The Titans elected to draft Kendall Wright with the 20th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was the third wide receiver off the board, behind Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. Interestingly enough, Wright tied Blackmon last year for the league lead in receptions for a rookie with 64. Wright and Blackmon were also two of 12 wide receivers since 1995 to total at least 60 receptions in their rookie year. What makes this feat even more amazing is that Wright did so despite being on the field for less snaps (555) than his two receiver teammates Nate Washington (790) and Kenny Britt (600). Wright also led the team in targets (104), red zone targets (13), receptions (64) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (4). Not too bad for the third receiver on the team.
The Titans used Wright primarily out of the slot last year, but he also learned the X and Z positions and was utilized there at times as well. For a rookie to be asked to learn and then execute multiple receiver positions, speaks volumes of the confidence the coaching staff has in him. Wright is no ordinary rookie receiver and it was evident in how he led the team in nearly every receiving category as a rookie. He is an excellent receiver in open space, he gains separation well and he has very good speed and quickness. He finished the season with a 61.5% reception percentage, which indicates excellent hands. That stat is exemplified even more considering his two receiver teammates Nate Washington and Kenny Britt both finished with a 50.6% reception percentage. Wright also was clutch on third and fourth downs with 22 receptions on 38 targets, both team highs.
In Good Company
Since 2003, seven wide receivers drafted in the first round reached 60+ receptions in their rookie year. In order of their draft, those include Kendall Wright, Justin Blackmon, A.J. Green, Percy Harvin, Dwayne Bowe, Michael Clayton and Andre Johnson. Outside of Michael Clayton, that's a pretty good bench mark of success for those with a first round pedigree and early success in the league. Can Kendall Wright rise into that level of his peers? History tends to suggest so.
Will he build on his rookie year or regress?
For the most part, Kendall Wright flew under the radar last year. His 64 receptions may have been the quietest ever for a rookie receiver. In that regard, it doesn't feel like he overachieved at all. If anything, he may have underachieved, which points the needle in favor of a continuation of success in his second year. He will undoubtedly see the field more often in 2013, leading to an increase in targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. What about Kenny Britt? Won't he be the leading receiver? Britt may very well lead the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, but Wright will be the team's possession receiver and chain mover. There is also an indication that the running game, led by Chris Johnson, will be revamped and be a driving force of offensive production, thus minimizing the passing opportunities. This philosophy by Head Coach Mike Munchak and new Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains will help keep signal caller Jake Locker from putting too much emphasis on the passing game, minimizing his mistakes. Wright will still be an active participant on offense. He will see the field more often and he will make good of his increased opportunities. It's very difficult to picture a scenario that does not show improvement in Wright's numbers.
- Wright led the Titans in nearly every receiving category last year, despite having the third most snaps than his two receiver teammates. An increase in snaps, arguably 700 compared to 555 should yield a production increase across the board. Keep in mind, Nate Washington led receivers with 790 snaps in 2012, so 700 is a fair estimate. A simple proportion shows 131 targets in 700 snaps. If he maintains his 61% reception percentage, that equates to 80 receptions. Also note, Wright only played in 15 games last year.
- He can play all three receiver positions (X, Y and Z) and therefore can be subbed in for any formation, thus increasing his chances for more snaps.
- The Titans may or may not want to retain Kenny Britt after this season, which means they will want to get a good look at what Wright can bring to the table. Wright is capable of running the entire route tree, despite not being featured in that manner in his rookie year. Expect him to branch out in 2013 as Tennessee will get him more involved increasing his yards per catch numbers.
- Wright's biggest detractor is easily his low yards per catch average of 9.8 yards per catch. He was targeted mostly in plays close to the line of scrimmage, which also led to an increase in reception percentage. On his team-leading 22 receptions on third and fourth down, his YPC average rose slightly to 10.5 yards per catch. On the bright side, Wright averaged 13.3 yards per catch at Baylor, including 15.4 yards per catch in his senior year.
- The Titans are not blessed with an elite quarterback in Jake Locker, which could put a limit on how productive Wright can be. The increase in the ground game could also play a factor in how widely used he will be compared to the 2012 season which featured 199 receptions to wide receivers. The Titans were 14th in the league in receptions to wide receivers in 2012, so a decrease in the passing game would also yield fewer receptions, thus dropping them down further among teams in the league for wide receiver receptions.
- The Titans agreed to keep veteran Nate Washington for the 2013 season. Keep in mind he had the most snaps among Titans receivers last year. It's not a stretch to think that Washington will once again be a factor in the receiving game, thus capping Wright's movement to be a major focal point in the receiving game.
It's fair to say that Kendall Wright has the skills, ability and pedigree to be one of the league's better younger receivers in the league. He was able to capitalize on his opportunities and lead the team in a variety of receiving categories, despite not seeing the field as often as his receiver teammates. His involvement is expected to increase in his second year, which leads many to believe that his fantasy production will follow. From a fantasy perspective, Wright is currently the 51st wide receiver taken re-draft leagues, which is an incredible value for someone who likely has not reached his full potential yet. Wright is an excellent fantasy WR4 or WR5 to target, who could easily produce WR2 numbers this season. The risk is low and the reward could be very high.
- Jeff Haseley -- 70 receptions / 930 yards / 5 TDs
- David Dodds -- 65 receptions / 832 yards / 5 TDs
- Bob Henry -- 74 receptions / 900 yards / 5 TDs
- Maurile Tremblay -- 69 receptions / 747 yards / 5 TDs
- Jason Wood -- 68 receptions / 925 yards / 5 TDs
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com considers Kendall Wright one of the Top 10 Sleepers to target in 2013
Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans: Wright finished just 55th among wide receivers based on fantasy points in standard leagues last year, but his 64 receptions were tied for the most among all rookie wideouts. With a full pro season and five starts on his NFL resume, the Baylor product will now be in line to see additional work in the Titans pass attack moving forward. Aside from Kenny Britt, there won't be a better option in the pass attack for quarterback Jake Locker in 2013.
John Kerwin of Thefakefootball.com believes an expansion of his production is possible and likely
It sounds as if we may see some new wrinkles within the offense next season, and hopefully the Titans can find some creative ways to get the ball in Wright’s hands. Tying Blackmon for the most catches by a rookie this past season, and finishing 8th in the league with 22 catches on 3rd down says a lot about this kid. The fact that he wasn't an every down wideout shows that there is plenty of room to expand on his numbers.
More from Jeff Haseley:
Cliff Notes: Week 12 - November 20
Beyond The Stats: Week 12 - November 20
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Beyond The Stats: Week 11 - November 12
Cliff Notes: Week 10 - November 5
Beyond The Stats: Week 10 - November 5
Beyond The Stats: Week 9 - October 30
Cliff Notes: Week 9 - October 29
Cliff Notes: Week 8 - October 22
Beyond The Stats: Week 8 - October 22