Entering the season many fantasy experts predicted Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was primed to have a break out year. However, over the first six games of the season that hasn’t happened.
Mariota left the week four game at Houston with a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the week five game at Miami. On the season Mariota is averaging 13.6 fantasy points per game but when you take out the game he missed, Mariota is averaging 16.3 fantasy points per game.
What does all this mean? Does Mariota break out this week against the Browns? The answer to that question is yes he does! The Browns rank 31st in the league against opposing quarterbacks, giving up an average of 20.5 fantasy points per game. In addition, the Browns have given up 23 plus fantasy point games to three opposing quarterbacks so far this season.
Over the first four games of the season Mariota averaged 29 rushing yards a game and had three rushing touchdowns. Mariota’s running ability gives his fantasy owners an extra 7.4 fantasy points per game over that four game span. However, against the Colts, Mariota gave fantasy owners zero points on the ground. The good news for fantasy owners is on Thursday, Mariota fully practiced for the first time since suffering the hamstring injury.
The full practice suggests that Mariota is 100% healthy, which is great for fantasy owners. Without Mariota’s running bonus he averaged just 9.4 fantasy points per game over the first four games of the season. With Mariota’s duel threat ability paired with the Titans run first identity, Mariota has top five upside for the rest of the season.
Aside from Mariota’s running ability, he should continue to improve as a passer this season. Mariota had his second best passing game of the season in week one with 256 passing yards when the Titans had all their passing weapons including rookie wide receiver Corey Davis; who had a season high 12.9 fantasy points. Davis has yet to play in a game since injuring his hamstring in week two and won’t return till after the team’s week eight bye.
Along with the return of Davis, Mariota has developed chemistry with Eric Decker over the past few weeks. During the past two games, Decker is averaging 5.5 catches for 61 yards and 11.6 fantasy points per game. As Mariota continues to develop chemistry with Decker and Davis, expect the Titans to open up the passing game more in the second half of the season against a softer schedule.
The toughest part of Mariota’s schedule is behind him. After this week against the Browns, Mariota gets his bye week then the rest of his regular season fantasy schedule is at home verse the Ravens, at home verse the Bengals, at the Steelers, at the Colts and home verse the Texans. Only the Ravens and the Steelers rank in the top five against opposing quarterbacks.
To go along with that, Mariota’s fantasy playoff schedule is one of the best this season. Week 14 at the Cardinals (rank 28th against opposing quarterbacks), week 15 at the 49ers (rank 26th), week 16 home verse the Rams (rank 15th) and week 17 home verse the Jaguars (rank first). If you play a week 17 championship game, Mariota had a decent 13 fantasy point game in week two against the Jaguars. Aside from the potentially ugly week 17 match up, Mariota faces two defenses in the bottom seven against opposing defenses during the fantasy playoffs.
Bottom line for Mariota is simple, now that he is healthy and will soon get back his prize rookie wide receiver, combined with an easy fantasy playoff schedule, now is his time! Fantasy owners who have Mariota should consider him a top end QB1 the rest of the season and those fantasy owners who need quarterback help, now is the time to try buying low before he has a big game this week verse the Browns.