Titans Sign Dexter McCluster
This signing likely signifies the end of Chris Johnson’s time in Tennessee. As of now, that leaves Shonn Greene and McCluster as the most likely candidates for backfield touches, with some Jackie Battle potentially thrown in. It won’t be a surprise if the Titans try to address the position at some point in the draft as well, though they do have other needs.
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN reported that Ken Whisenhunt wants to use McCluster similarly to how he used Danny Woodhead in San Diego in 2013. If that’s the case, McCluster’s value is clearly higher in Tennessee than it ever was in Kansas City. For reference, Woodhead had 76 catches last year with eight total touchdowns. He also averaged 0.49 PPR points per snap, second only to Darren Sproles, and clocked in as a top 15 back overall in PPR leagues. The difference is that McCluster is potentially a bit quicker than Woodhead, but is also much lighter and less built as a traditional back. Don’t be surprised if that Woodhead-type usage is more from the slot than the backfield.
Looking back at McCluster’s career in Kansas City, he operated as a slot receiver with barely any carries, especially in 2013. He was targeted 85 times on pass attempts, yet saw only nine carries. Again, this is partially because Jamaal Charles was such a stud at the running back position, but it also speaks to how McCluster was viewed by his coaches. The numbers in 2012 with a different coaching regime were similar – 12 rush attempts, 70 passing targets.
The Titans were the fifth best rated run blocking team in the NFL in 2013, which does bode well for the handful of carries McCluster may see. Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle are also much, much less adept at receiving than McCluster is. McCluster didn’t pass block much last season though, so that’s still a gray area.
From a fantasy perspective, McCluster is shaping up to be a viable PPR asset. The Titans do have some talent at the WR position in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter, but luckily, both can and do play the outside, leaving the slot open for the taking for McCluster. Jake Locker is likely starting at quarterback again, which means the quality of targets may not be as high as it was from Alex Smith.
For those in leagues that reward return yardage, it’s definitely worth noting that McCluster is a strong punt returner, and could very well take on that role in Tennessee. All said and done, you’re looking at a bench quality player in standard PPR leagues, perhaps a WR 4/5 or RB 4/5 depending on how the rest of the Titans offseason shakes out.