The tight end position is a mess for fantasy owners right now. Which is odd, considering that there are so many talented, pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.
There might even be too many good tight ends. Many teams are now utilizing two tight ends on offense.
Even if the tight ends are seeing more targets, they might be splitting them up between two different players.
Getting elite production from the TE position might be the biggest statistical advantage that your fantasy team can have.
Unfortunately, there's no sure way to find such production, unless you want to spend a very early pick on Jimmy Graham. The key will be to find a player with top-5 upside in the later rounds.
When I'm looking for a late-round player with tremendous upside, I'm looking at several different factors:
- Physical/Football Ability. A player can get all of the playing time in the world and it won't translate into actual production unless he as talent and/or skill. Most of the time I'm looking for physically talented players who are in a strong position to mature and improve their football skill sets.
- Opportunity. I'm trying to find players who are going to be on the field often. Maybe not early in the season, and maybe it even takes an injury. Unless I'm looking for RBs, I want players who are locked into seeing the majority of snaps. A part-time or situational player won't help you enough at TE or WR.
- Situation Changes. There are many ways that a player can see his situation change. He can go to a new team. He could be entering the season as a starter for the first time. There could be a new coaching staff and/or offensive scheme being installed.
Rob Housler is a player who meets all of my criteria. At 6'5" and 248 pounds, he has ideal size for the TE position. At the NFL Combine he ran a 4.55, 40-yard dash and posted a 37" vertical jump. He's in his physical prime, entering his thrid NFL season.
Until the end of 2012, Housler didn't get many opportunities to get on the field. Some of that was due to his struggles as a blocker. He was stuck behind older players with less talent.
In 2013, he finally has the position to himself. He will need to show that he can do enough as a blocker to remain on the field at all times. But he will utilized often as the "move" TE who will line up a several different spots in an effort to create mismatches.
Not only is Housler getting a job, he's getting a coach and a QB. New coach Bruce Arians has utilized the TE position throughout his NFL career, especially in the red zone. New coach Carson Palmer turned Brandon Myers from a no-name to a top-10 fantasy TE last season. The presence of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts should open up the middle of the field for Housler.
The Cardinals don't have a particularly strong pass-catching RB at this point. That could open the door for Housler to become the primary "check-down" option for Palmer. Although that role probably won't lead to many TDs or big plays, it could add 20+ receptions to his totals, which is a nice bump for owners in PPR leagues.
Housler isn't a proven commodity, so I wouldn't depend on him as the only TE on my fantasy team. More likely, I will wait until the later rounds to draft a TE.
Then I will grab Housler and another similar TE. The position is incredibly wide open and options will be available on the waiver wire as the season progresses. That means that there's not really any downside to taking a shot on Housler. If it works, you will have a TE you can start every week. If it doesn't, you will be able to find another option.
Thanks for reading and good luck to you this season.