Your first question is “who the hell is that guy in the picture?”. Then if you’re able to identify that it’s David Ausberry (if you successfully did that, you should probably go outside), your next question is “who the hell is David Ausberry?”. Fair enough, as he has a name which sounds more like he should be tending to his farm along the English countryside.

He’s an Oakland Raiders tight end, a position which has yet again been tapped dry, much like pretty much every other position on the Raiders’ roster. Over two seasons after being a seventh-round pick in 2011, Ausberry has caught just nine more footballs in his NFL career than you have in your NFL career.

But according to CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair, he’ll get the esteemed first swing at the Raiders’ starting tight end vacancy after Brandon Myers departed for the Giants. Here’s how dire and thin the tight end position overall is in Oakland: Ausberry has three primary competitors for that starting spot (Richard Gordon, and rookies Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera), and combined all four have a total of 10 career receptions. Yep.

Yet in the most extreme reaching, clawing sense, keeping Ausberry in mind as the darkest sleeper is something you should do. Nay, something you need to do.

Yes, we’re all aware that between Terrelle Pryor and Matt Flynn, the Raiders’ quarterback situation gives you about as much confidence as most new Harvard students evidently have with the opposite sex (related: high school graduation gifts from parents sure have changed over the years). No sane-minded soul would encourage you to burn a draft pick on Ausberry, or tight end X who wins this job.

No, you just need to be aware of him, because after the top five at the position (generally the list goes something like this: Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez), the separation between the rest is typically negligible. The end result is then often streaming, and rolling with the hottest hand or the best matchup or the guy who makes the best guacamole, or something.

This means ilk like Ausberry will matter. Two tight ends were in a similar quarterback situation a year ago, and their draft positions didn’t nearly match their production.

  • Kyle Rudolph: 109 fantasy points (ranked ninth at his position, ADP of 140.3)
  • Scott Chandler: 90 points (ranked 13th, mostly went undrafted)

Despite the general woe that was Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chandler recorded six games with 60 or more receiving yards. And even though he was receiving passes from a guy who could seriously be challenged for his job by Matt Cassel starting in a week, Rudolph had a better fantasy season than Vernon Davis and Antonio Gates, who were both drafted in the top five.

I’ve linked to this nugget from Denny Carter a few times, because things that are remarkable need to be repeated, and yelled from the highest geographical points…

Beyond the Elite Five, I think there’s a case to be made for weekly streaming, targeting defenses that have been gouged by tight ends. A painstaking look at tight end production from last year’s maddening crap shoot showed that 47 — yes, 47 — tight ends finished in the top-12 from Weeks 1-16.

Put more simply: There were 47 players who posted TE1 numbers at least once last year. Twenty-five tight ends scored in the top-12 four or more times. Only four tight ends were in the top 12 eight times or more in 2012.

Really think about that. There were more tight ends who produced a quality, top 12 outing at least once last year in fake football than there are teams in real football. The variance and unpredictable nature of the tight end position will likely be further exaggerated this year with Aaron Hernandez gone, and with Gronkowski possibly set to miss the first six games. Dark room dart throwing has never been less enjoyable.

The random, obscure tight end who matters might not be David Ausberry, though it’s entirely possible after Brandon Myers posted 806 yards and four touchdowns in the same offense, a year after he had only 151 yards. It could be Zach Sudfeld, which would be nice because then I’ll look intelligent.

But that guy — that elusive guy — is out there each week, or at least most weeks. Find him, and own him.