Unbelievably Week 9 of the NFL season is in the books. Some of your fantasy football teams are sailing smooth seas into the playoffs while others are putting out may-day calls as your teams hit some rough waters. For the owners who were not lucky enough to snag one of the elite tight ends, consistent tight end play has become the slow leak that is bringing down your ships. Before you put on your life vest and take the plunge overboard, I will help you find the tight end that can make all the difference. First, let us take a look at who you do not want in your starting lineups.
Time to ride the pine
Another week goes by without a hint of Finley living up to TE1 potential. I do not know if he frustrates fantasy owners, Packer fans, or Mike McCarthy more. This past week, he had a good matchup against a team that he has had success against in his career. (2009 playoffs, where he looked like the next great tight end to hit the league) Unfortunately for the Packers and fantasy owners, he once again looked like a shadow of his former self.
Finley’s production, as well as his targets, has steadily gone down since Week 1. While we can make excuses for him such as his shoulder injury sustained against the Rams or the lack of a deep threat with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson missing time, it is his stone hands that are holding him back. According to his coaches, Finley passes the eye test in the weight room as well as on the practice field. But when game time comes along, he disappears. For some perspective, in Week 1 Finley had 11 targets and seven catches. Over the past three weeks COMBINED he has had only ten targets even without Jennings and Nelson on the field. Time to permanently bench, or dare I say drop, this former phenom.
Tamme has not become Peyton Manning’s security blanket as many of us had thought would be the case. He has become a fringe player, seeing the field roughly fifty percent of the time, and losing out on targets to Joel Dreesen among others. Tamme is at best a bye week fill in, but not the borderline TE1 some thought he could be.
Rudolph was a hot pick up to start the year as he was catching touchdowns at an alarming rate. As Rudolph crashed back to earth the past few weeks, so have many fantasy teams out there. While Rudolph cannot be blamed for Christian Ponder’s poor play, he can be looked at as nothing more than a redzone threat going forward.
Light at the end of the tunnel
While some fantasy owners might have become frustrated with Vernon Davis over the last few weeks, I implore you to stay the course. While Vernon Davis’ production and targets are down, his problems are more about how the defenses in the league are playing him then his inconsistency as a pass catcher. Davis’ first few weeks seemed to build on the momentum he and Alex Smith built up with last year’s brilliant playoff run. The last two weeks his lack of opportunities has had you scratching your head. I see Davis’ production jumping up to low to mid TE1 coming off the bye week as Harbaugh and company had plenty of time to find a way to get their most dynamic offensive player more involved.
Antonio Gates has been inconsistent mainly because of poor quarterback and offensive line play, but he and Philip Rivers have a history of playing well down the stretch. With Gates being the healthiest he has been in years, he may be a trade target for the savvy fantasy owner.
Possible trade targets
My top trade targets for the stretch run are Vernon Davis in all non-PPR leagues and Antonio Gates in all leagues. Jermaine Gresham is also on my radar as a nice TE2 target that can be had for very little in most formats. The only thing holding Gresham back is the Bengals’ lack of a running game. With a running game and more play-action looks at the goal-line, Gresham could develop into a TE1. Greg Olsen also has some upside if you can get him on the cheap. With Carolina going back to a power running game, Olsen should see increased targets and production.
The waiver wire is where most championships are won and lost and this year will be no different
Waiver wire targets
Miller has probably been scooped up by now, but on the off chance that he is available, do not hesitate. Ben Roethlisberger was not speaking in hyperbole when he said he would get him to the Pro-bowl this year. No other Steeler has benefited more from Hines Ward’s retirement than Miller. He has become the preferred possession receiver as well as a bona fide touchdown hound near the goal-line. Even blocking another GM from gaining points by dropping a fifth wide receiver such as Sidney Rice or Santana Moss will be worth the satisfaction as he/she is forced to start Dustin Keller, Anthony Fasano, or Marcedes Lewis.
Can you name the tight end that had the most targets two out of the last three weeks? I am waiting. As you could have guessed, it’s Brandon Myers. Myers is Jason Witten without the run after the catch. He is a big target who runs crisp routes and has soft hands. He might be this year’s Jake Ballard after all is said and done. The thing I like about him most is that he never comes off the field. He is a good (not great) inline blocker and can split out and body up on safeties. I am a little concerned with McFadden’s injury, but not enough to pull Myers from my list.