While millions of dollars have been spent on offensive tackles, pass-rushers and wide receivers during this NFL offseason, the one position where the bank accounts have not been broken is tight end.
The top tight ends in the NFL have not changed teams this offseason. Jimmy Graham is still in New Orleans, Rob Gronkowski is still in New England and Vernon Davis, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are still with the same organizations they have always been with.
Some second-tier tight ends signed free-agent contracts with new teams over the past couple months, though. Unfortunately, none of them will rack up Shannon Sharpe-like numbers this upcoming season. In fact, they will not even post better numbers than Miami’s Charles Clay.
But when shopping for backup tight ends in your fantasy drafts, particularly in deeper leagues, your eyes might come across some of the guys mentioned below.
So here are four second-tier tight ends who signed with new teams in the offseason and what their fantasy projections are for 2014.
Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens
Daniels is an injury-prone player who fantasy owners can count on for 8 to 12 solid games until his yearly broken bone knocks him out of commission. He has not played a full season since 2008 and does his best work over the middle rather than in the end zone (29 TDs in eight seasons), so his fantasy relevance during his career has been average at best.
Daniels might stay healthier this year, though, because he will no longer be a No. 1 tight end now that he will be behind Dennis Pitta in Baltimore. Less targets and time on the field will keep Daniels away from harm, but that will also severely dent his stats. It is the proverbial double-edged fantasy sword.
Look for Baltimore to use more two-tight end sets to take advantage of having a pair of pass-catchers like Daniels and Pitta out there at the same time. If both can stay healthy, they should cause matchup problems for secondaries.
But between Pitta and the Smith receivers (Torrey and Steve), Daniels will be lucky to be looked at by quarterback Joe Flacco five times per game. He used to be a top-12 tight end in fantasy leagues. Now Daniels should not be ranked in the top 20.
Projection: 515 yards and three touchdowns
Brandon Myers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Myers is harder to figure out than Jason Garrett’s play calling. One season, he comes out of nowhere to be a fantasy godsend at the tight end position, and the next season, he falls off the face of the earth when everyone is expecting him to take his numbers to the next level.
Coming off a 79-reception season with the hapless Oakland Raiders the year before, many fantasy pundits believed Myers would become a top-five tight end as a member of the New York Giants with Eli Manning throwing to him and with receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks distracting defenses.
Myers was invisible instead of important on most Sundays, though. He finished with subpar stats (47 receptions for 522 yards and four touchdowns). After teasing fantasy owners with two good games to start the season, Myers only had one five-reception week the rest of the way and went without a catch in three different contests.
Myers signing with Tampa Bay will not inspire confidence in fantasy owners. Sophomore starting quarterback Mike Glennon is not going to deliver passes to Myers as well as Manning did, Tampa Bay has never been a haven for 800-yard tight ends over the years and second-year man Timothy Wright will probably start ahead of Myers.
Do not go thinking Myers will revert back to how surprising he was with Oakland two years ago. Myers is not the tight end he was with the Raiders. He showed his true colors with the Giants last season.
Projection: 495 yards and four touchdowns
John Carlson, Arizona Cardinals
Tight ends do not prosper in Arizona like cacti do. How often did you hear fantasy owners sing the praises of Rob Housler, Todd Heap, Ben Patrick and Leonard Pope over the years? Arizona’s passing attack revolves around its wide receivers, and that holds true under head coach Bruce Arians heading into the 2014 campaign.
Carlson had back-to-back 50-reception seasons and scored a dozen touchdowns during his first two years in the NFL, but things have gone downhill since. He has only caught 71 passes and scored two times in the three seasons since and told the Star Tribune's Chip Scoggins that he was seriously considering retirement after suffering multiple concussions.
Carlson decided to keep playing and signed with Arizona in the offseason. When he did so, his fantasy value cried. Carlson would have been better off choosing almost any other team. There are not going to be many opportunities for him unless Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd both get injured or the Cardinals revamp their offense and target Carlson 10 times per game.
Senator John McCain has better chance of becoming the focal point of the Cardinals passing game than Carlson does, though.
Carlson could be worth a late-round look in a 14- or 16-team fantasy league, but pick him after you select your third defense and your second kicker.
Which tight end will have the best fantasy season in 2014?
Projection: 396 yards and three touchdowns
Ed Dickson, Carolina Panthers
Dickson had his chance to show the football world how good he was last year with Baltimore when the aforementioned Pitta missed most of the season with a hip injury. Instead, he showed that corpses might have a higher fantasy value. Dickson’s 25 receptions for 273 yards and one score were embarrassing considering Joe Flacco threw the ball over 600 times.
The problem with Dickson is he is a below-average receiver and he is not exactly Nick Mangold in the blocking department, either. He is the walking advertisement for a No. 2 tight end, and that is exactly what he will be in Carolina.
Carolina is so starved for pass-catchers that it broke out the social security checks and acquired Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. Both are serviceable veteran receivers. Both are also not greyhounds and will hardly stretch the field and open up space underneath for a slow-footed tight end like Dickson.
Dickson will play second fiddle in the tight end pecking order with the dependable Greg Olsen still serving as Cam Newton’s top third-down target. Do not waste your time writing Dickson’s name on your cheat sheet before your draft in August.
Projection: 327 yards and three touchdowns