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Opportunity Knocks: Who Will Fill the TE Voids Left by Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook & Others?
Image via San Diego Shooter/Flickr
Image via San Diego Shooter/Flickr

It would be nice to draft Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham as your fantasy TE—no question about it—but the world is an imperfect place, so you might want to have a few tricks up your sleeve.  In case you don’t know where to go for a trick… wait, let me start over.  If you need help spotting an undervalued TE, let me suggest that you look towards the chaos.  Yes, opportunity is found in where there is turnover.  The following table shows you which teams have lost the highest percentage of their TE targets from 2012 and suggests who might benefit from the transition.  Also, note the coaching changes which might lead to even greater opportunity.

Team TE Targets Lost Total TE Targets %Lost Players Lost Opportunity For Coach Change
Giants 90 99 90.9% M. Bennett B. Myers, A. Robinson
Bears 54 62 87.1% K Davis, Spaeth M. Bennett HC
Raiders 105 124 84.7% B. Myers D. Ausberry, R. Gordon OC
Browns 101 140 72.1% B. Watson, A. Smith J. Cameron HC
Bucs 76 107 71.0% D. Clark L. Stocker
Dolphins 69 102 67.6% A. Fasano D. Keller
Titans 72 119 60.5% J. Cook D. Walker, T. Thompson

All seven of these teams lost at least 50% of their TE targets from last season.  In some instances there is an obvious beneficiary and in others it is more ambiguous.  Let’s sift through the information and try to find some answers:

In the last five seasons Eli Manning’s TE has ranked between TE13 and TE17 every season.  Whether it was Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, or Martellus Bennett catching passes, the Giants found a way to make them all roster-able in fantasy leagues.  Looking ahead to 2013, Brandon Myers is expected to fill the void left by Martellus Bennett and should provide similar utility.  That said, dynasty league GMs should note that Myers’ contract is voidable after this season, which could open the door for the freakish Adrien Robinson.

Da Bears threw the ball to their tight ends LESS THAN FOUR TIMES per game in 2012, which was easily the lowest in the NFL.  Having signed Martellus Bennett to a $20M contract, you would think they might plan to utilize the position more.  Honestly, I have no idea what the Bears offense is going to look like under Coach Trestman, but, lucky for you, my colleague has a prediction!  At worst, you have a guy who is a young veteran, with minimal competition, and lots of target-driven upside.  Sounds like a value play to me!

The Oakland Raaaiiidaazzz are the first REALLY interesting team on this list as they have more than 100 targets up for grabs this year.  If you want to argue that Carson Palmer was the reason for that inflated total, that is fine, but are you sure that a TE won’t become Matt Flynn or Tyler Wilson’s favorite target?   So, there are 100 TE targets available and you’re wondering, “Who the heck is David Ausberry?  And who the heck is Richard Gordon?”  Good questions.  Ausberry is the guy who will probably have the most impact for fantasy purposes, but they also drafted a couple rookies who might be worth watching (but probably not, so watch Ausberry).

In 2012 Brandon Weeden threw to his TEs at the 7th highest rate in the NFL.  In 2013, there are more than 100 targets up for grabs as Jordan Cameron becomes heir to the throne.   Seriously, the two guys behind him on the depth chart have 65 career catches in more than 140 careers games.  YAAAWN.  Oh, and did I mention that his new head coach is a former TE coach and his new OC is Norv Turner.  Hello Tight End Dreamland!  You may not know much about Jordan Cameron yet, but you will.  Stay tuned!

(Tight Ends not your thing? Check out the WR edition of Opportunity Knocks.)

The Tampa Bay Bucs say goodbye to Dallas Clark and usher in the Luke Stocker era.  If you’re thinking “Who the heck is Luke Stocker?” then take comfort in knowing that your leaguemates probably won’t know him either.  The difference is that you’ve read this article so you know he is a third year player who the Bucs drafted with the 104th overall pick.  For as much pub as the “Third Year WR” theory gets, I tend to subscribe to the “Third Year TE” theory as well.  Look for Luke to have plenty of room to operate as defenses work to defend V-Jax and Mike Williams on the perimeter.

You know the drill with Dustin Keller, so I won’t spend too many pixels talking about him.  He finished as a top 10 TE in 2010 and 2011 before missing half of 2012 due to injuries.  He should make a nice addition to the Dolphins.  It’s interesting to note that this will be his age 29 season and he’s playing with a one year contract, so his dynasty prospects might be less rosy, but a return to the TE top 10 in 2013 seems possible.

You’ve heard of Triple-H and Triple-A, but have you heard of Quintuple-T?  That would be “Taylor Thompson of The Tennessee Titans.”  He played on the defensive line in college but his rare physical measurables led the Titans to trade up to draft him as a TE in 2012.  Jared Cook has left the building and the Titans signed Delanie Walker to shoulder the load, but it certainly seems like Thompson will get plenty of playing time. PFF graded him as a +7.3 blocker, compared to Walker’s +2.5, and with Munchak wanting to improve run game effectiveness, you can bet Thompson will be on the field to help spring CJ2K.  It also helps that Walker has missed time this offseason with a knee injury, opening the door for TTTTT to get reps in the Titans’ revamped offense.

And the rest of the TE situations:

Team TE Targets Lost Total TE Targets %Lost Players Lost Opportunity For Coach Change
Seahawks 33 86 38.4% McCoy injury, E. Moore  L. Willson
49ers 38 106 35.8% D. Walker V. McDonald
Jets 37 107 34.6% D. Keller J. Cumberland OC
Eagles 41 128 32.0% C.  Harbor HC
Chargers 31 113 27.4% D. Rosario, R. McMichael HC
Chiefs 18 74 24.3% HC
Texans 45 186 24.2% J. Casey
Rams 12 85 14.1%
Cardinals 13 112 11.6% HC
Saints 17 152 11.2%
Lions 23 207 11.1%
Packers 12 115 10.4%
Cowboys 10 171 5.8%
Panthers 6 113 5.3% OC
Falcons 6 131 4.6%
Redskins 3 86 3.5%
Steelers 4 115 3.5%
Patriots 2 182 1.1%
Broncos 0 149 0.0% OC
Ravens 0 126 0.0%
Colts 0 118 0.0% OC
Vikings 0 116 0.0%
Bengals 0 104 0.0%
Bills 0 92 0.0% HC
Jaguars 0 78 0.0% HC

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