The 2012 Fantasy Football season is rapidly approaching. Draft boards are being compiled with the obvious big name producers targeted at the initial key positions: quarterback, running back and wide receiver. What is tricky is targeting a quality tight end. There will really only be two tight ends that deserve an investment as early round selections: the New England Patriots‘ Rob Gronkowski and New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Both players had hyper-productive seasons at the tight end position in 2011 (Gronkowski: 1327 yards, 17 touchdowns; Graham: 1310 yards, 11 touchdowns). The question begs, who are the next group of tight ends one should seek?
The apparent choices are Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten, San Francisco 49er Vernon Davis and San Diego Charger Antonio Gates. All three players have had successful fantasy track records and may prove to be a wise pick. I believe I can make a better argument with the selection of Philadelphia Eagles‘ four year starter, Brent Celek.
Entering his sixth NFL season, Brent Celek is at his physical prime of only 27 years old. Brent Celek got off to a ridiculously slow start last season with only nine receptions for 73 yards and zero touchdowns in the first five games. During the final eleven games of the season, the Eagles reduced his blocking responsibilities and quarterback Michael Vick actively sought Celek as the big target he needed. In that time, Celek finished the season catching an additional 53 passes and 738 more yards along with five touchdowns.
Brent Celek finished the season fifth among NFL tight ends in receiving yards with 811, along with 62 receptions. What was remarkable was that Celek was unbeknownst injured throughout the course of the 2011 season. During the offseason, Celek had surgery on a hip and a sports hernia.
In 2012, a healthy Eagles offense will surely be explosive. Head coach Andy Reid will continue to exploit teams with Celek’s pass catching abilities. Coach Reid has done so in the past. In 2009, Celek has his most productive year with 76 receptions, 971 yards and eight touchdowns.
Across various fantasy football websites (www.fantasyinfo.com; www.fantasyppr.com; www.fftoolbox.com; www.espn.com; www.fantasyteamadvice.com), the average 2012 production projection for Celek is 60.2 receptions with 780.8 yards and 5.2 touchdowns. Celek is generally outside the top five of NFL tight ends on most fantasy boards. The outlook is that the Eagles are looking for him to block more. I do not think that will be the case.
I see more of an upside in Brent Celek’s 2012 season. Andy Reid is a pass first coach. Recently in the NFL, there has been a resurgence of the tight end’s role in the passing game. The Eagles have two speedster wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the outside. The middle of the field will be a larger area that Andy Reid will design plays for Celek. I also believe that Michael Vick will utilize Celek more as he did middle to end of last season, simply based on the size of the target Celek represents at 6’4, 260 pounds.
Many of the bigger named tight ends (Witten, Davis, Gates, Finley, Hernandez) will be drafted much earlier than Celek. I believe Celek will come close to his 2009 production in 2012. If so, Brent Celek is a value pick that will fall to the right owner.