Last year at this time it seemed like every team was looking for their own version of the pass-catching tight end; fast forward 365 days and two of the top three fantasy tight ends from a year ago were ushered out the door. With the draft devoid of Jimmy Graham types and the West Coast offense–one where tight ends who actually block–coaching tree extending its branches, what does the TE uniform shuffle mean for the fantasy draft board.
Denver Broncos – Owen Daniels (3 yrs / $12M) & Virgil Green (Re-signed 3 yrs / $8.4 million)
|Broncos||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|O. Daniels||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
|V. Green||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Gary Kubiak has a very specific type of tight end in mind for his offense, and he looks exactly like Daniels; it’s why Daniels has played his entire career in Kubiak-run offenses, from Houston to Baltimore and now to Denver. Though he’s 32 years old he’s had a decent run of staying healthy, playing 15 games in three of the past four seasons. He’ll be more than just a mentor to the Broncos’ younger tight ends–a group that includes Green, who was viewed as a pass-catching tight end coming out of college but has remade himself into a blocker. Under Daniels’ tutelage Green should get an opportunity to display both his somewhat-hidden athleticism and his newfound blocking skills, both as a complement to Daniels and his heir apparent–either down the road once Daniels calls it a career, or as soon as Daniels’ next injury.
Fantasy Outlook: Despite the departure of Julius Thomas, Denver tight ends should remain a fertile source of fantasy points under Kubiak. Last season marked the first time Kubiak’s tight ends did not rank in the top 10 in fantasy production since 2009; in fact, Kubiak’s tight ends had been fantasy starter-worthy (top 12) seven straight seasons prior to last year. If he can stay healthy Daniels should see enough of that productivity to warrant fantasy starter consideration on a weekly basis, with Green as the dynasty option assuming Kubiak is in Denver for the long haul.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Julius Thomas (5 years / $46 million)
|Jaguars||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|J. Thomas||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Thomas’ success the past two seasons drove his price tag up, and with the Broncos changing coaches he was not only overpriced but also no longer fit the model of the tight end Denver was looking for. He’ll get paid in Jacksonville, but his productivity is bound to be affected by a switch in quarterbacks from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles.
Fantasy Outlook: Considering Thomas’ fantasy value has been bolstered by a dozen touchdowns each of the past two seasons, while over that same span the entire Jaguars’ offense has yielded 28 touchdown tosses… well, you don’t need an abacus to do that math. That said, tight ends in Greg Olson offenses have historically been highly targeted, from Kellen Winslow averaging 100-plus looks over three seasons in Tampa Bay to Mychal Rivera being the seventh-most targeted tight end last season in Oakland. The quantity should help offset any drop in quality, meaning Thomas should remain among the more valuable fantasy tight ends.
Miami Dolphins – Jordan Cameron (2 years / $15 million)
|Dolphins||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|J. Cameron||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Cameron followed up his breakout 2013 with a disappointing, injury-marred 2014 campaign–which his why his price tag was so affordable. The Dolphins gutted their receiving corps, and unless they have a last-minute change of heart Cameron will be replacing Charles Clay rather than teaming up with him. It’s a fit for Ryan Tannehill, though it doesn’t afford Cameron the same opportunity as playing in a tight end-friendly Norv Turner offense.
Fantasy Outlook: Cameron’s bust-out season exceeded the Dolphins’ total tight end output the past two seasons, so you shouldn’t overpay for Cameron’s upside in South Beach. However, with the departures of Clay, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson there are more than 300 targets, 190 catches, 2200 yards and 16 touchdows to be replaced. Kenny Stills can’t pick up all that slack, and the way the Dolphins dumped wideouts you have to believe the tight end share will grow.
Seattle Seahawks – Jimmy Graham (Traded)
|Seahawks||Tight Ends||Wide Receivers|
|J. Graham||Gms||Targets||Catch||Catch Yards||Catch TDs||Rush||Rush Yards||Rush TD|
Perhaps the biggest stunner of the offseason saw Graham leave the high-octane Saints offense and join the two-time NFC champion Seahawks. But at what cost fantasy-wise? Graham’s average season equates to roughly the past two years of all Seahawks tight end production combined. He immediately becomes Russell Wilson’s top target, especially at the one-yard line when he doesn’t want to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
Fantasy Outlook: While Graham remains among the top fantasy tight ends, going from a team that throws 40 times a game to one that throws less than 30 times a game is going to take a bite out of his productivity. He’s no longer a first-round option, nor is he competition with Rob Gronkowski atop the tight end fantasy value board.