New York Jets: What Are the Realistic Predictions for Dustin Keller in 2012?

Danny Paskas@DannyPaskasSenior Analyst IJune 20, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Dustin Keller #81 of the New York Jets runs for yards after the catch against Gary Brackett #58 of the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Dustin Keller will be entering his six year with the New York Jets this upcoming season. While having a decent career as their tight end, he has failed to exceed expectations after being drafted 30th overall in the 2008 draft.

Because of this, Keller has not been re-signed to a long term deal and will be playing in the last year of his rookie contract. For their part, the Jets will be taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding if he is part of their future plans moving forward.

Last season was his best to date, as he had 65 receptions for 815 yards and five touchdowns. Also, out of all of New York's receivers, he was the most targeted, being thrown to 116 times. That was 14 more targets than No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes.

Two problems with Keller are his poor blocking and his tendency to pull disappearing acts. In four games last season, he had just two or fewer catches. In three games, he failed to have more than 12 receiving yards.

With new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano taking over, it remains to be seen how big of a role Keller will have. Sparano's system favors the run more, as seen during his tenure as head coach with the Miami Dolphins. Last season, Miami ran the ball 469 times, the sixth most in the league. In 2009, they ran the ball 509 times, which was fourth in the league.

Sparano also used his tight ends sparingly in Miami. From 2008 to 2011, Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano had no more than 39 receptions. The most Fasano was targeted was 59 times, and that was in 2010. That's a ways off from the 116 times that Keller was targeted last season.

Fasano, however, does not have the receiving skills that Keller has. But with second-round, prototypical 6'4'' receiver Stephen Hill being added to the Jets depth chart this year, Keller's days of being the team's most targeted receiver may be coming to an end.

While it will take some time for Hill to become consistently productive, Keller will remain a factor this season. He most likely will not have his career-best 65 receptions he had last year and will be more in the range of 50 receptions.

Keller will have to improve his blocking and impress in other aspects of the game, or he will be phased out and looking for a new team next season.

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