Written By Josh Haymond Follow on Twitter @JPesoFF
The conundrum – injury-provided opportunity and astounding physical traits versus untapped potential and quarterback dependency.
Vernon Davis, SF
Our first dynasty dilemma at the tight-end position was brought to us in May, when Michael Crabtree went down with a full Achilles tear. Though it is difficult to imagine Crabtree returning to full force until 2014, he could be back for the final few games. After being underutilized in Colin Kaepernick’s early starts, Crabtree’s targets ballooned to 10 per game through the end of the NFL Playoffs.
For a player of his caliber, Davis received a laughable 4 targets per game in 2012 – a number that is now sure to rise. The 29-year-old is coming off his worst year since 2008, compiling just 41 receptions for 548 yards and 5 TD.
Physical 11-year veteran Anquan Boldin was brought in for a 6th round pick to complement Crabtree, but will now be leaned on as the team’s go-to wide receiver. Even so, it is unlikely Kaepernick will hone in on Boldin as much as he did with Crabtree. One of second year pro AJ Jenkins or 4th round pick Quinton Patton will man the outside opposite Boldin. The team also drafted Vance McDonald in the second round, a raw but bearish pass-catching TE out of Rice.
But it’s about ending on a high note for Davis. The manimal caught fire in the 49ers final two playoff games, snagging 5 passes for 106 yards and a TD in the NFC Championship win in Atlanta, and adding 6 catches for 104 in the Super Bowl loss against the Ravens – converting nearly 80% of his targets in the brightest of stages.
2013 Projection: 16 games, 70 receptions, 980 receiving yards, 9 TD = 222 PPR / 13.9 PPR PPG
Kyle Rudolph, MIN
After being selected by the Vikings in the 2nd round of the 2011 Draft, Kyle Rudolph flashed as a rookie, putting up 26 catches for 249 yards and 3 TD. In 2012, Rudolph improved mightily on those numbers, catching 53 passes for 493 yards and 9 TD. In his first two seasons, Rudolph has converted 20 of 23 red zone targets, but has been far less effective between the 20’s, converting just 57% of his targets this year, down from 67% in 2011.
Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks, a loss the team hopes to offset with the free agency addition of former division rival Greg Jennings. The Vikings drafted dynamic weapon Cordarrelle Patterson with the 2013 29th overall pick. Although Harvin averaged over 9 targets per game, he was lost in week 9 to a high-ankle sprain. Rudolph must convert a larger number of the 90-100 targets he receives.
Target conversion increase isn’t out of the question, as Rudolph spent last season transitioning to an in-line tight end, and at just 23 years old, his ability is undeniable. Whether that ability translates to elite fantasy production remains to be seen. Rudolph’s six drops this past year may prove to be an anomaly – he’s historically been sure-handed.
Unfortunately, Rudolph’s production is also dependent on the progression of Christian Ponder. Reports of Ponder’s off-season work have been poor. The Vikings hope to pass more in 2013, but will quickly scrap that plan if Ponder starts slowly. In a do-or-die year for the third year quarterback, Ponder’s progression is a relatively low factor in Rudolph’s long-term dynasty calculation, however the short-term outlook remains murky.
2013 Projection: 16 games, 65 receptions, 670 receiving yards, 7 TD = 174 PPR / 10.8 PPR PPG
Kyle Rudolph is a promising pro with a fair market value, and should become a more consistent week-to-week option in 2013, but the short-term competitive edge in a muddled tight-end landscape makes the talented Vernon Davis the more appealing asset on your roster.
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