SEE 2013 UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE!
With lucky poll 13, it is time to crack open the TE position and we’ll do it with three somewhat random options. In it, we have two TE transplants in Martellus Bennett and Jared Cook on new teams, a once former elite TE draft-day option in Jermichael Finley, and a bit of a curve-ball, and Warehouse sleeper favorite by many in the forums, in Jordan Cameron (if you want to go large on Cameron, here’s your chance – it won’t come cheap here, but would it be any fun otherwise).
After just one season as a New York Giant (although they were reportedly interested in bringing him back), Martellus Bennett jumps ship to the Chicago Bears, landing a 4-year, $20.4M contract. After spending four seasons in Dallas backing-up Jason Witten where he got few chances to play (despite the team spending a 2nd round pick on Bennett in the 2008 NFL Draft), Bennett signed a 1-year deal last year with the Giants and finally got his shot. Bennett was a solid fantasy option finishing his first year as an NFL starter as the 12th-best fantasy tight end on the heels of a 55-629-5 TD season. Now with Chicago, Bennett could be part of a pass-happy offense if expectations are met on what new Bears’ HC Marc Trestman will bring to the table. That said, and for what it’s worth (and it’s been a few years), but Trestman’s NFL resume would suggest that the tight end is not a major focus of his game plan. In Trestman’s eight previous seasons, no tight end ever caught more than 33 receptions or had more than 3 TDs in a season.
Sometimes lady luck loves the bold, and every year guys you don’t expect to put up big stats do (Antonio Gates, for example, wasn’t even drafted and then set the NFL TE scoring record with 13 TDs in his second NFL season). That doesn’t mean Jordan Cameron will breakout of course, but we’re saying he has a chance here despite being a tremendous underdog in ADP or magazine rankings. In ADP, these four go: #10 Jared Cook, #11 Jermichael Finley, #14 Martellus Bennett and #18 Jordan Cameron. In magazines, however, Camerson drops to #22, while Finley is 10th, Bennett is 11th and Cook is 13th on average. Both new HC Rob Chudzinski and OC Norv Turner have a long track record of turning their TEs into stars and heavily utilizing the TE position in their offense, while Chudzinski played TE in college and was a TE positional coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator. Cameron was raw coming into the league so it’s not too surprising that he has just 26 receptions in two NFL seasons. However, Ben Watson is gone and Cameron is now the starter so the opportunity is there. The talent is also there. Cameron is a unique athlete – he was the lone tight end at the 2010 Combine to place in the top five of all seven tests, ranking 1st or 2nd in five of the seven.
After fulfilling four years on his original rookie contract, the Tennessee Titans opted to just let Jared Cook walk via unrestricted free agency. Cook never quite fulfilled his potential and upside with the team. He won the Triple Crown at the 2009 Combine; among TEs as he was first in the forty (4.50), broad jump (10’3), and vertical jump (41″). The Titans were smitten enough to deal a 2010 2nd round pick to move up and select Cook in the 2009 draft. Suffice it to say the beginning of his NFL career was a “slow start”. Cook had just 74 yards as a rookie as he hardly saw the field. Through 13 weeks of his sophomore season Cook had just 165 yards – then over the last three games of the 2010 season Cook erupted for 335 yards on 21 receptions (Cook was the #3 TE over those final three games). He flashed some excitement in 2011 with a 759-yard season, but then went right back to his teasing ways last season, dropping to 523 yards and finishing as the #23 TE (despite being in a contract season). Cook gets a fresh start in St. Louis (oddly enough with Jeff Fisher as the head coach who never really used him much in Tennessee). St. Louis signed Cook to big money, a 5-year, $35M deal (with $19M guaranteed).
Talk about a dud of a season. Jermichael Finley was the 6th drafted tight end on average last year, typically a full round higher than Jason Witten believe it or not, and a few rounds higher than Tony Gonzalez who was the 10th tight end drafted on average. Finley limped in as the 14th ranked tight end last year, just slightly higher than Scott Chandler. It seems like Aaron Rodgers just doesn’t really trust Finley anymore. The Packers had 40 passing TDs to distribute last year – Jermichael Finley had 2 of them. Oof. Donald Driver had the same number of scores (on 8 receptions). Finley also posted a career-worst 10.9 YPC average last season. On the plus side, Finley did have a career-best 61 receptions. Finley once had Jimmy Graham type of cache (in 2010, Finley was the 3rd TE selected on average) and the Packers are paying Finley big coin (he will make essentially $8M this year between his $4.45M base, a $3M roster bonus which has been paid plus another 500K in per-game roster bonuses), plus he is in a contract season so the incentive at least should be there.
UPDATE 01/05/2014: Score one for Jordan Cameron believers as Cameron delivered on his promise as a breakout tight end and cleans up in this poll. It wasn’t really close as Cameron had 26% more points than Martellus Bennett and 45% more points than Jared Cook, while Jermichael Finley’s season of course ended to injury. Just 24% of Speed Bump participants got this one correct.
If I told you last August that Jordan Cameron would have 80 receptions, nearly 1000 yards and score 7 TDs, while having more fantasy points than Jason Witten, you likely would be really thrilled with his performance. The problem is it was the tale of two halves and Cameron left you wanting more after getting you all worked up after a monster first-half of the season. Over the first 8 weeks, Cameron had 49 receptions, 596 yards and 6 TDs; over the second half of the season, he had just 31 receptions, 321 yards and 1 TD. Cameron was the #2 TE behind only Jimmy Graham over those first 8 weeks, but from Week 9 on he was just the #21 TE. Chalk some of that however to poor QB play and Cameron is poised to be right at the top of the TE listings next year. Year one for Martellus Bennett in Chicago lived up to expectations as Bennett had a career season (65/759/5). Bennett is locked in as the Bears’ starter for the foreseeable future. Jared Cook continued his teasing ways. Cook was the ultimate sell high after Week 1 when exploded for 32.10 fantasy points (7/141/2) and was the #1 TE after one week. It was sort of all down hill from there. Cook averaged a very uninspiring 2.9 catches and 35 yards per game the rest of the way. Jermichael Finley was off to a strong start to the season with 3 TDs in six games before a nasty-looking neck/back injury ended his season. Finley required spinal fusion surgery and if I had to guess he never plays football again.