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2012 Draft Prep: Kirwan's TE snapshot

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No position in football is growing faster than the tight end.

When high schools and colleges went to the spread offense, the basketball players came out for football. A smart 6-foot-4 basketball player playing small forward realized there was a better chance to be a professional football player than an NBA player, so he traded his sneakers for cleats. Gone is the image of the tight end as a third offensive tackle and enter a whole new kind of matchup problem for defenses. Tight ends that flex alignments and get vertical down the field are the players playing the tight end position. The issue in fantasy football isn't identifying Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski as top tight ends, but how low in the draft should a solid pass catching tight end be drafted.

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As good as the top two tight ends are, it's probably in your best interests to draft a couple of players at other positions before even considering a tight end. A good case could be made for Graham or Gronkowski based on what's expected but there is good depth at this position and solid producers lurking in the middle to late rounds.

Tight ends with upside in 2012

Jacob Tamme, Broncos: Tamme already proved in Indianapolis when he filled in for an injured Dallas Clark that he can be Peyton Manning's go-to guy. I visited with Peyton Manning and Jacob Tamme this summer and they have chemistry between them that will make them a lethal combination. The Broncos are going to use a lot of no huddle offense with a pass attack that could see 38-40 passes a game. To help the offensive line, look for the short to intermediate passing game to get going. Tamme should be targeted seven to nine times a game. I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up with 65 receptions and seven touchdowns, even with an underwhelming preseason.

Coby Fleener, Colts: Fleener is only a rookie but he was Andrew Luck's go-to guy in college and they are back together in Indy. Reggie Wayne will still see rolled coverage and that leaves Fleener in a nice position from the slot to work the middle of the field. Figure the Colts are playing from behind most weeks and Luck is putting up close to 40 passes a game. With a questionable offensive line in front of him Luck will need the quick game and Fleener knows how to read coverage and get open. Just like Tamme, he should get close to the 65 reception mark and a half a dozen touchdowns.

Scott Chandler, Bills: Chandler was on his way to a big year until Fred Jackson got hurt and the Buffalo run game didn't hold the linebackers like it did earlier in the season. I sat down with Chandler at camp this summer and discussed what happens to his game when the linebackers are thinking run and a safety is down I the box. The Bills recognized Chandler's talent with a new contract this past offseason and Chan Gailey will increase his targets this year. The Bills added some deep speed on the outside with T.J. Graham which will open up the middle of the field. Look for Chandler to add at least 15 receptions to his 38 last year and up his touchdown total closer to 10.

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Jared Cook, Titans: Cook is not a blocking tight end by any means but he is a vertical threat and started to come on strong late in 2011. He averaged seven receptions and over 100 yards a game over the last three weeks. With Jake Locker under center he knows a tight end is his best friend. Chris Johnson will return to his 2010 form and that means lots of safety down looks. No linebacker can stay with the speedy Cook and his ability to get vertical in the play action game and the crossing routes in the bootleg game should push his reception total over the 50 mark and his touchdowns over six.

Kellen Davis, Bears: Gone is the seven-step drop passing game and the Mike Martz philosophy. Both things help the Bear tight end grow in the passing game. Brandon Marshall will get lots of rolled coverage and Matt Forte/Michael Bush will keep the run defense honest. Mike Tice is a former 6-foot-7 tight end himself and he knows the value of a big target down the middle of the field. Last year Davis caught a touchdown every 3.5 receptions which tells you he is a red zone target. I would be surprised if he doesn't finish up with 40 receptions and seven touchdowns this season.

Tight ends with question marks coming into 2012

Jason Witten, Cowboys: Jason is a fine tight end but he is coming off a spleen injury. He also is on the field with often injured wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant which means defenses can double him more than most tight ends, especially in the red zone. Jason will get his catches but his touchdowns are another story.

Brent Celek, Eagles: I am a fan of Celek and he did have a solid second half of the 2011 season. My caution flag is up because Michael Vick doesn't stay healthy for 16 games. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are the favorite targets of Vick anyway and there will be games were Celek disappears.

Fred Davis, Redskins: Davis is talented and clearly the go-to tight end in Washington. He is one strike away from a year suspension and that's a lot of risk. He also is lining up with rookie QB Robert Griffin and that could mean less receiving opportunities until RGIII gets comfortable in this offense. Young quarterbacks like Griffin tend to throw the ball outside and deep early in their careers as well as scrambling too much. Lots of people are projecting Davis to top his 12-game production last year when he caught 59 passes for close to 800 yards. I'm not one of them.

