By Mike Beacom
Camp Battles: Titans WRs - Britt vs. Wright vs. Washington vs. Hunter
Remember a decade ago when the Detroit Lions drafted wide receivers, one after another, but yet were unable to develop a consistent passing game? It became a punch line in NFL circles and contributed to the undoing of GM Matt Millen.
In recent years the Titans have copied Millen’s playbook. The team has used one of its first two selections on a receiver in four of the last five drafts. Yet few would rank the Titans’ receiving corps in the top half of the league. Too much talent, too little growth.
In April, the team invested the No. 34 selection on Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, who used his 6-foot-4 frame to catch nine touchdowns for the University of Tennessee last season. But Hunter must contend with a thick receiving corps that includes Kenny Britt (returning from injury), 2012 rookie Kendall Wright and seven-year veteran Nate Washington. The No. 1 spot on the depth chart is up for grabs, and any of the four could finish the year as the Titans’ leading receiver.
Why Britt is the best choice: Take injuries out of the equation and Britt is one of the top 20 receivers in the NFL, maybe top 10. He’s certainly the best big-game receiver of this bunch. He had 143 yards against the Colts last season, 135 or more yards in his only two complete games of 2011, and a 225-yard masterpiece against Philadelphia in October 2010. He’s big, separates from defenders well, and has four years under his belt (an old man compared to most of his competition).
Why it’s Wright: He is younger than Washington, more experienced than Hunter, and healthier than Britt. He led Tennessee in receptions (64) and targets (104) in his first NFL season, and was somewhat consistent from start to finish. As Robert Griffin III’s go-to target at Baylor Wright was one of college football’s most electrifying receivers in 2011. He could very well become that for Tennessee, should quarterback Jake Locker continue to develop and the rest of the receiving crew get out of his way.
Why it’s Washington: Because he has not caught fewer than 40 balls in each of the past five seasons. Washington is the safest fantasy pick of the four, and is only one year removed from a 1,000-yard receiving season. Plus, he’s caught six or more touchdowns in three of the past four years. Sound like low benchmarks? Probably true, but they’ve been respectable totals for Tennessee in recent years.
Why it’s Hunter: The Titans coaching staff has reportedly been all over Hunter in training camp. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It could suggest they are preparing him for a role sooner than expected. And Locker offered encouraging words for the rookie weeks ago. Here’s why fantasy owners should pull for Hunter, though: he is the only unknown in this race. We know Britt is brittle and Washington is ancient, and Wright lacks big-play ability. Hunter is still a mystery, and amid this bunch that’s an appealing quality.
Don’t forget about: Damian Williams
Williams’ production dropped off last season after an encouraging 2011. Even so, he’s still developing (a fourth-year veteran and just 25) and has a few big games under his belt (side note: he was the team’s leading receiver in their first preseason game). He’s deep on the depth chart right now, but not out of the race. The team has former Texan Kevin Walter, too, but fantasy owners can forget about him for now.
Who fantasy owners should pull for: a healthy Britt (if not, Hunter)
Fantasy owners have experienced the best and worst of Britt. At his best this is no competition. But the guy cannot stay healthy, and that has opened the door for the rest. Wright can catch a lot of balls – and will – but next to Britt, Hunter has the best chance of making big plays. He is still raw, but incredibly gifted.