Breakout Tight Ends
By FBG Staff
August 17th, 2010

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 2010 Breakout Players, and here are their tight ends:

Jene Bramel

Aaron Hernandez, NE - I think the second and third tiers at the tight end position are pretty clear this season. Unless Zach Miller becomes a favorite target of Jason Campbell in the red zone, I don't see any surprises cracking the consensus top seven tight ends, so I think the breakout player probably comes from outside the top 10-12 tight ends. Rookie tight ends are usually poor bets as breakout players since so few are NFL ready in-line blockers and receivers, but Hernandez won't be asked to fill a traditional tight end role. Although Brandon Tate and Wes Welker might be ready to assume positions as Tom Brady's second and third receiving options, there are indications that Hernandez could be used often enough to approach 50 or more catches. Enough of those will come in the red zone that 600 yards and 4-6 scores and a top 12 tight end finish are possible for him.

David Dodds

Daniel Fells, StL - Who? Just the guy who is going to be a PPR machine this year. St. Louis has a ridiculously easy schedule this year. As teams throw everything they have at stopping RB Steven Jackson, look for Fells to squirt out and make the most of his catching sessions with rookie Sam Bradford. Someone has to catch some passes in this offense and my early bet is Fells gets substantially more targets than people are expecting.

Clayton Gray

Zach Miller, Jac - Yes - the other Zach Miller. While I love the Oakland version to join the ranks of the truly elite tight ends, the one in Jacksonville will have the real breakout season. While Marcedes Lewis is the starting tight end, Miller has the type of athletic, pass-catching ability that Lewis dreams about. With such a collectively poor WR corps, the Jaguars will utilize Miller often in their passing game. A quarterback in college, Miller was moved to tight end as a rookie in 2009, and his development was slowed by a preseason knee injury. Despite the setback, he played 14 games and turned in 212 yards and a pair of scores on 21 receptions. With another offseason under his belt, Miller will build on those numbers and enter 2011 as a hot up-and-comer.

Jeff Haseley

Fred Davis, WAS - I'm hedging my bet with Davis, because I also predicted Santana Moss to be a breakout WR this year. Like I said with Moss, someone is going to be a big producer out of the Redskins receiving corps this year and that includes TEs. I like Fred Davis over Chris Cooley, because I think Davis will be more of a threat over the middle, where the big yards are gained. I also see him being a consistent, reliable target in the red zone. It's very possible that both Cooley and Davis will find success this year, but I would be shocked if HC Mike Shanahan didn't feed Davis the ball more, due to the huge mismatch he creates with opposing linebackers and safeties. It's already a given that McNabb likes to utilize the TE as he moves the ball down the field. The dual threat of Cooley and Davis will add to more options that the defense must defend against. Who is going to benefit? The player with the greater athletic ability and better health - and that's Davis. Both he and Chris Cooley are on the outside of the Top 10, but one, I think Davis, is who will vault into the Top 10, if not Top 6 at season's end.

Jeff Pasquino

Zach Miller, Oak - Miller was very quietly a productive tight end last year for the Raiders with 66 catches and 805 yards receiving in 2009 for a woeful Oakland Raider passing offense. Miller finished as TE12 in the FBG scoring system, a ranking that was held back solely because he only scored three touchdowns all season. Only one other tight end that finished in the Top 17 tight ends struggled that much (Jason Witten, two TDs) last season and the Raiders have already gone on record as saying that they will target Miller much more in the Red Zone this season. Expect new quarterback Jason Campbell to look over the middle quite often at his big tight end in all areas of the field as Miller puts up at least comparable receptions and yardage totals as 2009 but scores at least six times this year.

Chris Smith

John Carlson, Sea - Carlson is a very talented player and is ready to make the leap from good fantasy performer to great one. He will get plenty of targets in 2010 and should emerge as a real threat for the Seahawks.

Jeff Tefertiller

John Carlson, Sea - John Carlson had to stay in to block more last season than as a rookie. He could really surprise in 2010 with a new coaching staff in Seattle. For a player with TE7 and TE11 finishes in his two professional seasons, it is surprising to see him drafted as TE14 off the board. The Seahawks have upgraded the offensive line this offseason so the big tight end will be able to go out in pass patterns often. Also helping his cause is the dearth of wide receivers in Seattle. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will depend on Carlson for the clutch reception. He is severely undervalued and could break into the Top 5 at his position this year.

Matt Waldman

Aaron Hernandez, NE - There are far safer bets at tight end to list as breakout candidates, but I think Hernandez is a rare talent in the right. He won't be relied upon to block because the Patriots have Alge Crumpler and Rob Gronkowski for that purpose. Wes Welker still has that final 10-15 percent to heal and I think his looks will be limited. It means Hernandez and Brandon Tate should get a lot of opportunities opposite Randy Moss. And Hernandez's versatility line up as a tight end or receiver makes him a more flexible and potent weapon on a team that I think will throw the ball from multiple tight end sets. Hernandez has terrific balance and change of direction as a runner. Combined with his reliable hands, Hernandez could take his "Percy Harvin role" in Florida's offense last year and do the same for New England in 2010.

Jason Wood

Jermichael Finley, GB - I really like what I saw from Fred Davis last year, and think he'll be on the field a lot in Washington regardless of Cooley's health. But I have to stick with Jermichael Finley in this category because I have him ranked TE3 ahead of the likes of Vernon Davis and Jason Witten. Finley is just a beast physically and was virtually unstoppable once Aaron Rodgers and the coaches started trusting him late in the year. I could see Finley leading the Packers in receptions and TDs this year, and there's no better definition of Breakout Player than someone who can finish #1 at their position if things fall right.

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