The Titans needed an upgrade at the WR position badly and they did that on Monday by signing former Buccaneers receiver Adam Humphries to a four-year $36M contract. Humphries had a career year in 2018, catching 76 passes for 816 yards and five touchdowns.
Advanced statistics also speak favorably of him, as Humphries finished 28th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA statistic out of 84 qualifying receivers. Despite being behind guys like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin on the wide receiver depth chart, Humphries received the second most receiving snaps behind Evans, with 781 snaps in 2018 compared to Evans’ 940. 646 of Humphries’ snaps came in the slot while he received 92 snaps as a wideout (the rest came on plays focused on the tight end and running backs).
Giving a slot receiver like him $9M per season may not be the cheapest deal in the NFL, but considering the Titans missed out on new Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, I give Tennessee props for going out and getting the next best thing.
Impressively, the Titans now have two skill players who finished inside the top 25 for yards after the catch in the 2018 season, with Dion Lewis being the other guy. For more let’s take a look at this chart I created highlighting that specific stat, with data applied according to Fox Sports.
First, note that yards after the catch includes yards before the line of scrimmage (on plays such as bubble screens), so that’s why several guys have more yards after the catch than actual yards. Second, let’s just admire how George Kittle had more yards after the catch than Humphries had receiving yards. That’s special.
Anyway, Humphries’ ability to create yards after the catch (YAC) fits in with the identity the Titans had last year. Corey Davis certainly has ability as a vertical threat but is also a guy that approaches the ball nicely in regards to yards after the catch. Dion Lewis as mentioned is on this list at #17, and even guys like Jonnu Smith and Taywan Taylor created ample YAC when given the opportunity.
Via Rotowire, Humphries’ average of 5.8 yards after the catch was significantly above average in comparison to the rest of the league. In terms of where he was at his most productive, he was at his best in the left slot, where he caught 41 passes for 458 yards.
So Humphries’ game is definitely as a slot receiver. As a wideout in 2018, he only caught 12 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns (72 of those were YAC). So I don’t think the Titans should be satisfied with Humphries as a true #2 receiver and should go after a guy in the draft to fill that role. But Humphries is a quality slot receiver who’s defied the odds as an undrafted player, and Tennessee is getting an upgrade at the slot position. And that’s not to say he doesn’t deserve snaps outside, but he’s definitely comfortable inside.
For more, let’s look at a couple plays where Humphries is shown getting YAC.
Humphries isn’t the most athletic receiver in the league, but he’s an explosive target underneath, typically these kinds of routes include all sorts of YAC. As aforementioned, he was at his best in 2018 when aligned in the left slot, as that’s where most of his season’s production came from.
This is a simple bubble screen from Jameis Winston to Humphries, but his technical ability is displayed here. The safety is trailing in on him, but Humphries stops on a dime, and this creates a massive gap in the open field for him to run through. He collects the first down and a couple more yards.
Humphries’ ability as a route runner is also apparent, and as you may have already guessed, helps him create YAC. He has a clear understanding on how to run routes against zone coverage as shown on this play. His patience allows for a crease to break open and create a window for the quarterback to throw to. Humphries’ approach at the catch point allows him to quickly turn his hips so that he’s in great position for yards after the catch, helping him pick up a first down and a lot more.
In his last two seasons Adam Humphries has been a very consistent and reliable target for the Buccaneers, and his YAC ability is a big reason for that. He constantly moves the chains when given the ball and has been a reliable target on third downs. The latter is big for a Titans team that was already tied for 11th in 3rd down conversions according to ESPN (82).
Like I said, I’d go after a #2 receiver in the draft and allow Humphries to play in the slot, a role which he has shown to be really good in. His average depth of target was 6.1 yards, well below the average for DOT. And in an offense where the only consistent vertical receiver is Corey Davis, the Titans’ issues at WR aren’t finished quite yet.
For the moment, however, Adam Humphries’ ability to separate, consistently catch and create yards after the catch gives the Titans a clear upgrade in their receiving corps, one they desperately needed.