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Jermichael Finley — A Future Stud TE?

Heading into the 2009 National Football League regular season, Jermichael Finley had some upside-scavenger fantasy owners salivating. After watching Finley shine during the preseason, some drafted the former

Texas
standout in the latter rounds with high expectations for a massive breakout season. Unfortunately, Finley got off to a very disappointing start – he was unable to beat Donald Lee out for the starting job. Finley also missed three weeks (Weeks 8-10) with a knee injury, which is why many fed up owners tossed the then-rarely productive second-year pro back into their free agent pools.

To the surprise of just about everyone, Finley caught fire in Week 11, closing out the season with some rock-solid numbers – 55 catches for 676 yards and five touchdowns. From Week 11 through Week 17, Finley was more productive – 38 receptions for 416 yards and four touchdowns – than several household names at the position, including Tony Gonzalez (Falcons), Visanthe Shiancoe (Vikings), Kellen Winslow (Buccaneers) and Heath Miller (Steelers). Would you believe the best is yet to come from Finley?

THE FINLEY FILE

Jermichael Decorean Finley was born March 26, 1987, in

Lufkin,
Texas
, which is located in the far eastern part of the Lone Star state. A four-year starter at tight end for Diboll (

Texas
) High School (2001-2004), Finley currently owns school records for career catches (316), receiving yards (2,217) and touchdowns (30). As a sophomore, Finley was named District Offensive Player of the Year and received First-Team All-District honors as a junior. He also earned First-Team 3A All-State Honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association and Second-Team All-State Honors from the Associated Press. The talented Finley also played defensive end, wide receiver, safety, punter and kicker at various times during his

Diboll
High School
career.


Louisiana State

,
Texas Tech,
Texas A&M,
Houston,
Arizona and
Texas all actively recruited Finley, with
Arizona and

Texas
emerging as the two front runners. Finely backed out of an oral commitment to play for

Arizona
, choosing to stay in-state and play for the Texas Longhorns (2005-2007). Finley did not play during his freshman season, so the Longhorns red-shirted him. In 2006, Finley played in 13 games (including four starts), setting school freshman tight end records in receptions (31), receiving yards (371) and touchdowns (three). Finley also caught a career-best eight balls for 46 yards against

Iowa
in the 2005 Alamo Bowl.

As a full-time starter during his sophomore season (2007), Finley hauled in 45 passes for 575 yards and two touchdowns. The reception total ranks No. 2 on

Texas
’ single-season tight end list, and the receiving yardage total ranks No. 3 on the school’s single-season tight end list. Among his other notable accomplishments:

  • He caught four balls for a school record 149 receiving yards against the Oklahoma Sooners.
  • He posted at least one catch in 12 of 13 games and caught three or more balls in nine of 13 contests.
  • In two full seasons played with the Longhorns, he hauled in 76 passes for 947 yards and five touchdowns in 26 games. His reception total ranks No. 3 in school history for tight ends, and his receiving yardage total ranks No. 6 in school history for the position.
  • Finley earned All-Big 12 Honors (honorable mention).

Saying that it was his desire to take on “bigger challenges” in his life and pursue a “lifelong dream of playing in the NFL,” Finley renounced his two remaining years of eligibility to enter the 2008 NFL Draft. It was also common knowledge that Finley needed to support his young daughter, and he had another child on the way at the time. Finley was the first player in Longhorn school history to enter the NFL Draft following his sophomore season.

The FINLEY Pre-Draft Profile


Height: 6’5″


Weight: 240 pounds


40-Yard Dash – Combine: 4.82


40-Yard Dash – Pro Day: 4.65


Positives: Extremely athletic, has big-play ability, can kick into high gear and run away from linebackers and safeties, great hands; can adjust to low thrown and poorly thrown balls, can make the acrobatic catch, good body control, a willing blocker; shows great awareness of the blitz, has the appropriate size and speed to block defensive ends, has a lot of overall upside.


Negatives: Could have used another season at Texas to mature physically, he is young (turned 21 just before the draft), plays with too much finesse, not a great route runner, does not run through tackles regularly, lacks toughness, does not always play at his timed speed.



Green Bay

general manager Ted Thompson selected Finley in the third round (pick No. 91 overall). This was the highest pick used on a tight end by the Packers since Bubba Franks was chosen in the first round (No. 14 overall) in 2000. In late July, Finley inked a four-year, $2.835 million contract to play in Titletown.

