June 12, 2024

Dynasty Dilemma: Tyjae Spears  

6 min read

Dynasty Dilemma: Tyjae Spears

 

Despite the pressing need to improve the WR room for the 2023  NFL season and the lack of a WR selection with either of their first  two picks in the draft, the Tennessee Titans elected to take Tulane  

RB Tyjae Spears with the 18th pick in the 3rd round. The  consensus was that this was a somewhat baffling pick, almost  exclusively based on the team’s need for solid pass catchers,  especially with a few names still on the board that might have  seemed like better picks (Michael Wilson, Tyler Scott, Charlie  

Jones). Spears came into the draft as a polarizing prospect. He  drew plenty of praise for his Senior Week performance as well as  his electric college highlights, but also came with some valid  concerns. Chief among those concerns is his extensive history of  knee injuries. Regardless of the outside noise, for fantasy  managers the question remains – is Tyjae Spears a buy or a sell?  In this article, I’ll give you my thoughts to help answer this  question.  

 

 

REASON TO BUY

 

PPR Situation

There are a couple factors that play into this, but the most  important is a change in offensive philosophy for the Titans  coming into the 2023 season. During the last two seasons under  the play-calling of former OC Todd Downing, the Tennessee  offense became stale and predictable. For 2023, Former Houston  Texans OC Tim Kelly will be calling the shots. Kelly’s last two  years in Houston indicate that the Titans will be throwing the ball  much more this year, with both of his final seasons in Houston  finishing with almost 100 more passing attempts than the 2022 

Titans offense. Why does this matter for a running back? Because  Kelly’s offenses tend to target RBs at a higher rate than  Downing’s did. While Henry had his most successful statistical  receiving season in 2022, a large portion of his targets can be  attributed to Tennessee’s dire lack of receiving help (AJ Brown  traded to Philadelphia & Treylon Burks missing significant time).  Henry should revert to his meager target share in 2023, leaving  plenty of those RB targets on the table for Spears to take  advantage of. After struggling to find a reliable pass catching back  for a few seasons, Spears has a big opportunity to step into this  role and have success. 

 

Skill Set

All the opportunity in the world is meaningless if you can’t take  advantage of it, and Spears’ skill set puts him in prime position to  do just that. Draft day scouting reports note that he is an  “outstanding receiver who adjusts to the errant throw and gets  down to scoop up low passes” and that “he’s a willing pass  blocker who can square up to defenders”. These skills make it a  no brainer to get him on the field in 3rd down passing situations.  Spears is also an explosive athlete and great route runner,  evidenced by a Senior Week clip where he uses these traits to  shake a defender in an almost embarrassing way before making  the reception. He has all the makings of an absolute weapon with  the ball in space and, given the draft selection ahead of viable  WRs, it seems that is how the Titans want to use him.  

 

 

REASON TO SELL

 

Injury History

Dynasty leagues always have been, and always will be, a long  game. Therefore, it is never a great idea to be in the market for a 

player with an extensive injury history that could impact their  future playing ability. Spears suffered a brutal knee injury in 2020  where he tore his right ACL and damaged his meniscus. This was  

the same ACL that he previously tore in 2015 while playing high  school football. His combine medical report noted cartilage loss,  arthritis, and no remaining ACL in that knee, which lead to  speculation that Spears might not be able to be effective past his  first contract in the NFL. Spears has since stated that he is  healthy, and the Titans brass seems to agree. Still though, this  seems to be a concern for his long-term success in the league.  Unless your team is primed to contend for a championship in the  next couple of years, it might be worth testing the market to see  what you can get for him at the first signs of buzz during the  season. 

 

Size

With Derrick Henry back for another run with the Titans, no one  should expect Tyjae Spears to be handling the massive workload  of a 3 down back in 2023. Well, if he’s expected to have a  relatively short career in the NFL, can we count on him taking  over that role when Henry leaves the team possibly as soon as  next year? Sadly no, that shouldn’t be expected either. Spears  has a smaller frame than your prototypical workhorse RB. At 5’10”  and 201lbs, taking on a workload similar to the top backs like  Jonathan Taylor (226lbs) or Saquon Barkley (232lbs) and staying  healthy doesn’t seem like it is in the cards for Spears. His size is  also cause for some of his scouting negatives, namely his lack of  elite contact balance and his inability to run through direct contact  up the middle. Anyone who drafted Spears as Derrick Henry’s heir  apparent may be strongly disappointed in that expectation. 

 

Return

With Spears being taken in the backend of the 2nd round of most  rookie drafts, your team is likely in good shape for the upcoming  year. This is a bit of a tough spot, as a Henry injury could  immediately turn Spears into a must start RB for your contending  team. Henry, 29, is just 1 full season removed from a year-ending  foot injury and continues to get a significant number of touches,  so holding for that reason makes sense if you are able to do so.  However, if you’re looking to shop him, I think it makes sense to  look for a young WR with similar upside in players like Skyy  Moore, Marvin Mims, Rashod Bateman, or even a TE like Chig  Okonkwo who had a solid rookie season and should also benefit  from Tennessee going more pass heavy this season. If you are  sold on Spears taking on a big pass catching role + the possibility  of a Henry injury, then no one can blame you for staying put. But if  the negatives are concerning to you, I think the development of  one of those young pass catchers is a better bet to take.  

 

 

VERDICT

While Spears has a chance to shatter expectations in his first two  seasons, overall, I think the long-term risk is too great. There are  few things that are more frustrating to fantasy managers than their  high-end talent not being able to stay on the field and in their  lineups. WRs like the ones I mentioned above should all have  much better long-term value and will be much less of a headache  to roster. Again, unless you are going for gold in either of the next  two seasons, I simply don’t see a reason to pass on the right offer  for Tyjae Spears.  

 

SELL