Ed Dickson

With the news that Dennis Pitta and Jeremy Maclin will both miss the 2013 season due to injuries suffered in training camp on Saturday, the next question is obvious. Who will replace them?

Baltimore and Philadelphia were already among the thinnest teams in the NFL at the receiving positions, so these developments do not necessarily create automatic fantasy beneficiaries. I still really like a couple of under the radar guys.

Baltimore Tight End Ed Dickson

Dickson was drafted No. 70 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. While it’s easy to make fun of Scott Pioli for trading up to select Tony Moeaki ahead of Jimmy Graham, Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, perhaps the best GM in the sport, picked Dickson ahead of them both. (To see why Newsome selected Dickson, check out Davis Mattek’s excellent look at his college career for Sports Wunderkind.)

At this point, Dickson appears to be a bust. Struggling with injuries and ineffectiveness, Dickson recorded a paltry 225 yards and zero touchdowns in 2012. But tight ends often take quite a while to emerge. The greatest tight end in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez, did not hit 1000 yards or 5 touchdowns in his first two seasons combined. Dallas Clark did not break the 500-yard barrier until his fifth season.

I always like to see what a player’s historical comps have done, so I generated a list of similar players to Ed Dickson (focusing on draft position and yardage over three seasons).

GamesReceiving
PlayerFromToDraftGGSRecYdsY/RTD
Jared Cook200920113-8946687119413.724
Dennis Pitta201020124-114437102107510.5410
Jermichael Finley200820103-91321682105112.827
Jackie Harris199019924-102482091101611.165
Tony Moeaki201020123-93302980100912.614
Lonnie Johnson199419962-61423298100310.231
Alex Smith200520073-71443110810029.288
Doug Jolley200220042-5547269097210.805
Ed Dickson201020123-7044308690510.526
Eric Bjornson199519974-11042251028838.663
Fred Davis200820102-4843217285211.839
O.J. Santiago199719993-7041415981913.887
Matt Schobel200220043-6747127274510.358
Anthony Fasano200620082-5348266272311.668
Martellus Bennett200820102-6146256870210.324
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/28/2013.

Dickson’s comps don’t light the world on fire, but they’re not awful either. Jared Cook and Dennis Pitta are/were so trendy this season that RotoViz recently issued an ADP alert. Fred Davis and Martellus Bennett each started slowly and find themselves in great positions to help fantasy owners this year.

Let’s go back a season and see how quickly things can change in a tight end battle. In 2011 Dickson caught more passes than Pitta (54-40) for more yards (528 to 405) and more touchdowns (5 to 3). He’s also two years younger.

While Pitta was clearly ticketed for the bigger role heading into this season, it’s not unlikely that a team as strong as Baltimore simply tweaks their plans a little. After all, we’ve seen Dickson flash before. On November 13, 2011, he caught 10 passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The only other tight ends to record a 10-catch, 2-td game since 1990 are Shannon Sharpe, Tony Gonzalez, and Kellen Winslow Jr.

Fantasy Recommendation: Add Dickson to your group of late round tight ends to target. He may not score as well as Pitta, but he’s probably underrated and will be a lot cheaper to acquire than Pitta would have been.

Philadelphia WR Damaris Johnson

As many of you know, I was surprised the St. Louis Rams selected Tavon Austin No. 8 overall because there are quite a few similar players already playing in the NFL who fail to generate much enthusiasm. Right before the NFL Draft I wrote a column comparing Austin to Jarius Wright, Mike Thomas, and Aldrick Robinson. It was mostly for my own interest. I didn’t expect anyone to care, and they didn’t.

But it might be relevant now because the list also generated one other interesting comp: Damaris Johnson. I’ll let you hop over to that piece to see how Johnson is very similar to Austin in both athletic ability and collegiate performance. (He’s almost a dead ringer.)

With Maclin injured, a spot opens up for Johnson, but the presence of Chip Kelly is what really makes Johnson interesting. There have been some suggestions that DeSean Jackson might be able to fill the Black Mamba role in the Kelly offense, but he’s not the guy who reminds of DeAnthony Thomas. Johnson is. Check out Johnson’s final college season next to Thomas’ 2012.

RecYdsAvgTDRushesYdsAvgTD
Damaris Johnson5787215.345556010.27
DeAnthony Thomas454459.95927017.611

Johnson averaged more yards per reception and more yards per rush. (If you’re just getting back from the Austin piece, that seems to be a refrain, doesn’t it?) Okay, but maybe that’s misleading. Let’s look at Johnson’s career numbers compared to Thomas so far.

AttYdsAvgTDRecYdsAvgTD
Damaris Johnson12210628.78188274614.617
DeAnthony Thomas14712968.81891105011.514

Thomas is averaging more touchdowns per touch, but Johnson averages more yards per touch by a wide margin (12.3 to 9.9). But it may be the high-powered nature of the Oregon offense that put Thomas in position to score some of those touchdowns. Maybe the new Eagles offense will do the same for Johnson.

Is Damaris Johnson as good as Tavon Austin and DeAnthony Thomas? It seems pretty unlikely. But his opportunity in Philadelphia is suddenly so good he doesn’t have to be. We know Johnson has the ability to record a good game. In Week 3 last season he filled in for Maclin and caught 5 passes for 84 yards. It’s not out of the question for him to have quite a few games like that this year in the Eagles’ up tempo offense.

Fantasy Recommendation: Damaris Johnson, not Riley Cooper or Jason Avant, is the guy to pick up for Maclin owners. In redraft leagues, he now has WR5 value and should not go undrafted in deep formats.

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