Old Faces In New Places: Tight Ends

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers

Vincent Jackson swapped coasts, Brandon Marshall rejoined Jay Cutler in Chicago, and Peyton Manning is now a horse of a different color. As your summer wraps and you return your undivided attention to football, here’s your one-stop shop for all the notable fantasy players who changed teams this offseason.

Jacob Tamme, Broncos

The Colts spent the offseason cleaning house, and the Broncos were more than happy to pick up a complementary piece to Peyton Manning in Tamme. And make no mistake, this signing absolutely panders to Denver’s new quarterback. Last season Broncos quarterbacks targeted tight ends just 54 times, and over the past eight seasons John Fox offenses have directed just 16 percent of their passing attempts towards the tight end. Contrast that with Manning, who over the past five seasons has thrown at least 23 percent of his passes to tight ends; since 1994, Manning has targeted tight ends 60 more times a season than John Fox offenses. Manning should call the shots in the passing game so the number of tight end looks should climb, especially with a familiar face like Tamme on the field. But don’t expect Denver to use Tamme the same way he filled the Dallas Clark role during his one shining moment in Indy—especially with Joel Dreessen biting into those looks. Tamme’s current Huddle ranking of 11 is a tad aggressive; as training camp unfolds and we get a better feel for just what the Broncos offense will look like under Manning, he may slide out of his current fringe starter status.

Martellus Bennett, Giants

The Giants wooed Bennett from NFC East-rival Dallas to shore up a position decimated by injury late last season. With Travis Beckum still ailing and Jake Ballard now on the Patriots’ PUP list Bennett’s primary competition for looks is block-first TE Bear Pascoe. It’s a role with modest fantasy upside; since Jeremy Shockey finished the 2007 season 11th among tight ends in fantasy scoring, the top Giants’ TE target has consistently checked in in the teens: Kevin Boss was 13th in 2008, 15th in ’09, and 16th in ’10; Jake Ballard was 17th last year. In adherence to that trend the Huddle has Bennett ranked 19th; he has more opportunity in New York than he did as Jason Witten’s understudy in Dallas, but the Big Blue offense limits his upside to a fantasy backup and spot starter.

Dallas Clark, TE, Buccaneers

It seems like ages since Clark was an elite fantasy tight end, in no small part because he’s missed 15 games over the past two seasons. With Indy blowing up the roster and starting from scratch, Clark hit the open market and seemed likely to reunite with Peyton Manning in Denver. Instead, he’ll replace Kellen Winslow in Tampa Bay—unfortunately catching the Bucs as they transition away from the TE-friendly West Coast offense. There are still concerns about Clark’s health, but a strong preseason—as well as an indication the Bucs won’t ignore him in their new scheme—could boost him from his current 26 ranking into the realm of draftable fantasy backup.

Joel Dreessen, Broncos

Dreessen was a wingman to Owen Daniels in Houston; now he’s a wingman to Jacob Tamme in Denver. See the stats above regarding John Fox’s underusage of tight ends vs. Peyton Manning’s love of the position. Even if Manning wins by knockout, Dreessen is still splitting numbers with Tamme. Most fantasy rosters don’t go three tight ends deep, so the Huddle’s 35 ranking of Dreessen says he’s a backup to keep an eye on rather than someone who belongs on your roster Week 1.

John Carlson, Vikings

Who says you can’t go home again? A native Minnesotan, Carlson signed a five-year, $25 million deal to return home after an injury-marred start to his NFL career in Seattle. Seems like a big contract for a team that just spent a second-round pick on tight end Kyle Rudolph, but if you scratch the surface of the deal it’s more like a two-year, $11 million agreement. In addition, Bill Musgrave loves to use two-tight end sets so Carlson will see plenty of the field. That said, he’ll be behind Rudolph in the passing game pecking order, and the Vikings’ offense will still run through the ground game anyway. If Rudolph goes down with an injury Carlson, currently 41st in the Huddle rankings, could blip onto the fantasy radar; until then he’ll be waiting for you in your free agent pool.

Kellen Winslow, Seahawks

Winslow didn’t even make it to OTAs under new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, and it’s clear their styles would not have meshed. Moreover, the Bucs’ new offense won’t be anywhere near as tight end-friendly as the West Coast offense they used to run so Winslow and his baggage became expendable. K2 landed in Seattle, where he and his balky knees will battle Zach Miller for looks in a run-first offense helmed by a yet-to-be-determined quarterback. And that’s why a guy coming off a 75-763-2 season clocks in at 42 in the Huddle rankings.

OTHER POSITIONS:  Quarterbacks  |  Running Backs  |  Wide Receivers