Even the most knowledgeable fantasy football owners had likely never heard of Charles Clay prior to last season, but Dustin Keller’s preseason knee injury opened the door for him to take over as the starting tight end for the Miami Dolphins. He finished in the top-10 among tight ends in targets (102; sixth), catches (69; sixth), yards (759; eighth) and touchdowns (six;tied for seventh) and not surprisingly Clay finished as the seventh-highest scoring tight end in ESPN standard leagues (113 points).
Clay will remain a prominent part of the Dolphins’ offense this year, with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline as the team’s top two wide receivers and not much else behind them. A knee injury kept Clay out of Miami’s first two preseason games, but there does not appear to be any concern about his availability for the start of the season. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, where tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for 68 receptions for 971 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Clay obviously topped that catch total on his own, and it’s fair to expect more yardage and a few more touchdowns this year with the change in offensive scheme.
Clay belongs in the second tier of fantasy tight ends after Jimmy Graham, but his average draft position (13th round; via Fantasy Football Calculator.com) does not quite reflect that. Eric Ebron still has a higher ADP than Clay, which is a glaring oversight by a lot of fantasy owners given the dismal history of rookie tight ends even if Ebron has a prominent immediate role for the Detroit Lions.
Clay was very consistent in 2013, with at least four catches or a touchdown in 14 of 16 games. He will not carry fantasy teams to victory very often, though a well-timed big game in Week 14 last year (seven catches for 97 yards and two touchdowns) surely helped a lot of fantasy owners during a critical week. With vastly under-appreciated consistency and reliability, I’m buying Clay’s ability to finish as a top-10 fantasy tight end again this year.