Assessing Jordan Cameron’s Fantasy Value in 2014

Jordan CameronJordan Cameron’s Fantasy

As the NFL evolves, the tight end continues to become more vital to a team’s success. A dynamic player at the position can serve as a game changing force. The same holds true for fantasy football owners. Elite tight ends such as Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are the ultimate trump card. They outscore their peers by such a wide margin that they shift the balance of power on their own.

The trouble is, both have factors around them that give some owners pause. Gronk always has the injury cloud hanging over him. If you want the statistical advantage Graham provides, you’ll have to take him in the first round.

The question is whether another player will ever come close to their production. Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis are popular options after the Graham and Gronk tandem. However, it’s time to consider whether Jordan Cameron can make the leap and join the elite tier.

To be clear, we aren’t talking about a breakout campaign here. Jordan Cameron already had one of those last season. In his first season as a starter, Cameron recorded 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. His statistical output from his third season dwarfed his previously recorded totals.

In Norv Turner’s offense, Cameron rose to become the fifth ranked fantasy tight end in 2013. Both Turner and former head coach, Rob Chudzinski, have long been heralded for their work with the TE position. While neither coach resides in Cleveland anymore, Cameron owners need not worry. Kyle Shanahan’s arrival signals the Browns’ tight end will still be featured as a pass catcher.

We already know how the Shanahan offense affects a team’s rushing attack. While the zone based system is known for running, it has a very specific passing structure. Most passes come off bootleg, play action fakes. The top wide receiver and athletic joker tight end are lathered with targets. That’s where Jordan Cameron comes in. Cameron played college football at USC, but was briefly a member of the BYU basketball team. Many of today’s NFL stars at the tight end position followed similar paths. Cameron’s combination of size/speed, as well as the ability to split out wide falls in line with the Shanahan offensive mold.

Jordan Cameron 2013 Gamelog

Opp. Score Rec Tgt Yds Avg Lng TD
@PIT L 7-20 5 7 69 13.8 24 0
CHI L 31-38 3 6 23 7.7 10 0
@NE L 26-27 9 9 121 13.4 21 1
JAX L 28-32 4 7 43 10.8 26 0
PIT L 11-27 3 10 32 10.7 16 0
@CIN L 20-41 6 7 29 4.8 8 0
BAL W 24-18 1 5 4 4 4 0
@KC L 17-23 4 4 81 20.3 37 0
@GB L 13-31 7 9 55 7.9 15 1
DET L 17-31 5 6 64 12.8 33 0
BUF W 37-24 3 5 36 12 19 0
CIN W 17-6 10 12 91 9.1 31 1
@MIN W 31-27 6 11 66 11 19 3
@BAL L 6-14 5 7 95 19 53 0
MIA L 10-23 9 13 108 12 22 1
2013 Totals 80 118 917 11.5 53 7

Kyle Shanahan hasn’t always had much luck with tight ends while serving as offensive coordinator. His Redskins teams in particular were unable to establish a consistent starter at the position. Yet, when one player was healthy for most of the season, the position flourished. Shanahan’s 2008 season with Houston and 2010 and 2011 seasons with Washington show the potential for tight ends in his offense. Owen Daniels (2008 with Houston) absorbed 101 targets under Shanahan. While in Washington, he fed Chris Cooley 127 targets in 2010 and Fred Davis 88 through 12 games in 2011. Even young Jordan Reed developed at a fast pace as a rookie under Shanahan’s watch last season.

When making a case for Cameron, that volume is very appealing. Even more convincing is that he might be the most talented tight end Kyle Shanahan has ever worked with. Cooley and Daniels were great pros for many years, but either possessed the size and athleticism of Cameron. Fred Davis had his moments and was quite gifted coming out of college, but he failed to ever live up to that potential due to a myriad of issues. Cameron has already posted better numbers than any of those other three in just his first season starting.

The one caveat when projecting Cameron for even better numbers is the Browns’ game plan is that its been clear from the start the coaching staff wants to run the football. Even that might have been an underestimation. Browns’ expert Justin Higdon projects that Cleveland will only pass about 400 times this season. If that number holds true, then its fair to assume Cameron’s numbers may fall a bit. There’s still plenty of evidence that he’ll grow statistically in 2014.

Cameron already saw 117 targets in 2013, but could see that number rise this season. He was on a tear before Cleveland’s bye week. Yet, only had one double-digit fantasy outings—in standard leagues—after week 10. Cameron’s fall correlated with the rise of Josh Gordon. Luckily for the young tight end, Gordon is unlikely to be around during the 2014 season. The Browns did not do much to add competition for targets in the passing game beyond Cameron. He’ll be the number one option, by far, in the eyes of his quarterback.

Whether Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel is under center, they’ll be looking for Jordan Cameron. Hoyer had great chemistry with Cameron early in the year. Manziel loved feeding tall target Mike Evans on his patented improvisational plays at Texas A&M. The rookie quarterback adds a bit more flair to the equation should he start early, but neither quarterback presents an obstacle.

With so many factors working in his favor, Jordan Cameron is bound for fantasy success. The question is whether he makes the statistical jump to be the next best thing after the elite Graham and Gronk tier. Given the lack of competition and the potential for volume in the offense, there’s at least a clear path to that scenario.

Jimmy Graham is going in the first round. Gronkowski’s ADP will only rise as the reports of his good health come out. The consensus opinion says that you either invest heavily in those two, or wait until the later rounds. If there is one mid-round tight end that should make you buck that thought process, it’s Cameron.

Jordan Cameron is the only rounds 3-7 tight end I would even consider taking. He’s projected as the fifth TE off the board. If you want him, you’ll likely have to sink a fifth or sixth round pick into the endeavor. Cameron has a strong chance to give you a positive return on that investment. He has a shot to approach Jimmy Graham numbers.

**Check out Gridiron Experts early 2014 TE Projections here.

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