Saturday - Mar 23, 2019

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Breakout Players – Tight End

Do you smell what the St. Louis Rams are cooking? Well, I do. And unless they’re using some nasty meat substitute, it’s going to smell very good to fantasy owners that take the leap of faith this year. This episode examines my breakout tight end. For those keeping score at home, I define a breakout player as:
a player drafted in Round 5 or later capable of producing a very high return on your investment. As we read the tea leaves on the Rams’ offensive metamorphosis, prepare to feel an overwhelming case of deja vu.


Jared Cook

, TE, St. Louis




He’s only 26 years old. His first NFL team drastically underutilized him. He signed a five-year, $35 million contract this offseason. Do you really think Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer brought this guy in to work on his blocking or to sit on the sideline? No. The only logical explanation for paying that kind of money for a tight end full of athleticism but subpar at blocking is to make him a focal point of a pass-happy offense.

Cook is nothing less than an athletic freak of nature. He’s 6-foot-5, 248 pounds and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. The only starting tight end in the league that holds a candle to his speed is
Vernon Davis
. Unlike Davis’ team, the Rams are clearly morphing their offense from a balanced attack to pass-happy as a rebuttal for the big, hard-hitting defenses the rest of the NFC West is rolling out.

Cook doesn’t just have speed; he has incredible body control and sound hands. These skills have been wasted thus far as he spent most of his time with the Titans adjusting to errant passes thrown by
Kerry Collins
,
Matt Hasselbeck
and
Jake Locker
in their sputtering excuse for an NFL offense. The Titans also penalized him for not being a plus blocker, hence why Cook did not even crack the top-40 tight ends in snaps last year. When he was on the field, he played in the slot. Oh, guess who has targeted the slot early and often in both his NFL and college career? Give yourself a point if you guessed
Sam Bradford
.

Bradford is currently heading into the fourth year of a six-year, $78 million contract he signed after the Rams made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Bradford has not been awful, but he certainly has not been great. Despite the mediocrity, Fisher showed he believed in Bradford when the Rams passed up the opportunity to draft Robert Griffin III last year and dealt the No. 2 pick to Washington. He may believe in Bradford, but they have set him up this year to have absolutely no excuses for failing.

The excuse so far for Bradford has always been his lack of receiving weapons. When he excelled at Oklahoma, he had a plethora of weapons and two of his top targets were slot wide receiver
Ryan Broyles
and move tight end
Jermaine Gresham
. Fisher obviously wants his franchise quarterback to thrive, so they’re going to make him comfortable. Enter his new Broyles, No. 8 overall
Tavon Austin
, and his new Gresham, big money free agent
Jared Cook
.

In organized team activities, they are already showing a base package of four wide receivers – Cook and Austin in the slot,
Chris Givens
and
Brian Quick
on the outside. With this system being installed, Cook or Austin should finish in the top-2 of every major receiving category. Anything less, and something went horribly wrong and the Rams will not be successful this year on offense.

In conclusion,
Jared Cook
is a very good receiver, getting paid a lot of money, on a team that is poised to throw the ball a lot in 2013. At the thinnest position in fantasy, why not make Cook the guy you gamble on beyond the top-5 tight ends.


Honorable mention –


Martellus Bennett
, Chicago;
Brandon Myers
, New York Giants; Rob Housler, Arizona


Dark Horses –


Travis Kelce
, Kansas City;
Jake Ballard
, New England;
Chris Gragg
, Buffalo

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