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Making Sense of the Tennessee Titans’ Backfield

Sep 9, 2015

David Cobb's placement on IR further complicates the Titans' messy backfield situation

David Cobb’s placement on IR further complicates the Titans’ messy backfield situation

The Tennessee Titans made a flurry of moves over the Labor Day weekend, muddying an already messy backfield situation. We will take you move-by-move through the transactions to help bring some clarity in regards to what’s most important – your fantasy football squad.

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Move 1 – Titans place RB David Cobb on Injured Reserve/Designated to Return

With starter Bishop Sankey mostly unimpressive during his rookie campaign in 2014, there were many expectations that fifth-round rookie David Cobb would perform his way into a meaningful early-season role in the Titans’ backfield. Those expectations must be put on hold, as Cobb now finds himself sidelined until Week 10 with a calf injury he suffered in late August.

If we are to be honest with ourselves, the chances were slim that Cobb would have made an instant impact for fantasy teams regardless of the injury. His rookie offseason started off on a low note when he missed much of the team’s OTAs. Ask Sankey how important it is to be a full participant in OTAs as a rookie. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has repeatedly stated that many of his rookie issues last year came from a minimal understanding of the playbook.

In limited action this preseason, Cobb showed a knack for running up the middle and netting positive yards. His 11 rushes for 53 yards during the team’s second preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons said as much. Those numbers were good for 4.8 YPC, a number made even more impressive when you consider that his longest run was only 10 yards, indicating that he was netting positive yards on many of his runs.

Despite this optimism, fantasy owners must now wait until at least Week 10 (and likely longer) before Cobb gets the chance to make a meaningful impact on the field.

Move 2 – Titans acquire RB Terrance West from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft pick

The Titans’ acquisition of sophomore RB Terrance West can most easily be explained as a response to Cobb’s I.R. designation. The fact that the trade was made for a conditional seventh-round pick tells you all you need to know about the kind of impact the team expects West to make on game days: little to none.

Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine summarized West best when he recently said that the young running back is a rollercoaster of highs and lows with hardly any consistency. He has also battled a severe case of immaturity since being drafted in the third round last year – a trait that landed him in the doghouse more often than not in 2014.

But even if he weren’t a knucklehead and was being traded for more than a conditional pick, the idea of West learning a new offense quickly enough to earn a role on offense is far-fetched at best. More likely, he will ride the pine the first few weeks before possibly being sprinkled in on offense as the season progresses.

Simply put, he isn’t worth investing in for your redraft league.

What It All Means

The Titans have gone from a backfield including Sankey, Cobb and Antonio Andrews to one that now consists of Sankey, Andrews and West.

Sankey is still the team’s most well-rounded running back and shouldn’t see his fantasy value change all that much despite the recent moves made. But the biggest winner may very well end up being Andrews, a big back who has impressed coaches with his running this offseason. With Cobb nursing his injury, Andrews has the inside track for the team’s back-up running back position over West, and will likely see his fair share of touches inside the red zone and in short-yardage situations.

However, this situation could become even murkier in the coming days. The team has reportedly expressed interest in former New England Patriots RB Jonas Gray and has gone as far as to bring him in for a visit. You will remember Gray as the running back who tore up the Indianapolis Colts last year to the tune of 37 carries for 201 yards and four touchdowns. He may be inconsistent (like the rest of the Titans’ running backs), but he clearly has talent.

Ultimately, expect Sankey to lead this backfield in touches and carries while Andrews receives much of the goal line work. Sankey is still worth drafting as an RB3 while Andrews makes for a sneaky end-of-draft RB5.

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Alex Onushco is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, you can view his archive or follow him @DynastyAl_DFW.

Correspondent, Injuries, NFL