- Martellus Bennett is the No. 1 tight end on his team again.
- Bennett was the TE7 last season as the second tight end on his team.
- Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback.
- Green Bay tight ends haven’t had large target shares with Rodgers under center.
- Bennett has only had three top-10 fantasy seasons in his career.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
The Black Unicorn rides again.
After getting his ring as a No. 2 tight end, Martellus Bennett made his way back to the NFC North to play for his fifth team. On the flip side, the Green Bay Packers have been tight end-poor since Jermichael Finley’s heyday. It’s a match made in fantasy heaven.
Bennett actually managed to score seven touchdowns last season, ranking seventh in fantasy scoring at the position in spite of playing behind Rob Gronkowski. Granted, the latter missed some time, but the Patriots have a knack for making No. 2 tight ends fantasy-relevant. Bennett did it on just 73 targets, to boot, showing just how explosive he could be as a fantasy asset. He also happened to have his most efficient season, catching 75 percent of those targets. It helps when Tom Brady is throwing you the ball.
Now he gets to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers, perhaps even an upgrade in quarterback play. Patriots fans, it’s okay -- Brady is the G.O.A.T., but Rodgers might be the best player at his position in history.
ENOUGH TO GO AROUND?
Have you seen the fabulous Pixar film Inside Out? In it there is this space called the Memory Dump, where any memory that falls will fade and disappear forever. That is where fantasy stats for Green Bay have gone in recent years.
Over the past four seasons, Packers tight ends have averaged 47 targets a season. It doesn’t matter who is throwing the football at that point, you just aren’t going to be fantasy-relevant with the fourth- or fifth-most targets on your own team. Jared Cook was supposed to finally deliver on his fantasy promise last season, and he got just 51 targets. He might have done more if he played more than 10 games, but we’ll never know. At least we know he was on pace for 82 targets, closer to the days when Finley was teasing the fantasy football realm with greatness.
Back then, Rodgers trusted his tight end a lot more. When he was healthy, Finley garnered 92 targets in 2011 and 87 in 2012, both good for third on the team. If Bennett stays on the field, it’s reasonable to project him getting 80-plus targets. If he and Rodgers click, are 100-plus targets in the cards?
Let’s split the difference. If Bennett gets 90 targets this season and performs at career average levels, he will catch 61 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns, rounded up. That would’ve been good for 12th in fantasy scoring last season. Factoring in his quarterback and offense in general are better than he’s had throughout most of his career, though, and we can expect Bennett to perform at a higher production level than his career averages. Where that puts him if he stays healthy will depend on how many touchdowns he can catch, but it’s easy to see him in the top 10 with top-five potential.
BURN ME ONCE...
It’s honestly surprising to see Bennett’s ADP where it is. Maybe it’s just right, but he is being taken as the 9th tight end by FBG consensus. It seems like fantasy owners have been burned by Packers tight ends and the sleeper energy they’ve brought each preseason. The guys going ahead of him aren’t bad choices by any means, and I have personally had a hard time pulling the trigger on him in drafts thus far. But maybe knowing the actual, proven potential of a quality tight end playing catch with Rodgers will sway me going forward.
At the very least, Bennett is a bit of a safety blanket should fantasy owners choose to wait at tight end. You are getting a tight end with a nice floor and some tremendous upside, something that can be said about just about anyone being drafted ahead of him.
James Koh is even more bullish than I about Bennett’s potential 2017 output over at NFL.com:
Bennett last year was ridiculously efficient catching the ball, hauling in passes at a 75 percent clip, the third-highest among tight ends and at a rate better than Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Jimmy Graham.
Bennett also averaged a very healthy 12.7 yards per reception last year; a number that seems repeatable given Jared Cook averaged about 12.5 yards per catch for the Pack in 2016.
Assuming a 70-ish percent catch rate and about 12.5 yards per catch, if fed around 90 looks Bennett should get to around 65 receptions and 800 yards. Given his history as an elite red-zone option, I don't think I'm out of line to expect seven to 10 scores.
I'm less bullish on Martellus Bennett after looking a little closer at GB tight end target share over the past five years.— C.D. Carter (@CDCarter13) July 22, 2017
Our own Jason Wood thinks Bennett’s ADP might actually be too high:
At his current ADP, Bennett is being drafted ahead of Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, and Jack Doyle. That’s where the mistake occurs. Ertz is guaranteed a massive target share in Philadelphia. He’s, at worst, the #2 target behind Alshon Jeffery. Henry has TE1 upside on a pass-happy offense with a quarterback known for favoring his tight ends. Doyle no longer has to contend with Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis and will be the top red zone threat for a pass-heavy attack.