The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
When Cam Newton and the Carolina offense hit its stride in the second half of the season, Greg Olsen started producing like a true number one tight end. Beginning in Week 10, Olsen averaged 9.2 fantasy points per week through the end of the season. Although, to be fair, much of that is due in large part to a 22.2-point outburst in Week 10. Still, a guy who is good for 7.1 fantasy points per outing over the course of a season, and someone who is the number two weapon in an explosive passing game is an asset — particularly for a player who is taken late in drafts. Olsen should be a great value pick at tight end next season.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
Last season was a breakout year for the San Francisco offense. With Colin Kaepernick pulling the strings, it seemed that everyone — Michael Crabtree, LaMichael James and, yes, even the now-plodding Frank Gore — morphed into a potent weapon. Well, everyone except Vernon Davis. For reasons unknown to mankind, Davis, a freak of an athlete who had back-to-back 900-yard receiving seasons in 2009-2010, struggled with the transition, finishing the regular season with a measly 84.8 fantasy points. That’s just six more points than the immortal Marcedes Lewis.
After averaging 34.3 yards per game during the regular season, Davis erupted for 210 yards in the final two games of the postseason, getting on the so-called “same page” as Kaepernick. It’s just two games, but Davis is too gifted and Kaepernick is too good for these two not to make some sweet, sweet music in 2013. Davis has the ability to be a top-five tight end, and he’ll be there late in drafts as well. If he falls, take him for his upside.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Speaking of top-five tight ends, Antonio Gates used to be a lock each year to be one of the position’s top producers. But he’s been dying a slow death since his 1,157-yard campaign in 2009, bottoming out with just 538 yards last year. Ultra injury prone the past three seasons, Gates has lost a step (or seven), but he’s still Philip Rivers’ favorite target in the red zone.
A year ago, when the Chargers offense had its worst season in quite some time, Gates still checked in as the 12th-best tight end in fantasy, totaling seven touchdowns. And while there will always be a random element to touchdowns, Gates has at least seven scores every year since 2004. Remember, too, that Gates has missed plenty time in the past due to injury. His ceiling isn’t as high as some guys, as his body is aging and Philip Rivers isn’t the same quarterback he used to be, but his floor shouldn’t be lower than that of a starting-caliber player.