Undervalued tight ends: fantasy football sleepers

by Cory J. Bonini on September 7, 2009 @ 18:25:51 PDT


KFFL.com's analysis of fantasy football sleepers and undervalued players for the 2009 season will be updated weekly this offseason. We have released the evaluations earlier than ever before!

Our friends at MockDraftCentral.com can be thanked for the average draft placement (ADP), and each of these figures will also be current to provide you the most accurate information available. According to Mock Draft Central, the following information is from performance leagues without point-per-reception scoring and has been updated weekly.

QB | RB | WR | PK | DT

Chris Cooley | Washington Redskins | Average draft placement: 84.4 | Last week: 85.6

Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins
Expect Cooley to score more in '09

Six, seven, six, eight ... one - that's the amount of touchdowns scored in a season by the Cool one from his rookie year to 2008. Why are fantasy owners thinking that he can't improve on that? Cooley still proved his worth by catching 83 passes for 849 yards, both career bests, though those might go down a bit if the offense opens up more via quarterback Jason Campbell and possibly wideout Devin Thomas. Cooley is durable, having never missed a game in his career; that should be worth more when talking about elite-level tight ends.

Fantasy value: The outspoken 'Skin has fallen on average in the late seventh/early eighth round of 12-team processes, frequently after riskier options such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Kellen Winslow and the Chicago Bears' Greg Olsen. Don't be scared; his touchdowns are all but assured of increasing over a full season's work. Passing on him after the first four tight ends go would be almost as embarrassing as doing your homework naked. Wait a minute....

Zach Miller | Oakland Raiders | Average draft placement: 118.3 | Last week: 118.9

Miller (groin) probably wouldn't be on this list had he scored more than once last year. Reviewing his sophomore stat line of 56-778-1 takes you on a mental rollercoaster that begins with "ah" peaks at "ooh" and disappoints at "eww." His only touchdown came from 63 yards out. Miller is recovering from surgery that repaired a sports hernia, which is furthering his undervalued status. If the Raiders can muster quarterback play that is even slightly better than last year, look for an increase in touchdowns scored. Miller checked in tied three-way for 12th in most red zone utilizations by a tight end with 11.

Fantasy value: Miller is being drafted, on average, in the middle of the 10th round, which is fair considering he is currently the 10th tight end to come off the board. If he can find the end zone more often in 2009 than he did a year ago, you may be looking at top-five tight end statistics at a bargain price. Consider Miller a low-end No. 1 tight end; look for him after all of the common names come off the board.

Brent Celek | Philadelphia Eagles | Average draft placement: 188.2 | Last week: 185.4

The third-year former Cincinnati Bearcat caught 27 passes for 318 yards and scored one touchdown in 16 games (seven starts) last year, but he really made his money in the playoffs. In Celek's seven regular season starts, he caught 19 passes. In just three playoff games, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder caught as many balls. Celek also scored three times in the playoffs. Philly's offense isn't afraid to utilize the position, but the only major fear is that Celek could get lost in the shuffle with so many potential pass catchers at quarterback Donovan McNabb's disposal.

Fantasy value: If you're looking for a No. 2 tight end in deep leagues, Celek is a worthy option in the final round of your draft (16 rounds or larger).

NEW - Jermichael Finley | Green Bay Packers | Average draft placement: 202.5 | Last week: N/A

An athletic but immature rookie last year, Finley caught just six passes for 74 yards during his first season in the NFL. One year later, though, and he has been one of the breakout players during the Packers' preseason. He has snagged nine passes for 92 yards, not earth-shattering numbers, but two of those catches have come in the end zone. With his speed, size and jumping ability, he's a tough matchup for linebackers or cornerbacks, especially around the goal line. He has shown a rapport with quarterback Aaron Rodgers this preseason, too.

Fantasy value: Draft Finley as a No. 2 tight end with high upside. He still doesn't have the starter's job - that belongs to Donald Lee - but Finley should be in on plenty of passing downs this year.

Randy McMichael | St. Louis Rams | Average draft placement: 209.2 | Last week: 209.1

The Rams' West Coast offense slated to be instituted by new OC Pat Shurmur gives the tight end ample chances to contribute. McMichael might - might - serve as a vital piece of an offense that expects to revolve around running back Steven Jackson. A trip to Injured Reserve stopped McMichael from building on similar hype last season.

Fantasy value: McMichael isn't draft-worthy in most formats, but a return to his 2005-07 stretch in which he caught at least 60 passes each season would make him a low-end No. 2 option. Though you shouldn't bank on it, in theory this system presents that possibility. If your draft roster allows you to call a second tight end, you could wait to take a chance on Mac if you have an elite starter.

Martin Rucker | Cleveland Browns | Average draft placement: N/A | Last week: N/A

Someone has to catch the passes that Kellen Winslow leaves behind after being dealt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and we feel Rucker has a strong chance to be that guy. Our main fear with Rucker is his supposed lack of work ethic. For example, he recently didn't run out a penalty lap in practice. It may not be a big deal to some, including head coach Eric Mangini, but it says something about his attitude and the team's culture. At any rate, if he wins out as the starting tight end and Brady Quinn indeed earns the starting quarterback gig, the short passing game in Cleveland could be run through the tight end position. Keep in mind: Robert Royal is currently listed as the starting tight end, but Rucker will probably be the pass-catching option.

Fantasy value: Rucker isn't draftable in standard formats, but keep an eye on him as the offseason moves along. He is more of a No. 3 tight end in that rare format deep enough to sustain a third player at the position.

QB | RB | WR | PK | DT

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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