AFC South Secret Stars: Tennessee Titans' Nate Washington Gets Overlooked

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 1, 2012

Washington has his eyes on the prize.
Washington has his eyes on the prize.Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

Our march through the most underrated players in the AFC South continues with Nate Washington of the Tennessee Titans.

For all the headlines generated by Titans' wideouts in recent weeks, it's easy to forget that the only receiver on the roster with a 1,000-yard season is Washington.

It's easy to talk about the polarizing talent of Kenny Britt and to get breathless over the explosive ability of Kendall Wright, but Washington is the one who helped the Titans to nine wins in 2011.

Washington had a breakout year last year, posting career highs in yards, catches and touchdowns, but the minute Wright was drafted, Titans expert Tom Gower immediately questioned if Washington even had a place on the 2012 team. Tom later thought better of it, but it crystallizes just how Washington is viewed.

Washington has never been anything more than a serviceable wideout until last season. His advanced metrics and scouting grades have always been mediocre. That makes it easy to dismiss last year as "one good season," but perhaps it's better to think of it as a stepping-stone.

The Titans offense is in flux, and I believe Washington's recent success is more the result of improvements in the passing game than just random statistical noise. This is a team that is built to throw the ball, and with Britt likely sidelined for at least a few games, it's Washington that will once again pick up the slack and get the targets.

With the Titans' announcement that they signed Wright and that he'll be in Nashville by Wednesday, all the attention will once again be focused on someone else. Meanwhile, it's Washington that has been in camp getting the reps and prepping for the season.

His teammates can sit atop the sports pages all year long, but come January, Washington will be sitting atop the stat sheet after leading the Titans in catches and yards once again.