It appeared, for about a minute and a half, that James Casey was the Philadelphia Eagles tight end begging to be bought at rock-bottom prices in drafts this summer.
Not so anymore.
I’ve talked plenty over the past few months about the merits of streaming tight ends if you don’t secure one of the elites in the first couple rounds of your fantasy drafts. Teams are throwing more, using tight ends in the slot more, and a handful of defenses are emerging every year as units to target in the streaming of our various tight ends.
When an NFL team streams tight ends, however, we have a problem. Their respective values, like running backs trapped in the jaws of a value-destroying committee backfield, are divvied up and nearly impossible to predict, even against teams that prove to be fantasy point sieves against tight ends.
Read more about streaming tight ends…
New Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly, who just last month heaped praise on Casey as a guy who would fit perfectly in the team’s new spread formations, drafted Zach Ertz, an uber-athletic tight end out of Stanford, as a second-round pick last week.
The selection of Ertz doesn’t submarine Casey’s 2013 value; it does, however, throw the fantasy worth of Casey, Ertz, and Brent Celek into flux as we approach minicamps.
Kelly was asked last week if – and how – he might use all three Eagles tight ends.
“Yeah. I go like that,” he said, holding up three fingers to members of the media at a post-draft press conference, “and three tight ends go into the game. Now, if [the opponents] go three linebackers, we split [the tight ends] out, we throw passes. If they go three DBs, we smash you [with the run]. So pick your poison.”
It was clear even in the first few weeks of Kelly’s reign in Philly that the team would stockpile multifaceted tight ends who could create consistent mismatches against defenses that aren’t sure how to cover athletic “move” tight ends like Casey and Ertz.
“They used him in a multiple variety,” Kelly said of Ertz, whom he labeled a “mismatch nightmare.” “That’s the thing about him—they used him as a single receiver on the trip set and he was by himself isolated by the [defensive back]. They used him as a tight end, they used him as an H-back, they used him as a move guy. They moved him all over the place.”
Looking at 2012 targets for Eagles’ tight ends is largely a useless exercise, since dispatched head man Andy Reid only carried two or three tight ends on the roster and offered consistent snaps to only one (Celek). Celek, who lacks the athleticism of Casey and Ertz, was targeted 83 times last season, ranking 14th in that category. Backup tight end Clay Harbor saw 33 passes come his way. Tight end afterthought John Phillips collected 10 targets.
That’ll all change this year – a point Kelly hasn’t been shy to explain over the past few days. It’s still Casey, the player who Kelly compared to Aaron Hernandez, who I’d choose as the most productive of the Eagles’ hideous three-headed tight end monster.
It’s clear that there will be production aplenty to be had among the Eagles’ tight ends spread across the formation, used more like receivers than traditional tight ends. It’s just difficult – impossible, perhaps – to predict who among the three will be the most fantasy worthy in 2013.