The tight end position is relatively deep in 2013. There are veterans who continue to get the job done, as well as young up-and-comers who have a ton of intriguing upside. Then, there are guys who are often forgotten about because they are coming off of significant injuries from the 2012 campaign.
Heath Miller is one of those guys.
During the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 16 contest last season, Miller tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee. Talk about some bad timing. It remains to be seen whether or not Miller will be able to suit up for Week 1 of the 2013 season, but all signs are indicating that he is ahead of schedule in his recovery process. Miller has been running, so perhaps these ACL tears aren’t as devastating as they once were. While it may be a bit of a risk, I think Miller’s injury could make him a major sleeper in fantasy this season.
In 2012, Miller finished as fantasy’s number four tight end, ahead of Jason Witten. The reasoning behind Miller’s success last season was the fact that new offensive coordinator Todd Haley featured him a ton in his offense. Miller saw a whopping 101 targets, which was good for the eighth-most among tight ends. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger loves to look for Miller up close, and his 20 red zone targets (most among tight ends) supports that fully. With the departure of Mike Wallace, a guy who can stretch the field and take away coverage, I expect Haley to continue to utilize Miller a ton in the passing game, just as long as he is on the field.
Of course, that is the bit of risk in drafting Miller this season. ACL tears, despite not being what they used to be, are still very difficult injuries to come back from, especially after suffering one during the final week of the season. Miller will have to be able to make cuts, accelerate and decelerate. Still, I believe if Miller is able to suit up for at least 13 games this year, he’ll be a strong bet to finish as at least a top-10 fantasy tight end. He’ll get the looks in the red zone again, especially since the Steelers don’t have a major presence in the running game. In fact, this unit only scored eight rushing touchdowns all of last season, which was the fifth-fewest in the league, as well as ranking 26th in rushing yards per contest (96.1). If you are planning on taking a shot on Miller late in your drafts, he is coming off the board around the 13th round. I’d look to pair him with another tight end who is a lock to start the season healthy, simply because you never know how different players’ bodies will heal.
There’s clearly some risk involved with investing in Miller, but considering how deep the tight end position is, and the fact that there are always guys emerging from the waiver wire, fantasy owners can afford to take that chance. And if Miller can play around 13-14 games, owners will be rewarded handsomely.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.