Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron Could Be a Top-10 Fantasy Option in 2013

Talk about skyrocketing value. Jordan Cameron’s ADP and trade value have ballooned over the last few weeks. He’s gone from a player commonly ranked around the 20th to 25th tight end to a guy comfortably slated in the 10th to 15th range. The rise is mostly due to recent comments from the Browns’ coaching staff that have led fantasy owners to speculate about Cameron’s ceiling given his athletic ability, as well the Browns’ new offensive scheme under head coach Rob Chudzinski.

Specifically, Coach Chudzinski recently spoke about the Browns’ new offense stating, “This is an offense that has featured tight ends and tight ends have always been a big part of it. [Cameron] has the skill set that fits.”

The offensive scheme that both Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner run is very favorable to tight ends. Historically, it highlighted the skills and facilitated premium production from players like Tony Gonzalez, Greg Olsen, Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates.

Based on this, Cameron’s situation and fantasy prospects are trending upward.  The rise in value doesn’t come without its skeptics, though. Some suggest to cash in on an “inflated” value speculating that Cameron is not likely to meet lofty expectations. I believe he’s worth every bit of the price he currently commands and may even still be a bargain given his upside.

Here’s why:

The Continued Hybrid Tight End Trend

Thanks to the likes of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, pass catching tight ends continue to become fixtures of NFL offenses. A wide receiver in a tight end’s body is gold. The ability to create mismatches across the middle against linebackers who are unable to keep up and safeties who can’t compete from a size perspective is invaluable – it creates another dimension for teams. Offenses continue to exploit this and, in turn, this type of player is a prime target for dynasty owners.

In particular, tight ends with a basketball background are the best candidates to fit the mold of a ‘move tight-end’ given their natural explosiveness and size/speed combination. Cameron is just that. He’s a former college basketball player who is extremely athletic. Given his background and ability, he’s a solid candidate to follow in the path of other former basketball players like Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham within this offense.

Athleticism / Measurables

Cameron has all the measurables to succeed as a pass catching tight end. With the aforementioned basketball background, he possesses the athleticism and explosiveness required. In particular, his numbers compare favorably to some of the more athletic tight ends in NFL history:

Player

HT

WT

40 time

Vertical

Broad

3 cone

Jordan Cameron

6’5?

254

4.53

37.5

9’11?

6.82

Jimmy Graham

6’6?

260

4.56

38.5

12’0?

6.9

Rob Gronkowski

6’6?

258

4.68

33.5

9’11?

7.18

Kyle Rudolph

6’6?

259

4.83

34.5

9’5?

7.24

Jason Witten

6’6?

264

4.65

31

NA

NA

Jermichael Finley

6’4?

243

4.82

27.5

9’9?

7.15

Aaron Hernandez

6’2?

245

4.64

33

9’3?

6.83

Note (1): The above is based on combine/pro day performances. However, the information for Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates is not readily available and not included.

There are a few things to highlight in the above:

  • Other than Graham, Cameron is the most explosive (broad / vertical)
  • Cameron is the fastest (40 time)
  • Cameron exhibited the most agility/quickness (3 cone)
  • Cameron most closely compares to Graham, Gronkowski, and Rudolph from a size perspective
  • Cameron’s numbers compare favorably to Gronkowski’s and Rudolph’s

Cameron’s measurables are there and are a positive indicator given the above comparison.

Opportunity

Cameron also has an opportunity for significant snaps in 2013 after the Browns decided not to add a significant tight end via the NFL Draft or free agency. The speculation throughout the off-season was they would, but the only competition added was Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge. While Barnidge played with Chudzinski in Carolina last season suggesting he may favor his skills, the lack of meaningful adds at tight end is sign of confidence in Cameron for 2013.

Tight End Friendly Offense                 

As mentioned earlier, the Browns’ new offense is extremely favorable to tight ends. Specifically, the offensive scheme is a vertical offense that feeds off of the tight end working the middle of the field via seam and crossing routes. These are perfect routes for a hybrid tight end to exploit.

Here is the historical tight end production under Chudzinski/Turner with this scheme:

Player

Year

Coach

Team

G

Targets

Rec

Rec Yards

TDs

% Team Targets*

Antonio Gates

2009

Turner / Chudzinski

SD

16

114

79

1157

8

22%

Antonio Gates

2010

Turner / Chudzinski

SD

10

65

50

782

10

17%

Antonio Gates

2006

Chudzinski

SD

16

114

71

924

9

24%

Antonio Gates

2005

Chudzinski

SD

15

140

89

1101

10

27%

Greg Olsen

2012

Chudzinski

CAR

16

104

69

843

5

21%

Kellen Winslow

2007

Chudzinski

CLE

16

148

82

1106

5

27%

Kellen Winslow

2008

Chudzinski

CLE

10

82

43

428

3

26%

* For seasons with less than 16 games, attempts in games the player participated in were used.

It’s apparent the tight end in this offense receives roughly 20% of the team’s targets (if not more) – that’s a staggering number in the context of the entire league. In 2012, only four tight ends breached the 20% threshold (Graham, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, and Gonzalez). The average across the league was 15% with 22% being the maximum. In addition, all the listed players above finished within the top eight tight ends for fantasy purposes in both average points per game and total points.

With Cameron set to be a starter, it’s reasonable to expect a high volume of targets and catches meaning significant potential beginning in 2013.

2013 Projection

In the interest of evaluating what the direct implications of the above may be to Cameron in 2013, let’s sketch out a rough projection. Based on the above, assuming 20% of the team’s targets and making conservative assumptions here is where we can expect:

Overal Team Pass Attempts: 550 attempts

Targets: 110 targets

Catches: 66 receptions

Yards: 726 yards

TD: 4

Fantasy Points: 163

2012 Fantasy Finish: Top 12 in PPG and total points

Note the following assumptions:

  • Pass attempts are based on the average pass attempts for NFL teams in 2012. This is also consistent with the Browns’ attempts of 566 in 2012.
  • Catch % assumed is 60%. This is consistent with Cameron’s 65% in 2012
  • YPC assumed to be 11 yards which is consistent with Cameron’s 2012 performance, but lower than the YPC typically for tight ends in this offensive scheme

If his targets reach 25%, we could be looking at a top seven finish on a PPG basis with over 900 yards receiving. That leaves a range of roughly 65 to 80 receptions and 725 to 900 yards receiving.

Given the conservative assumptions in the above, it would appear that a top 12 finish is a baseline for Cameron in 2013. There is tremendous potential here.

Summary

While some suggest that there is pure hype surrounding Cameron, given the historical performance of tight ends in this scheme, as well as Cameron’s athletic ability, he is worth the price.

It’s not a stretch to suggest he’ll finish in the top ten in 2013.

Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveWyremski

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