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Fantasy Football: Can Ladarius Green Surpass Antonio Gates in 2014?

Chargers TE Ladarius Green

Christopher Hanewinckel- USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers TE Ladarius Green in entering his third season as a professional after being selected in the fourth round of 2012’s NFL Draft. Green is a big guy, both in stature and ability. He is 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 240 pounds. He has spent the majority of his time in the NFL backing up future Hall-of-Fame TE Antonio Gates, but Gates is getting older and the Chargers expect Green to take over for Gates sooner rather than later.

Gates has two years left on the six-year contract he signed in 2010, and his on-field production has been on the decline for some time now. Gates failed to surpass the 900 yard-mark for the fourth consecutive season, after missing the threshold once in his first six seasons as the starter. Gates only found the end zone four times in 2013, the fewest times since his rookie-year total of two. Gates also failed to gain more than 50 yards receiving in all of 2013’s last eight games.

Green on the other hand has done nothing but improve his game since his time with the Chargers began. He averaged an impressive 22.1 YPC in 2013, and turned one reception into a 60-yard TD in Week 12.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers experienced a blast from the fantasy past with his resurrection that was his 2013 season. Rivers passed for 4,478 yards, 32 TDs, and only 11 interceptions. The coaching and system change worked wonders for Rivers and the Chargers’ offense, and despite the departure of 2013 OC Ken Whisenhunt (to be the HC for the Tennessee Titans) the Chargers should remain among the NFL’s most well-rounded and productive offenses from a fantasy perspective.

Green is currently being drafted as the 14th TE in offseason mock drafts, or about 140th overall. His potential and opportunity presented make him a great value at that point in fantasy drafts. The lack of a true WR2 (behind runner-up for Rookie-of-the-Year award Keenan Allen) also bodes well for Green’s target and reception totals.

Gates will be 34 when 2014 begins and eventually age catches up to every professional athlete. Green is in prime position to put up equal or better yardage totals than his mentor, and his touchdown totals should increase significantly as well. If you can nab Green as your TE2 (or TE1 in deeper leagues) in 2014 fantasy drafts don’t hesitate to pull the trigger on it. He has the potential to instantly become an every-week fantasy starter and Rivers’ second-favorite target.

Matt Southall is a fantasy football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattsouthall2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+.