I’m not sure I see another Rob Gronkowski coming up out of nowhere in 2012. In fact, even The Gronk didn’t really come out of “nowhere”, as he existed in a sickly good New England Patriots offense, and scored 10 times as a rookie. I’m sure no one “predicted” he’d see the end-zone 18 times and pile on 1,300+ yards in his sophomore run, but most fantasy dwellers thought he’d be pretty darn good.
The exciting part isn’t wrapping your mind up in Gronk, though, surprisingly. It’s realizing that Jimmy Graham lived up to his awesome sleeper potential and blew everyone away. He still fell short of the Big Gronkowski (cue “the dude” jokes here), but he was a coveted sleeper that lived up to the hype and actually surpassed it, too.
Is there another tight end waiting in the murky fantasy waters for 2012? If so, there’s a chance he’s completely off your radar. Here are four tight ends with major sleeper potential that could possibly be the next big thing this year:
Fred Davis (Washington Redskins)
We saw a pretty good taste of what an elite Fred Davis looks like in 2011. In just 12 games last year, Davis racked up 59 receptions for 796 yards and three scores. The impressive/sad part in the same breath? Davis did this with just one game over 100 receiving yards. That may say something about his lack of explosiveness (so far, anyways), but it also shows his consistency from week to week.
But back to the main point; the fact that this dude put up very quality numbers in just 12 contests due to missing four weeks from a drug suspension. Extrapolate his fantasy digits out for a full 16 man mashing competitions, and the guy’s numbers would have been close to 75 receptions, 1,061 yards and four touchdowns. He’d be holding out a bit on the red-zone tangos, but you can’t really complain with the overall numbers.
Now comes 2012, where he’ll have a rookie quarterback slinging him balls (RG3), giving him a good chance to progress even more as a reliable target over the middle of the field and in the red-zone. At the worst, I think you’re getting the Davis we saw last year. And if he improves and RG3 likes playing catch with him, the sky is the limit.
Current ADP: 7.09 in standard mocks, courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com
Jacob Tamme (Denver Broncos)
Tamme is far from an athletic freak, but we’ve already seen what he can do as a top tight end with Peyton Manning eye-balling him across the field. The fantabulous reunion exists in Denver, where Tamme stands tall as the Broncos’ starting tight end, and Manning will be under center, provided his neck doesn’t melt or his arm is better than 50%.
Sure, Manning could go down in week one and the 2010 Tamme (67 rec, 631 yards, 4 TD) could be a classic mirage, but when you talk sleepers/breakout players at any position, you know some risk is involved.
The fact is, Tamme’s 2010 season only really started after Dallas Clark got hurt after six games, so his would-be pedestrian numbers are actually pretty solid. The guy literally didn’t catch a pass for Indy that year until week eight, and then proceeded to catch at least six balls in every game but two until the playoffs.
Stretch those numbers out for another six weeks (a full 16-game season), and Tamme is suddenly a PPR demolition man with about 107 receptions, 1,009 receiving yards and 6.4 touchdowns.
If there is even a sliver of a chance that Tamme and Manning connect like they did in 2010, shouldn’t we all be paying more attention to it?
Current ADP: 8.04
Jared Cook (Tennessee Titans)
There’s not much to not like about Cook. He has awesome size at 6’5” and has freakish athleticism that has had many compare him to a younger Antonio Gates. His biggest issue? Consistency.
Cook has entered each of the past two seasons as a major fantasy sleeper, and in most circles will have one more crack and truly living up to the hype again in 2012. The difference this time around is that grabbing him late might actually pay off.
Cook showed glimpses of breakout potential in 2010, but 2011 let him really shine with 759 yards and three touchdowns off of just 49 catches. The real selling point with Cook is how hot he was to end 2011, when he racked up 21 receptions for 335 yards and a touchdown in the final three games. Stretch that crazy run over a full 16-game schedule, and Cook would be offering fantasy owners a ridiculous 112 catches, 1,786 receiving yards and about five touchdowns.
Obviously that pace is not sustainable (we think), but it’s pretty clear he’s too talented to keep getting under 50 balls per year like he has been. Consistency from Cook and dedication to get him the ball from the Titans will come together to tell us his value in 2012. He remains a risk, but he could be one worth taking.
Current ADP: 12.09
Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota Vikings)
Is there any other young tight end that reminds you more of Rob Gronkowski? Rudolph is a beasting blend of size and speed for the tight end position, and his awesome size (6’6”) and toughness makes him the ideal red-zone threat. His rookie numbers are pedestrain after spending most of 2011 behind Visanthe Shiancoe, but he made some spectacular catches and really showed his potential down the stretch.
Summer reviews for Rudolph have been about as good as the ones for The Avengers, and all that’s holding Mr. Red Nose back is a potentially slowly developing Christian Ponder and fellow tight end mate, John Carlson. Ultimately, I’m not afraid of Carlson’s presence, and I have confidence in Ponder in year two. That may not mean Rudes is on his way to fantasy greatness, but it’s awfully hard to ignore his potential at this point.
Current ADP: Undrafted