Daily Archives: October 21, 2009

Applaud or a Fraud – Top 10 Tight Ends

Over these midseason weeks, we’re going to take our preseason draft board and break down the top players at each position in an effort to determine which players are living up to their draft status, which are surpassing their draft status, and which are falling below their draft status. We’ll use our Applaud or a Fraud titles to compare these players vs. preseason expectations, but you’ll want to read each player’s report to see what the verdict means for him.

We’ve already done this with the top 35 running backs and emerging running backs and with the top 35 wide receivers and emerging wide receivers. Now we turn to the top 10 tight ends from our preseason draft board.

As a companion to this piece, we’ll look at the top tight ends who weren’t in our top 10 before the season and try to determine whether we should applaud them or consider them frauds for the rest of the season. Watch for that post tomorrow.

1. Jason Witten, Cowboys – As the Cowboys have struggled, Witten has been perhaps the biggest victim. He has 259 yards receiving, which is OK for a player who’s already had a bye, but just one touchdown. He’s not the No. 1 overall tight end that we expected before the season, but he is still a guy you must start each and every week. So as a starter going forward, we’re going to clap, despite the disappointment those who drafted him high must have. Verdict: Applaud

2. Dallas Clark, Colts – Clark has always been a terrific fantasy producer, but thus far this year he’s taken it to another level. With Anthony Gonzalez missing so much time, Clark has stepped up into an even bigger role in the offense, and the results are stirring. Even though he’s had his bye, he leads all tight ends with 441 yards (that’s 84 yards per game) and he also has two touchdowns. He deserves not just applause but a standing ovation. Verdict: Applaud

3. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – In his first year in Atlanta, Gonzalez has proven he still has it as a top-tier fantasy tight end. His yardage total of 267 is a little lower than usual (just 46 yards per game), but he does have three touchdowns, all in the Georgia Dome. Those touchdowns make Gonzalez still a reliable fantasy tight end for those who invested a high draft pick in him. Verdict: Applaud

4. Antonio Gates, Chargers – Gates has quietly piled up a whopping 419 yards on the season (that’s 70 per game), and although he has just two touchdowns, he’s still one of the top fantasy producers at tight end. Owners might wish that the Chargers looked to Gates more in the red zone, but they can’t complain about finally having him healthy and productive once again. Verdict: Applaud

5. Greg Olsen, Bears – We figured that Olsen would emerge as Jay Cutler’s favorite target, and so we moved him up to the top of the second tier of tight ends. So far, that has been a dicey move. Olsen is producing fantasy points because he has three touchdowns in the first six games, but he has just 151 yards. That 25 yards-per-game average has to go up, and if Olsen keeps getting in the end zone it this will turn out OK for fantasy owners, but it’s still hard to make ourselves clap for Olsen because we expected so much before the season. Still, Olsen is a solid fantasy starter, and so we’ll clap. Verdict: Applaud

6. Owen Daniels, Texans – Daniels was the other tight end we put in the second tier, and that has paid off. Daniels has been a terrific yardage-producer in recent years, and he’s done that again with 374 yards through six games (that’s 62 per game). But after scoring just two touchdowns last year, he already has four in ’09. That’s a huge blessing for Daniels owners who find themselves with one of the most productive fantasy tight ends around. Verdict: Applaud

7. Chris Cooley, Redskins – Cooley, like Daniels, is a long-time top receiver who saw his touchdown total dive in ’08. That trend appears to be continuing in ’09. He has 311 yards (52 per game) and 2 touchdowns, which is OK production, but given the Redskins’ problems at quarterback and their widespread offensive line injuries, fantasy owners have to be worried about whether Cooley can continue to produce starting-caliber numbers going forward. Given how good a player Cooley is, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but this is a close call. Verdict: Applaud

8. Dustin Keller, Jets – We figured that Keller, who had a nice rookie season with Brett Favre as his quarterback, would prove to be Mark Sanchez’s safety net this year. Plus, the Jets didn’t have top receivers, and so Keller figured to help fill in that gap. But the addition of Braylon Edwards and Sanchez’s recent meltdown have limited Keller’s fantasy production. He’s averaging just 31 yards per game (187 total) and has just one touchdown, and things don’t look to be getting better soon. If you have Keller as a starter, it’s time for a change. Verdict: A fraud

9. John Carlson, Seahawks – Carlson’s numbers look OK, with 294 yards (59 per game) and two touchdowns. But since his six-catch, 95-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 1, Carlson hasn’t had more than 55 yards in a game. We don’t like that trend, and that leads us to pass on Carlson as a fantasy starter going forward. Verdict: A fraud

10. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers – In a lost season in Tampa Bay, Winslow has emerged as a solid threat for the Bucs. He has 286 yards (47 per game) and four touchdowns, which is solid for tight ends. Since Winslow is the only thing going in Tampa, it seems like he can keep producing no matter who’s at quarterback for the Bucs. As a result, we’ll continue to recommend Winslow as a fantasy starter. Verdict: Applaud

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FR: In-season trades

This post compares the trades that happened between the start of the regular season and the trading deadline. As usual, we’re using a 10-point scale to compare, with the 10 level being the most important trades and the 1 level being the least important.

Check this post for trades from training campthis post for a look at trades from the draft until the beginning of training camp and this post for a look at trades from earlier in the offseason.

