This is the fourth and final part of a weekly series that will analyze the fantasy football impact of the 2009 rookie class. This week, we’re going to examine the notable freshmen tight ends.
Brandon Pettigrew -1st Round, 20th Overall - Detroit Lions
Scouting Report: At 6'5", 263 lbs., Pettigrew is a massive target. He is a tremendous athlete with great hands and great strength. Pettigrew is an excellent blocker and powerful when running after the catch. Pettigrew started all four years at Oklahoma State and was considered by most scouts to be the best TE in this draft. That being said, Pettigrew isn't one of the new wave speedy TEs (4.85 40-yard dash at The Combine). He isn't explosive and he’s not exceptionally quick. He’s an inconsistent performer and his football intelligence leaves a lot to be desired. Pettigrew also has a history of off field issues as well. Pettigrew is a solid all around TE who projects to be more of a blocking TE than a receiving one.
2009 Fantasy Outlook: All indications are that Pettigrew will be starting for the Detroit Lions this season. He is a huge target for whichever QB emerges as the Lions starter this season. It is also much easier for a rookie TE to make an impact compared to a rookie WR. Detroit's offense is much improved and Pettigrew has a chance to make a solid impact this year. His upside, however, is somewhat limited. There will be a learning curve for Pettigrew and the Lions will probably have him focus on blocking before he emerges as a threat in the passing game. Pettigrew projects as a TE2 in mandatory TE leagues this season.
Keeper League Outlook: Pettigrew has all the makings of a solid, but unspectacular TE. He will never be the go to target in an offense that features Calvin Johnson. Pettigrew projects as a 400-600 yards and 4-6 TDs per season type TE. Top 10 performer at the TE position, but probably not an elite top five guy.
Jared Cook - 3rd Round, 89th Overall -Tennessee Titans
Scouting Report: At 6'4", 246 lbs., Cook is closer in size to a big WR than an NFL TE. Cook’s speed (4.50 40 yard dash at The Combine) also compares more to a WR than a TE. He is an exceptional athlete (41 inch vertical leap) with incredible speed and impressive quickness. Cook has solid hands and is dangerous after the catch. He is excellent getting off the snap and he’s an average, but fluid route runner. Cook, however, is a poor blocker and may need to get stronger to be an impact TE in the NFL. He’s a raw and inconsistent player with a lot of upside.
2009 Fantasy Outlook: Cook has played well so far this preseason, though he's been limited by an ankle injury as of late. He's going to spend the year backing up Bo Scaife, though given Tennessee's lack of receiving threats, it would make sense for the Titans to try and get Cook on the field. He probably will have value in deep, mandatory TE fantasy football leagues this season and could actually be a sleeper considering Tennessee's receiving woes.
Keeper League Outlook: Cook is the quintessential boom or bust pick. He definitely has the physical gifts to be an impact player in the NFL. Cook's size is precarious because he's basically a "tweener." To give you some perspective, he’s the same height as Brandon Marshall and only 16 lbs. heavier. Cook’s long term value is also heavily dependent on whether the Titans can find a franchise QB. Vince Young is not that guy and Tennessee will remain a ground based attack until they find their guy. Overall, there are more questions than answers with Cook, but the ability and potential is there for him to be a special player.
Chase Coffman - 3rd Round, 98th Overall - Cincinnati Bengals
Scouting Report: At 6'5", 244 lbs., Coffman has good size, but must add some bulk. He is a natural athlete with impressive hands. Coffman is an incredible route runner who is powerful after the catch. He's tough, smart, and scouts rave about his intangibles. Though he doesn't possess great speed (4.85 40-yard dash at The Combine), Coffman makes up for it with his quickness and awareness. He's not elusive and isn’t as physical as a guy with his size and drive should be. Coffman has durability issues and his blocking leaves a lot to be desired.
2009 Fantasy Outlook: Coffman started the year with very little, if any, fantasy value. Reggie Kelly's season ending injury has changed that, though not significantly. Coffman will still spend the season as a backup and, if you watch HBO's Hard Knocks, you’ve seen that he’s had trouble adjusting to the nuances of the pro game. Coffman might be worth a look in deep, mandatory TE leagues and he may be ready to be a consistent contributor in the second half of the season.
Keeper League Outlook: While Coffman isn't flashy or spectacular, he's incredibly talented. Let's just say that, as far as comparisons go, the first player that comes to mind is Jason Witten. Coffman’s athleticism, intelligence, hands, and route running ability add up to a potentially elite TE. With a franchise QB (Carson Palmer) intact and other receiving threats (Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry) to remove pressure and open up opportunities, Coffman’s long term future is bright. He has incredible upside and could emerge as the best TE from this draft.
Travis Beckum - 3rd Round, 100th Overall - New York Giants
Scouting Report: I had the privilege of watching Beckum play nearly every Saturday during his four years at Wisconsin. Most people don’t know that Beckum was recruited to UW as a linebacker and actually played in 10 games at linebacker as a freshman in 2005. The next season, he was moved to TE, and he never looked back. At 6'3", 243 lbs., Beckum's frame is closer to that of a WR. Beckum has tremendous athleticism and good speed (4.61 40-yard dash at The Combine). He has above average quickness and reliable hands. He’s a great leaper and a solid route runner. He's better after the catch than he’s given credit for and he’s very good at catching the ball in traffic. Unfortunately, Beckum’s has below average height and bulk. He's a poor blocker and he isn’t very physical. He also had durability issues in Madison.
2009 Fantasy Outlook: Given the New York Giants lack of receiving threats, Beckum should be given the opportunity to make an impact this season. Beckum has the physical skills and ability to contribute this season and there is talk that he could fill a situational role as an H-back. He's definitely worth drafting in deep, mandatory TE leagues this season.
Keeper League Potential: Beckum may not be the biggest, the fastest, or the best blocker. He is, however, extremely productive and has a unique skill set that can create mismatches in the NFL. Because of this, Beckum has more long term upside than most people realize. While I would label Chase Coffman the "can't miss" prospect of this TE class, I think Beckum may actually have a higher ceiling.
Shawn Nelson - 4th Round, 121st Overall -Buffalo Bills
Scouting Report: At 6-5, 240 lbs., Nelson is tall but lean. He is a tremendous athlete with impressive speed (4.56 40-yard dash at The Combine). Nelson is quick, tough, and has incredible hands. He's a high motor player who is dangerous after the catch. Nelson does, however, need to add some weight to be an impact TE in the NFL. He's not particularly strong and his blocking and route running leave something to be desired.
2009 Fantasy Outlook: Nelson has received first team reps so far this preseason and could emerge as the starter in Buffalo. That being said, he is largely a work in progress. Though Nelson isn't likely to make a major impact this season, with his physical skills and projected playing time, he is a fascinating option. He could be worth a flier in deep, TE mandatory leagues this season.
Keeper League Potential: Nelson has a lot of potential, but also a good deal of question marks. He definitely needs to add some bulk and he needs to improve his blocking and route running. He has all the physical skills to become an elite TE should the pieces fall into place, not only for Nelson but the Bills in general. The jury is still out whether Trent Edwards is a franchise QB and it will be interesting to see how the Terrell Owens project works out. Overall, Nelson is a high upside player with potential, ability, and some question marks.
That wraps up the four-part series of the Fantasy Football Rookie Report. If you have any fantasy football questions, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.