NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sixteen yards. That's how narrowly the Tennessee Titans fell short in 2020 from fielding their first pair of 1,000-yard receivers since Derrick Mason and Drew Bennett did it in 2004.
A.J. Brown (70 receptions, 1,075 yards, 11 touchdowns) is the last man standing from the Titans' starting receivers last season. Corey Davis (65/984/5) and Adam Humphries (23/228/2) have moved on to the New York Jets and Washington Football Team, respectively.
The Titans countered those losses by signing free agent Josh Reynolds from the Los Angeles Rams and trading up to select Louisville's Dez Fitzpatrick in the fourth round of the draft. Their other options at receiver include Cam Batson, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Marcus Johnson, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Cody Hollister, Fred Brown, and Kalija Lipscomb.
Tennessee appears confident in the group they have at the moment.
Losing an ascending player like Davis won't be easy to overcome, but Titans GM Jon Robinson likes the size that Reynolds brings at 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds, as well as his large catch radius. Reynolds' versatility will allow him to play as the X or Z receiver and in the slot -- it could be similar to what the Titans did with Davis in the past.
Reynolds could be primed to have a breakout in 2021 like Davis did last season with Ryan Tannehill as Tennessee's starting quarterback for the full season for the first time. Davis posted 43 receptions for 691 yards and two touchdowns in 2019 before setting career highs in receiving yards (984), touchdowns (5), and average yards per reception (15.4) in 2020.
Reynolds finished with 53 receptions for 618 yards and two touchdowns last season. He signed with the Titans in hopes of having a big season of his own.
"At this point of my career, I'm trying to create a name for myself," Reynolds said during his introductory news conference. "I think with Corey Davis leaving, I think I can go in and fit that role pretty good."
It's clear who the top two receivers are for the Titans, but the rest of the depth chart is a question mark. The biggest mystery is finding out who will replace Humphries. He was a quick, shifty slot receiver who could run choice routes and was a third-down specialist. There really aren't any players on the roster that have a similar skillset to Humphries, except for Mason Kinsey, who signed with the Titans last year as an undrafted free agent before being released.
Coach Mike Vrabel is confident in the options the team has.
"We feel like we have slots there. We've got guys that played in the slot for us and we'll keep working guys around and giving them opportunities," Vrabel said in his post-draft press conference.
At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Fitzpatrick has a sturdy enough frame to play the slot. He played the position early in his career at Louisville before being primarily an outside receiver in his final two seasons.
NFL teams were thinking that, too. Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy said scouts requested Fitzpatrick take reps in the slot during practices. Former NFL receiver Reidel Anthony trained Fitzpatrick in Tampa, Florida, before the draft, and he sees Fitzpatrick's initial contribution with the Titans coming from the slot.
"He's a young man that is going to pick up the playbook and know what everybody does.," Anthony said. "It seems like the offense they run up there has a lot of sight adjustments. You have to be on your P's and Q's and recognize if you're hot or not, especially on third downs.
"Dez is smart and able to recognize fast enough to get open. He also has the patience not to rush his routes, just let it go to his breaking point then get in and out of his break. That will help him a lot as a slot at the next level."
The Titans can use Fitzpatrick in a similar role to how the New Orleans Saints use Michael Thomas. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Thomas ran 38 slant or drag routes as a slot receiver over the past two seasons, which is more than any other route when lining up inside.
Thomas is obviously the better player, but stylistically, the Titans can have Fitzpatrick run a lot of slants from the slot and use his big body to shield defenders from the ball.
"He's good in traffic catching the football," Robinson said of Fitzpatrick.
The Titans ask their receivers to do more than just catch the ball. Willingness to block is another attribute the Titans emphasize because of how much they utilize Derrick Henry and the rushing attack. Robinson was also quick to compliment Fitzpatrick's approach to blocking.
"I love his toughness. I love his tenacity as a blocker," Robinson said of Fitzpatrick. "That's part of our identity is to go in there and block for whoever we hand the ball to. Much like when we asked the running backs to block in pass protection, when they are trying to get open and catch a football."