Player Faceoff: Martellus Bennett, Green Bay

Two staffers go head-to-head and discuss Martellus Bennett

The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.

High Side: Phil Alexander

What's not to like about Bennett joining Aaron Rodgers and a perennial top-5 scoring offense in Green Bay?

I suppose the argument against Bennett is the lack of successful Packers tight ends in the Rodgers era, but look at what they've been trotting out the past few years. Andrew Quarless? Richard Rodgers? No one's confusing these guys with Bennett or even Jermichael Finley, who posted the last top-5 tight end finish for a Packer back in 2011.

Since he secured his first starting role with the Giants back in 2012, only six tight ends have scored more cumulative fantasy points than Bennett. The only time Bennett has ranked outside of the top-10 fantasy tight ends since 2013, was in 2015 when he was limited to 11 games due to injury.

Jared Cook provides a recent reminder of what a seam stretching tight end can accomplish in Green Bay's offense. Cook wasn't healthy for most of 2016, but had a huge impact in the playoffs, combining for 8 catches, 230 yards, and 2 touchdowns in the Packers' three playoff games. Bennett is unquestionably an upgrade on Cook, which puts him in position for a career year.

Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Eifert. That's the entire list of tight ends with more fantasy upside than Bennett now that he's a Packer. Not only will Bennett be running free down the seam while defenses focus on Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb, but he's a weapon in the red zone, where only Drew Bress has more pass attempts than Rodgers since 2008.

When your choices are between Bennett, Delanie Walker (increased competition for targets) and even Eifert (can't stay on the field), the choice should be easy. Draft Bennett -- the reliable (and fun) option in the better offense.

Low Side: Jason Wood

By any objective measure, Martellus Bennett is a better football player than Jared Cook. Bennett’s career catch rate (68%) exceeds Cook’s (58%) by a country mile, he’s bigger (6’6”, 259 pounds vs. 6’6”, 247 pounds), stronger, a better blocker, and has been more productive in the red zone. In real football terms, Bennett will be an upgrade over Cook for the Packers. The question is not whether Bennett is a good player, the question is whether he’s going to meet lofty fantasy expectations.

At his current ADP, Bennett is being drafted ahead of Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, and Jack Doyle. That’s where the mistake occurs. Ertz is guaranteed a massive target share in Philadelphia. He’s, at worst, the #2 target behind Alshon Jeffery. Henry has TE1 upside on a pass-happy offense with a quarterback known for favoring his tight ends. Doyle no longer has to contend with Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis and will be the top red zone threat for a pass-heavy attack.

The issue with Bennett is a lack of upside. If things go well, he can expect five targets per game. At his career catch rate, that equates to approximately 55-60 receptions over a 16-game season. Aaron Rodgers has spent his career putting up MVP numbers without a reliable tight end. I’m sure Bennett will be a welcome addition, but this is a team with a deep receiving corps and receivers that are adept in the open field as receivers. Let’s also not forget the Packers signed Lance Kendricks, too. Kendricks had 50 receptions a season ago, in his own right.

Bennett is going to have great weeks. He’s also going to have goose eggs. It will all come down to game script. When the season stats are tallied, is it possible Bennett will rate as one of the top eight to ten fantasy tight ends? Absolutely. Is there a chance he ranks higher? Probably not. Do yourself a favor and grab Henry or Ertz, or even Doyle a round or two later.

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