I can’t stress this enough: don’t gamble on tight ends early come Fantasy Draft Day. I tried to bet big on Jeremy Shockey following his trade to New Orleans last season and got burned while a number of tight ends taken after him proved profitable for their owners — Tony Gonzalez included. After your top tier options like Gonzo, Gates (still) and Dallas Clark you can probably lay back and wait. Shoot, you could even get away with playing “Waiver Wire Roulette” and picking TEs based on weekly match-ups. The position really is a crapshoot for the most part. Here’s a quick look at the top five taken in the 2009 draft and their fantasy potential for the upcoming season.
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit, 20th Overall – In dire need of added offensive weapons, the Lions were the only team to use a first round draft pick on a tight end. They had a surplus of picks, so there’s nothing wrong with the decision. Pettigrew’s 6’5, 263 frame will do wonders for Matthew Stafford down the line and give whomever opens the year as Detroit’s QB some help too, being an added pass catching weapon big enough to help adequately in pass protection and run blocking. He might benefit nicely underneath from the double teams that Calvin Johnson will inevitably see, though Megatron’s good enough to deal with them all. Pettigrew should immediately be a starter, which makes him worth considering once the second tier TEs are gone off your board.
Richard Quinn, Denver, 64th Overall – Had the Mike Shanahan era still been intact, Quinn might’ve been a more intriguing option, even though he only caught a grand total of 12 passes during his collegiate career at North Carolina. That being said, he could be a deep in-season sleeper if the steady trade rumors involving Tony Scheffler come to fruition. More of a blocker in the mold of Daniel Graham, Denver’s other notable tight end, Quinn needs time to develop and he’s going to be playing for a coach who didn’t exactly make TEs into household names in New England. We’re still waiting on that truly big-time year from Ben Watson, let’s be honest. Quinn isn’t worth drafting, but he’s worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Jared Cook, Tennessee, 89th Overall – Like Quinn, Cook is probably a more intriguing asset to people in dynasty leagues than single year re-draft leagues. The Titans have Alge Crumpler on board as a blocker, and they franchised their pass catching tight end, Bo Scaife, who saw his targets drop off significantly as last year progressed. Crumpler is entering the back end of a two-year contract while Scaife is on his one-year franchise tender, so Cook should take on a prominent role in 2011. As for this year though, I wouldn’t expect much unless an injury opens things up.
Chase Coffman, Cincinnati, 98th Overall – Cincinnati has long struggled to get any sort of production out of its tight end position. Ben Utecht appeared to follow that path last season in year one of a three-year, $9 million deal he signed after leaving Indianapolis. Foot injuries plagued Utecht, and given where the Bengals are at as a team, it wouldn’t shock me one bit to make him a salary cap casualty. Playing in Missouri’s up tempo offense, Coffman’s 247 career receptions were the most for a college TE all-time, and if things go bad quickly for Cincinnati, it wouldn’t be a shock for the Bengals to see what Coffman has. Not draftable, but worth monitoring as the year progresses.
Travis Beckum, New York Giants, 100th Overall – Like Cook, Beckum will have a depth chart issue in his rookie season, playing behind a well-liked and improving tight end in Kevin Boss. Leg injuries threw his senior year off course, so he’s got rust to work off. Not worth drafting, and probably won’t be heard from this year.
Quick hits on the best of the rest… There isn’t much to say about most of the late tight ends that went, but judging by situations, Jacksonville’s Zach Miller and Baltimore’s Davon Drew could be in advantageous spots. The Jaguars don’t get much production out of Marcedes Lewis, and Drew would probably be considered the #2 TE in Baltimore with Daniel Wilcox, Todd Heap’s tag team partner, a free agent. An increase in Baltimore’s downfield attack took some emphasis off the Ravens’ short game, and Jacksonville, well, they struggled everywhere on offense last year where Maurice Jones-Drew was involved. Again, neither player is someone you want to choose, but given the 2009 TE draft class, there isn’t much to go on.