After spending the first four seasons of his career stuck in Dallas behind all-pro tight end Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett has found himself a starting job. On Wednesday afternoon, Bennett signed a 1 year, $2.5 million contract with the New York Giants.
Bennett hasn’t quite lived up to the hype after being drafted in the second round back in 2008, but – as mentioned – he has yet to see a real opportunity as a full-time player. His maturity has been called into question on several occasions, but consider that he did skip his Senior season, entering the league at just 21 years old. Today, we consider him a league veteran, but he’s still only 25 years old after celebrating a birthday on March 10.
Despite racking up only 88 receptions over the last four seasons, Bennett has quietly played 367+ snaps each of the four seasons, including 406 in in 2011. That works out to roughly 44% of the Cowboy’s offensive snaps since 2008. Dallas went with 2+ TE formations 49% of the time in 2011, which was fifth highest in the league. It’s clear they wanted to keep him on the field.
Bennett was arguably the most physically gifted tight end on the market and is certainly one of the best run-blocking tight ends in football. According to our game analysts, he’s graded out as a Top 5 run-blocking tight end each of the last three seasons. He finished as the 10th best overall tight end in 2011, putting up an 8.8 grade, and ranked fourth overall in 2010 (13.0).
Blocking hasn’t been an issue, but Bennett hasn’t lived up to expectations as a pass catcher. Opportunities have certainly been at a premium, however, with the 44 targets he saw in 2010 standing as a career-high. Overall, he’s seen 127 targets, hauling in 88 for 873 yards and four touchdowns (all four of which came in 2008).
Bennett is viewed as a player who has drop issues, but that’s a bit misleading. He’s dropped 13 balls in his short career, but seven (21% of his 33 targets) came during a rough 2009 campaign. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, he dropped a total of five on 68 targets (7%), which is right at league average for an in-line tight end.
Speaking of his positioning on the field, Bennett worked 338 (83%) of his 406 snaps in 2011 as an in-line tight end. He saw a target on just 6% of his snaps, but that number jumped to 15% when he ran one of his 155 pass routes. Bennett was targeted at a much higher rate in 2009, but still was on the line right around 80% of the time.
Bennett is as close to a perfect fit for the Giants as they were going to find. Jake Ballard, their starter and workhorse in 2011, tore his ACL (as did No. 2 Tight End Travis Beckum), during the Superbowl, opening up a major void at the position for the second year in a row. Much like Bennett, Ballard was lined up as an in-line TE on just over 80% of his offensive snaps. Including the playoffs, Ballard handled 982 snaps and was targeted 69 times (or about 3.8 per game). Bennett will slide right into that role and could even average four or five targets per week.
Bennett will be an every-down player for the Giants in 2011. He’ll be a major asset in the running game and will provide another weapon for Eli Manning in the passing game. Giants’ tight ends are rarely Fantasy Football superstars, however, so temper your expectations in that department. Although he certainly has breakout potential and qualifies as a TE2 sleeper, he’ll certainly be of more value to the Giants than he will be to your Fantasy team.
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter at @PFF_MikeClay