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Finding Fantasy Value at Tight Ends
Thomas Casale
August 2, 2013
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Tight end is one of the best positions to look for value. Typically if owners pass on one of the few stud players at the position, they end up waiting to select a tight end until later in the draft. If you’re searching for tight ends that could pay off in the later rounds and outperform their Average Draft Position (ADP), give these guys a look.

Dwayne Allen (ADP: Round 14) / Coby Fleener (ADP: Round 14), Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have two undervalued tight ends, so we may as well put them together.

Last year Fleener entered the year vastly overrated, while Allen was overlooked. In reality, Allen has always been the more complete player. There’s a reason why Clemson coaches, Indianapolis coaches and NFL scouts have all compared Allen to former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez (on the field). Allen’s athletic ability and versatility allows him to line up at tight end, receiver and even in the backfield, similar to what Hernandez did for the Patriots.

Tight end is probably the toughest position for players to make a fantasy impact. Look at the elite tight ends in the NFL right now and virtually none of them made a fantasy splash in their rookie year. That makes Allen’s 45 catches for 521 yards and three touchdowns stat line even more impressive last season. Allen is a young tight end with a high ceiling and he’s being undervalued for the second straight year.

Fleener battled some injuries as a rookie and was asked to block a lot more than expected under former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. That should change now that Fleener’s former college coordinator, Pep Hamilton, is calling plays in Indianapolis. Fleener now has his college quarterback throwing him passes and his college coordinator orchestrating the offense, so everything is in place for him to have success.

Just keep one thing in mind when it comes to Fleener; he’s an example of a player’s 40 time being overrated. In college he didn’t separate from defenders like some have suggested. It’s not to say Fleener doesn’t have decent speed for a tight end but he shouldn’t be confused with Vernon Davis either.

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Still, after catching just 26 passes as a rookie, Fleener is a likely candidate to easily double his production this season, especially with Hamilton flexing him out more as a receiver. Expect Hamilton to get Fleener out in space more on linebackers and try to use him down the middle of the field like he did at Stanford.

The Colts’ offense is being a bit undervalued in general heading into 2013. Andrew Luck is a flat-out stud and with second-year targets like Allen, Fleener and receiver T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis’ passing attack is only going to keep getting better. Drafting Allen or Fleener as a second tight in Round 14 is a pretty good deal for fantasy owners.

Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns (ADP: Round 12)

Cameron is on a lot of sleeper and breakout lists this summer, which means he’ll probably catch 20 balls this season. In all seriousness though, the reason why Cameron is getting so much hype in the fantasy community is because there’s a lot to like about him.

One of the best ways to predict fantasy success is to look at coaching. The Browns have a new coaching staff. Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner will now be running the offense and that’s good news for Cameron. Chudzinski is a former tight end, so he’s always been partial to featuring the position. Last year in Carolina, Greg Olsen caught 69 passes for 843 yards and five scores with Chudzinski calling plays. Turner’s utilization of the tight end throughout his coaching career is well documented from Jay Novacek to Antonio Gates.

So we know the Browns will try and make the tight end a big part of their offense. Now the question is; do they have one? Cameron comes into 2013 with just 26 career receptions, so he’s an unproven commodity, but the potential is there. Cameron is 6-5, 245 pounds and he runs like a receiver. He was raw coming out of college but after a strong offseason all signs point to him making a big leap in his third year.

Another reason to like Cameron is he has very little competition standing in his way. The only other tight ends on the Browns’ roster are Kellen Davis, Gary Barnidge, Dan Gronkowski and Travis Tannahill. Unless Cameron has an atrocious training camp he’s going to see a majority of targets at the tight end position in Cleveland’s offense.

Obviously the wild card is Brandon Weeden. The Browns do have some playmakers on offense but unless they get more consistent quarterback play out of Weeden, it won’t matter much. If Weeden does improve under the new coaching staff, Cleveland’s offense is going to surprise people this year and Cameron will be a big part of it. He’s a high upside pick in Round 12 with a chance to emerge as a TE1.

Robert Housler, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: Round 14)

Housler has always had intriguing physical ability but when Arizona’s offense is so bad that Larry Fitzgerald becomes somewhat of a fantasy afterthought, Housler certainly doesn’t stand a chance of making an impact.

