Note: This series contains
excerpts and sample profiles from my 2008 Rookie Scouting Portfolio,
an FFToday.com publication available
for purchase here. The RSP provides play-by-play examples
that back up my observations of each prospect’s performance.
For my takes on previous rookie impact quarterback classes check
here for impact articles from 2006
Last year’s class produced two top-25 rookie tight ends: the
Miller, who ranked 16th as a fantasy tight end and started
the entire season and the Bears’ Greg
Olsen, who ranked 23rd among fantasy tight ends while splitting
time with 12th-ranked Desmond Clark. I recommended Miller as a
decent in-season waiver wire option. Olsen, my top choice, only
started five games. Kevin
Boss was the only other rookie worth mentioning because of
two impressive outings in weeks 15 and 17. None of these players
were ones worth contemplating as strong picks for your 2007 fantasy
drafts. And this has normally been the case for 56 years. There
have been over 600 rookie tight ends in the NFL during this span
and only five of them were worthwhile starters.
When you consider that some of the all-time great tight ends weren’t
immediate impact players, it’s best to be patient with this
position. Just two years ago I was touting Vernon Davis as the
best rookie prospect at the position and an impact player. Davis
got hurt and then struggled in year two. Meanwhile, Owen Daniels
was a guy I said not to take seriously “unless he matches
up perfectly with an offensive system that allows him to sneak
into the flat without much resistance—not likely.”
Turns out it was more likely than I thought! Still, if you ask
me who will have the better career, I’m still firmly in
the Davis camp.
I remind people of this every year: Statistical histories reveal
that a rookie tight end making an immediate impact as a starter
only comes along once per decade. Yet it doesn’t mean rookies
don’t make a significant contribution. In fact, almost one
rookie per year produces well enough to be a worthy part-time
starter at some point in the season:
| 32-47 Range
43 tight ends in 55 years have been within a range that is generally
the equivalent of a 15th-20th-ranked player at their position. In
fact, the first six seasons of the millennium appears to be on track
for at least one rookie making this type of impact per year throughout
the remainder of the decade—two years ago it was Daniels and
last year, Olsen. Yet the trend also indicates the fantasy points
for these rookies have steadily declined with every decade. Since
the average value has declined as well, the ranking still makes
these players worthwhile depth for late-round value in larger leagues
or at worst, a decent mid-season waiver wire selection.
The class of 2008 is better than the 2007 crop and deeper than the
2006 class. The best fantasy player is Jets rookie Dustin Keller.
The Purdue Boilermaker isn’t the freak of nature that Vernon
Davis is, but he’s a heck of an athlete that can catch the
football. There’s a reason Jets incumbent Chris Baker has
been complaining. Here are some of the players I felt rated well
in key areas based on film study.
| The Best And Worst
are the only two tight ends that consistently have the
skill to get open past the short range of the field
from their position on the offensive line. Fred Davis
gets honorable mention.
players know how to adjust to the quarterback and run
a variety of routes with consistently good results.
body control, good hands technique, and the ability
to make difficult receptions with an impending hit.
has good stop-start quickness and some lateral movement.
Davis bends runs in different directions with speed.
||He consistently exercises
good technique and demonstrated sound protection of
the ball versus hard hits.
times I saw Peterson take hits, adjust his balance,
and stay upright while continuing to move forward. Rucker
is also good at breaking tackles in the open field,
although I think he’ll struggle a bit more with
take on a defensive lineman and win the battle. They
have the size and fundamental technique to be assets
to an NFL ground game.
Although it’s a rarity for a rookie to perform like an
elite fantasy tight end, they still make good investments in the
upper portion of the middle rounds in dynasty league rookie drafts.
In re-drafts, Keller is your best bet in the late rounds. Fred
Davis might be a decent waiver wire selection because he will
see time as a situational player in several two-TE sets. John
Carlson will also likely get a shot to contribute in Seattle.
Likely Starter By October
Keller, Jets: What makes Keller
dangerous is his ability to catch a ball in traffic in the
teeth of the defense and gain yardage afterwards with his speed
and lateral movement. The quality I like the most about this tight
end is his comfort with physical contact. He doesn’t shy away
from a hit and often gets the better end of a confrontation as
a receiver or runner. Whether Keller can put these skills on display
as a pro will be the determining factor for Keller’s immediate
fantasy impact with a team that already has a solid tight end
in Chris Baker, who was no doubt puzzled by the Jets selection
of the rookie in the opening rounds. The lynchpin issue will be
his blocking if Man-Genius doesn’t utilize him as an H-Back or
in the slot.
