Mel Gibson once starred in a movie called ‘signs,’ a sci-fi movie depicting an alien takeover of the United States. The aliens etch art-like designs, or ‘signs’ into corn fields that serve as landmarks to help them navigate the country and coordinate attacks. When those signs start popping up in your neighborhood, you know you got a few problems coming.
Well, there are signs of another takeover, but it’s in the much more important world of fantasy football. Only difference between this kind of takeover and signs is — there’s no stopping it. You can only hope to exploit it for your own benefit.
Knowing is half the battle to winning, and if you know a little bit about Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, you’re that much more likely to start a takeover of your own.
Need some more ‘signs’ references to help illustrate how dangerous Cameron could be in 2013? I thought so. Cue the semi-creepy-yet-not-really sci-fi music.
A former fourth-round pick now entering his third season, the Browns coaching staff doled out several clues that Cameron is going to be ‘the guy’ in 2013.
First, the Browns let go of long-time tight end Benjamin Watson, replacing him with backups Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge. Second, they drafted no tight ends in the 2013 draft. Lastly, Browns’ offensive coordinator Norv Turner runs one of the most tight-end-friendly schemes in the NFL. A look at Antonio Gates production in San Diego under Turner should give you some insight. Gates was the second most targeted player last season with 78 (second only to Malcom Floyd’s 84.) Keep in mind, Gates lost a step last season and turned in one of his worst lines yet still turned in 49 catches for 538 yards, and 7 touchdowns.
In his prime, from 2006-2009, Gates was targeted 118, 118, 92, and 114 times in those four seasons. Safe to say Turner likes using the tight end.
But wait, Gates didn’t get those stats just because of the scheme he was in, did he? You’re right. He was also a freak athlete. So what does Cameron have to offer in that department?
At 6’5, 254, Cameron is more than just a big guy. He runs at 4.5 speed. He’s a converted basketball player (think Jimmy Graham, Gates, and Tony Gonzalez), so he brings a 38.5 inch vertical to the party. He’s got the hops and size to make him a deadly weapon in the red zone and on jump ball plays.
Possesses Velcro hands and runs good routes. He wasn’t the most prolific receiver last season (only caught 20 passes for 226 yards) but of those 20 catches, 12 of them were for first down. He ate up yardage when he did catch the ball too, averaging 11.3 yards per grab. When a player displays the ability to move the chains and rattle off big gains, it keeps him on the field more often and elicits more trust in the quarterback to get him the ball.
There are a few major reasons Cameron hasn’t begun to fill the stuff stat sheets already in the NFL. For one, he’s still young and hasn’t played with a good quarterback. He played in only eight games his rookie season (2011), catching six passes in the Colt McCoy I-can’t-hit-you-if-you-run-past-the-safety offense. He played in 14 games last season with the better-but-still-learning rookie Brandon Weeden. With Weeden showing signs of improvement, especially as the 2012 season went along, you can expect Cameron to benefit from that. One last thing you could argue is the Cameron plays for the Browns, a franchise engulfed in a losing culture (think Larry Fitzgerald with the Arizona Cardinals before they figured out how to win in 2008.) It’s not something you can explain exactly, but it’s been known to hamper the progress of talented players in the past.
While injuries haven’t been a big problem in the early stages of Cameron’s career, he had some back issues during 2012 training camp and pulled a few muscles during spring practices, but the injuries were minor and shouldn’t lead to doubts on durability.
Cameron is simply too talented not to make a much bigger splash in the NFL this season. He’s a darkhorse No. 1 tight end. Look for him in the later rounds.