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Faceoff: TE Most Helped By Free Agency

August 12th

Clayton Gray: Is there a tight end whose fantasy prospects were really helped by free agency? If so, expound on what happened and how it increases his 2011 outlook.

Jeff Tefertiller: Travis Beckum is now thrust into fantasy viability with Kevin Boss signing with the Oakland Raiders. Beckum is very athletic and made plays after the catch in college at Wisconsin. He could burst onto the scene in fantasy leagues.

Ryan Hester: Zach Miller's loss may be Kevin Boss' gain. Boss was the target on 69 out of the 100 passes thrown to Giants tight ends in 2010. He is moving to the Raiders who targeted tight ends 150 times, with 91 of them going to Zach Miller. The Raiders may have improved WR play this year, but Boss should still get more opportunity than last year.

Jeff Haseley: A big winner has to be Greg Olsen landing with the Panthers offense designed by Rob Chudzinski, who loves to utilize the TE. Kellen Winslow Jr. and Antonio Gates can vouch for Chud's ability to use the TE. Both Jeremy Shockey and Olsen found good landing spots in Carolina. Their past experience with Chudzinski at the University of Miami will definitely help in picking up the plays and being a focal point in the team's new offensive strategy. Olsen was able to find some success in Chicago, finishing in the Top 10 twice, however he was not able to flourish and reach his full potential in Mike Martz's offense. Finding a home with Carolina, a team that finished last in offense last year, seems a bit uninspiring, however the team is expected to lean on his services heavily, which could catapult him into Top 12 production by seasons end.

Jason Wood: Jeff hit the nail on the head. Not only did Olsen leave a team that wasn't using him, but he goes to a team where the rookie QB needs a security blanket, and whose OC has a long history of developing STELLAR tight ends.

Todd Heap also benefits. While he was targeted a fair amount in Baltimore, the Cardinals have been desperate for a tight end for years, and now have one. Remember that Kevin Kolb looked Brent Celek's way in Philadelphia, to the tune of multiple 100-yard games. Heap may be the 2nd most targeted receiver (behind Larry Fitzgerald) in Arizona.

Marcedes Lewis is also a winner. The Jaguars let Mike Sims-Walker go, and added absolutely nothing in the WR corps to take away targets from Lewis. He also signed a massive new contract so the team could free up cap space taken up by his franchise designation.

Matt Waldman: Olsen, Lewis and Heap obviously won, and Haseley and Wood cover it well enough. I also like Tefertiller's mention of Travis Beckum.

Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph are winners because they get a QB in Donovan McNabb who spreads the ball around and should target them more effectively than Tarvaris Jackson.

Jimmy Graham wins because Mark Ingram is such a strong power runner that Graham is going to have an easier time getting off the line in the play action game. Look for deep seams to be more open for Graham this year.

Kellen Davis could be a winner this year. Not for fantasy owners as an every down starter, but as a red zone option of choice. Big kid. Sound blocker. Good hands. Better than anticipated speed. Cutler likes him in the red zone.

Greg Russell: Todd Heap always presents an injury risk with his spotty history of bumps and bruises, but the fit in Arizona with Kevin Kolb seems to be ideal for both. Kolb relied on Brent Celek in Philadelphia quite often and his relationship with Heap should be similar. The Cardinals have weapons on the outside to take attention away from Heap as well. Clearly Ken Whisenhunt, with the addition of Heap, Jeff King and Rob Housler, wants to emphasise the tight end position in this offense.

Greg Olsen knew nothing about the trade to Carolina when it was being negotiated, but I think he will look back and thank Drew Rosenhaus in a few years. He is reunited with his former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, who will utilise him all over the field to create mismatches just as Chudzinski did in San Diego with Antonio Gates and in Cleveland with Kellen Winslow. Cam Newton will need a safe pair of hands to rely on in tough spots; Olsen can be that for the Panthers offense.

Sigmund Bloom: Agree 100% with Olsen, Beckum, and Boss as guys moving up my board in the wake of free agency. A few other names to add to the list:

Ed Dickson/Dennis Pitta, BAL - Neither guy will be likely to have more than bye week/injury emergency value in redraft leagues, but both will get a chance to show that they can be the long term starting TE for Baltimore, or at least a part of the passing offense for the foreseeable future.

I also feel the need to point out that although it didn't happen in the recent free agency period, Owen Daniels was signed to a long-term deal by Houston just before the lockout in a big show of confidence. He's a potential top five TE you can get outside of the top five drafted in almost every league.

Mark Wimer: Olsen, Beckum and Boss are guys who have big opportunities in front of them, no doubt.

I have to disagree with Bloom about Ed Dickson - I like him as a high-upside pick who may put up starting TE numbers if he can seize that job in Baltimore. He had 23 targets for 11/152/1 receiving last year as Heap's understudy, while Pitta had just five targets for a single reception last year. The Ravens have been a team that utilizes the tight end extensively, and with a very young and very thin wide receiving corps (Anquan Boldin is the only veteran talent of note, and even if the team does bring in Jerricho Cotchery or some other free agent, there will still be just two vet guys at WR) I don't think that the TE role changes this year. Heap enjoyed 60+ targets per year since Flacco's arrival, with a top season of 75 targets for 53/593/6 during 2009 - those are numbers that would likely be on the cusp of the top 12 TEs during 2011. If Dickson has to share the targets with Pitta, then both are likely to be emergency fill-in type guys. But if Dickson pushes Pitta into the backup/special-teams-specialist role, then Dickson would have big value compared to his current consensus ranking of 31st.

Dickson is a guy I'll watch closely during preseason - he may move up my board significantly.

Jeff Pasquino: The big movers in free agency have already been mentioned - Olsen to Carolina, Boss to Oakland, Zach Miller to Seattle - so I'll add more to the other tight ends.

Dennis Pitta will be the guy to have in Baltimore as a receiver, not Ed Dickson. Dickson is more of the blocker and he's also been ailing in training camp. Look for Pitta to start the first preseason game and the positional battle could be over after the first preseason game.

Completely disagree with Bloom on Heath Miller, as I've heard that Pittsburgh is using him more this year as a blocker - and even a fullback - than as a receiver. The Steelers will go more 11 personnel with Wallace, Ward and Sanders on the field with Hiller either helping to block or even in the backfield to help Mendenhall. Big Ben gets hit a ton already, and the Steelers' offensive line is not strong with Max Starks gone and a very weak option at LT (Jonathan Scott). Miller won't be running routes often this season.

I will agree on Todd Heap, as Kevin Kolb loves to hit the tight end when he's under center. He targeted Brent Celek often in Philadelphia, and Heap should see solid targets in Arizona as the Cardinals are still developing their WR2 (between Early Doucet and Andre Roberts). Speaking of Celek, he may also see better production as the Eagles have bolstered their offensive line and could send him out for passes more often this year, especially in the Red Zone.

Sigmund Bloom: The Steelers offensive line has been weak at OT for a long time now. That didn't hold Miller back in 09, and I don't see why it will this year. The Steelers will carry multiple TEs and the guys behind Miller will be there for their blocking so Miller can be moved around the formation and run routes. I won't be drafting Miller as my #1 TE, but people should be open to him returning to 2009 levels because of the uncertainty at WR right now.