Fantasy Football – Rookie TE Breakdown
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12.) Jake Murphy, Raiders
Playing time – The Raiders brought in two late round TEs (Rivera, Kasa) and one UDFA (Leonhardt) in the 2013 draft and they are all still on the roster as well as David Auberry who missed all of 2013 with a shoulder injury. So I was surprised when they gave Murphy an above average $10k UDFA bonus. Mychal Rivera stood out as the best of the rookie tight ends last year with 38 catches for 407 yards and 4 TDs. None of the other rookies did much so in theory Murphy has a shot to win the #2 job behind Rivera, but with so many unproven TEs on the roster everything is wide open. New Raiders QB Matt Schaub likes to throw to the tight end so whoever wins the #1 TE job should see plenty of targets.
Fantasy outlook – If Murphy can beat out Rivera, which is possible, he could be fantasy relevant as a rookie. I am higher on Murphy than most, I had him graded as a 5th round pick and see him as a poor man’s Heath Miller. He is a max-effort player but has plenty of athleticism and as the son of Braves hall of famer Dale Murphy, has good bloodlines. Murphy can block a little, had good hands, and is tough to bring down after the catch. I like Mychal Rivera as well and think a Rivera / Murphy combo could be better than anyone expects as the Raiders TE combo. If they split time though neither will be viable in fantasy, but if one were to take a clear lead as the #1 TE, with a TE-friendly QB like Schaub, the winner could be a fantasy sleeper in 2014.
13.) Arthur Lynch, Dolphins:
Playing time – Charles Clay came from out of nowhere to have a Pro Bowl season for the Dolphins, so he’s got a lock on the starting job. They have got very little talent on the roster behind Clay though, so the #2 job is Lynch’s for the taking. I had Lynch as a 3rd/4th rounder so the Phins got a good value pick in the 5th. Lynch’s blocking is solid so the Dolphins should be comfortable putting him on the field in 2 TE sets.
Fantasy outlook – Lynch was more of a blocker than a receiver at Georgia, but I thought he showed surprising athleticism at the Senior Bowl and runs well with the ball after the catch. Clay splits out as a receiver often, similar to how the Saints use Jimmy Graham and that could mean plenty of snaps for Lynch if he can win the #2 job. I think Lynch will end up with a solid 30, 450, 4 rookie season. Probably not worth owning in fantasy, but a guy to keep an eye on in the future should he ever get a starting gig.
14.) Jacob Peterson, Falcons:
Playing time – After Tony G’s retirement the Falcons have a hole at TE. Right now last year’s 4th round pick Levine Toilolo is at the top of the depth chart. Toilolo is a decent blocker, but is slow with questionable hands and not a vertical threat at all. I don’t know why the Falcons didn’t draft a TE, but at least they signed a decent one in UDFA Jacob Pederson out of Wisconsin. The depth chart is wide open, so Pederson has a shot at playing time as a rookie.
Fantasy outlook – Pederson is small (6’3, 238) and slow (4.82) but smart and a sharp route runner who knows how to find holes in zone coverage. In Wisconsin’s run heavy offense he had 39 catches for 551 yards and 3 TDs. I didn’t expect Pederson to make much of an impact in the NFL, but the Falcons depth chart at TE is so bad, he might be the best TE on the roster.
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15.) Marcel Jensen, Jaguars
Playing time – I’m not sure why Jensen didn’t get drafted, while low-ceiling guys like Blanchflower and Bolser did. Jensen played in an offense that didn’t utilize the TE at all, but he has the size, extremely long arms, and athleticism to be a solid NFL tight end. Marcedes Lewis is still the Jags #1 TE, but his play slipped significantly last season and has a $16.5M cap number the next two years. Clay Harbour is a solid H-back as the Jags #2 but is too small to be an inline blocker. Jensen has the size (6’6, 260) and ability to eventually take over for Lewis, but he is probably too raw for it too happen in 2014. Unless Lewis is a salary cap casualty before week 1 or gets injured, I don’t expect Jensen to see the field much.
Fantasy outlook – Jensen has long arms, huge hands, and the agility to be an asset in the passing game with his wide catch radius. He needs a year or two of polish, but could be a solid fantasy tight end by 2015/2016. Keep an eye on Jensen in pre-season and if Lewis is a salary cap casualty, take a late round flier on Jensen. He has the potential to be a solid 2nd tier TE.
16.) Ted Bolser, Redskins:
Playing time – The Redskins seems set at TE with Jordan Reed, H-back Niles Paul, and blocking TE Logan Paulson. With all the holes on both sides of the ball for the Skins and limited draft picks it was surprising to see them reach for Bolser with a 7th round pick when most sites had him graded as a UDFA. The only thing I can think of is that they aren’t confident in Reed’s ability to make it through a full season. Reed has plenty of injuries in college (2 concussions, knee, hamstring) and then missed 7 games his rookie season, so there could be playing time available for Bolser.
Fantasy outlook – Bolser has a similar skill set to Reed; He struggles as a blocker but has great hands (though small) and excels at finding soft spots in a zone. He doesn’t have quite the same athleticism and after the catch ability as Reed, but he is a well-rounded player who could be a solid 5 catch, 65 yards per game type if he takes over for Reed as the starter.
17.) Rob Blanchflower, Steelers:
Playing time – I thought the Steelers would draft Jake Murphy (Utah) because he is a poor man’s Heath Miller, but they drafted Blanchflower instead who is a poor man’s Jake Murphy. Blanchflower is a max-effort player who is decent as a blocker and as a receiver but doesn’t stand out in either aspect. He also had plenty of injury issues in college and didn’t dominate against weak comp at UMass. The Steelers depth chart is solid at the top with Miller and blocker Matt Spaeth so Blanchflower’s best bet is as the 3rd TE and special teams contributor. Unless Miller and Speath go down with injuries, I don’t expect Blanchflower to see the field much.
Fantasy outlook – Blanchflower gets the most out of his ability, but it’s never going to be enough to be a factor in fantasy.
18.) Blake Annen, Eagles:
Playing time – The Eagles are stocked at TE with solid vet Brent Celek, promising 2nd-year player Zach Ertz and h-back James Caesey, so Annen is a long-shot to make the active roster this year. Even if he were to beat out Casey it’s doubtful he would see many snaps on offense.
Fantasy outlook – Annen has all the physical tools you look for in a TE. He has good size at 6’4, 248 and his 4.41 40-time at his pro day got everyone’s attention, but he only had 16 receptions for 183 yards and 2 TDs last year so the production didn’t come close to matching up to his tools. Eagles HC Chip Kelly has found a way to utilize athletes at Oregon so if Annen can beat out Casey and one of the TEs in front of him get hurt, then maybe Annen gets a look. It’s a long shot, but a 6’4, 250 pound TE that can run a 4.41 40 in Chip Kelly’s offense… It’s intriguing, but wait and see where Annen ends up on the depth chart before you make any fantasy commitments .
19.) Alex Bayer, Rams:
Playing time – The Rams are in decent shape at TE with the inconsistent Jared Cook and the solid Lance Kendricks. Bayer has a shot to stick around as the third TE, but unless someone gets hurt he’s a long shot to see any snaps on offense.
Fantasy outlook – Bayer has decent size for a TE (6’4, 258), average speed (4.77) and good hands. Bayer is a max-effort blocker, but nothing special. He projects as a back-up TE and special teams guy and unless he lucks into a #1 job due to multiple injuries, won’t be fantasy relevant.