Word to the Winners: Fantasy Football Advice from the Experts

2006 Rookie Tight Ends -- By Russ Bliss

Unlike other positions, it doesn’t take much for a rookie TE to really step in and provide some immediate fantasy football help. There are so many mediocre TE’s for fantasy football purposes starting in the NFL, that there are usually a couple of guys who at the very least have adequate fantasy football projections short term with optimism to be better than average fantasy football starters. The 2006 rookie TE class boasts several guys who fall into that category and it’s likely there could be a couple who step in right away as better than many veteran TE’s who will get drafted in fantasy football leagues. There’s one guy who could legitimately become an elite TE in fantasy football predictions, and a few others who should be solid fantasy football starters for years to come.

 

2006 Impact Ranking: Dynasty Values:
   
1) Vernon Davis 1) Vernon Davis
2) Marcedes Lewis 2) Marcedes Lewis
3) Joe Klopfenstein 3) Tony Scheffler
4) Tony Scheffler 4) David Thomas
5) Leonard Pope 5) Joe Klopfenstein
6) Anthony Fasano 6) Leonard Pope
7) David Thomas 7) Anthony Fasano
8) Dominique Byrds 8) Dominique Byrd
9) Jeff King 9) Jeff King
10) Owen Daniels 10) T.J. Williams
11) Quinn Sypniewski 11) Owen Daniels
12) T.J. Williams 12) Quinn Sypniewski
13) Charles Davis 13) Tim Massaquoi
14) Jason Pociask 14) Charles Davis
15) Tim Massaquoi 15) Jason Pociask

Rookie Rundown (in order drafted)

Vernon Davis, Round 1, San Francisco 49ers: A rare specimen at the TE position because of his exceptional speed, strength, and leaping ability, Davis is a mismatch against opposing LB’s and Safeties. While not as big as most TE’s, Davis is a good blocker, breaks tackles, and is the biggest pass catching playmaker at the position we’ve seen in a long time.
2006 outlook: Will battle with (and should beat out) perpetually injured Eric Johnson for the starting TE job. Has a chance to become an immediate fantasy football starter at the TE position and should rank within the top 10 even with uncertainties about the 49ers QB situation.
Beyond 2006: Davis has the rare abilities to become an elite TE in both the NFL and in fantasy football leagues.

Marcedes Lewis, Round 1, Jacksonville Jaguars: A pass catching TE with long arms and good hands who has improved as a blocker and has added weight to compliment his height. Not very fast though, and he could still add more bulk and continue working on his blocking.
2006 outlook: The Jaguars have lacked a pass catching TE for years and finally have one. Now that they do, will they throw him the ball? Kyle Brady is likely to remain the starter on running downs, but in passing situations, Lewis will be the man at the end of the line. May not make an immediate impact, but considering how few TE’s have high fantasy football projections, Lewis is definitely worth a look as a low end fantasy football starter or a top backup with lots of potential.
Beyond 2006: Should be in the top 15 on fantasy football player rankings at the TE position for years to come. Could become an elite fantasy football TE.

Joe Klopfenstein, Round 2, St. Louis Rams: An impressive athlete who is tall, has great hands, runs precise routes, and a 38 inch vertical jump, Klopfenstein is a pass catching TE who needs work on his blocking techniques. He’s willing to block, but isn’t a natural at it. Plays through pain and doesn’t miss games.
2006 outlook: The Rams also drafted Dominique Byrd on day one and then traded last year’s starter (Brandon Manumaleuna) to San Diego. New Rams coach Scott Linehan likes to have the TE be an important part of his offense and Klopfenstein will get his chances to show he can a quality #1 TE in fantasy football leagues.
Beyond 2006: Klopfenstein should turn out to be a solid starting TE. He may not become an elite fantasy football starter as the Rams have great WR’s, but he’ll definitely be a guy who shows in the top 20 in the fantasy football rankings.

