicker. The Lions can’t ever find a good running back (post-Barry Sanders obviously). For the Titans, that position is wide receiver.
Since the team became the Titans in 1999, they’ve had exactly seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Four of those came from the same player and just two of them have happened in the past 15 years.
2003 Derrick Mason (1,303 yards)
2004 Drew Bennett (1,247 yards)
2004 Derrick Mason (1,168 yards)
2001 Derrick Mason (1,128 yards)
2013 Kendall Wright (1,079 yards)
2011 Nate Washington (1,023 yards)
2002 Derrick Mason (1,012 yards)
To give some context, there are eight individual wide receivers that have more 1,000 yard receiving seasons over that same time span than the Titans do as a team.
Larry Fitzgerald (9)
Randy Moss (9)
Marvin Harrison (8)
Torry Holt (8)
Brandon Marshall (8)
Terrell Owens (8)
Steve Smith (8)
Reggie Wayne (8)
It’s just a position that has consistently eluded the franchise. Heading into 2019, receiver is once again a hotly debated position among Titans fans. Former 5th overall pick Corey Davis has shown some real promise, and probably would be more highly thought of if the team simply passed the ball more often in 2018. Davis accumulated 891 yards — good for 21st among all NFL receivers — despite playing on a team that attempted just 437 passes (2nd fewest in the league). If the Titans had passed the ball at a league average volume, Davis would have ended up near 1,125 yards receiving (14th among receivers) assuming he maintained a similar rate of production. It would be a disappointment if Davis didn’t become the fifth player since the team moved to Nashville to top 1,000 yards next season, but he needs help.
The team started to acquire some of that help with one of the top wide receivers on the free agent market (the top receiver according to some) in Adam Humphries.
I covered my thoughts on what Humphries will bring to the team in depth here, but the short version is that he will be a reliable player who will thrive in the slot when the Titans go with 11-personnel — a personnel package the team used on 58% of snaps in 2018 per Sharp Football — and play some snaps outside as well.
However, after those two, things get a little more dicey. Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe have both had their moments as Titans, but neither young receiver was able to step into the number two role behind Davis in 2018. So what do the Titans do behind Davis and Humphries at the receiver position? I think there are three options, each with their pros and cons.
Option #1: The Status Quo
The Titans essentially stick with what they’ve got. In this scenario Davis gets a similar snap share to the 88.4% number he saw in 2018, Humphries handles the slot and splits snaps on the outside in two wide sets, and then some combination of Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, and Cameron Batson split up the rest of the outside receiver snaps. The team probably throws a mid-to-late round rookie in here as well, but not necessarily a player that’s going to start right away.
This option is effectively a vote of confidence in Taylor and Sharpe. The current Titans coaching staff clearly view Taylor as an outside receiver. He played in the slot on just 16% of his total offensive snaps last year — a rate very similar to his college usage at Western Kentucky — rather than the primarily slot-based role he saw under Mike Mularkey during his rookie season.