Cleat Geeks

The IDP Geek Huddle: Tennessee

Scheme Overview

While we have been covering the NFL teams with new head coaches over the last couple of months all indications at the moment are that Tennessee will remain the same in terms of defensive scheme. New head coach Mike Vrabel has a lengthy history of being a defensive coordinator and even a player in the NFL with the 3-4 defensive scheme. Vrabel also hired former Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees who also has a history with the 3-4 scheme and all but locks down this assumption. So for our fantasy football IDP team purposes, this “take” may not be as informative in the aspect that things will be any different for 2018 in Tennessee. However, there may be some changes in how they use the personnel that may be inserted into the lineup so we will “take” on the likely IDP players that should have roles we will want to pay attention to for our starting IDP lineups.

On a personal note, I’m not excited for us to cover the Titans at this time. I did “poll” on what team we should cover next on Twitter and have to say when the Titans became the next team I sighed a little. To any Titans fans, this isn’t personal, I just had it in mind that from what I knew already about Vrabel being hired that it would likely not result in much of a change to “take” on. Granted we should still take the look at the situation, I’m just not excited about any certain player we are going to cover from a personal standpoint. With this being said let’s dive into our main IDP targets off the squad and why we should consider them for our IDP lineups. We do need to keep in mind that the draft is just around the corner and this status of the IDPs may change some.

 

Defensive Backs

I never realized that when I started this series that I would find myself repeating the same thing as each team was covered. I don’t “take” nor do I suggest cornerbacks for our IDP leagues. I will point out that Malcolm Butler has been signed by the Titans and can likely be seen as the “shutdown corner” and less likely to be targeted. For that reason, he’ll likely not be the cornerback to target for our IDP lineups if so. The likely target would probably be Adoree’ Jackson on the other outside position and possibly Logan Ryan who should be the slot guy. I will make an assumption here from what I know about the tendencies of Vrabel. We will likely see a large amount of the nickel package placing all three cornerbacks on the field at the same time. I will touch on this farther down the road here in another portion of this article. If you are looking to target a cornerback off of the Titans defense, the best option should end up being Jackson in 2018. Butler has his rep and experience while Ryan’s snap count may not be at a full amount. Thus the likely odds are that even if Jackson was outstanding last year he is still the likely candidate to be tested again in 2018 by default. It’s one of those situations where a team has no obvious “target” at the moment because all three have the same skillset per their likely roles.

 

Currently, at safety, we are looking at breakout star Kevin Byard from 2017 returning to his free safety role. If there is one player that we should assume will be a top-tier player at his position for IDP off this squad its him. He recorded a total of 87 combined tackles with an astonishing 24 passes defended, 8 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. Not only is this good production in our base target of combined tackles from a safety, but the “playmaking” stats are fundamental indication he is a great player. Byard just may be the most talented player on the defensive unit, to be honest. Now we will throw a red flag at the situation for 2018. Neither Vrabel or Pees has produced a defense with an outstanding free safety for our IDP purposes in recent years. Without writing a completely in-depth article of its own on this subject lets just take a look at the numbers the past two season’s from each of the coaches free safeties.

They are not exactly inspiring as one would want as a top-tier safety in terms of consistency by position. While it does range from a lower tier 1 to a tier 3, we have to think that Byard is that special of a talent and versatile enough retain about the same numbers in 2018. I’ll add also that before Weddle’s first season in 2016 with Baltimore that they haven’t had a great free safety produce high in IDP.

As we “lean” into the next player with a “take” let’s keep this in mind. The former head coach and defensive coordinator found it was more plausible to use Byrd closer to the line as more of a strong safety at times, depending on the situation last season. Thus putting him in position to have those opportunities to make the play more. Surely leaving us to want Byard as a tier 1 safety option in 2018 as they build the defense up to the standard in 2018 with a new regime. Byard has to be seen as the number one player to target as far as the Titans IDPs are a concern and in the first wave of our safeties taken off the board in re-drafts for 2018. The question would be at what part of the wave. Because there are going to be questions I believe the safe bet is towards the end of that wave. And compared to rookie picks this year, it’s “risk versus reward” with potential top-notch production as the pecking order is confirmed in Tennessee. A second-round pick isn’t out of the question here in standard size leagues. Byard is our number one target for IDP purposes off of the Titans defense currently, but with risk. As the Titans “tweak” that defense in 2018 they have to be thinking that Byard is a special talent and must be put in position for opportunities to make plays for them.