This Year’s Top Waiver Wire Candidates
Washington: The former high school running back is an impressive
receiver who runs like an agile fullback in the open field. He
does everything well, but nothing stands out as his signature
skill. I think he can be as good, if not better than Chris Cooley—his
co-star who has the billing at this point in Washington—in the
near future. I think Davis is the best tight end in this draft
if he can approach his life and profession with maturity he hasn’t
always shown prior to the NFL. Thus far, the Redskins project
Davis to be a part of two-tight end sets in Jim Zorn’s west coast
offense. This automatically puts a rather heavy cap on Davis’
fantasy production before the season ever begins. However, if
Cooley gets banged up, Davis could blow that ceiling—and that
roof—off 300 yards and 3 scores.
Seattle: Are you a shell-shocked team when it comes to acquiring
tight ends that have tons of talent, but lack professionalism
(Jerramy Stevens) or proven veterans that were out of gas (Marcus
Pollard)? Then you must be in the market for a steady but unspectacular
player that can block in the running game and catch that 3-yard
drag route. And I’ve got just the player for you, Mr. Allen. He’ll
remind you of Jed Weaver who faced your ‘hawks twice in a season
while working as a Niner. Don’t remember? Yeah, he’s not that
memorable. I have a feeling Carlson’s fantasy production won’t
be, either. You can say the same for Titans rookie Craig Stevens.
Carolina: As dynasty owners tout the merits of a Notre Dame player
picked too high, you can head down south and get a similar player
at a much lower price. The training camp battle between Gary Barnidge
and Jeff King will be about as exciting as Roger Goddell taking
a gig as a late night talk show host. Still Barnidge is worth
monitoring because he’s a more nimble athlete than King and could
win the job just by staying healthy.
Benchwarmers With Skills
Bears: Based on what I saw on film, Kellen Davis has elite
skills. He has the best combination of size, athleticism, and
hands in this draft. He reminds me of a poor man’s Tony Gonzalez
because he has excellent body control in the red zone. He aptly
skill for Michigan State in the Champ Sports Bowl versus Boston
College in a game where he also sacked Matt Ryan as a situation
The Bears were able to nab him late in the draft as a “developmental
project” because of apparent issues between Davis and the John
L. Williams regime in East Lansing, which Davis claims he wasn’t
aware of any problem. Time will tell if Chicago got a steal they
can either trade away or pair with Greg Olsen in two-TE sets.
The way we seem to hear about two-TE sets lately, you wonder if
it’s the wave of the future for NFL offenses. If it you’re buying
it, I want you (yes, you Papa
Smurf) to send me recent picture so I can make sure you’re
not continuing to ingest any more of that colloidal silver. Instead,
take Davis at the end of your dynasty drafts.
Brad Cottam, Chiefs: A 6-6 or 6-7 guy with good straight line
speed. It’s just my two cents, but straight-line speed is
good for four things:
The good thing about Cottam is he can block, which will give fantasy
owners the opportunity to see if he can develop into Tony Gonzalez’s
understudy. His catching technique needs work so he doesn’t deal
with bouts of drops due to allowing the ball into his body and he’s
not going to be dynamic after the catch unless he’s the far-side
receiver sneaking off the line on a fake field goal where he can
pretend it’s the combine all over again.
- Amateur football (high school and college)
- Drag Racing
- The NFL Combine
Bennett, Dallas: Put Jacob Tamme in this guy’s body and you
get a Hall of Fame tight end. The rookie from Texas A&M has solid
hands, a good burst, and can handle defensive lineman as a run blocker.
The positive for the Cowboys is with Jason Witten as the starter,
the organization can afford to wait and see if the light goes on
for Bennett who hasn’t shown the work ethic to maximize his great
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay: He’s young, but talented. He’s
not fast, but has a good feel for the game because he does the little
things well. Finley still needs develop consistency and maturity.
This is a good selection for the Packers, because the Texas alum
has time to develop.
Indianapolis: Last year the Colts took BYU’s Johnny Harline.
Tammy is a very similar player, but with a higher profile and better
athleticism. These are the type of receivers that Peyton Manning
can do something with if the Colts struggle with injury: dependable
route runners, sure-handed, and tough. The issue facing Tamme in
training camp will be his blocking. If he demonstrates he’s an effective
blocker—which based on the film isn’t likely—he might get a shot
in two-tight end sets. I believe Tamme’s fate with the Colts will
be similar to Harline’s.
Cleveland: Just imagine how great Kellen Winslow, Jr. could be if
he weren’t having knee surgeries every off-season. Rucker has strong
enough receiving skills to make an NFL impact, but he’s far from
ready as an in-line blocker. Most of his success in the Missouri
passing game came out of the slot or split wide. Although he possesses
excellent hands, Rucker lacks the speed to be a viable primary threat
in an NFL offense.