FINLEY’S PRO CAREER

Finley’s first NFL season (2008) was rocky to say the least. Clearly naive to the demands of the pro game, Finley’s conditioning left a lot to be desired, and so did his knowledge of

Green Bay
’s playbook. Finley constantly made mistakes – particularly missed blocks and false start penalties – which is why Donald Lee played 778 offensive snaps that season, while Finley played just 98 snaps. He also displayed a disappointing lack of maturity. Finley complained publicly about the team’s decision to relegate him to special teams. The then 21-year-old Finley also did the unthinkable, criticizing Aaron Rodgers after a regular-season game for missing him on a throw. Finley finished 2008 with just six catches for 74 yards and one touchdown in 14 games played (including one start).

As the saying goes, “the light went on” for Finley at some point early in his second season (2009). Determined to put his poor pro debut behind him, Finley was a regular during the Packers’ offseason training program, making huge gains in his strength and conditioning. Finley also buried himself in the playbook, changed his attitude and smoothed things over with his teammates. Thanks to his improved approach to the game, Finley challenged Lee for the starting gig during a fierce training camp battle and eventually took the job later in the regular season.

JERMICHAEL FINLEY — 2009 REGULAR SEASON

WK#

OPP

TAR

REC

YDS

AVE

TD

FP1

FP2

1

CHI

1

1

6

6.0

0

0.6

1.6

2

CIN

7

4

56

14.0

0

5.6

9.6

3

STL

0

0

0

0.0

0

0.0

0.0

4

MIN

7

6

128

21.3

1

18.8

24.8

5

BYE








6

DET

5

5

54

10.8

0

5.4

10.4

7

CLE

1

1

16

16.0

0

1.6

2.6

8

MIN

Did not play – knee injury

9

TAM

Did not play – knee injury

10

DAL

Did not play – knee injury

11

SF

10

7

54

7.7

0

5.4

12.4

12

DET

6

3

25

8.3

0

2.5

5.5

13

BAL

8

7

79

11.3

2

19.9

26.9

14

CHI

7

5

70

14.0

0

7.0

12.0

15

PIT

10

9

74

8.2

1

13.4

22.4

16

SEA

4

3

80

26.7

0

8.0

11.0

17

ARI

5

4

34

8.5

1

9.4

13.4

TOTAL


71

55

676

12.3

5

97.6

152.6

TAR
= Targets

FP1
= Fantasy Points – Standard scoring (no PPR)

FP2
= Fantasy Points – PPR scoring (1 point/reception)

THE FINLEY 2010 FANTASY FORECAST

Is Finley a future fantasy stud? Yes – I have no doubt in my mind. Finley has the necessary size, quickness and skills to dominate at the position. He creates major matchup problems for opposing linebackers and safeties, and the former
Texas standout will only get better as a now-integral part of the prolific

Green Bay
passing attack. Finley wrapped up 2009 ranked as the No. 12 fantasy tight end in both standard scoring and point-per-reception formats. However, Finley’s cumulative regular-season statistics and fantasy rankings are camouflaging his vast upside.

The soon-to-be-23-year-old Finley’s outstanding fantasy production during the final two months of 2009 – Weeks 11-17 – is proof of his huge 2010 potential. As

Green Bay
’s second-most targeted pass-catcher during that seven-game stretch, Finley compiled 38 receptions for 416 yards and four touchdowns on 50 targets. He was the fourth-most productive fantasy tight end in standard scoring leagues and the fifth-most productive tight end in PPR leagues during that stretch.

If you divide each statistic – 50 targets, 38 catches, 416 receiving yards and four touchdowns – by seven to get per-game averages, you end up with 7.1 targets, 5.4 catches, 59.4 receiving yards and 0.57 touchdowns compiled per contest. If you project those averages over nine extra games (hint: Finley amassed the 38-416-4 over seven games; let’s pretend that he could have continued that level of production over a full 16-game regular-season schedule), he hypothetically could have compiled a mind-blowing 135 targets, 104 catches, 1,211 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. By the way, I rounded up all the numbers used in the computations.

No, I am not going to promise you that Finley will catch 100+ passes in 2010, but I think he has a great chance to post Top 5 fantasy tight end numbers in Green Bay’s prolific pass-first offense. Is Finley a true sleeper heading into 2010? Without knowing his average draft position, I will say yes. Right now, I am guessing that he will be the eighth or ninth tight end off the board. Smart FantasySharks fantasy owners like you will remember Finley during your August 2010 drafts, so you have a chance to acquire a stud tight end for what is hopefully a bargain price.

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