 

 

Currently, the strong safety position would likely be Johnathan Cyprien, who in his first season with the Titans after signing a nice contract didn’t perform as well as they wanted. He did suffer a knee injury that cost him time early in 2017 and may have hampered him thru the rest of the season even after he returned to the field. There are a couple things we need to point out here about Cyprien. There was a reason that Jacksonville let him walk in free agency to the Titans in 2017. And this same reason is why above I mentioned that Byard received a lot of time in the strong safety position at times.
Cyprien’s coverage skills are not his best talent. He has always seemed to struggle to cover receivers off the line of scrimmage. With this being said let’s add up all I have mentioned above about the Titans secondary overall. A likely scenario will be we see a lot of nickel packages in 2018 by the team. Possibly even when it’s not necessarily a passing situation. Hence the Butler signing, tendencies of Vrabel, and the talent of Byard, Jackson, and Ryan. Where does this leave Cyprien? It actually may not leave him out in the cold as much as all these things can indicate. If they decide to run packages leaving Cyprien on the field he simply could become that targeted player as the opposing teams avoid the rest of the secondary. Another situation that may work in Cyprien’s favor is that if they feel that he is the best option to stay on the field as a run stopper in those packages and let all the other secondary players take the coverages. He may then end up playing an inside linebacker-strong safety role that could stack his tackle box stats.

Be sure to check out our friends at The IDP Guys Podcast. This week they have several great guests and topics they cover including Dynasty Football with Tyler Ghee, plus the Gut Check Twitter poll reactions, the guys continue with their Top 100 IDP Countdown and our own Gary VanDyke has a spot on the show as well.

These are some big “ifs” and “maybes”. And to throw yet another red flag, and along the same lines as what I pointed out with the free safety position with Byard, the strong safety is not a position in the past for this defensive scheme to be a known producer at a high level. Tony Jefferson went from a top-tier 1 safety with the Cardinals to a tier 2 safety in Baltimore under Pees. And as for Vrabel’s defenses in Houston, the strong safety position was basically a black hole. By that I mean I can not think of a strong safety on the Texans over the last 5 years that has made a big IDP impact. Now granted they haven’t had the “talent” at that strong safety position either, and Cyprien would be the most talented that Vrabel has had on his roster. But all of this leaves into question exactly what Cyprien can do for us and our IDP purposes in 2018. With this risk versus reward situation, we shouldn’t reach any higher than the end of the second wave of safeties taken off the board in redrafts. And with that risk, we shouldn’t overpay at the moment with rookie picks. I personally think a “safe” investment in a rookie pick would be a third. Overall I feel he is an “avoid” in redrafts for 2018 and a “sell” if I can find someone willing to give me more than a third-round pick if I own him. The only clear thing we have to look at this time would be the lack of overall talent on the depth chart and the question of who Vrabel depends on in 2018. As I mentioned, Vrabel doesn’t seem to covet the strong safety position by his track record. So we are unlikely to see them draft high in this year’s rookie draft at that position. If he does, and a strong safety type is selected in the top two rounds, be worried, really worried, if you are a Cyprien owner.

 

Defensive Lineman

At the moment we only have one defensive lineman we should consider on the Titans in 2018 as a possible starter in our lineups. And that is our “known” and main defensive end Jurrell Casey. He has had an up and down career in IDP production from a tier 1 to a tier 3 with the Titans. But this has been the situation due to the fact that he is a force on the line and it has left him as the guy to get blocked off the top by opposing lineman. He is still in his prime and possibly can reach the tier 1 to an upper-tier 2 in 2018. They’ve just signed Bennie Logan to play the nose tackle and that’s simply a position that barely registers on our IDP formats. At the other end of the line is DaQuan Jones. He is a solid run defender but has really only reached a solid tier 2 level in his four years in IDP production one time. Leaving him as a depth player if we need one. It boils down to one simple fact with Casey being our only real DL target. The 3-4 scheme doesn’t on average produce highly productive IDP players per defensive lineman. And if it wasn’t for Casey being a “monster” we would have been avoiding him as well. But based on his potential he could be an option in the late first wave of DLs off the board with a safer bet being in the second. If we are to gamble on him in 2018 as a possible tier 1 DL, we can really only suggest a fourth-round pick to acquire him. There should be other options we consider first.

