Sunday, February 26, 2012

2012 Free Agency Top Fives: Tight End

Over the next month leading up to the free-agent signing period on March 13, I'll be taking a look at the best players slated for free agency this offseason.

In this entry, I'll examine the top tight ends expected to hit the open market next month, as well as some other notable names at the position.

1. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

A second-round pick back in 2008, Davis took advantage of Chris Cooley's degenerative healh and experienced a breakout season in 2011, racking up 796 yards on 59 catches in just 12 games. The biggest issue with Davis is maturity, as he was suspended four games this past season for a failed drug test and could be another flunk away from a year-long suspension. Although he's not much of a blocker, Davis is a dynamic receiving threat in fitting with today's trend at the position and he could help any offense.

2. Joel Dreessen, Houston Texans

Some would say he's not even the best tight end on team, but Dreessen is a vastly underrated and very complete tight end. Over the past two seasons, Dreessen has totaled 64 receptions, 871 yards and 10 touchdowns while grading out as one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the game. He's not going to light toe world on fire with size or speed, but the Anthony Fasano-type can do it all and could contribute to a lot of offenses as a No. 2 tight end or starter fill-in.

3. Jeremy Shockey, Carolina Panthers

The 14th overall pick in 2002, Shockey has managed to have a very steady career marred only by a bit of trouble staying healthy. He's never played 16 games in a single season in a decade of pro football, but the 31-year-old is still capable of stretching the field after posting his best yards-per-catch mark since 2005. Shockey is a little risky as your only capable tight end, but he can still contribute as part of a duo and shouldn't be too expensive at this point.

4. Martellus Bennett, Dallas Cowboys

Overshadowed by Jason Witten in Dallas, the 2008 second-rounder never surpassed 283 receiving yards in a season (which he did as a rookie) and doesn't have a single touchdown reception in the past three years. Interestingly, the impressive athlete has become one of the best blocking tight ends in the game, ranking No. 3 in that department in 2010 and at the very top this past season. Bennett's biggest problem has always been maturity and self-motivation, but if he can get his head on straight and commit to the craft, he absolutely has starting ability.

5. Kellen Davis, Chicago Bears

Admittedly, Davis only cracks the top five because the Packers re-signed Jermichael Finley this week. That being said, the 26-year-old is a solid blocker with good size (6-7, 267) and became quite a red-zone threat in 2011 with five touchdowns in only 31 total targets on the season. If given the chance, Davis could prove to be a solid NFL starter, but at the very least is a capable No. 2 man.

Beyond the Top Five
  • Anthony Becht, Kansas City Chiefs — A first-round pick by the Jets back in 2000, Becht has bounced around the league since and hasn't surpassed 100 yards receiving in a season in five years. The 34-year-old has no athleticism left and isn't even a great blocker anymore, so his career is probably over.
  • John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks — After two impressive seasons to begin his career, Carlson set career lows across the board in 2010 and missed the entire 2011 season with a shoulder injury. Still just 27, Carlson has starting upside if he can stay healthy and focused. He's a low-risk, high-reward guy.
  • Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills — A fourth-round pick in 2007, Chandler bounced around between the Cowboys (twice), Cowboys, and Giants before finally landing in Buffalo in 2010. Entering 2011 with just one career reception, Chandler totaled 38 receptions, 389 yards and six touchdowns. Despite his "breakout," Chandler disappears a lot of the time and isn't much of a blocker. I don't see him with long-term starting potential.
  • Daniel Fells, Denver Broncos — In his first season as a full-time starter, Fells managed just 19 receptions, 256 yards and three scores while struggling as a blocker. He doesn't profile as more than a backup and there's little upside at 28.
  • Reggie Kelly, Atlanta Falcons — Kelly returned to Atlanta in 2011 after eight seasons with the Bengals. Now 35, Kelly caught just one pass in 16 games this season, but did grade out positively as a blocker. That's about all he offers and he's not going to be that appealing on the market.
  • Donald Lee, Cincinnati Bengals — Once a fairly productive starter with the Packers, Lee failed to make the Eagles' roster out of camp and wound up playing in nine games for the Bengals in 2011, totaling 11 catches for 115 yards. Soon turning 32, I suspect Lee will have a difficult time prolonging his career more than a couple years.
  • Randy McMichael, San Diego Chargers — Working as the backup to Antonio Gates for the past two seasons, McMichael has racked up 50 catches for 492 yards and two touchdowns. He had starting potential back in his earlier years, but McMichael is no more than a backup as a soon-to-be 33-year-old.
  • Justin Peelle, San Francisco 49ers — A 10-year NFL veteran, Peelle record his lowest catch total (one) in 2011 while failing to grade out well as a blocker. He's nothing more than a backup at 32 and doesn't offer much as a fill-in.
  • Leonard Pope, Kansas City Chiefs — A third-round pick of the Cardinals back in 2006, Pope has been a major disappointment despite his appealing 6-foot-8 size. Although he posted career highs in receptions (24) and receiving yards (247) with the Chiefs in 2011, he graded out as PFF's 110th tight end (out of 111) and clearly doesn't have what it takes to be an NFL starter.
  • Bo Scaife, Cincinnati Bengals — After a handful of solid seasons in Tennessee, the former sixth-round pick spent his first season with the Bengals in IR with a shoulder injury. He's always had starting potential, but his opportunities might be waning at 31.
  • Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings — Once a backup with the Giants, Shiancoe was at his best a few years ago with 18 touchdowns and two 596-yard seasons between 2008 and 2009. His production has taken a hit since and he's not much of a blocker, so he's really nothing more than a short-term starting option at this point.
  • Alex Smith, Cleveland Browns — Smith entered the league as a promising tight end with the Bucs in 2005, but he's since fizzles in stints with the Patriots, Eagles and Browns. He's not much of a blocker and not all that appealing a backup either.
  • Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis Colts — Tamme did a nice job filling in for Dallas Clark in 2010 with 67 catches for 631 yards and four touchdowns, but he's clearly not the same guy without Peyton Manning throwing to him. Most teams aren't going to view him as a starter.

Discuss this article on the comments below or on the forum here!