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2003 Sleepers & Busts From The Huddle Staff - Tight Ends
August 15, 2003
 
Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP

SLEEPERS

Bob Cunningham

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.

David Dorey

Desmond Clark, Chicago -- Back when he was a Bronco, Clark had 566 yards and six touchdowns in 2001 but was shipped 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 yards. 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.

Dave Foral

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.

Joe Levit

Marcus Pollard, Indianapolis -- Pollard had 739 yards and eight touchdowns two seasons ago with teammate Ken Dilger doing 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 this year.

Daniel Graham, New England -- Graham got off to a slow start last year, and then continued that trend through the rest of 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.

Paul Sandy

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 apparent attempt 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.

Fritz Schottman

Alge Crumpler, Atlanta -- Invisible for the first half of 2002, QB Michael Vick finally started throwing to his tight 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 every down.

Whitney Walters

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. Christian 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 outperform your earlier round starter.

BUSTS

Bob Cunningham

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.

David Dorey

Doug Jolley, Oakland -- With the Raiders going pass happy last season, Jolley was swept up in the benefits of Gannon’s 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.

Dave Foral

Bubba Franks, Green Bay -- While Franks is consistently found in everybody’s 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 athlete, 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.

Joe Levit

Doug Jolley, Oakland -- Rookie Teyo Johnson has made a huge impression in the passing game in camp, and will steal 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.

Paul Sandy

Todd Heap, Baltimore -- After racking up 836 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2002, many fantasy experts have moved Heap into their 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.

Fritz Schottman

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.

Whitney Walters

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 Peerless Price and MarTay Jenkins will translate into fewer opportunities for the smallish tight end. His suspect blocking skills will also limit his playing time.

Quarterbacks Running Backs Wide Receivers Tight Ends IDP