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Deep Sleepers: Tight Ends

Footballguys staff members examine the tight end position for deep sleepers

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the top 160 players and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

Player with 5 Votes

Dustin Keller, Dolphins

Adam Harstad: A silky-smooth receiver with a pair of top-10 finishes, Keller joins a Miami squad desperate for offensive weapons, and should quickly become Tannehill's new security blanket.

Andy Hicks: Dustin Keller could see this year go either way, become a TE1 again or bust out of the league. Keller was another victim of an ordinary Jets season last year before injury put an end to his misery. Now with the Dolphins he has reason to be optimistic regarding his opportunities this year. At his current price he is well worth the considerable risk he presents and at his best would be a borderline starter.

Stephen Holloway: Dustin Keller's athleticism and play making ability was mostly squandered on the Jets. He did finish as TE9 in two seasons and had two others at TE14 and TE20, so he is capable as a move tight end. 2012 was totally dismal, with him playing in only 8 games and catching only 28 passes. Yet, his current ADP of TE21 represents the best value at the position, especially if you can get him that late. The Dolphins receiving options have been below average for a few years, but now they have Mike Wallace, a very solid complementary guy in Brian Hartline and a very good tight end in Keller. Miami will be a passing offense on the rise in 2013 and Keller could again threaten top ten tight end status.

Jeff Pasquino: Dustin Keller signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, where he will look to rejuvenate and revitalize his career in 2013. Keller will be part of a much better receiving corps in Miami, along with former Steeler Mike Wallace for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Keller is very incentivized to have a big year and play up to his Top 10 fantasy numbers from 2010 and 2011.

Jeff Tefertiller: Dustin Keller has the potential to be a low-end fantasy player at the tight end position. Tannehill is a huge upgrade over Sanchez and Keller still was productive in New York. He should be considered once the top eight tight ends are off the board.

Players with 4 Votes

Dwayne Allen, Colts

Sigmund Bloom: The Colts took Allen after Andrew Luck's college teammate Coby Fleener, but there's no doubt who the better player is after their rookie season. Allen's 45-521-3 stat line might look somewhat meager, but it is actually very impressive considering how steep the learning curve is at tight end in the NFL. His athleticism was surprising, showing that Allen can be both a red zone and downfield threat for Luck, and he should have an even bigger share of targets this year. Don't be surprised if he's a top ten tight end by midseason.

James Brimacombe: Andrew Luck wasn’t shy when trying to get the ball to the rookie tight end Dwayne Allen in 2012 as he targeted him 72 times for 45 receptions, 521 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Heading into his sophomore season Allen is set to improve even more on those numbers and makes for a nice sleeper pick at the position.

Stephen Holloway: Dwayne Allen was drafted by the Colts a year ago in the 3rd round, a full round after Coby Fleener, but Allen had a more successful rookie season with 45 catches for 521 yards (11.6 ypc) and 3 TDs. The Colts' new offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton has indicated that he wants to have both tight ends involved in the offense and I expect both guys to increase production in 2013, with Allen continuing to lead the way.

Matt Waldman: The Clemson tight end quietly had a good season as a rookie and I think he'll continue to show he's the best all-around player on the Colts depth chart. He reminds me of a young Alge Crumpler and I don't think Pep Hamilton's scheme will hurt the versatile second-year player's production. Allen lines up all over the formation and this presents mismatches in his favor as a receiver.

Jordan Cameron, Browns

Sigmund Bloom: New Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski played tight end and coached the position for a lot of his career, so it's no surprise that players like Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow, and Greg Olsen had very strong years with Chudzinski as one of their coaches. The Browns have not made any big acquisitions at the position this offseason, which leaves the basketball convert Cameron as the #1 entering the season. He has outstanding hands and above average athleticism for his size, so Cameron's sleeper status isn't just a matter of opportunity.

Heath Cummings: Cameron is a prime breakout candidate with two coaches that love to utilize their tight ends on an offense with possession receivers that have trouble catching the ball. He has better TE1 prospects than many of the tight ends being drafted much much earlier than him. His size and speed make him an excellent candidate to become Brandon Weeden's go-to-guy in the red zone.

Ryan Hester: Cameron will become the starting tight end in Cleveland this season. His skills suggest he's capable of being a “move” tight end and making plays in multiple parts of the field. His size (6'5” and 254 pounds) makes his a tough assignment for a safety, and his speed will make it difficult for linebackers to keep up. Cameron also has a pair of offensive gurus working to scheme for him. Head Coach Rob Chudzinski and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner both have histories of yielding great seasons for their tight ends. Under Chudzinski, Greg Olsen caught 69 passes for 843 yards last season. And Antonio Gates' history with Turner in San Diego can't be ignored either.

Mark Wimer: Jordan Cameron could be on the cusp of a breakout season. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner has had a lot of success in this league and his system has produced some outstanding tight ends (Jay Novacek and Antonio Gates among them). I'm definitely considering Cameron for my backup tight end slot on my fantasy teams this year - he could significantly outplay his draft position if he flourishes in Turner's offense.

Fred Davis, Redskins

Jeff Haseley: If Fred Davis' Achilles injury is behind him, he could be a big part of the Redskins offense that is devoid of a big playmaker after Pierre Garcon. His ADP is low because of the injury recovery concern, but if he is given the green light, his production could increase considerably.