Anthony Fasano, Round 2, Dallas Cowboys: Fasano is very smart, possesses sure hands, and has good size. A capable, but not devastating blocker, Fasano lacks great athleticism and speed and won’t outrun anyone in the open field.
2006 outlook: Dallas is projecting Fasano to move to H-Back so they can have him and Jason Witten on the field at the same time. Not the big play threat in the passing game that Witten is, Fasano will make important NFL catches, but not many that will provide immediate fantasy football help.
Beyond 2006: Will never be an elite fantasy football TE and probably never more than adequate fantasy football starter. Fasano is one of those guys who will be a better NFL TE than he will a fantasy football TE.

Tony Scheffler, Round 2, Denver Broncos: A prolific pass catching TE at Western Michigan, Scheffler has good size and speed, but is a weak blocker. Is a good athlete and can run with most LB’s.
2006 outlook: Easily has more upside as a pass catcher than current Broncos starter Stephen Alexander. Alexander likely becomes the blocking TE and in passing situations, look for Scheffler to come in. It may take him a while to adjust to the jump up in competition though so expecting him to be an immediate fantasy football starter is really optimistic. But the Broncos have lacked any production out of their 3rd WR’s for years and Scheffler’s drafting could mean a return to prominence in the Denver offense. A gamble as anything more than a quality backup fantasy football TE.
Beyond 2006: Scheffler could be a real sleeper in dynasty style fantasy football leagues and may turn out to be a guy who creeps up fantasy football rankings in the next few years. There’s a lot of potential with him because of his hands and speed.

Leonard Pope, Round 3, Arizona Cardinals: Tall (6’7”) and athletic, Pope has long arms and very good speed. Not as bulky as you would expect from a guy his size and needs to fill out more. Can block when he wants to, but still needs work on his strength. Needs to be more disciplined in his route running.
2006 outlook: The Cardinals have no one who compares to Pope at the position. He may not be an every down starter as a rookie, but more likely than not he’ll be in there in passing situations as none of the other TE’s on the roster are more than barely adequate. Pope’s fantasy football projections for 2006 place him as a decent backup TE with a lot of upside.
Beyond 2006: With a little coaching and some hard work, Pope could turn out to be a good starter at TE for fantasy purposes. The biggest drawback I see with him is that with the variety of weapons at WR and RB now in Arizona, how many passes can he realistically see coming his way?

David Thomas, Round 3, New England Patriots: There was a time when the sure thing at the NFL draft was the Vikings taking a RB in round 4. It’s been replaced by the Patriots taking a TE some time on day one. Thomas is this year’s draftee by New England and is a real sleeper at the position. Not really big, he could be moved to H-Back as he is a willing, but not powerful, blocker. Possesses excellent hands and makes spectacular catches. Thomas is a smart player who plays through pain and runs good routes.
2006 outlook: How much playing time can he get with Dan Graham and Ben Watson already established in New England? Just like Graham and Watson, Thomas is likely to have almost no fantasy football value as a rookie.
Beyond 2006: Here’s where it gets interesting. Graham’s contract is up after this season and it’s very likely the Patriots will let him go. Thomas has a lot of potential value starting in 2007, but there’s also Watson (another good pass catching TE) to contend with. Thomas likely is another mediocre starting fantasy TE because the Pats spread the ball around so much. If they change that philosophy, Thomas could be a real sleeper and develop into a solid starter in fantasy.

Dominique Byrd, Round 3, St. Louis Rams: A good athlete who’s been plagued by injuries each of the past 3 seasons, Byrd could be switched to H-Back to take advantage of decent blocking skills and sure hands. The reason for the position change is that he isn’t very fast and is a sloppy route runner. Doesn’t always play hard and needs someone to motivate him.
2006 outlook: Doubtful he’ll accomplish as much as fellow rookie Joe Klopfenstein. Unless he gets serious about football he won’t have any fantasy value.
Beyond 2006: Again, it depends on his desire to put forth the effort. If he does, Byrd could become the type of red zone vulture the Rams lack. But expecting him to be a fantasy football starter even in the future is optimistic.

Owen Daniels, Round 4, Houston Texans: A former QB, Daniels has turned into a decent pass catching TE. As a former QB, Daniels understands coverages and has potential at the next level. Isn’t very physical, and needs work on his blocking. Has durability issues as he’s had 2 ACL injuries in the past.
2006 outlook: Likely to be the #3 TE in Houston behind pass catching TE Jeb Putzier and blocking TE Mark Bruener.
Beyond 2006: Has improved his game and if he continues to do so, could eventually be a decent TE in the pros. But not likely to ever be more than one of many very mediocre TE’s in fantasy football projections.

