Preseason Hype, Tight End Value and Jordan Cameron
Jordan Cameron caught 2 touchdowns in a preseason game, following an off season of hype from fantasy football pundits far and wide. In May, I identified him as a player with alot of upside at a pretty barren position but the Rotoviz boss man isn’t so enamored. The TE Sim Score App doesn’t particularly love Cameron, mostly because he was only targeted 42 times last season. But John Paulsen of 4for4 went through and watched all 42 targets and came away impressed.
Cameron is next in a line of college basketball players turned into NFL tight ends and that storyline is pretty tired, honestly. However, I think Jon Moore’s table comparing Cameron to Jimmy Graham is pretty enlightening.
|Player||Ht.||Wt.||40yd Dash||Bench||V. Jump||B. Jump||Shuttle||3 cone|
That lateral agility is literally so good that he would score well on Shawn Siegele’s Agility Score metric… for running backs. The correlation isn’t as strong for pass catchers as it is for pass-catching running backs, but the comparison to Graham is strong.
The Weeden Botheration
The main concern for Cameron is that he’s catching passes from Brandon Weeden, not Drew Brees (as Jon pointed out) but after the preseason, that has to be less of a concern. As Ryan Burns pointed out in my Brown’s offensive preview, Weeden doesn’t have poor arm talent, he was just a miserable fit for the offense that he was put into as a rookie. The vertical passing offense of Norv Turner is a much better fit for Weeden.
So far in the preseason, Weeden is 18-25 for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. Granted, it’s preseason and he is facing vanilla defenses, but in the same situation last year, Weeden threw for 297 yards in 49 attempts with 0 touchdowns and an interception. Gleam from preseason stats from what you will, but early returns on Weeden in this offense are basically what we posited in the offseason. I’ve never been a member of the “Preseason doesn’t matter camp” so the fact that Weeden has produced statistically and looked good doing so is actually pretty meaningful to me. Good enough that I’m playing him as a solid QB2, as Ryan Gilmore posited. All of this is really good for Cameron. The better the offense is, the more often they will be near the redzone, where Cameron’s 6’5 frame and 37.5 inch vertical will really play.
Perhaps more important, Brandon Weeden thinks that Cameron is a good redzone target, telling the News-Herald of Northern Ohio that “He had some great catches down there (the endzone). I know he has that in him. He has a ton of ability. I’m excited to see him play as well as he did tonight and, hopefully, we keep that rolling. He’s going to be a huge asset for this offense.” The relationship goes both ways as Cameron said in the same article “”I think the trust is huge. They know they can count on me. For a quarterback and a tight end, trust is huge.” Clearly, we can overrate preseason scuttlebutt and it’s possible that I’m just confirming my bias, but these are the sort of things that we want to hear. It’s better than Bruce Arians stating “Right now, we’re not featuring Robby a lot in the passing game. It’s more blocking, and I think he’s improved tremendously.” about one of the Douche’s favorite sleepers Robert Housler.
Norval Is An End To A Mean
Some of the best work on Cameron in the Norv Turner offense came from friend of Rotoviz J.J Zachariason over on Numberfire. JJ looked at how tight ends (not just those named Antonio Gates) have historically performed in Norv Turner offenses and concluded the following.
Cameron does have a shot to break through this season. Since 2001, we’ve seen consistent top-15 tight end volume and efficiency from Turner’s tight ends, and with the exception of Doug Jolley, Turner has produced plenty of fantasy-worthy tight end seasons. Just don’t think that Cameron will automatically post Antonio Gates-like numbers. Instead, I’d liken his situation to Randy McMichael‘s in Miami, which was solid for that particular NFL era. McMichael was the 9th and 8th best fantasy tight end during his two years with Turner.
As usual, JJ’s analysis is well-researched and well done, and paints Cameron in a pretty solid light. I think that it’s reasonable to assume that Cameron’s upside is higher than McMicheal’s best season with Norv of 598 yards and 2 touchdowns. It’s worth noting that Rob Chudzinski also historically favors the tight end in his offense. Last year, he coached fantasy’s number 6 tight end, Greg Olsen and was Kellen Winslow‘s coach in his 1,106 yard, 5 touchdown season. Athletically speaking, Cameron is superior to all the previously mentioned players with the likely exception of Antonio Gates (Gates didn’t attend the NFL combine, so we don’t really know).
Just like Daryl Richardson and Shane Vereen, I think this is a case where the coaches are making a fantasy decision easier on us. We speculated for months on Cameron’s athleticism in the tight end friendly Turner/Chudzinski offense and we’re already seeing positive results. Cameron’s ADP has already leapt into the 10th round and that does take a bit of shine off the apple. However, if you are drafting correctly, you should be able to afford drafting at that price.
I think that if you are able to get him for a 10th round price, he is actually an excellent arbitrage play on Greg Olsen. The Douche has written that Olsen is one his main redraft targets and his 2013 Sim Score projection is 68 catches, 843 yards and 5 touchdowns. That’s probably on the top end of Cameron’s outcomes, but you can get him 3 rounds later. Cameron probably won’t accumulate as many yards with Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Trent Richardson demanding the lion’s share of the touches, but given what we know about size, touchdowns, and tight ends and what we’ve seen in the preseason, I feel comfortable projecting somewhere between 6-9 touchdowns.
So is Cameron still a value? I think so. If his ADP pushes up into the 8th or 9th round and he ends up going before Jermichael Finley and Martellus Bennett, I think the price is probably too rich. However, if you can get him after you’ve already taken 9 or 10 running backs and wide receivers, Cameron is a relatively cheap, high upside option.