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Finding a great tight end to anchor your fantasy football team is like discovering a rare white elk, a tiger mixed with a lion or a way to escape DeflateGate coverage. There are really only two sure-fire fantasy tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham) plus a consistently solid option (Greg Olsen) and a potential phenom who might still break a ton of hearts (Travis Kelce) due to his benign offense and deep-ball-impaired quarterback.
So when looking for a quality fantasy football tight end, there are several factors you should consider when drafting one.
First, he needs to be in an offense that scores a lot. That may sound simple, but you'd be surprised how many people draft talented tight ends on bad teams. Kelce is an example of that, as the Chiefs were not a very high-powered offense last season.
Kelce saw just 13 total targets in the red zone, which were more than any receiver in Kansas City. Kelce finished with 67 receptions on 862 yards and 5 touchdowns. Kansas City finished as the 24th most prolific passing offense in the league last season. While Kelce posted decent receiving numbers, you have to figure he could've been even better if in a pass-heavy offense.
The Chargers, on the other hand, were the 13th most prolific passing offense last season. Tight end Antonio Gates saw 19 total red zone targets and he made the most out of them, converting 12 of them into touchdowns, which served as the second-highest total of his career.
A team that scores a lot also has a chance to do damage in the red zone, a place where tight ends often thrive the most. They sneak underneath coverage and use their big bodies to shield defenders and make crucial catches on the most important part of the field — the end zone. It's no surprise Broncos tight end Julius Thomas racked up an immense amount of touchdowns due to the fact that he played in an offense with one of the best red zone quarterbacks of all time — Peyton Manning.
But when you can find a tight end that not only has the right situation, but is also one of the premier athletes at his position, then you have something unique. San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green has fitted the bill ever since he got paid bills in 2012 when the Chargers drafted him out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Green saw very little time on the field during his rookie year, as is common with most tight ends. But he made some waves in 2013, catching 17 passes on 30 targets for an eye-popping 376 yards. That's 22 yards per catch. Now, that's a small sample size and you expecting him to extrapolate his yards per catch numbers over say, 90 targets, would be unreasonable. Still, it gave us a glimpse of what Green could do if ever given a prominent role in the Chargers' offense. His slant touchdown reception in particular was a memorable one.
Downhill slope with light at the tunnel
Green's hype train blew off some steam in 2014, as he finished with a paltry 19 catches for 226 yards and zero touchdowns. Snap count played a large role. Green only saw 27 percent of the teams total snaps while Antonio Gates surprised most by proving his tank wasn't empty, and he wound up stealing the spotlight from Green by playing in 72 percent of the team's snaps. A noticeable discrepancy.
Now, some more consider Green's lack of ability to upend Gates on the depth chart as a slight against him. But I don't see it that way. Gates is one of the greatest tight ends of his generation. Even if you are a great tight end in your own right, Gates earned the option to play as long as he's still halfway decent and he showed he still was in 2014.
Luckily for Green, snap count likely won't be an issue in 2015. Gates is out for the first four games due to suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Green currently sits comfortably atop the tight end depth chart and should see the majority of the snaps in the beginning of the season. He truly is being thrown into the fray for the first time in his career. Expectations have never been greater for him.
A fourth-round pick by San Diego in 2012, Green was always considered the successor to future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. At just 25 years old, Green is a monster of an athlete. He stands at 6'6 and weighs 238 lbs, not too many tight ends outside of Gronkowski and Graham have his kind of size. Package that with 4.5 speed and you have a player who can break away from most linebackers and even beat out corners and safeties if he gets a step.
We mentioned earlier how much a quarterback means to his receivers' fantasy value, and Green is blessed with one of the better ones. Philip Rivers is coming off his second straight 30-touchdown season and the 12-year quarterback has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in his last seven seasons. Rivers will add plenty of value to Green as long as Green is on the field.
Good ADP value
Green is currently listed as a TE24 according to Fantasypros.com. He's being lumped into the same group as guys like Larry Donnell, Jordan Reed and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You could snag him as a TE2 with good value in the 12-15th rounds.
There's a lot to like about Green this season, but the biggest positive going for him is his increased snap count. The Chargers have waited for the right time to unveil him and this season is the perfect time to do it given Gates' suspension. According to the experts at Fantasypros, 61 percent say Green is better than his current ADP and I stand to agree. Draft him as a high-upside TE2.