Heath Miller, Steelers: Miller is a fine tight end but his production was going down before Todd Haley got here as the new offensive coordinator. This summer the Steelers have served notice that they will be running the ball more than the 27 times a game they ran it last year. Figure the run game moves up to 32 times a game and those extra five runs a game takes 80 plays away from the pass game over the season. I don't think the Steelers are taking those targets away from Wallace or Brown so steer clear of Miller.

Dustin Keller, Jets: I am a big fan of Keller but after watching how poor the Jet offensive line is this summer it may be impossible to free release Keller as much as the team wants too. Tackles Hunter and Ferguson gave up 18 sacks between them last year and that will send Mark Sanchez running for his life. The Jets also claim to be returning to the ‘ground and pound' offense and that will reduce receiving opportunities. If Sanchez falters then its Tebow time and you can forget the passing attack. A hamstring injury in his third preseason game seals his fate.

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Player News
LB Dwight Freeney to return for 14th season
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:45 am ET) Impending free agent linebacker Dwight Freeney has decided to return for a 14th season, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Freeney was an effective performer in 2014, leading the Chargers with 40 quarterback hurries and registering 3.5 sacks with 10 tackles.

He ranks 20th all-time with 111.5 career sacks. The paper said it's unclear whether Freeney, 35, will return to San Diego or land elsewhere.


Report: Jacoby Jones to visit Bengals, Titans
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) Receiver/returner Jacoby Jones, released by the Ravens last week, is scheduled to visit the Bengals and Titans this week, reports Pro Football Talk. Jones caught just nine passes last year, but averaged 30 yards per kickoff return.

The 30-year-old Jones has returned five kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns in his career.


Dolphins' Jimmy Wilson expected to reach free agency
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Dolphins' defensive back Jimmy Wilson is not expected to re-sign with the team before the start of free agency, the Palm Beach Post reports.

A seventh-round draft pick in 2011, Wilson served as a slot cornerback and reserve safety last season. Wilson could have an opportunity at starting at safety if he were to come back to Miami next season, as the team will likely be looking to fill the spot next to Reshad Jones.


Vikings want Chad Greenway back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:02 am ET) With Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway in the final year of his contract, general manager Rick Spielman said the team wants to bring Greenway back in 2015, reports the StarTribune.

Greenway is due to make $7 million in 2015, but he may have to take a pay cut to remain with the Vikings.

"We have a lot of things that we'll be working through between now and before March 10th, but we'd love to have Chad Greenway back and finish [his career] as a Minnesota Viking," Spielman said.


Report: Jets will let Willie Colon test free agency
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) With the Jets not intending to sign guard Willie Colon before free agency starts March 10, sources told Metro New York the team will let Colon test free agency.

If Colon cannot find a suitor, then the team could bring him back to add more depth. Colon is expected to become an unrestricted free agent March 10. Colon has started 32 games for the Jets over the last two seasons.


Report: Patriots more likely to tag Gostkowski than McCourty
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) If the Patriots are to use their franchise tag, the team is more likely to use the tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski than cornerback Devin McCourty, sources told ESPNBoston.com.

A franchise tag for a kicker would be an estimated $4.5 million, while tagging a cornerback would cost about $9.5 million. If no long-term deal can be reached and neither player is tagged, they'll become free agents March 10.


Report: Chiefs use franchise tag on Justin Houston
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:59 am ET) The Chiefs have decided to use their franchise tag on Justin Houston, a source told ESPN.

Houston, 26, has recorded 48 1/2 sacks over his first four seasons in the NFL and produced 22 sacks in 2014, which led the league. Signing the one-year deal would be worth about $13 million. Houston is not expected to sign the franchise tag anytime soon, reports NFL.com.

Houston will consult with the NFLPA to decide whether to file a grievance to be classified as a defensive end and not outside linebacker, a source told NBCSports.com.


Lions will not use franchise tag on Ndamukong Suh
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:51 am ET) The Lions announced Monday they will not use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

If the Lions cannot work out a deal with Suh, he'll become a free agent March 10. Using the franchise tag on Suh would've cost the Lions $26.9 million in 2015. Suh is considered one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL.


Report: Packers' Jarrett Bush arrested for public intoxication
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:38 am ET) Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush was arrested for disorderly conduct while under the influence Sunday in California, reports KTVU in San Francisco and WBAY-TV in Green Bay.

Bush was placed in a detention hold and then released. Bush has played for the Packers since 2006 and serves as their special teams captain.


Report: Eagles working on new contract with Trent Cole
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) The Eagles have been working with linebacker Trent Cole on a new contract, a source told lehighvalleylive.com.

Cole is due to make $11.6 million next season and the team would save $8.4 million by cutting Cole.


 
 
 
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