Unlike the running backs and wide receivers, there’s plenty of talent among the available tight ends to solve several needs in several places, while also helping you to build the Cleveland Steamers, or whatever aptly named fantasy team you manage.
We also see immediately that if the right pieces land with the right teams, the fantasy impact will be widespread.
1. Jared Cook
Current team: Tennessee Titans
Preferred destination: Chicago Bears
Miami has been a rumored landing spot for Cook, mostly because similar to Atlanta, everyone who’s ever played football could be heading to Miami, even though that’s mostly where football dreams are murdered swiftly. And indeed, the Dolphins are a fit due to the impending departure of Anthony Fasano, who’s defined replacement level play while breaking the 500-yard receiving mark only once in his seven-year career.
But if production is our goal (it is), and we want every player on our fake rosters in the best possible position to succeed (we do), then please migrate to the glorious land of the deep dish pizza, Jared. The Bears have long had a need at tight end since they let Greg Olsen walk, and Kellen Davis has done pretty much nothing ever. Olsen had 843 receiving yards in Carolina last year, while Davis has posted just 529 career yards.
Unlike in Miami where Cook could flounder as the primary target if the Dolphins do something Dolphin-y and whiff on Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, he’d have help immediately in Chicago alongside Brandon Marshall. There would be mutual benefit, with Marshall drawing safeties deep on vertical routes, and Cook — a real, viable threat at tight end — often bringing the focus of opposing coverage to the middle. Essentially this sets up a situation where defenders will have to make a quick and crucial choice, something that hasn’t existed in Chicago’s offense for quite some time, and the fantasy production of all involved (Cook, Marshall, and Jay Cutler) would receive a firm kick to the rear region.
2. Martellus Bennett
Current team: New York Giants
Preferred destination: Cleveland Browns
The Browns usually aren’t a team I’d wish on my worst enemy, for the Factory of Sadness is a cruel, unforgiving demon. But do you see those words written about Cook’s fit in Chicago above? Consider this a lighter version of the same scenario.
If the Brandon Weeden experiment is to be successful — and really, if it’s going to continue at all — support needs to be added to an offense that’s low on reliable pass catchers. There’s an opportunity to both add an efficient safety valve here, and address a core need with Benjamin Watson. Consider Josh Gordon to be Marshall-lite with his speed, and ability to open up the middle. Toss in Greg Little on the other side, and plenty of room should be there for a tight end capable of doing something — anything — productive with it.
Bennett would be a much more central figure than he was(?) with the Giants, where Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks occupied most of Eli Manning’s attention. He still finished with 92 fantasy points despite four games with less than 20 receiving yards, so imaging the growth of his production in an offense where he’s, you know, used makes for a fun day dreaming activity.
Promising third-year tight end Jordan Cameron will be given an opportunity too, but with a young and still developing quarterback, there’s room for dual tight ends. The Patriots are cited as an example of such a system to the point that it’s a cliché, but remember that Carolina utilized both Olsen and Jeremy Shockey effectively before the latter departed, and to a lesser extent the 49ers did the same this past season with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
The Browns have enough salary cap room (about $50 million) to buy several planets, so chucking money Bennett is a thing that could happen quickly.
3. Dustin Keller
Current team: New York Jets
Preferred destination: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Really, anywhere but in a huddle with Mark Sanchez would be sufficient here. If we treat Keller’s 2012 season as one we can ignore due to injuries (and oh, we’re doing that), then we see a tight end who’s only a year removed from being among the most productive players at his position with 815 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. That adds up to a pretty cool 111 fantasy points, and if he’s in a place where he can even come close to duplicating that, Keller would then be included in the deep second or third tiers of TEs you can grab at a cheaper price if investing heavily in Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham early isn’t your style.
The chances of this wish being granted appear unlikely, but Tampa Bay would be a might fine place for Keller. He’d be an upgrade over the still effective at times but decaying Dallas Clark, and the wide receiver support he’d have (Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams) would be similar to those happier times in New York when Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards were split out wide.
4. Brandon Myers
Current team: Oakland Raiders
Preferred destination: St. Louis Rams
Here’s more dual tight end wishing. Two years ago the Rams spent a second-round pick on Lance Kendricks, and he started to rise to fantasy relevance towards the end of 2012. He provided deep flex value by never going below 30 receiving yards starting in Week 12, a stretch when he scored three times, and recorded a career high 119 receiving yards in a Week 16 game that included an 80-yard catch. He’ll be labeled a positional sleeper by everyone this summer, even your grandmother and dog.
But with Danny Amendola possibly on the move along with Brandon Gibson, there’s an opening for a slot receiver in St. Louis, and therefore there’s also an opening for more tight end usage. Myers very much fits the modern-day frame of the tight end who looks and runs like a really big wide receiver. He’s coming off a season when he had 806 receiving yards after recording only 250 throughout the first three years of his career. His breakout season was highlighted by a Week 13 game with 14 catches and 130 yards against the Browns.
That kind of high volume catch ability is ideally suited for an offense run by Sam Bradford, with his love for the checkdown.
5. Fred Davis
Current team: Washington Redskins
Preferred destination: Washington Redskins
Ahhh originality. You’re still my enemy.
This actually isn’t a product of a blatant lack of brainwaves (promise), because similar to Wes Welker, the best fantasy destination for Fred Davis is no destination. That’s because in their brief time together prior to the tight end’s ACL tear there was a solid connection between Davis and Robert Griffin III.
Of course, Griffin may or may not be operating at full health early next fall, but we’re thinking long term here. Prior to his Week 7 injury, Davis had a four-game run with 260 yards (65 per game), and his short season included frequent deep catches (two receptions for 26 yards, and one for 29). If the fit is right, playing with a mobile quarterback can be ideal for a tight end so they can be the safe check down in the flats, or release to open space once time to look deep is created outside of the pocket. Think Alge Crumpler when Michael Vick was in his prime.
Just stay, Fred. That whole torn ACL deal should keep suitors away, and likely give Washington a discount.