Fantasy week: NFC East sleeper tight ends

June, 25, 2012
6/25/12
12:14
PM ET

Our fantasy football analysts have put together a stunning amount of video roundtable content as part of our fantasy draft kit, and this is going to be very useful to us here on fantasy week on the NFC East blog. As I was perusing some of it, I came across this one on sleeper tight ends, and I noticed that two of the three names raised in this discussion happen to play in our division.

The first is New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett, whose name is being raised in the video by K.C. Joyner. The former Cowboys tight end signed with the Giants early in free agency, and the Giants are hoping that he can finally realize his potential as a passing-game weapon after disappointing in Dallas. K.C. points out that Jake Ballard came out of nowhere to finish third in yards per catch among tight ends last year, and suggests that Bennett's raw ability could therefore translate into "top-end productivity" if he got a similar opportunity.

For me, it's the opportunity that's the issue for Bennett in New York. Yes, Ballard is gone and Travis Beckum is recovering from his own ACL injury, and there is an opportunity for a tight end to step in and do very well with Eli Manning as his quarterback. But the Giants don't mess around. As we've discussed many times, their roster is a meritocracy. Bennett will have to play well in order to get his opportunity. If he goofs off about his route-running and can't hold onto the ball, Manning simply won't throw it to him. Bear Pascoe is still there and knows the system, and I have little doubt that Manning can make something of him just as he did with Ballard. Bennett will be useful as a blocker, as he was in Dallas, and for that reason I'm sure they'll try to come up with some pass plays for him. But if he doesn't show he can be productive, there are plenty of other people to whom Manning can throw the ball.

Matthew Berry wraps the video by bringing up the Philadelphia Eagles' Brent Celek and the strong second half he had. Matthew says Celek finished fourth in the NFL in total yards among tight ends in the second half of the season, and wonders if that might be a sign of good things to come in 2012. It seems clear that Michael Vick likes throwing to him, so that's not a concern. And it's worth mentioning that Celek had sports hernia surgery and hip surgery after the season ended, so he's an incredibly tough dude who put up those solid second-half numbers in spite of considerable and perpetual pain. But if we assume (as many have been) that DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin bounce back, and that the loss of Jason Peters might require Celek to stay in more as a blocker as he did early last year before the offensive line jelled, then there are at least a couple of reasons to worry.

Thing is, both Bennett and Celek will be late-round options whose potential and pedigree, respectively, merit at least some attention. Our experts rank Celek the No. 14 tight end and Bennett the No. 17, which is why they're sleepers.

Elsewhere in the division, in case you're curious, the Cowboys' Jason Witten ranks fifth and the Redskins' Fred Davis ninth among tight ends in the preseason projections.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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