10 – Browns trade WR Braylon Edwards to Jets for WR Chansi Stuckey, LB Jason Trusnick, and third- and fifth-round draft picks – Edwards, a former top-3 draft pick, only had one season in which he fully lived up to his potential in Cleveland. In that season, 2007, he was a big-time receiving threat with 80 catches for 1,239 yards and 16 TDs. He has great size and speed, but his hands are sometimes questionable. That was certainly the case last year, when he fell to 55 catches for 873 yards and three scores. Edwards also was reportedly unhappy in Cleveland, and Chris Mortenson tweeted that Edwards was the source behind many of the “problems” and “grievances” that had been filed against head coach Eric Mangini. Because Edwards wasn’t on board, Mangini and the Browns dealt him away – just as they dealt away their other top offensive playmaker, Kellen Winslow, in the offseason. With Edwards gone, the Browns will have to rely on rookies Brian Robiskie and Mohammed Massaquoi to step up as receivers. Chansi Stuckey, the third or fourth receiver with the Jets who came over in the trade, could help, but he’s not a long-term answer. In addition to Stuckey, the Browns got special-teams stalwart Jason Trusnick and third- and fifth-round picks. That’s not great return for Edwards, who might have drawn a first-rounder from the Giants or Titans before the draft if Cleveland had traded him then. This is another example of Mangini assigning more value to guys he previously coached and getting inadequate value in a trade – just as he did in the Mark Sanchez draft-day deal. For the Jets, this deal could answer their biggest question – an outside receiving threat. Jerricho Cotchery has been good, but he’s more of a possession guy than a gamebreaker. Having Edwards and Cotchery, along with TE Dustin Keller, gives the Jets a chance to build a passing game around rookie QB Sanchez. Edwards longed for the spotlight of a big city like New York, but we’ll have to see if he can perform at a level to make that spotlight shine instead of glare. If he continues dropping passes frequently, he could get run out of the Meadowlands in an ugly scene. But at this price, the trade is a no-brainer for the Jets, who have a chance to build a special offense.

9 – none

8 – Buccaneers trade DE Gaines Adams to Bears for a 2010 2nd-round pick – Adams was once the fourth overall pick in the draft, but in two-plus seasons he has just 13.5 sacks, including just one this season. Now that the Buccaneers’ regime has changed, they decided to cut their losses and deal Adams. The salary cap hit that comes with giving up on a top-5 pick isn’t an issue because the Bucs have more cap room than anyone else in the league. They get a second-round pick that should be in the bottom half of the round, but that should still provide a starting-caliber player if the Bucs draft right. The Bears now take a shot at Adams. Two reasons they did this: one, new defensive line Rod Marinelli, while a bust as a head coach, is known as one of the best coaches at getting the most out of linemen. The Bears also face free-agency with DEs Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson after the season, and so Adams could provide a replacement or at least leverage in those negotiations. The Bears had already given up their first-rounder in 2010 in the Jay Cutler trade, so they’re now all but out of the draft. But Adams (and Cutler, for that matter) are both young, which makes trading draft picks make more sense.

7 – Rams trade LB Will Witherspoon to Eagles for WR Brandon Gibson and 2010 5th-round pick – The Eagles, who have never found a solid replacement for MLB Stewart Bradley, who was injured on the first day of training camp, pick up Witherspoon, the long-time Panther and Ram. Witherspoon is better as an outside ‘backer than in the middle, because outside he can use his speed to range sideline to sideline and make plays against the run and in pass coverage. But he has played inside and done a solid job in the past. He’s a good but not great player who is starting caliber if he can seize on the Eagles’ hyperagressive defensive scheme quickly. In exchange, the Rams (who of course weren’t going anywhere) pick up a fifth-round pick in 2010 as well as Gibson, a sixth-rounder in the ’09 draft who has yet to play in a regular-season game. The Rams have no answers at wide receiver aside from maybe Donnie Avery, so getting a prospect there is a big plus as well. If they get two growing players in exchange for Witherspoon, that’s a win in the rebuilding process.

6 – none

5 – Chiefs trade DT Tank Tyler to Panthers for 2010 5th-round pick – Tyler, the Chiefs’ 2006 third-round pick, never really fit into the Chiefs 3-4 system this year. He started every game in ’08 and had 41 tackles, so he has shown he’s not terrible, but he’s a 4-3 tackle and not a nose tackle. The Panthers have gone through ridiculous injuries at defensive tackle and need help. If Tyler can come in and start and provide some ballast against the run, he’ll help this year. And for a team that has clawed back to 2-3 and has the Bills next, this year still matters. Plus, Tyler is young, and so he could develop into a nice player going forward. The Panthers have now traded away at least four draft picks this year, so the calvary isn’t coming in the offseason, but they’re trying to stay in this season.

4 – none

3 – Chiefs trade QB Tyler Thigpen to Dolphins for undisclosed draft pick – With Chad Pennington out for the year, the Dolphins needed some QB help. They traded for Thigpen, who showed potential last season but fell to the No. 3 spot in Kansas City this year. Thigpen has been running a similar Bill Parcells-inspired system in K.C. that he’ll run in Miami, which will help his transition into the No. 2 QB role. He also provides insurance in case Chad Henne shows he’s not going to be able to start in the league. The trade was for an undisclosed draft pick that may depend on how Thigpen plays or how much he plays.

2 – none

1 – Ravens trade OLB Prescott Burgess to Patriots for 7th-round pick – The Patriots acquired Burgess, who has played in Baltimore the last two years, to bolster their depth at linebacker. Burgess has played primarily on special teams in his three-year career but could help fill in with a Patriots LB corps that’s thinner with the departures of Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel and the injury to Jerod Mayo. But then Burgess was cut one week later, which means this was more of a charitable donation of a draft pick than a impactful trade. Burgess ended up back with the Ravens within a month to replace the injured Brendan Ayanbadejo.

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