2011 Breakout Players - TEs
By FBG Staff
August 24th, 2011

Every season, there are players that perform above expectations. Some of them far exceed their draft position, and those are the players the propel good fantasy teams into championship seasons. We asked the Footballguys.com staff to pick their 2011 Breakout Players, and here are their tight ends:

Sigmund Bloom

Greg Olsen, Car - Sometimes we can forget what a player is capable of when they are stuck in a scheme that doesn't utilize their talents. Olsen has been shackled in the Mike Martz system that sees the tight end mainly as a blocker, but he was freed by a trade to Carolina Panthers. Olsen had a third year that portended big things in his future back in 2009 with 60 catches and eight touchdowns. He's only 26 and square in his prime. His offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, is a former U of Miami TE himself, and he oversaw Kellen Winslow's career year in Cleveland. The Panthers have no proven #2 wide receiver to speak of, but they do have Steve Smith to stretch defenses and open up the middle of the field for Olsen. Career highs across the board are in the cards for Olsen this year, the only question is how high he'll set those marks.

Jene Bramel

Owen Daniels, Hou - Daniels doesn't have the fantasy sex appeal of Jermichael Finley or Jimmy Graham or Aaron Hernandez. What he has is a track record of success with Matt Schaub (average of 97 targets, 67 catches and 800 yards in 2007 and 2008, and 37 targets, 22 catches, 271 yards during the last four games of 2010) and a chance to again be the main secondary option on a strong passing offense. He may not have the 100 catch upside of Dallas Clark, the explosiveness of Vernon Davis or the all-around stud appeal of Antonio Gates, but a healthy Daniels may still be a top three tight end.

Andrew Garda

Greg Olsen, Car - Olsen started out hot in Chicago but with the arrival of Mike Martz, found himself used as a glorified blocker. Eventually he was sent to Carolina and has been paired with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski a guy who did wonders for a little known tight end named Antonio Gates in San Diego. While he will split time with Jeremy Shockey, the younger Olsen is likely to see the field more often if just for the fact that we know Shockey will be hurt for at least part of the season. Beyond that, he's already looked like the better tight end in the first two preseason games. With Cam Newton the likely starter and no other real option in the pass game beyond Steve Smith, you can expect Olsen to see ample targets. That you can get him late in your drafts is icing on the cake-he'll end up as a very good tight end option which you can pick up long after people have reached early for tight ends of middling value. Expect Olsen to start to look like the dynamic tight end we saw for a pair of seasons in Chicago.

Jeff Haseley

Lance Kendricks, StL - I've stated before that Sam Bradford's passing style and Josh McDaniel's offensive strategies are a great match with one another. Bradford is one who uses all areas of the field, but he tends to gravitate to higher percentage pass attempts, which favors receivers who run more short to intermediate ranged routes. That's a big reason why Mark Clayton and Danny Amendola found success last year. Both were comfortable going over the middle and were for the most part non-deep threats. Bradford's favorite target at Oklahoma was his TE Jermaine Gresham. The draft selection of Lance Kendricks gives Bradford his go-to comfort guy. The news from camp and preseason has Kendricks looking like he will be a big part of the Rams offense. I am not one to condone rookie TEs on fantasy teams, but Kendricks is an exception. I believe he will come in and be a threat from the beginning. He could wind up with 50-60 catches and 5-6 TDs as a rookie.

Ryan Hester

Aaron Hernandez, NE - Currently being drafted lower than 16 other tight ends, Hernandez appears to have very low expectations. As part of the high-octane New England offense, however, he has significant upside. Even though the Patriots utilize two tight ends, Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have very different skill sets. Hernandez is able to be used in the slot more and be a hybrid wide receiver while Gronkowski is being used as a more traditional tight end. Both of these players can be effective while being on the field at the same time. There's no reason why the Patriots can't have two top-10 fantasy tight ends this season - which would make Hernandez a player who will have far exceeded expectations.

