Jordan Cameron is getting all the tight end sleeper love right about now. He’s so hyped by everyone including this guy who typed these words on your screen that by August, he’ll already be in the Hall of Fame. We’ll just skip the rest of his career altogether.
Cameron’s hype is entirely justified given his new position as Cleveland’s top tight end now that Benjamin Watson is living out his twilight years elsewhere, and the Browns’ offense has been taken over by vertical lovers Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski. Something about “vertical lovers” in that sentence doesn’t sound right, but I’ll let it stand.
But there’s another tight end who will come with similarly appealing value: Rob Housler.
You’re forgiven if there’s no room in your memory for Housler. After the 2012 season, there’s very little mental real estate left for anything tied to Arizona Cardinals football. I can confirm, however, that they are indeed still a National Football League team.
Last year with their carousel of horrendous quarterbacks that may have been made to look even more impossibly awful by an atrocious offensive line which surrendered 58 sacks, the Cards managed to do something once thought to be impossible: they eliminated Larry Fitzgerald. Usually, that job is reserved for the defense, but an offense that averaged just 187.8 passing yards per game and a league low 5.6 per pass was the best Fitzgerald defense. He had six games with less than 25 receiving yards, highlighted by just two yards in Week 14 against the Seahawks, despite 11 targets.
I put you through that Larry Fitz digression/depression to illustrate just how difficult it was to complete a forward pass in Arizona last year. Yet somehow, through the good graces of the almighty, Housler had a quiet bust out campaign.
Well, a half breakout at least, as we should be careful with the liberal use of that term. Or more appropriately, as breakout-ish as it would get for the Cardinals in 2012.
The second-year tight end finished with 45 receptions for 417 yards after catching just 12 balls for 133 yards a year ago. When he was first promoted to become the team’s new general manger, Steve Keim called Housler an “emerging star“, and new head coach Bruce Arians has said he’s essentially a rather large wide receiver, and he’s not wrong.
Under Arians and with renewed competence at quarterback with Carson Palmer, Housler has an opportunity to now have a true breakout, and you should be able to acquire him at a fine late-round price during fantasy drafts this August. During Arians’ five years as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator, Heath Miller averagaed 602.4 yards per season while scoring 20 of his 39 career touchdowns. On the yardage alone, that’s 60 fantasy points. Toss in that pace of about four touchdowns, and quickly those are the digits of a low-end TE1.
But what of Palmer? Welp, during his final year in Oakland in 2012, Brandon Myers easily set a career high in yards (806) and yards per game (50.4). His previous highs were just 151 total yards, and — wait for it –9.4 per game. But how much of that was Myers simply emerging and becoming a more prominent option in his fourth year that was also conveniently a contract year? Glad you asked.
While it may have felt like Palmer was passing a whole hell of a lot — and he sort of was — his overall attempts total wasn’t that outlandish. He finished with 565 attempts this past season, which puts him in the top 10 (eighth), but well behind leader Matthew Stafford (727), and within the range of, say, Matt Schaub back in 12th (544 attempts).
Although Palmer had times when he had to chuck it pretty much every snap and hope he didn’t die due to both injuries and general Raiders ineptitude, overall his throwing volume was a little above moderate at best. He had six games with 45 or more attempts, and taking that further, two with over 50.
Alright then, where did those passes land? Or rather, where were they intended to land? Looking at Palmer’s breakout tight end again, Myers finished the season with 105 total targets. His single-game high was a pretty stupid 15 targets in Week 13 (predictably, that also ended in his best single-game yardage, with 130 yards on 14 catches). But he also recorded three other games with double-digit targets. Overall, Myers’ targets were ahead of those given to Darrius Heyward-Bey (80), Rod Streater (74), and only narrowly behind Denarius Moore (114).
So both in head coach and quarterback form, the pieces are there for Housler, in addition to hopefully more support offensively as Michael Floyd’s development continues. Most importantly, though, Housler could grow into a fine option if you either miss on any of the big five early (Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Aaron Hernandez) or don’t want to invest that highly in the position.
Or you could just ignore those five entirely and every word written here, and stream your tight ends weekly since 47 tight ends achieved top 12 status during a single week last year. The gap between the top and the rest may be vast, but after that, separation is pretty hard to find.