Housler has that size/speed combination that can make him a matchup problem for opposing defenses. Arizona simply needs more consistent quarterback play before Housler can develop into a trusted fantasy tight end. Now with Carson Palmer in town, Housler could finally do some damage. Say what you want about Palmer but he’s a big step up from the likes of John Skelton.

Even with Arizona’s abysmal quarterback play last season, Housler gave owners a reason for optimism over the second half of the year by catching 33 balls for 276 yards from Week 7 on. Those are a long way from Jimmy Graham numbers but given the hand Housler was dealt, it points to a possible breakout season with Palmer at quarterback.

There’s one red flag though. Arians loves to run multiple receiver sets and keep his tight ends in to block. That’s why Allen and Fleener could see their numbers flourish now that Arians is no longer in Indianapolis.

It remains to be seen how Arians will use Housler but he has a history of using more multiple receiver sets than utilizing his tight ends. On the other hand, Housler is versatile and athletic enough to line up as a receiver, so Arians could use him that way as well. Only time will tell. 

Housler has that feel of a player who’s dying to break out if just given the opportunity and a couple of things go his way. If Arians uses him properly, Housler make fantasy owners happy.

Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins (ADP: Round 15)

When a player fights through an injury it can be a double-edge sword. If a guy doesn’t play hurt people sometimes question his toughness. Yet, when players do perform at less than 100 percent and their production suffers, there can be a perception that they’re on the decline.

Keller is kind of in this category. Unlike some Jets who didn’t seem to care at times last season, Keller gutted it out and played hurt. Keller was never healthy in 2012. He missed eight games and was hindered in the eight he did play in, limiting him to just 28 catches on the year.

Keller’s 7-catch, 93-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 7 against New England was a particular impressive display of toughness. Keller was still battling a bad hamstring in that game, yet he kept finding ways to help his team.

There was also the matter of the Jets’ quarterback problems last season. You may remember they had so many issues at the quarterback position that Greg McElroy was throwing passes at one point late in the year.

Add it all up and Keller’s decline in production wasn’t really his fault. Dig a little deeper and Keller is a tight end that averaged 60 receptions, five scores and over 100 targets from 2010-2011. Those are the kind of numbers Keller is likely to put up in Miami where he’ll be used to help second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, particularly in the red zone. Last year Anthony Fasano was targeted 12 times in the red zone and scored five touchdowns. Keller is expected to be used in a similar role.

Keller may not be a stud tight end but on the other hand he represents great value in Round 15 of a fantasy draft. Last year was a lost season for Keller due to injuries and erratic quarterback play in New York. Miami signifies a fresh start for him and Joe Philbin knows how to best use his offensive talent. Assuming Tannehill improves in his second season, Keller should easily outperform his current ADP.

Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: Round 18)

This is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel after Dennis Pitta was lost for the season. Obviously Dickson’s value will go up now but with a current ADP of Round 18 he had to be included on this list.

Last year it was Dickson, not Pitta, who was the one that was supposed to emerge as a weapon at tight end for the Ravens after finishing with 54 receptions in 2011. However, Pitta turned into Joe Flacco’s favorite target and Dickson became a forgotten man in Baltimore’s offense. Now with Pitta out, Dickson gets a second chance to make an impact for a Ravens team suddenly scrambling to find playmakers in the passing game.

While Dickson has struggled with inconsistency and drops, there are some things to like when it comes to his fantasy outlook. Dickson is an athletic guy who has good straight line speed. Dickson can get down the middle of the field and make plays. He just needs to run more precise routes. That’s the biggest difference between Pitta and Dickson right now. Pitta is such a good route runner Flacco trusts him to be where he’s supposed to be on every play. Dickson has yet to earn that trust from Flacco.

The biggest thing working in Dickson’s favor though is Flacco may have no choice but to trust him. Pitta and Anquan Boldin are no longer around, so Flacco is going to have to throw the ball to someone other than Torrey Smith. Dickson is still the same guy a lot of people were high on last summer and he’s still the same guy who caught 54 balls just two years ago. Now Dickson needs to put it all together and produce on a more consistent basis.

The pieces are in place for Dickson to have a breakout 2013 season. He has talent. He has a great opportunity where he’ll see plenty of targets and he has a Super Bowl winning quarterback in the prime of his career throwing him the football. If Dickson doesn’t put up strong fantasy numbers this year, he never will.


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