Stephen Holloway

Jermaine Gresham, Cin - Jermaine Gresham played very well in his rookie campaign after being the Bengals' first round selection last year. He caught 52 passes on 81 targets (64%) and finished as TE #21. Gresham was the 12th most targeted TE in 2010, even while missing one game. Despite his rookie success, he is being mostly ignored this season because of the low expectations for the Bengals. However, the team dumped their top two receiving targets from last year, leaving Gresham as the most targeted returning receiver. They will likely be starting a rookie QB, Andy Dalton. Starting a rookie QB is usually not a smart choice for a bad team and is one of the reasons for the Bengals' poor outlook. Dalton's strengths of accuracy and escapability match up well with common rookie tendencies to focus on the TE. Gresham is a talented TE that will get open and give him a release option. The Bengals also added A.J. Green, who is definitely talented enough to provide an outside threat that will help open up the middle for Gresham. Jermaine Gresham has a perfect storm of conditions to break-out at TE. He can provide top ten performance for the price of TE #20.

Dave Larkin

Greg Olsen, Car - It is fairly obvious now to even the staunchest supporters of Jimmy Clausen that Cam Newton will be the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers this season. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is a former tight end and helped coach tight ends Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates to Pro Bowl seasons in Cleveland and San Diego respectively. The Panthers' acquisition of Greg Olsen was planned all along. The tight end will be a significant part of this offense. Olsen has been impressing coaches in camp and has already shown off his soft hands and route running ability in the first two preseason contests. Newton will rely heavily on Olsen, and a breakout-type season could be on the cards for the former Hurricane. Olsen's box score numbers will be like night and day compared to his Chicago days under Mike Martz.

Jeff Pasquino

Jared Cook, Ten - Quick - name three wide receivers in Tennessee. Time is up, pencils down. After Kenny Britt there is not much else, and Chris Johnson is not going to be catching a ton of passes from Matt Hasselbeck this year. Jared Cook has been teetering on the edge of breaking out at tight end for the Titans for well over a year, and now that Bo Scaife is gone and meager WR2 options are in house (Nate Washington, Damian Williams) it is Cook who will have a good chance at 100+ targets this year. Hasselbeck is smart enough as a savvy veteran to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, and Cook has the makings of a potential stud for years to come at tight end. I expect Cook to lead the Titans in receptions and offer mid-range TE1 fantasy value this season.

Jeff Tefertiller

Jacob Tamme, Ind - Tamme took full advantage of the situation after Dallas Clark was injured last year. After stepping into the starting lineup, the athletic Tamme was the third best fantasy player at his position for the remainder of the year. Clark is an injury waiting to happen once again. Tamme is a player who may jump into the lineup and not relinquish the starting gig again. He is very athletic and makes big plays after the catch. Tamme is a player who goes relatively undrafted except in the deepest of leagues and could be elite for fantasy owners.

Matt Waldman

Aaron Hernandez, NE - It's not like I haven't been the fool before, but when I examine my take on Hernandez and the take of the rest of the Footballguys staff I am on the opposite side of most of them. Hernandez is my No. 7 tight end. The rest of the crew has him as the No. 18 player at the position. Hernandez is a game-changer schematically for the Patriots. It's not every day that you have a tight end that can beat linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks. Hernandez can. He might not be a great run blocker, but they don't need him to be. Rob Gronkowski, Alge Crumpler, Lee Smith, Will Yeatman and the myriad of tight ends the Patriots like to collect and handle. Hernandez is that player Tom Brady can move to the line, the slot, the backfield, or out wide to create mismatches that they can't do with any other player on this team. Wes Welker can do two of those things. Danny Woodhead can do two. Gronkowski can do maybe three. I might fall flat on my face with this one, but I think everyone else is entirely too cautious about Hernandez this year.

Jason Wood

Jared Cook, Ten - Cook came into the league as one of the best athletes at his position, but hadn't gotten on the field much because he needed to become a more complete player. Cook wasn't a committed blocker, and he had a reputation for not focusing on the nuances of the playbook. Last year, a light switch went on and Cook went from a rarely used specialty option in the first few months to the Titans' top intermediate option by the final month of the regular season. As long as he has no lapses, Cook will be on the field for a majority of Tennessee's snaps, and with Kenny Britt banged up and possibly suspended, Cook will HAVE to be a playmaker for Matt Hasselbeck and/or Jake Locker.

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