Fantasy Reaction: Kellen Davis Signs With Cleveland Browns
While the Browns’ recent signing of former Bears blocking tight end Kellen Davis affects his fantasy value only minimally, of far more interest to fantasy owners is that it may open the door for popular sleeper tight end Jordan Cameron. Rumors of Cleveland wooing accomplished pass catchers Brandon Myers and Fred Davis had briefly put a damper on the buzz surrounding Cameron, but this development should reignite interest in the young tight end.
Rob Chudzinski is taking over as Cleveland’s head coach, and the tight end position figures to get plenty of emphasis if his recent work is taken into account. A former college tight end himself, Chud served as a positional coach both at the University of Miami and with two NFL teams. He will be teaming up with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and the pairing should help to produce a favorable environment for tight end production.
Cameron has the physical attributes to develop into one of Chudzinski and Turner’s prototypical pass-catching tight ends, a group that includes the likes of Kellen Winslow, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, and Antonio Gates. While he is still somewhat raw, more playing time might just be all that stands in the way of Cameron and legitimate fantasy production. Former starter Ben Watson has defected to New Orleans as a free agent, so Cameron’s path to more playing time is now clear.
Despite having been on the field for only 36.3 percent of Cleveland’s offensive plays during his 14 games in 2012, Cameron’s opportunities did marginally increase as the season went along. In his first seven games he saw just shy of 30 percent of snaps, but that rose to 43 percent over his final seven. He also sported an average depth of target of 9.5 yards – the same as popular fantasy tight end target Jared Cook, and a half yard better than Jimmy Graham.
There is an additional positive fantasy bank shot from Davis’ signing with the Browns. Running back Trent Richardson stands to benefit from both of Cleveland’s offseason tight end imports, which also include Gary Barnidge – a former Panther who played under Chudzinski. Over the last four seasons, we have given Barnidge and Davis each +7.0 cumulative run blocking grades. For his part, Cameron has graded as a poor run blocker – albeit in limited attempts. That would typically not bode well for him staying on the field at the same time as another, more complete tight end. Luckily for him, neither Davis nor Barnidge qualifies as one.
In Norv Turner’s offense, if his recent work with the San Diego Chargers is any indication, there will be an opportunity for Cameron to earn plenty of snaps. While Turner did give his second pass-catching tight end, Dante Rosario, nearly 200 snaps in 2012 – a healthy portion of them came when Antonio Gates was injured. Randy McMichael, a stronger run blocker, saw over 500 snaps in 2012 – seldom releasing into a pass route.
Turner’s Chargers did have at least two tight ends on the field for more than half of all offensive snaps in 2012, and only two other teams had three or more wideouts on the field less often than San Diego did. Chudzinski has been more flexible with snap and target distribution, but it has depended on who he had to work with. Last season, his best option at the position saw 91 percent of tight end targets (Olsen), and in 2009 it was 89 percent (Gates). However Olsen saw far fewer (58 percent) chances when he shared snaps with Shockey (40 percent) in 2011.
The Browns do not currently have a Shockey-level pass catcher to siphon targets away from Cameron. If they do not bring in more competition for him before training camp begins, expect his ADP to rise steadily as draft day approaches.