 

Linebacker

Unfortunately, at this time, there is only one linebacker we should consider for our starting lineups in 2018 also. Wesley Woodyard is likely the main linebacker in 2018 for Vrabel. Again leaning on his known players in a year they piece together the defense. Woodyard is a ten-year vet that had roles that have had him reaching from a tier one and as low as a tier three. He is not a top talent, but he has had some good years of production by default. The Titans also just signed longtime Washington linebacker Will Compton and they also have a second-year player with “upside” in Jayon Brown. But both of them are not suggestable players at this time other than maybe stashing at the end of our rosters. The likely scenario at the moment would be Woodyard as the main every down player and Compton getting the two down thumper type roll. Brown did see a lot of playing time last season but overall he struggled. There is just simply not enough here to recommend taking either Brown or Compton at this time before the later 3rd wave in redrafts. And because of risks with Woodyard and not 100% knowing how this plays out until later in the summer, he can only be suggested as a mid 2nd wave pickup with risk. Don’t be shocked if we see a rookie selected by the Titans in the 2nd or 3rd round of this years draft adding another curveball.

As for the outside linebackers they are currently depending on at the moment, they should be avoided. Brian Orakpo has seen his better days and Derrick Morgan and Kevin Dodd haven’t been notable. This is also another area we may see Vrabel address in the draft early. But we shouldn’t exactly jump for joy and target whoever they may select if the player is an OLB simply because we think they could be a starter. If we are to roster any OLB it has to be for depth, deep depth. Feel free to check out exactly why HERE.

 

The Titans IDP Overview In 2018

This is my personal overview of how to handle the Titans IDPs in 2018. And I’m going to apologize to all the Titan fans who may have voted to cover their team in my last poll on who I should cover. This was one of the teams, maybe the only team in the poll I actually didn’t think would win out and have us making a “take” on at this time. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it, it’s that I didn’t think they win the poll before the rookie draft. If I made my “take” after the rookie draft I thought I might have more “flier appeal” to talk about and even reach into the OTA area of the offseason to have more positives in general. But as this defense stands at the moment I’m sorry to say I don’t have the best outlook overall for the group as a whole for our IDP purposes. Yes, there is a new coaching staff and yes the future does look a bit more positive beyond 2018. But as of the moment, all indications are that for 2018 that we are looking at only a couple players that could make an impact for our IDP purposes at a level we want. One or two at a possible tier 1, but both with risks. Don’t get me wrong there are great upside players, but we simply can’t “jump” of the charts and say at this time of the off-season we should go and draft them as more than what we have covered. I’m going to look at the past Houston defenses over the last couple of seasons to explain myself. With J.J. Watt fighting a back injury, there has been basically two players worthy of our starting lineups to target over the last couple of seasons. That would be OLB Clowney (BEAST) and ILB Mckinney. As for the rest, there has been some great talent but little to suggest as players we have to target for our starting lineups. And because Clowney is an outside linebacker and in McKinney’s three seasons he has only been a tier 1 (barely) ILB, there’s just nothing to see here at the moment. And the one huge player in Byard isn’t actually showing us any favors by the coaching staff from the past history as a top-notch position.

I tried, I really did try hard to “spin” something out of this team IDP take. But it boils down to what we have to suggest at the moment as status quo and that there is no top of the top-tier players to go out of our way and target at this time with 100% confidence. So my best suggestions are as follows.

  1. Kevin Byard: The only true target.
  2. Johnathan Cyprien: At the risk of being wrong, an avoid or trade bait.
  3. Adoree’ Jackson: This should show how desperate I am to suggest as an IDP. If you 100% need to start a cornerback, great target here.
  4. Wesley Woodward: If you had to start a max 4 LBs each week, he is a 3rd at best. And hopefully your 4th option or 1st depth.
  5. Jurrell Casey: If you have to start 2 DLs, hopefully, he is your 2nd option at best.

I do wish I had better to “take” on here at this time. But a new coaching staff does not mean a better outlook. Talent is “talent” and production by default cannot be predicted at this time with the Titans. If the Titans offense is better in 2018 and the defense sees less time on the field because of it, things could actually be worse off than I’m setting the bar at here.

Thank you again for reading. Please feel free to catch me on Twitter @HBogart27, I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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