Jason Pociask, Round 5, New York Jets: A versatile, hard working TE who does most everything a TE is expected to do well, but excels at none. Not that fast, big, or experienced, Pociask’s best attribute is his blocking.
2006 outlook: Dismal. No fantasy football projections expected at all. Will have to show extremely well in training camp to make the final roster.
Beyond 2006: May eventually become a second TE in an offense, but will never turn into a guy who wows in fantasy football leagues.

Jeff King, Round 5, Carolina Panthers: Good sized TE with solid blocking skills and decent enough hands to be a potential starting TE in the NFL. Isn’t fast enough to turn receptions into big plays and although played basketball, isn’t as athletic as you’d expect.
2006 outlook: Will compete for a backup role and likely will be the Panthers #3 TE at the start of the season because of his solid overall game. Despite the Panthers needing someone to step up and become a legit force at the position, I don’t expect much fantasy football production at all though.
Beyond 2006: Could turn into a good starting NFL TE, but likely to never be more than another okay option for TE mandatory fantasy football leagues.

Quinn Sypniewski, Round 5 Baltimore Ravens: With great size and solid blocking abilities, Sypniewski also is a decent pass catcher. Lacks speed though and was only a part time starter in college. His development was hindered by injuries throughout ’03 and ’04 and durability is a concern.
2006 outlook: The Ravens have historically had 3 TE’s active on game days and there’s an excellent chance Sypniewski could be the 3rd guy behind Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox. Not much fantasy value though unless one of those guys gets injured.
Beyond 2006: Neither Heap nor Wilcox are over 30, and both are good pass catchers, so Sypniewski is unlikely to be a fantasy football starter. But because of his size, he may become a red zone target and worthy of having in scoring only types of fantasy football leagues.

Charles Davis, Round 5, Pittsburgh Steelers: Good sized TE who needs to work on his blocking. Not fast, but does possess good hands and isn’t afraid of taking a hit. Reliable, and hard working, Davis is a blue collar TE who doesn’t excel in his game, but is coachable.
2006 outlook: “Reliable, “hard working”, “blue collar”, sounds like a fit as the #3 TE for the Steelers to me. But he isn’t the blocker Jerame Tuman is, and isn’t the pass catcher Heath Miller is. No fantasy football value.
Beyond 2006: Davis will never be highly listed on fantasy football rankings as he isn’t in a great situation, nor does he possess the athleticism to become more than just another average fantasy football TE.

T.J. Williams, Round 6, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Slightly shorter than ideal, Williams has good speed and, when focused, is a solid pass catcher. That’s the caveat though: when focused. Not very strong, and his blocking needs a lot of work.
2006 outlook: The Bucs have an excellent pass catching TE in Alex Smith, and also Anthony Becht. Williams would need to really bring up his intensity in training camp to become more than the #3 TE (assuming he wins that job).
Beyond 2006: Nobody doubts Williams athletic abilities. It’s his desire and drive that prevents him being more highly regarded. That said, if he were to apply himself, he could be a surprise in an offense that uses the TE as a pass catching option in their offense.

Tim Massaquoi, Round 7, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A good athlete with decent receiving skills, Massaquoi never took his game to the next level in college and needs to work on his blocking. He’s also not very big, nor very strong.
2006 outlook: Few things were more confusing than the Bucs taking TE’s in both the 6th and 7th rounds of the draft as they don’t really have a big need at the position. Unless they are going to make Anthony Becht a cap casualty in June, I don’t see how Massaquoi ends up anywhere besides maybe the practice squad.
Beyond 2006: Assuming Massaquoi spends a year or two on the practice squad getting stronger and working on his blocking abilities, plus applying himself to live up to the potential he has as a pass catcher, Massaquoi could eventually turn out to be an okay NFL TE and maybe even a decent fantasy football bench TE. That’s a lot of assuming though.

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