Andy Hicks: Fred Davis is the kind of guy you like to draft late at Tight End. He has TE1 upside, without the price you need to pay. With Washington lacking quality depth at receiver, Davis was on track to become the 2nd leading target for Robert Griffin and on his way to being a borderline fantasy starter before injury struck. Long hyped, this could finally be the year that Davis puts it altogether and reaches his potential.

Stephen Holloway: Fred Davis had a career year in 2011 with 59 catches for 796 yards, but scored only 3 TDs in 12 games as the primary receiving weapon for the Redskins. Davis played reasonably well early last season and was on pace for 64 catches and 850 yards, but suffered an Achilles injury and missed the remainder of the season. Even though he was a free agent, he signed a one-year deal to return to the Redskins and will be playing 2013 for a pay day. According to team reports, he is doing well in his rehab and should be ready for the season.

Jeff Tefertiller: Fred Davis should be healthy soon and will resume his spot in the Redskins starting lineup. Davis is playing this season on a one-year deal and has something to prove. He makes a great upside pick late in drafts.

Tyler Eifert, Bengals

Andrew Garda: Jermaine Gresham has done OK, but clearly the Bengals envision more from the position. Aside from AJ Green, Any Dalton lacks for quality targets and Eifert has a tremendous amount of skill. He could carve out a huge role in this offense early this season.

Adam Harstad: Rookie tight ends historically struggle, and Eifert will be facing stiff competition at the position from Jermaine Gresham. Still, times are changing, and young tight ends have produced a number of good seasons recently. As Cincinnati makes greater use of two tight end sets, Eifert's natural talent gives him a great opportunity to dramatically outperform expectations, making him a great gamble as a late-round TE2 or TE3.

Jeff Haseley: It is very rare to see a rookie tight end excel, but I like the opportunity Tyler Eifert has with the Bengals new look offense. I foresee him being involved in the offense from day one and eventually phasing out Jermaine Gresham. Eifert has much better hands and is more fluid in his game. If he picks things up quickly, he could move into a Top 15 tight end, if not higher.

Mark Wimer: Rookie Tyler Eifert is a guy I'm watching closely - he was drafted to push the under-achieving Jermaine Gresham, and I think Eifert could wind up winning the starting job outright. He's worth a look as a flyer pick late in the draft especially if TE scoring is emphasized in your league.

Players with 2 Votes

Coby Fleener, Colts

Jeff Pasquino: The Indianapolis Colts are another team with young talent on offense that is developing together towards a great future. Similar to New England, the Colts use two tight ends quite often, a scheme QB Andrew Luck is very familiar with since using it at Stanford. Both Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen are big targets that can get open over the middle and in the Red Zone. While it may seem like Allen outperformed Fleener last year, Fleener missed four games - so both tight ends were comparable on a per-game basis. Head coach Chuck Pagano has also said that he expects Fleener's reception total to double in 2013, which makes him a great TE2 with upside this year.

Jason Wood: Fleener was overdrafted as a rookie because fantasy owners noted the connection between Fleener and QB Andrew Luck – college friends and roommates. Yet, they forgot two important considerations; one, rookie tight ends generally struggle, even the very best and two, Bruce Arians did not run the same kind of offense that allowed Fleener to flourish at Stanford. That's where the good news comes in, because Arians has been replaced by Pep Hamilton, who ran Stanford's offense. Head coach Chuck Pagano has already gone on record saying Fleener should easily double his reception total – which puts him in line for fringe TE1 numbers any way you slice it.

Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Heath Cummings: Kelce may not be the most talented tight end to come out of the 2013 draft, but no one else landed in a better position. His main competition for the starting role will be Tony Moeaki, who is questionable once again for the start of training camp. Kelce should win the job outright and then excel in Andy Reid's version of the west coast offense.

Matt Waldman: If there is a tight end that I would spend a late-round pick on I'd love to say Jared Cook, but I just don't trust Jeff Fisher's track record with promising, athletic hybrids at the position and Cook hasn't done enough to impress me. Cook is probably the smart investment, but when Andy Reid starts comparing the rookie Kelce to Jeremy Shockey, my ears perked up. Shockey's first-year production of 74 catches and 894 yards was second only to Mike Ditka among rookie performances in these two areas. I already had Kelce as my top rookie tight end in terms of long-term potential. If I'm taking a second tight end in a draft, Kelce will be that guy.

Players with 1 Vote

James Casey, Eagles

Jason Wood: In four seasons in Houston, James Casey caught 66 receptions for 752 yards and four touchdowns – the very definition of a part-time contributor. Yet, Eagles new head coach Chip Kelly targeted Casey in free agency and rewarded the H-back with a 3-year, $12mm contract. Kelly believes Casey has the skill set to play an “Aaron Hernandez” role in his offense, and yet Casey's ADP allows you to grab him very late. I love that risk/reward proposition.

Ladarius Green, Chargers

Chad Parsons: Antonio Gates has been a shell of his former self over the past two seasons. In addition, the San Diego offense frankly needs playmakers on the field any way they can get it. The entire wide receiver group is basically a who's who on the injured list and Green has the size and speed of a big receiver. Whether it is a continued decline by Gates or a continuation of the wide receiver injuries in San Diego, Green will find his way onto the field more than the 33 snaps from his rookie season. At a tight end position where there is little delineation between TE5 and TE20, Green is a true wildcard with as much potential as most of the tight ends that will be late round selections this season. He will be one to watch for an expanded opportunity during the season to snag off the waiver wire.