As the New York Giants have compiled a 2-1 record through their first three games of the 2012 season, quarterback Eli Manning has targeted the big guy 23 times. Bennett has delivered with 15 catches, 185 yards and three touchdowns.
The consistency is what makes Bennett deserving of a fantasy roster spot. He’s scored once in each game.
Prior to Thursday’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers, Bennett was tied with Tony Gonzalez for sixth among tight ends in targets behind Dennis Pitta, Jimmy Graham, Brent Celek, Owen Daniels and Jermichael Finley.
He only had nine receptions of the 16 passes thrown his way in the season’s first two weeks, but Manning leans on him so much in the red zone that his touchdown potential is immense on a week-to-week basis.
And that’s what you’re looking for from the tight end position in fantasy football.
Thursday’s matchup provided even more credibility to Bennett’s consistency. With known weapons Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw missing the contest, covering Bennett should have been high on the Panthers’ priority list. That would have allowed relatively unproven guys in Andre Brown and Ramses Barden to beat them if they were able to do so.
All of those guys went off against the Panthers.
Brown finished with 130 total yards and two touchdowns. Barden added 138 receiving yards on nine receptions of 10 targets.
Those are numbers that Bradshaw and Nicks could definitely have duplicated in their stead, and there was still enough work to go around for Bennett to find the end zone himself.
I hesitate to call Bennett a “must-start” because there are a few tight ends (Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates when healthy) who own that tag and could conceivably share a fantasy roster with the New York starter.
But Bennett would be a fine bye-week replacement (or injury insurance) for any of them, and if a fantasy owner of one of the “must-start” guys stashes him on the bench, that prevents Bennett from being played as a fantasy opponent.
His receptions and yards have climbed each week so far this season.