Last year was weird for the Tennessee Titans. After trading away A.J. Brown, they appeared to attempt to live in this “competitive rebuild” world. And boy, did it go nowhere. And yet they were still leading the AFC South in Week 15.
The receiver pegged to replace Brown was Treylon Burks, who had a challenging season of his own. Upon entering training camp, news circulated of him being under-conditioned. Then, he dealt with a turf toe injury in October. After returning, he experienced several weeks of success before being placed in the concussion protocol. By the time he came back for the second time, he was catching passes from some combination of Malik Willis and Joshua Dobbs.
So what should we expect from the second-year receiver out of Arkansas? Let’s dive into his 2022 usage and his quarterback situation to project his 2023 season.
Treylon Burks 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
Inside the Snap Count
If you didn’t have Treylon Burks on your roster last season, you might have forgotten how little he played. And it wasn’t just the injuries. The on-field usage left plenty to be desired, given that Burks was the 18th overall pick in the draft. I mean, you would think Arthur Smith was still coaching the Titans with that usage of a first-round player.
Burks did not have a single game where he played over 70% of the snaps until Week 16. Here are some players who accomplished that mark before Burks: KJ Hamler, Jauan Jennings, Julio Jones, Quez Watkins, Devin Duvernay, and Marquise Goodwin (FantasyPros).
But wait, there’s more.
Burks averaged a 58% snap percentage in 2022. Receivers who outperformed him include Russell Gage, A.J. Green (yes, he was still in the league), DeAndre Carter, and Kendell Hinton (former Broncos quarterback, if you know, you know).
Needless to say, Burks was not in good company when it came to usage.
What the hell is going on at quarterback?
Simply put, things were much better when Ryan Tannehill was under center, which shouldn’t be shocking. He actually has the first-round draft capital that is so valuable in projecting quarterbacks.
Burks and Tannehill had a solid four-game stretch before Burks was placed in the concussion protocol. He went 15 for 21 for 220 yards and one receiving touchdown in that time. He was WR35 during that span, but keep in mind he left one of those games early to enter the concussion protocol. Additionally, only 10 points separated WR20 and WR35 during that time, so Burks could have been much higher if he finished that last game (NFLFastR).
But where is Ryan Tannehill? Is he even the quarterback this year?
Frankly, your guess is as good as mine. But I don’t think it matters.
Why 2023 will be better
If I’m placing a bet on the Week 1 starting QB for the Titans, it’s on Tannehill. Tennessee has averaged around 500 pass attempts per season with him under center. During the Week 10 through 12 stretch, where Tannehill and Burks had three full games together, Burks had a 21% target share, caught 70% of his targets, and averaged 11 yards per target. Expanding that over a 17-game season puts him as a bottom-end WR3.
And that’s his floor.
A 25% target share is well within his grasp. And if he just slightly increases his yards per target to 12, suddenly, he becomes a bottom-end WR1. He is currently going at the WR36, according to FantasyPros, and is WR37 on Underdog Fantasy. You’re drafting him at his floor, with the ceiling to be a Top Ten fantasy receiver.
That’s it; that’s the argument. It’s not hard to imagine the pathway for Burks to hit his ceiling. His snap percentage increases, he gets a slightly larger target share (I mean, who’s his competition anyways?), and he gets somewhat more efficient.
But what about Will Levis?
Ah, yes, that guy. Here’s the thing, Levis was my fourth-favorite quarterback in the NFL Draft and with a clear gap between three and four. But as far as systems go, Tennessee couldn’t be a better fit for him. He is basically Ryan Tannehill.
There were two major things that concerned me about Levis, his accuracy and his sack rate.
Accuracy is always the first test I use to assess first-year quarterbacks, and when watching Levis’ tape, I didn’t see anything I thought was world-breaking for a college quarterback. But the numbers cause me to eat my words because he ended with a 65% completion percentage and a 75.6% adjusted completion percentage, per PFF.
Ryan Tannehill has completed 64.3% of his career passes (Pro Football Reference).
Okay, but the sack rate, right? This is what gave me the most concern in the pre-draft process. Among 87 qualifying quarterbacks with at least 304 dropbacks, Levis ranked sixth in pressure-to-sack percentage in the FBS (PFF). Not great, Bob. His 26.8% pressure-to-sack percentage came despite a 2.58 average time to throw.
But then I saw that Tannehill had a 24.4% pressure-to-sack percentage with a 2.67 average time to throw.
That’s not much better than Levis, who, mind you, was playing through injury and had a less-than-ideal offensive line situation. So while I have my concerns about Levis’ ceiling from a quarterback perspective, I am confident he can support Treylon Burks in making the jump to a WR1 in 2023.
Whether Tannehill or Levis is under center, Treylon Burks has the floor of a WR3 or Flex play and the ceiling of a WR1 receiver. You get to draft him at his floor, and he has practically no competition for targets. What are you doing still reading this article? Get out there and draft Treylon Burks!
A Look Inside the Tennessee Titans
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Austin focused on Treylon Burks in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Titans written by Josh Hudson.
As Austin mentioned above, Ryan Tannehill is expected to be the Titans’ starting QB to begin 2023. Whether he remains as such for the entirety of the season is anyone’s guess. He had no issue holding off Malik Willis last year (and after seeing Willis play last year, I have a hard time wondering why anyone thought he had a legitimate shot at earning the Titans’ starting job in the first place). And Tannehill should have no issue holding off Levis for the time being. If the Titans want to continue this competitive rebuild, Tannehill is who they should start, as they’re 36-19 in games he starts. In my eyes, he’s a low-end QB2, and I’d only be targeting him in Superflex leagues since no one else will be that interested in drafting him.
Levis is the insurance policy. That’s it. I’m not worrying about him in redraft leagues, and he’s not even on my radar unless word comes out he’s starting the season as QB1.
Derrick Henry apparently IS Father Time. There’s nothing stopping him from continuing to be a dominant force for fantasy managers. Knowing you can do drafts right now and get Henry in the 3rd round gets my pants tight. He’s a top-10 RB with a consistent top-5 upside. And there’s a chance he might catch more passes? LFG!
Spears is the rookie that people will take dart throws on as Henry’s backup. Spears was a machine at Tulane, carrying that offense to a 10-win season in 2022. He can do it all, and he’s doing it without an ACL. Maybe Spears is Father Time, Jr.? He’ll have competition for the RB2 role from holdover Hassan Haskins, but Spears should be the change-of-pace back opposite Henry.
Writing about anyone on this Titans team is like being forced to undergo a colonoscopy with no notice. Seriously, who are some of these players?! Westbrook-Ikhine has been waived, re-signed, and trusted in the red zone over his time with Tennessee. And yet, he has never been a trusted fantasy football asset. Just don’t waste your time.
Now we’re talking! Okonkwo is primed for a MONSTER season as the likely 2nd target in this putrid Titans passing attack. You know what other TE was in a terrible passing offense and managed to put up elite stats year in and year out? Ravens star Mark Andrews. Okonkwo ranked 1st in yards per route run and tied for 1st in yards after the catch per reception among TEs last year. As a rookie. Couple that with an increased target share, and you’re looking at the 2023 TE breakout.
We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles.