Desmond Clark, Chicago -- There will be an adjustment
period, with the former Broncos TE adapting to a new team
and a new QB in Kordell Stewart. But the Bears have historically
devoted ample attention to their tight ends, and Clark
has the tool to excel in a receiving capacity.
Cam Cleeland, St. Louis -- Could go overlooked in your
draft, but he represents an excellent gamble. The Rams
certainly didn't sign him for his blocking, and if anyone
can extract receiving potential from a player, it's Rams
coach Mike Martz.
Desmond Clark, Chicago -- Back when he was a Bronco,
Clark had 566 yards and six touchdowns in 2001 but was
off to Miami last season where he could not break past
Randy McMichael. This year he was acquired by the Bears
that were very happy to get a true pass catching tight
end. Clark is slated to help open up the Bear’s passing
offense and be used more extensively than any other previous
tight end. Even with the lesser cast in Chicago last year
that constantly changed due to injuries, the Bear tight
ends still totaled 400 yards and five scores for 2002.
Clark makes an excellent backup tight end that could very
well be your starter sooner than later.
Anthony Becht, New York Jets -- Becht maintained his five
touchdowns from 2001 but fell last year from 321 yards
to only 243
With the increased development of Lavernues Coles and Chad
Pennington, Becht saw his passes decrease in the later
part of the season and scored all five times in the first
nine weeks. With Coles gone, Becht in his third season
and Pennington more experienced, expect Becht to improve
both yards and scores this year. The passing game will
have to change with Lavernues Coles gone and while Curtis
Conway was hired for that job, he is only likely to be
around for a year or two due to his age. The Jets need
to establish a younger set of receivers and Becht will
figure into that equation.
Brandon Manumaleuna, St. Louis -- Gone is
Ernie Conwell to free agency… enter
Brandon Manumaleuna at TE for the St. Louis Rams. While
veteran Cam Cleeland is also on the roster, Manumaleuna
is who Mike Martz would like to see end up as the starter.
At 6’ 2” and 288 lbs., he’s a big target
and a healthy Kurt Warner should mean plenty of opportunities,
especially in the red zone. Manumaleuna has, unfortunately,
had a bad case of the drops in the past. But so far, he’s
exhibited soft hand and excellent blocking skills. If the
potentially high-octane Rams flourish again this year,
look for big numbers from Manumaleuna.
Marcus Pollard, Indianapolis -- Pollard had 739 yards
and eight touchdowns two seasons ago with teammate Ken
more of the blocking in two-tight-end sets. After struggling
last year, management drafted rookie Dallas Clark to draw
coverage in the same formation this year. Though Clark
is a better receiver than Dilger, he should not eat into
Pollard’s receptions enough this year to be more
of a hindrance than help. Peyton Manning meant to increase
Pollard’s numbers last year, but this season may
be when that effort pays off. And you can get Pollard cheap
Daniel Graham, New England -- Graham got off to a
slow start last year, and then continued that trend through
the games. Bad for the Pats in 2002, who barely missed
the playoffs and needed him to make an impact. Good for
fantasy owners this year who are looking for a sleeper
tight end late. Graham has all kinds of talent, and he
is the big target Brady will look for in the red zone.
Look for him to usurp Christian Fauria and produce much
better statistics in his second season.
Stephen Alexander, San Diego -- The oft-injured Alexander
has been a perennial disappointment dating back to his
years in Washington. Even so, there
is reason to believe he can develop into a reliable target
for QB Drew Brees. Alexander finished the 2003 season
making solid contributions in each of the last six games,
including two 8-catch performances. It’s important
to note that much of Alexander’s production came
while Curtis Conway was nicked up with a shoulder injury.
With Conway now in New York, look for Alexander to once
again pick up some of the slack while David Boston works
his way into the offense.
Wesley Walls, Green Bay -- Most NFL teams are lucky to
possess one decent receiving tight end, let alone two.
But in an
to rekindle the magic of their two-tight-end set featuring
Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura, the Packers signed former
all-Pro Wesley Walls to compliment Bubba Franks. While
Franks will get the majority of Green Bay’s tight-end
touchdowns, look for Walls to get his share of receiving
yards. The Green Bay coaching staff has been quick to
acknowledge that Walls still has the speed to burn linebackers
and safeties down the center of the field.
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta -- Invisible for the first half
of 2002, QB Michael Vick finally started throwing to his
end in game 11. It seems
to have worked out for both of them. In Crumpler’s
final five games he scored four times. At 6-2, he isn’t
the biggest target in the league and Vick’s habit
of calling his own number makes him risky, but he’s
as good as any of the Falcons’ other receiving
options and they say a rising tide lifts all boats.
Teyo Johnson, Oakland -- Dude is a freak. You don’t
get many 6’7” former
basketball players/wide receivers that convert to tight
end. A huge target, he gave the Rams defense fits this
past weekend. He’s too big (like giving up 6-10 inches
plus reach) for defensive backs to cover and too fast for
linebackers. Playing basketball, he’s developed exceptionally
good hands and good footwork and knows how to shield off
defenders, something that you don’t find in tight
ends his size. The Raiders will split him out and match
him on the oppositions’ fifth defensive back or linebacker.
If he just can block a little, he’d be on the field
Daniel Graham, New England --
Graham struggled to adjust to the pro game in his rookie
season last year. But the first-round pick out of Colorado
has the size, speed and athletic ability to be a force
in the NFL, and if he can improve his concentration
he has a very good shot at making some noise this season.
Fauria will remain a part of the offense, but with little
wide receiver talent outside the veteran Troy Brown and
the tiny Deion Branch, look for the Patriots to utilize
many two-TE sets with Graham causing havoc over the middle.
Daniel Campbell, Dallas --
Keep an eye on this guy during pre-season. New coach
Bill Parcells knows a thing or two about tight ends (see
Ben Coates and Mark Bavaro) and Campbell fits well into
the Parcells mold. Acquired from the Giants in the off-season,
Campbell is a great blocker at 6-5, 263-pound and is impressing
the coaches with his receiving abilities. He is currently
pushing the aged incumbent Tony McGee for the starting
spot and should have little trouble unseating him. Peg
this guy for your late round backup and you may see him
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta -- It's not so much because of
any lack of ability on Crumpler's part, but the arrival
of Peerless Price may translate into fewer opportunities.
I'm surprised how high he ranks on some lists. I can name
at least 15 tight ends I'd rather have.
Doug Jolley, Oakland -- With the Raiders going pass
happy last season, Jolley was swept up in the benefits
fine 2002 season. In the span of week ten through week
fifteen, Jolley totaled 348 yards including one 104 yard
effort in San Diego. Those great numbers during the six
weeks weighs heavy in the minds of many drafters but take
that big jump in production with a grain of salt. Jolley
only had one catch for 15 yards in the final two weeks
and the Raiders drafted Teyo Johnson to convert him from
wide receiver to tight end and use him for red zone catches
in the end zone. Jolley will not provide the consistent
numbers or the touchdowns that would justify his being
an early tight end selection in your draft.
Bubba Franks, Green Bay --
While Franks is consistently found
top 10 TE rankings, I can’t help but think he’s
due for lower production this year. Why, you ask? Two words… Wesley
Walls. There is no doubt that Franks is the far superior
and will see his time on the field. However, Walls is a
wily veteran that knows how to work the field (especially
the middle) and is extremely effective in the red zone.
If you are in a league that mandates that you select a
TE, think twice about selecting Franks as a tier one player.
Doug Jolley, Oakland -- Rookie Teyo Johnson has made
a huge impression in the passing game in camp, and will
some tight-end receptions from Jolley. Doug should be a
starter in most leagues, but is being selected too highly
in drafts. Remember, this team has three great receivers
and a back who understands ballistics. Jolley just won’t
find enough to justify his lofty status.
Todd Heap, Baltimore -- After racking up 836 yards and
6 touchdowns in 2002, many fantasy experts have moved Heap
top tier of
tight ends this year. While Heap certainly shows promise,
the Ravens quarterback situation has too many question
marks. Most believe Chris Redman will open the season
as starter and then give way to Kyle Boller near the
midway point. Look for this muddled situation to have
a negative impact on Heap’s numbers. While he will
still be a solid fantasy starter, I expect Heap will
disappoint owners who draft him too early.
Doug Jolley, Oakland -- Last year’s sleeper, he’s
in a bad spot this season as the in-between guy. Roland
Williams is the road-grater
who’s like another guard in the line-up but isn’t
a receiving threat and Teyo Johnson is a former wide receiver
that specializes in catching the football. Jolley does
a little of both, but neither skill as well as the others.
Bottom line is that he won’t get as many catches
as last year with the emergence of Johnson.
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta --
After a quiet rookie year and a slightly better second
season in 2002, Crumpler is positioned to see his production
take a downturn in 2003. Mike Vick continues to gain confidence
in his down-field routes, and the arrival of receivers
Price and MarTay Jenkins will translate into fewer opportunities
for the smallish tight end. His suspect blocking skills
will also limit his playing time.