Future hall of fame tight end started day 1 of free agency with a bang. Gonzalez announced he would be returning to Atlanta Falcons next season. Gonzalez is reported to receive near 7 million dollars and a possibility of skipping most of training camp. At this point the contract has not been signed, but Gonzalez himself stated he would be returning. Gonzalez has yet to get to a Super Bowl as a professional football player and at the age of 37, his time is running out.
Fantasy Impact – This makes Gonzalez a top 5 tight end with upside in PPR leagues. His durability and consistency as a pass catching tight end makes him a great mid round tight end in fantasy leagues. Gonzalez has only missed two games in his entire career and is second in NFL history in receptions behind only Jerry Rice. Gonzalez is a huge red zone target for the Falcons. He was targeted 17 times in the red zone last season and the result was 8 touchdowns. It is very conceivable that Gonzalez catches 80 balls for 800 yards and 8 touchdowns. Not bad for number 88.
The Rams gave up BIG money to Jared Cook on the first day of free agency. It was probably Jeff Fisher’s love for the tight end that had the Rams giving up that kind of coin to an inconsistent tight end who has issues blocking. Cook is primarily a receiving threat and the signing of Cook gives the Rams the ability to run two tight end sets along with Lance Kendricks. Cook and Kendricks are both 25 years old and finished as the #19 and #20 tight ends in fantasy scoring among tight ends.
Fantasy Impact – The addition of Cook for big money means they want to utilize him as the primary pass catching tight end. Cook has solid speed, can catch the football, but has major issues blocking. The potential loss of Amendola and Gibson (both possession wide receivers) in free agency mandated the Rams add offense. The addition of Cook gives the Rams offense another weapon for Sam Bradford. With Fisher’s familiarity with Cook, and the amount of money the Rams organization spent on him, expect Cook to be a large part of the offensive game plan. Cook has all the physical tools, but at this point in his career the production does not mirror the talent.
Marellus Bennett was a great pick up for the Chicago Bears in day one of free agency. The Bears have a huge need at the tight end position, with his pass catching ability and elite blocking skills Bennett will fill the role nicely. Bennett is 26 years of age and only has one season under his belt as the full time tight end. In 2012 as the Giant primary tight end, Bennett finished the season with 54 receptions for 611 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Fantasy Impact – With a new coaching regime it is touch to predict what the Bears plan to do on offense. By adding Offensive Tackle Jermon Bushrod the Bears are focused on adding protection for Jay Cutler. With a top NFL wide receiving threat in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery entering his second season, the Bears have new offensive weapons they are ready to use. Bennett has the talent to be a top 10 TE in 2013, and with the opportunity to play most of the downs for the Bears means he may have solid tight end production. Ultimately the new coaching regime will dictate Bennett’s overall fantasy production.
Anthony Fasano has been a solid tight end for the Dolphins for the last five years. In his time with the Dolphins eclipsed the 500 yard receiving mark, only once. In an offense where Fasano was used as a blocker more than a pass catcher he made the best of it in 2012. On a team full of possession pass catches Fasano caught over 40 catches for the first time in his career.
Fantasy Impact – Tony Moeaki has had issues staying healthy since joining the Chiefs. Adding Fasano was a great move by the Chiefs brass. Moeaki is the obvious young talent on the roster and more likely to see the bulk of receptions. Fasano could put up solid numbers in Andy Reid’s system if Moeaki misses time for injury. Otherwise, he is considered nothing more than a late round flyer in fantasy leagues.
Delanie Walker has spent the last seven seasons with the 49ers as the second tight end to Vernon Davis. Walker was a productive tight end during his tenure with the Niners. His last 3 season with the Niners, he averaged over 20 receptions and 250 yards receiving. The Titans lost pass catching tight end Jared Cook to the Rams in free agency and Walker solidifies that need and also adds some versatility. Once deemed “The Swiss Army Knife” Walker has lineup as a wide receiver, tight end, running back, and right tackle.
Fantasy Impact – Walker will be the primary tight end in Tennessee. His versatility will allow the Titans to use him in a variety of ways. If the Titans use Walker as the primary tight end he has solid TE2 ability. As a more all-around tight end than Jared Cook, I expect Walker to be more of a utility tight end and someone who may be a low TE2.