When looking at potential breakout tight ends in fantasy football, opportunity always plays a key role, and that may be what lies ahead for San Diego Charger tight end Ladarius Green in 2014.
Sure, you're familiar with the legendary Antonio Gates, a titan at the tight end position for more than a decade, but his time as a high-end option may be mercifully and unfortunately coming to an end. Granted, Gates will still have an important role in the Chargers offense, but look for San Diego to get Green some major run in its scheme this year.
While Green's 2013 numbers seem paltry upon first glance (17 receptions for 376 receiving yards and three touchdowns), there were some flashes of brilliance exhibited toward the end of the year to get excited about.
Although he didn't end his season in style (recording just one reception for 22 yards in his last four games), Green showed in the prior three contests that he could produce if given the chance. In Weeks 11 to 13, Green displayed the immense talent he possesses by recording nine receptions (on 16 targets) for 206 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
It appears Green will be given a good chance to get increased targets this year, and the Chargers love what they have in the 6'6”, 240-pound beast.
Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei heard some good things about Green and had this to say:
Ladarius Green showed some flashes in San Diego minicamp this week, and the plan is for the Chargers to involve the third-year tight end in the offense more this season. That means more personnel groups that include Green and more opportunities for him to make big plays. The coaching staff believes Green has the size, speed, reach and athleticism to be an impact player, especially if he gets the right matchups.
You know how it is popular to draft emerging players to back up aging running backs (like Devonta Freeman in Atlanta with Steven Jackson winding down his career)? Well, that's how you should view the tight end situation in San Diego.
Sure, Gates will not disappear completely, but the writing is on the wall that he will be phased out in favor of Green. Besides, we have seen two-tight end packages (a high-end example being Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez earlier in the decade) work before, and it can work in San Diego, too.
After all, the Chargers are a passing team with quarterback Philip Rivers at the helm. Expect San Diego to have a wide-open offense that features Green getting plenty of looks. Not to mention, the receivers on the Chargers not named Keenan Allen are a mixed bag of uncertainty, so that works in Green's favor as well.
While it is premature to assume Green will have a season similar to the one that Julius Thomas had in Denver last year, the similarities in their games are striking.
You have to have to remember Thomas basically came out of nowhere last year (he had all of one reception for five yards prior to 2013), and with the promise Green showed last season, he could be poised to break through in somewhat similar fashion.
However, don't expect the numbers Thomas had last year (65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns) from Green. But just the mere thought that Green could be the next breakout tight end has to make fantasy players salivate.
Green should initially be viewed as a low-end starter in 10- to 12-team leagues and worthy of being drafted in the 11th or 12th rounds. A safe projection for Green should be anywhere between 50 and 60 catches, 720 and 750 yards, and five and seven touchdowns.
However, with his upside being what it is, Green could be line for much more, and if you miss out on the big guns at the position early (Jimmy Graham, Thomas, Vernon Davis, etc.), Green will prove to be an excellent consolation prize later on.
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