The obvious big news was Kellen Winslow being traded by the Buccaneers to the Seahawks and the Bucs signing ex-Colt Dallas Clark. However, there was more good news out of San Diego and it appears the fantasy TE class is as deep as it has been in recent years.
Studs and starters
The Buccaneers sent Kellen Winslow to the Seahawks after the new regime determined he was not the kind of veteran they wanted around. With their offense not geared toward a tight end as a primary offensive weapon they believed they could afford to make the move. Winslow goes to Seattle and will play with Zach Miller but he will be the pass-receiving end. In larger leagues, Winslow has value as a No. 2 with limited upside. Age and injury have not been kind to his oft-injured knee and he is now entering his eighth season and will struggle to separate. His knee kept him from ever becoming the playmaker we thought he could be and Winslow has greater value for the Seahawks than fantasy owners. Don’t overvalue him.
Any gas left?
Once Winslow was traded to the Seahawks, fantasy owners began to look at his replacement in Tampa Bay, Dallas Clark. A quality veteran, Clark will help the transition to a new staff with leadership on the field and in the locker room. The Bucs will pattern themselves after the Giants' offense, which is not fantasy TE-friendly. The previous regime was also high on Luke Stocker, a second-year player, but how he fits in with the new coaching staff remains to be seen. He is supposedly talented so right now, look at training camp and the preseason to discover any value here. Until then, look elsewhere for tight ends.
The Broncos decided to give QB Peyton Manning two big targets in Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, with Tamme being the pass-receiving option. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said the position will be Manning’s first and second reads at times. Don’t forget, the team is deep at the position with Julius Thomas and Virgil Green being two second-year players they like. Tamme has No. 1 upside but should be taken as a No. 2 and Dreessen will see his opportunities as a touchdown vulture. His value is in larger leagues as a matchup, bye-week and injury fill-in.
Playing for a roster spot and playing for a contract
Chris Cooley’s (knee) has to earn a roster spot but he reported to Redskins OTAs weighing 237 pounds (18 pounds lighter than his listed weight) and says his knee feels great. Cooley is set to make $3.8 million and will count $6.23 million against the cap. That’s not chump change. Teammate Fred Davis is the starter and a potential value pick tight end with elite talent. Davis said he has learned his lesson after a four-game suspension late last season for violating the league's drug policy. He has signed his franchise tender worth $5.446 million, so he is playing for a long-term deal.
- Despite signing John Carlson to a five-year, $25 million contract — with $9.1 million guaranteed — look for the Vikings to use Kyle Rudolph as their primary pass-receiving tight end. He makes a late-round flier pick in his second-season with logic dictating Carlson taking some of his targets but becoming more of a blocker.
- The Bills re-signed touchdown vulture Scott Chandler to a two-year, $5.45 million contract and believe he can transition to being an every-down player. Perhaps, but only view him as a TD vulture who's worthy of being a matchup play until we see that role develop.
- The Raiders have been talking up David Ausberry and the converted wide receiver has been working on his blocking in OTAs and is 20 pounds heavier. His value is in dynasty and keeper leagues but he could be a deep sleeper depending on what we see in training camp.
- The Browns' TE position is a fantasy mess: Ben Watson said he’s back to health after suffering multiple concussions last season and is the team’s most proven player. Evan Moore, hyped up last season as a red-zone threat, scored four touchdowns — one for every 8.5 catches. Now we’re now hearing that second-year TE Jordan Cameron, a converted basketball player, will see more time. Take a wait-and-see approach in training camp and preseason games to see if there’s any value here but realistically there’s minimum fantasy value for 2012.
He will be ready to go
Stud TE Rob Gronkowski is not practicing in Patriots OTAs, as he continues to recover from February ankle surgery. The injured left ankle that left him at less than 100 percent and possibly cost the Patriots the Super Bowl is not yet fully healed. The team does expect him back by training camp and is using the offseason to let him get back to 100 percent without pushing him too hard. No worries here.
Back to elite form
Logic would dictate that Antonio Gates is primed for a big season now that he’s a full year removed from his foot issues of the past two seasons. Chargers head coach Norv Turner agreed, and said that Gates is back to pre-injury form. The only bad news is that this information is now public whereas savvy owners saw a great value pick before Turner spoke. Gates is still a No. 1 tight end, and if you miss out on getting Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham he’s the player to target.
Tony Moeaki had some upside entering 2011 but an ACL tear kept the Chiefs’ second-year player out all season. He should be 100 percent by training camp but will share two-TE duties with Kevin Boss. The Chiefs hope to have a mini-version of the Patriots' TE duo but neither player has the talent of Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez. Moeaki offers late-round flier potential at best, as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll worked wonders with Ben Watson in Cleveland. Watson’s career year was with Daboll in 2010 when he caught 68-763-3 on 102 targets.
Injury quick hits
- After signing free agent Martellus Bennett — who has upside in larger leagues — and drafting fourth-rounder Adrien Robinson, the Giants don’t have to worry about the position. Jake Ballard (ACL, microfracture) and Travis Beckum (ACL) have no fantasy value after both were injured in Super Bowl XLVI. Ballard is likely to start the season on the PUP list and Beckum will be limited if he plays considering the injury happened in February.
- The Cardinals lost Jeff King to a partially torn quadriceps tendon in his right leg in OTAs but the team expects him ready by training camp. However, there is no fantasy value here.
- Broncos second-year player Julius Thomas (ankle) will miss OTAs after undergoing surgery in April to repair ligaments in the ankle. The team has long-term hopes for the former basketball player but he will sit behind Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen in 2012.
- The Jaguars have teased us with glimpses of Zach Miller’s speed and potential. Now, after shoulder surgery in October, he’s ready to contribute. However, after three seasons of more hype than substance he has no fantasy value.
- The Saints have stud Jimmy Graham but — despite the high-octane offense — backup David Thomas has no fantasy value. He missed 11 games last season with a concussion and is healthy now. However, unless Graham goes down look elsewhere.
- Andrew Quarless (right ACL and MCL surgery) might not be ready for training camp with the Packers. However, with Jermichael Finley atop the depth chart there is no value for Quarless in 2012.
Rookie quick hits
- The Colts will use two-TE sets to help and protect their rookie star QB Andrew Luck. Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen will benefit from this setup, with Fleener right now being the player to own. He has great upside but don’t overvalue him, as there are questions if he can be an elite fantasy tight end. Allen has pass-receiving skills but could fill more of an in-line blocker role.
- The Dolphins expect rookie Michael Egnew to make an impact and at 6-5, 252 pounds he should be a red-zone threat. If he is able to improve his blocking, he could make Anthony Fasano, and even H-back Charles Clay, fantasy irrelevant. Egnew and Fasano will battle in preseason, which will tell us more. Both are late-round flier picks but one will disappoint and the West Coast offense does take time to learn so keep your hopes for both players this season in perspective.
- The Bears re-signed Kellen Davis to a two-year deal worth $6 million and he has hopes of being used more. At 6-7, 262 pounds, he is an imposing red-zone target. However, he can’t be happy about the presence of rookie Evan Rodriguez, though Rodriguez will be more of an H-back who can stretch the field. I like Davis as the favorite to retain his deep sleeper value with Rodriquez learning the ropes in 2012.