Introduction • QB • RB • WR • TE
Deep sleeper TEs
Read the introduction to this series
if you haven't yet.
- Rudolph has been a little banged up this preseason, but he has also established possibly the best connection with starting quarterback Christian Ponder
of any Vikings passcatcher. He's also as healthy has he been for two years after a serious hamstring injury in 2010. Rudolph could become a red zone force on a team without an established big receiver, and threaten to lead the team in receptions. He's an easy late pick, even if you already own a quality tight end.
- Rudolph has the body and the opportunity to make great things happen this season. The Vikings also went out and picked up John Carlson
but not surprisingly he's spent a majority of camp injured. Even if he comes back, the Vikings have designs on running a lot of two tight end sets. Rudolph could be a steal in leagues that offer 1.5 ppr for tight ends.
- The Vikings have three main offensive weapons who will share the majority of the team's targets. Percy Harvin
, Jerome Simpson
and second year tight end Kyle Rudolph. Simpson will be suspended for the first three games, thus giving Rudolph a chance to make due on the opportunity to be a key contributor right from the start. Rudolph could very easily be among the Top 10 tight ends by season's end.
- Kyle Rudolph didn't light the world on fire as a rookie (26 receptions for 249 yards and 3 TDs), but he shouldn't be a forgotten man. It's not unusual for tight ends to take a season or two before emerging as a dominant force, and Rudolph's rookie productivity screens well against the rookie seasons of most of the league's current star tight ends. He's strong, fast and has good hands. And he's a good enough blocker to stay on the field in all downs and distances. Don't be surprised if Rudolph flirts with 50 receptions and half dozen TDs this year -- which makes him a viable TE2, at worst.
- Aside from Brandon LaFell
, the Panthers main down field weapon after Steve Smith
is Greg Olsen. Olsen benefits from not having Jeremy Shockey
on the team this year and could wind up with 50+ receptions as a result. Olsen is a big target for Cam Newton
, who should see plenty of looks, especially in the red zone.
- Last year was Olsen's first in Carolina and he was fairly productive catching 45 passes for 540 yards and 5 TDs. His targets at the tight end position were shared with Jeremy Shockey
, who is no longer on the team. Shockey had 37 catches for 455 yards and 4 TDs. I am not anticipating that all of Shockey's targets will go to Olsen, but if his targets increase even 30%, he can have a career season. His previous season highs are 60 catches for 612 yards and 8 TDs and he finished as TE10, three seasons back in 2009.
- It wasn't that long ago when 45 receptions for 540 yards and 5 TDs would be enough to rank as a top 10 fantasy tight end. But the position has evolved into a focal point of the passing game, and thus Greg Olsen's 2011 numbers ranked him as the 18th best tight end. That said, Olsen is capable of much more and Cam Newton
continues to need reliable targets beyond Steve Smith
. Olsen could easily finish in the top 10 with just one or two more touchdown grabs, and his coaches have promised an increased role.
- Carlson looked like a rising star while with Seattle, but he was unable to play during 2011 due to a troublesome shoulder injury. If Carlson's five-year, $25 million deal from the Vikings is any indication, they expect him to get back to top form for Minnesota. If Carlson jells with Christian Ponder
, he could be a huge steal late in fantasy drafts. We'll see how quickly he can get back in the mix - he's nursing a sore knee right now.
- Casey is a swing for the fences, because he might qualify as a running back in many leagues and the Texans could decide to use him mostly as a fullback. However, the promise from Gary Kubiak is that Casey will be moved all over the field. If that's the case, you only have to look to his huge performance against the Saints last year to see how productive he can be for fantasy owners. Casey has the speed to run with safeties and outside linebackers, the hands and athleticism to adjust to the football like a receiver, and the strength to break tackles in the open field. He's as close to Aaron Hernandez
as any player you're going to find in the NFL. Hopefully the Texans figure that out.
- Touchdowns were Chandler's calling card last year, but he could do a lot more outside of the red zone this year. He has been one of the MVPs of training camp according to some reports, and he is the starting tight end on a team that has no clear cut number two receiver. With the wide open nature of Chan Gailey's offense and Chandler being more established than any Bills receiver not named Stevie Johnson, Chandler could be in for a big breakout season.
- It wasn't that long ago that the 33-year old tight end was among the best receivers in football. So far, he looks healthy and he has impressed everyone that sees him in training camp. I think he was an upgrade to Kellen Winslow
and based on the fact that the Buccaneers shipped Winslow to Seattle is some confirmation of that view. Clark is more skilled at stretching the field than Winslow and I expect Freeman to develop a great rapport with the veteran tight end, who was Peyton Manning
's go-to guy. In this fantasy football year where the masses of owners are catching up to the value of certain tight ends, I think Clark is getting lost in the gold rush and a savvy owner will take a chance on him over many of these unproven players likely to under-perform.
- Chicago likes what they saw in Kellen Davis down the stretch last year and the coaching staff is going to be using him as a key part of the passing attack going forward. Brandon Marshall
and Jay Cutler
will stretch the field, opening up the middle and shorter routes for a big tight end. Davis is a nice sleeper for 2012 and has upside beyond just this year.
- Ed Dickson is the lead tight end in the Ravens' two-tight-end sets (Dennis Pitta
is the junior partner at tight end). Dickson saw a big leap in production during his second NFL season, finishing with 97 targets for 54/528/5. If he can continue to improve, Dickson could surprise a lot of fantasy owners this year. Dennis Pitta
has missed almost all of training camp due to a broken hand - Dickson is the solid #1 TE for Baltimore entering regular season.
- Sam Bradford
and the Rams are still a work in progress, a good description for his top tight end. Kendricks struggled a great deal last year (28 catches, zero touchdowns) despite a lot of hype entering the 2011 campaign. The good news is that he will be the starter again and the odds are against another zero touchdown season. Kendricks has been featured a great deal in the preseason and offers a lot of upside as late pick.
- Heath Miller plays on an explosive passing attack, and he's a savvy veteran. He's disappointed with just two touchdown receptions in each of the last two years, but Miller could easily rebound into the top ten at his position with a few more scoring grabs/another 100 yards receiving. He's worth a roll of the dice late in your fantasy drafts as a tight end #2 with upside.