Wisdom of Crowds: Projecting 2009 TE
by Bill Barnwell
Although I don't have a statistic to back this up, I'd estimate that the average fantasy team starts about 2.5 wide receivers per week.
That same average team probably has about 1.02 tight ends in the lineup. As a result, we spent three weeks in our Wisdom of Crowds feature looking at wide receivers, but only one on tight ends. We chose the five that we thought would have the most variance in projections.
Monday: Antonio Gates
Average Prediction: 73 catches, 913 receiving yards, 8 TD
Maximum Prediction: 88 catches, 1275 receiving yards, 10 TD
Minimum Prediction: 64 catches, 720 receiving yards, 6 TD
This was a strange one. The first two respondents to our request for Gates predictions had him, respectively, at 87 and 88 catches. Everyone afterwards was in a neat range of 64 to 78 catches. Only 20 percent of respondents suggested that Gates would gain 1000 yards or more.
I'm very high on Gates, with the idea that the year of injuries he went through last year only exacerbated his toe issues. If he can just make it through a year where the toe is the only problem he has (and, we can dream, if the toe injury fades), Gates should be the league's best tight end again.
Tuesday: Brent Celek
Average Prediction: 54 catches, 635 receiving yards, 5 TD
Maximum Prediction: 65 catches, 850 receiving yards, 8 TD
Minimum Prediction: 41 catches, 437 receiving yards, 3 TD
Here, our esteemed panel was seemingly split into two groups; while there was a straggler here and there, one group had Celek in the 40-45 catch range, while the other had him from 59-65 or so. The resulting average prediction split the difference between the two.
Celek obviously showed off his potential in the NFC Championship Game as a short-and-intermediate threat, but that game came against a Cardinals team that was 22nd in the league against tight ends a year ago. The issue with him is touches; Philly throws the ball a lot, but with so many receivers and backs capable of catching the ball, it's hard to see Celek getting more than 85-90 passes over a 16-game stretch. He'll always have Arizona, though.
Wednesday: Tony Gonzalez
Average Prediction: 74 catches, 862 receiving yards, 8 TD
Maximum Prediction: 95 catches, 1055 receiving yards, 12 TD
Minimum Prediction: 64 catches, 700 receiving yards, 5 TD
It still feels weird to call him a Falcon, but Gonzalez should immediately emerge as Matt Ryan's second option behind Roddy White. (His first, if White should continue to hold out into the regular season for the contract he deserves.) Our followers see him as a definite source of touchdowns, which is interesting; he had 10 touchdowns a year ago, but only 12 over the previous three years combined.
Gonzalez's usage total in his average prediction seems reasonable, but his touchdown totals are probably a little high, especially with Michael Turner as an established option near the goal line. Something like 75/900/6 seems about right.
Thursday: Greg Olsen
Average Prediction: 68 catches, 802 receiving yards, 7 TD
Maximum Prediction: 80 catches, 930 receiving yards, 9 TD
Minimum Prediction: 60 catches, 660 receiving yards, 6 TD
Another player who I expected more variance on is Olsen, who has the athletic ability, the hands, and (now) the quarterback to produce some enormous numbers if he can accrue the targets necessary.
He's up against the Curse of Ditka, though. With his 54 catches a year ago, Olsen became the only tight end in franchise history to get past the 50-catch mark besides Ditka, who did it four consecutive years between 1961 and 1964, peaking with 75 catches in 1964. Desmond Clark and Ryan Wetnight have come close, but no one's managed to approach Ditka's level of performance.
As you can see, not a single one of our followers believes that Olsen will fail to hit the 60-catch mark this year, let alone 50. I'm inclined to agree.
Friday: John Carlson
Average Prediction: 59 catches, 698 receiving yards, 6 TD
Maximum Prediction: 70 catches, 950 receiving yards, 10 TD
Minimum Prediction: 45 catches, 495 receiving yards, 4 TD
Predictions for Carlson were what we expected: All over the place. We'll be presenting some research later this week that has nice things to say about Carlson's rookie performance, but even without that, I was surprised at the number of 45-55 catch predictions we got for him.
That was until I realized that Carlson had blown away the franchise record for receptions by a tight end as a rookie himself; his 55 catches last year were nine more than the previous record, held by Itula Mili.
Carlson's performance as a rookie, though, is interesting. Only five other tight ends have caught more than 50 passes as a rookie, but only one of them had a truly great career: Mike Ditka. In fact, of those five, only Ditka and Charle Young managed to catch more passes in any subsequent year than they did as a rookie (Young went from 55 catches as a rookie to 63 in his sophomore year, and then never topped that); Keith Jackson (81 catches in 1988), Jeremy Shockey (74 catches in 2002), and Cam Cleeland (54 catches in 1998, while playing for Ditka) failed to reach the heights of their rookie year in any of their subsequent seasons.
Junk stat? Of course. It does remind us, though, that some players don't follow the traditional career path; sometimes, a player (or, at least, his statistical line) peaks at 24.
This week, we'll be taking a look at some random statistics with our wise crowd; today, we're predicting Flozell Adams' false starts. We'll be taking suggestions for strange stats to look at in the comments and on Twitter, where you can follow us @fb_outsiders.