Spotlight: Brent Celek

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 8th


Jason Wood's thoughts

You would think I would have seen this coming. Brent Celek is, after all, a member of my favorite team. A team I have season tickets for and watch every snap of their season. Yet, nothing prepared me for what Brent Celek did last year.

Heading into the 2009 season, I wondered if Celek was just a short-term placeholder at the TE position. The Eagles drafted him in the 5th round of the 2007 draft out of Cincinnati and the scouting report on him didn't hint at greatness. He was considered a smart player with good hands, who was a willing but less-than-dominant blocker. Celek had good size (6'4", 261 lbs.) but wasn't considered particularly athletic. The thought was that he might develop into a decent move-the-chains type but would never be someone that would make big plays. His first two NFL seasons did little to dispel that viewpoint:

Year Recs Yds YPR TDs
2007 16 178 11.1 1
2008 27 318 11.8 1

But the numbers clearly didn't tell us the real story. Celek was working hard, and reports out of the preseason kept saying that he looked like a different player. He was stronger, faster, and impressed the coaches. This was one of those instances where preseason hype WAS telling, moreso than anything the box scores showed us. Last year, it all came together:

  • 15 games started
  • 76 receptions
  • 971 yards
  • 12.8 yards per reception
  • 8 TDs
  • #4 fantasy TE

Evaluating the risk of Kevin Kolb
Coach Reid expects Kevin Kolb to be effective right away, but that's not a foregone conclusion. We have very little game film to base our evaluation of Kolb. But you have to take solace in the fact that Reid and his personnel department were willing to jettison long-time starter Donovan McNabb (to a division rival no less!) because they had faith in Kolb's abilities. With a new QB under center, the Eagles offense is going to look a bit different this season. It will be the same system, the same playbook...but Kevin Kolb isn't going to execute the system in the same way Donovan McNabb did. It's not a case of being better or worse, but it will be different. Based on what we've seen and heard this preseason, the Eagles passing game is going to look a lot more like a traditional West Coast offense. More short and intermediate passes, and more crossing routes and run-after-the-catch opportunities should be par for the course. If Kolb is the real deal, he's going to be able to hit receivers in stride more often than McNabb did.

Last year's time together bodes well
Kevin Kolb started two games last season, against New Orleans and Kansas City. In each game, Brent Celek was a fantasy monster:

  • Vs. New Orleans - 8 receptions for 104 yards
  • Vs. Kansas City - 8 receptions for 104 yards and a TD

Two games is a small sample size, but at least it doesn't raise the red flag. You would much rather see two games of chemistry and productivity than you would the alternative.

There are three potential risks to consider before deciding to draft Celek as your fantasy TE1

1) The offensive line - The Eagles offensive line has question marks, particularly on the interior where Todd Herremans remains on the PUP and Stacy Andrews was a completely non factor last year in his first year of a huge contact. As if that weren't enough, center Jamaal Jackson is out, too. It's not time to push the panic button particularly because the Eagles have young backups that are looking good in training camp. But, if this line isn't up to the usual standards we've come to expect, Celek may have to stay in and block for his new quarterback.

2) The cadre of weapons - Usually star fantasy TEs play on teams without a ton of offensive weapons. It's not always the case (see: Dallas Clark) but it's simple logic that the more viable targets, the less likely a tight end is going to be targeted heavily each week. The Eagles are a young team, but have weapons aplenty starting with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside, slot receiver extraordinaire Jason Avant, able-handed RB LeSeaon McCoy, and a pair of talented young tight ends in Cornelius Ingram and rookie Clay Harbor.

3) Celek's hands - Celek had nine drops last year, an amount higher than you would like to see for a guy generally tasked with moving the chains.

Positives

  • Celek was the 4th best fantasy TE in his first full years as a starter
  • He had 100+ yards receiving in each of Kevin Kolb's starts last year
  • The Eagles face one of the easiest fantasy schedules for their TE corps, according to Clayton Gray's Ultimate Strength of Schedule

Negatives

  • The Eagles have weapons up and down the roster; there are no guarantees of any particularly target load
  • Kevin Kolb and Celek may have played well together in 2009, but those games were a blowout (lots of garbage time) and a win against an awful pass defense
  • The offensive line has more question marks than usual; which could mean Celek is kept in to block more often this season

Final thoughts

Brent Celek proved his doubters (myself included) wrong last year and has established himself as a viable fantasy starter in all league formats. I'm not sure I look at Celek and see a guy that can be the top fantasy TE, but he doesn't have to in order to justify his current ADP, particularly in PPR leagues. As long as Kevin Kolb isn't a complete disaster, expect Celek to pick up where he left off in 2009.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

HoleFiller said:

Celek is the guy to target because you wont have to start the run of TEs and will still get exceptional production. Celek is the only legimate option the Eagles have in the redzone and i expect his TD total to rise slightly. I may be higher on Celek than the rest because he saved me at the position last year but I think the guy has great potential and could be the most consistent receiving threat on a team that is going to throw the ball a lot.

Multiple Scores said:

He's an elite pass catching TE, someone who can be taken lower than he'll produce, should be top 5 at his position.

Go deep said:

I like Celek, and think he could be a top 5 TE, the only problem is which of these TE's would not be in your top 5? Gates, Finley, Davis, Clark and Witten? To me those guys are the top 5, and i dont see Celek in that tier yet. I do think he and Zack Miller are easily the next best TE's after those 5. I do like Celeks value in redrafts this year as you can probably get him a full round or two later than the other 5 TE's.

Thomsen said:

Celek was the 2nd option last season, he had more targets than Maclin. Westbrook is gone and I don't expect McCoy to automatically take over the same role and gain all those receptions. I would think Kolb looks for his room mate even more than McNabb did. I don't see him regressing, there is no reason to.


Brent Celek projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Jason Wood69820500
Message board consensus74926800