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Get good value for some and beware of others
Athlon Sports looks at the sleepers and busts at the quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end positions this week. These are the players we think you can wait on and still get solid production from and the players we think have an average draft position (ADP) that is too high for what you will get in return.
First up, are the tight ends. There are five elite fantasy players at the position — Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis. But what do you do if you pass (or miss) on them? Well, if you keep on waiting, here are eight that could serve you well.
See more of Athlon Sports value players, overvalued players and top rookies in our Best Bets story
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
Gresham performed quite well as a rookie, especially considering the circumstances. He missed his final year of college ball with a knee injury. He joined a crowd of pass-catchers in Cincinnati. Yet, he showed enough to earn 10 targets in his first game out and ranked 12th among TEs for the season in 15 games. Unfortunately, 2011 still presents a crowd, if a slightly different one. A new QB also figures to complete fewer passes than Carson Palmer, though a big TE will be an attractive target.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City
The Chiefs couldn’t have asked for a whole lot more from Moeaki in his rookie season, but it was a bit curious they didn’t give him a chance to do more. He did rank second on the team in targets but sat 60 behind Dwayne Bowe. That left him just 15th in the league among TEs on a team that desperately needed receiving help. Moeaki showed terrific hands, catching 64.3 percent of targets even while Matt Cassel completed just 58.2 percent. We’ll see if the new offense features him more.
Jared Cook, Tennessee
The difference between Cook and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham is that the latter is part of a much better offense. Cook’s talent has been obvious since college, but he has been slow to adapt to the pros. He finally broke through a bit with 24 catches over the final six weeks of 2010. Since then, new OC Chris Palmer has referred to Cook as a “special” talent and worries only that he’ll use the TE “too much.” QB is a question in Tennessee, but Marcedes Lewis’ 2010 level of production could be within reach.
Lance Kendricks, St. Louis
Kendricks entered college as a WR with enough speed that he carried the ball seven times for 102 yards as a junior at Wisconsin. He just kept growing, though, and is now generating buzz as a “move” TE for Josh McDaniels’ new offense. In McDaniels’ five years running offenses, only one TE has topped 36 catches. Ben Watson caught 49 with the Patriots in 2006 and was on pace for 48 in 2007. That could be Kendricks’ 2011 ceiling, but he also could become a favorite target of Sam Bradford, along with WR Danny Amendola, as the two consistently healthy options he's been able to work with in camp.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota
Shiancoe isn’t likely to have another 2009. Brett Favre rode into town with his proven record of pumping up TEs in the red zone and delivered career highs for “Shank” in receptions and TDs. The upshot without Favre is that Shiancoe can build a bit more yardage with catches between the 20s. He averaged at least 1.2 more yards per catch in each of his other three Vikings seasons. He could also be important in a diluted receiving group. Still, betting on 50 receptions seems unwise.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota
According to many scouts, Rudolph was a first-round talent who likely slipped to 43rd overall because of a serious hamstring tear in college. The pre-draft checks apparently showed him 100 percent recovered, though. The prevailing thought is that the Vikings will run a lot of two tight end sets considering Percy Harvin is the only real threat at WR.
Kevin Boss, Oakland
Boss has finished top-18 for three straight years in both PPR and non-PPR. Boss also hasn’t finished higher than 13th, settling most often around 16th. However, he does replace Zach Miller in Oakland and he was a go-to target for the Raiders. Was Boss not utilized to his fullest potential in New York? Can he step in and replace Miller without skipping a beat? He might be worth a look to figure it out.
Fred Davis, Washington
If Chris Cooley can't stay healthy then Davis is worth a look. He's a big target at 6-4, 258 pounds and might have some open field to work with considering Santana Moss returned to the team and the Redskins have Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth and Anthony Armstrong to draw attention from the receiver spot.
Greg Olsen, Carolina
A rookie QB, only one dependable receiver on the outside and a solid backfield can easily translate into an offense that will look to the tight end position. Add in that the Panthers traded for Olsen to pair with also newly acquired Jeremy Shockey, and it makes for a sneaky play late in your draft. Both played for new Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski when he was the tight ends coach and OC at the University of Miami. The tight end will be a major play in this offense, and if we were betting men, we would go with the younger Olsen as the one to breakout.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Graham sits here not because we think he is going to fall flat on his face. He sits as a bust because he's being drafted as a fifth-round player and we project him as an eighth-round player. So just don't reach for him. One might say that Graham hasn’t proven anything over a full season yet. What he did do was catch five TD passes last season, including four in the final three games, despite ranking just 37th at the position in targets. Graham saw six teammates catch more passes than he did, but only two beat him in TDs. Altogether, Saints TEs scored 10 times, a number not out of reach for Graham this season. Sean Payton conceded that Graham’s emergence led to the release of Jeremy Shockey.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
He got his money this offseason and, like Graham, it's not so much that he's a bust as much as it is his ADP has him going as a seventh rounder and we say ninth. Might be splitting hairs. The magnitude of Lewis’ breakout probably surprised everyone. Many around the team said the guy was poised to explode, though, and it seems all he needed was a chance. He drew 16 more targets last year than in any previous season. He saw nine red zone targets compared with zero in 2009. Lewis’ 66 percent catch rate was the best of his career but only one percentage point ahead of his 2007 mark. He simply got more looks as a receiver, spent less time blocking and delivered.
Owen Daniels, Houston
All reports have him completely healthy, but you can't overlook 13 missed games the last two seasons with weapons like Andre Johnson and Arian Foster around him to perhaps limit his looks. Daniels got in seven full games before his 2009 ACL tear. He was on pace for 89 catches over a whole season. He finally made it all the way back from that and related ailments for the final four games last year. His 22 catches in that stretch project to 88 for a full season. Matt Schaub has attempted the third-most passes in the league the past two years. That reception total is doable. Daniels was also on pace for 11 TDs in 2009 and has consistently averaged more than 12 yards per catch.
More Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets and Rankings:
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 280
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 240 w/ IDPs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Running Backs
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Wide Receivers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Kickers
2011 Fantasy Football Rankings: Defense/Special Teams