Jul 15, 2009
Here’s the next round of random thoughts, this time on tight ends:
1) Jason Witten/Dallas Cowboys – Here’s a case of what seems to be probably the most obvious numbers that a player will be able to achieve this season. As soon as Dallas released WR Terrell Owens, it became obvious that Witten was going to become the team’s undisputed top passing option for years to come. Roy Williams was terrible after being acquired from Detroit (trust me on this, it looked like he was running with boots on), so there’s virtually no way Witten won’t dominate the ball again last season. Witten had 81 receptions last season and with Owens gone, you have to think he’ll approach 100. Plus, who will catch the ball in the red zone now with Owens gone? Doesn’t it have to be Witten?
2) Brent Celek/Philadelphia Eagles – He turned out to be a little better than anyone thought last season and the starting job is now his. Starting at other positions such as running back is pretty meaningless, but at tight end in this offense, it’s important. Because the Eagles will throw quite a bit in the first half of games, especially on early downs, Celek is going to get his chance to catch the football this season. The reason why the team didn’t trade or sign another tight end is because they are that high on Celek. He’s an athletic tight end, who started to open some eyes last season with his movement skills and hands. Keep an eye on him late in your draft as a low-end starter.
3) Greg Olsen/Chicago Bears – When JH (he doesn’t like me calling him the guru) and I had our first conference call before the NFL draft, the first thing I said when talking about breakout players was Olsen will have a monster year with Jay Cutler throwing to him. At that time, I didn’t know what the Bears would do at receiver in the draft, turns out they didn’t do anything until the third round, but they didn’t trade or sign a veteran. It was obvious based on last season that Olsen was becoming a bigger part of their passing game. His yards per catch with mostly inferior QB play suffered as a result and only was at 10.6. I have to think with Cutler back there that number will rise. In fact, I would bet Olsen will play more out wide in the Bear offense this season. I’m amazed that he has 54 receptions and TDs last season with who he had throwing to him. Now with Cutler behind center, those numbers will almost certainly rise. It’s amazing how good a player can be when he gets a good quarterback throwing to him–just ask Roddy White that.
4) Visanthe Shiancoe/Minnesota Vikings – Here’s another player that seemed obvious to have an increase in numbers with a quarterback change. If Brett Favre does sign with the Vikings as expected, Shiancoe will almost certainly catch more passes and will become more of a passing target. Over his career, Favre has almost always used the tight end as a weapon in his offense. Shiancoe started to show last season that he could be a consistent target at times in the Viking offense. With the obvious upgrade with Favre, Shiancoe could actually be a big surprise for fantasy owners this season.
5) Tony Gonzalez/Atlanta Falcons – Here’s the thing with this guy. He’s no longer in a high octane passing offense. His projected drop in numbers has nothing to do with the fact that he’ll likely be asked to block more than he did with the Chiefs. It’s all about passing frequency and passing options. Matt Ryan threw the ball on average about 27 times/game. Chief QBs put it up about 31 times/game. But it’s not just those numbers. Gonzalez didn’t have to compete for the ball much. Other than Dwayne Bowe, there were no other solid passing options and they had no running game. With the Falcons, the philosophy is much different. The running game sets up the pass. Michael Turner ran the ball on average 23.5/game. They use a power rushing, run first mentality. The Chiefs were much different. And as mentioned before, the passing options are going to be a bit more in Atlanta. Roddy White is one of the best young receivers in the league, who has become a supreme deep threat. Michael Jenkins has actually become a decent NFL receiver with Ryan behind center. And Harry Douglas is someone who the coaches want to expand his role. The bottom line is there’s no way Gonzalez will come close to the pass target or reception numbers from last season–even if he doesn’t have to block on one down.
6) Kellen Winslow/Tampa Bay Buccaneers – He’s one of the few players this year that I don’t have a good feel for as of now. He’s changed teams and they are going through an offensive philosophy change, plus they are going through changes at quarterback.
7) John Carlson/Seattle Seahawks – If you heard our show on Sirius last year, you probably recall how I got on his guy early. Carlson did take advantage of the fact that they had too many injuries at receiver, but he also commanded the ball–that’s paramount in getting the offensive coordinator to throw the ball to you. Nothing has changed other than they added T.J. Houshmandzadeh this year, who is not a physical presence at all. Keep in mind with the Bengals last season Chad Johnson played hurt all year with a shoulder injury and the quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, only would throw the ball 8-10 yards, so TJH was going to dominate the ball. That’s unlikely to happen in Seattle. The coaching staff believes Carlson is special, but the nice thing is there’s really not much of a buzz associated with him from fantasy owners yet. So you can steal him in rounds 8-10.
8) Owen Daniels/Houston Texans – We nailed this one last year in PPR leagues, but I’m not so sure that Daniels will ever post a respectable TD total. That’s the area where we were off with him. While I understand Matt Schaub missed him for a score or two along the way, it’s pathetic that Daniels only scored twice last season. The problem with OD is there are just too many other passing options in the Texan offense that Schaub has at his disposal. So I’m not so sure that Daniels will raise his TD total to a respectable level.
9) Zach Miller/Oakland Raiders – He was one of the few players we missed on last year, but not by much. I think what we learned last year with Miller is that there’s only so much you can overcome. 56 catches for 778 yards actually is decent, but the one touchdown isn’t. I’m not so sure that his TD total will rise much this season unless JaMarcus Russell can find better accuracy. Russell missed Miller for at least three more scores on wide open passes last season.