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Brent Celek – Top Five Tight End?

 

If I told you Brent Celek was a top five dynasty tight end, would you think I’m nuts? Given that his average draft position is the 14th tight end, that he’s selected around the 11th round in current start-ups, and many rank him lower than 10th, I bet you would.

I assure you, I’m not nuts and I have the analysis to back it up.

2009-2011 Summary

Let’s start with a quick flashback and recap of Celek’s past three years, so we’re all grounded in his performance.

Back in 2009, Brent Celek and Donovan McNabb built a connection that resulted in a breakout season for the young tight end where he finished with nearly 1,000 yards receiving and was the 4th best tight end in standard PPR leagues.

Enter Mike Vick in 2010 and Celek struggled. He finished the year with half of 2009’s production and ranked 18th among fantasy tight ends.

Push forward to 2011 with Vick at it again and Celek improved, finishing with 700 yards as the 11th ranked fantasy tight end.

Overall, his 2011 season was fairly average, which would seemingly destroy my top five proclamation and I can officially be declared nuts. On its face it’s average, but delve into the details of his 2011 weekly performance and he actually returned to his 2009-self – that’s exactly why Celek is deserving of a top five dynasty tight end ranking and why he’s being drastically undervalued. Some owners are snake bitten from 2010 and others recall that year, but don’t see a great 2011 season glancing at his 2011 statistical performance, but there are many positive signs pointing to a top ranking.

2011 Performance Breakdown

It’s time to get into the details. The following depicts how Celek stacked up against the tight end field in 2011 in both total points and points per game from a fantasy perspective:

In both instances, you can see that Celek held firm in his top 12 ranking. That’s probably why his average draft position approximates the 11th tight end and he’s ranked around that same spot by most outlets.

Keep the above rankings in mind – they’ll be important when considering where to rank him going forward as discussed at the end of this section below.

While he hovered around the 11th tight end overall, if we look at a weekly breakdown of his 2011 performance, it’s clear that something happened right before the Eagle’s week seven bye:

 
From week six forward, Celek performed consistently after struggling initially in weeks one through five. After week five, Celek’s numbers were top notch. In fact, if we take his numbers from week six forward and extrapolate them for a full season, they’re in the upper echelon and favorably comparable to his 2009 season:
 
 
 
 
More specifically, the following is noteworthy based on the above extrapolation and comparison:

1)      The extrapolated 2011 numbers would rank Celek as the 3rd best tight end in 2011.

2)      The extrapolated 2011 points per game is 14.2, which would rank Celek just behind Aaron Hernandez as the 4th best tight end.

3)      If you aren’t comfortable extrapolating his TDs and you keep them flat at 5, he would still rank as the 3rd best TE in 2011 without them.

4)      His 2011 extrapolated numbers are eerily similar to his 2009 numbers.

Based on the above, there’s merit to ranking him as a top five dynasty tight end. However, many are still skeptical. The most common concern is that we don’t know why 2010 occurred and that it won’t be repeated again.

What Happened in 2010?

I decided to dig into 2010 a bit more to try and determine why the drop-off in performance occurred and to assess if it’s likely to occur again. Before looking at the statistics, my hypothesis was that Celek’s 2010 struggles were a result of three things:

a)      Vick’s inaccuracy  / Celek and Vick were not in sync in 2010

b)      Celek was used more as a blocker in 2010

c)      Celek was not used in short and intermediate routes in 2010

Vick’s inaccuracies / Celek and Vick Not In Sync

Since Celek does most of his damage over the middle (70% of his targets), I decided to take a look at his performance in that area since it would be most representative. Looking at his statistics in ten yard increments and comparing each of the three seasons, there’s a sizeable difference in his catch percentage over 10 yards in 2010. Here are the numbers that were pulled:

As you can see in the above, his catch percentage over the middle (and in particular over 10 yards from scrimmage) took a huge hit in 2010. It then spiked back up a bit in 2011. That can primarily be attributable to Vick’s inaccuracies and the two not being on the same page. Sure, opposing defenses may have focused on Celek more in 2010 which may impact the numbers some, but I don’t believe we’d see the spike in 2011 if that were the case.

If we were able to split the above information for the final 11 games of the season, I believe we’d see an increase in Celek’s catch percentage over the middle and also in the ten yards plus range as compared to the above. Based on the weekly breakdown of Celek’s performance earlier, the tight end / quarterback chemistry appears to have stuck beginning in week six through week 17, which bodes well for Celek going forward. I’d expect an increase in the above 2011 numbers going in 2012, as a result.

While this is positive information, it’s not the biggest contributor to the 2010 decline. There’s a stronger catalyst detailed below.

Celek used as a blocker more in 2010

I won’t post the tables of statistics here because they’re lengthy, but I found no substantial difference between the 2009/2011 blocking rate and 2010. There was a slight spike of approximately 3% in 2010, but that’s not likely to have a meaningful impact. I was wrong on this one based on the information I have.

Celek not used in short/intermediate routes

This is where I really found the driver.

When looking at the 2009 catch breakdown, it was clear that Celek made a living in the short-intermediate areas and racked up a ton of yards after the catch. There’s also a quote from Andy Reid from the 2010 offseason where he discusses that they need to get Celek back involved in the short and intermediate passing game.

Sure enough, when you look at the statistical breakdown from the past three seasons, Celek’s 2010 targets, catches and yards decreased significantly under 20 yards and under ten yards from scrimmage. In 2011, his targets, catches, and yards spiked back up close to the 2009 level. Take a look:

 
It’s stunning to see the difference between 2009 and 2010, as well as the similarity between 2011 and 2009. It’s clear that something was askew in the Eagles’ utilization of Celek in 2010, but they’ve now remediated that in 2011. That bodes well for 2012 and future seasons.

There’s a similar pattern less than 20 yards from scrimmage:

If we were able to bifurcate weeks one through five and the remainder of the season and extrapolate week six forward for a full season, I’d venture to guess that they’d be even better and closer to his 2009 numbers.

The bottom line is that in 2010, Celek wasn’t used in the short and intermediate area of the field where he excelled in 2009. That was rectified in 2011 and it showed in his final numbers and, thus, there’s no need to be concerned with a Celek decline going forward.

Conclusion

It’s simple… Celek deserves to be considered as a top five dynasty tight end and he isn’t currently.

If you’re concerned about being burned like many were in 2010, don’t be. The above shows that there was a clear transition period from Donovan McNabb to Michael Vick that resulted in underutilization of Celek in the short and intermediate passing game, as well as chemistry issues arising between Vick and Celek. Both issues appear to be resolved and Celek is back to his 2009 top five tight end form.

Still think I’m nuts?

Follow Steve on twitter.

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Hawks Nest 12th Man
10 years ago

interesting article. With the injury to LT Peter do you still believe celek can put up top 5 numbers

Meens
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

He’s a nice player. But saying the only thing from keeping him from being top 5 is if his injury is serious isnt true. Gronkowski and Graham are most likely ahead of him by a mile. Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley in my mind will most likely finish ahead of him pretty easily. I think Witten is a better bet once again. Antonio Gates crushes him if hes healthy. If you were talking about this year then Ill remove gates. If youre talking about top 5 dynasty then Hernandez is instantly above him and I think Cook, Pettigrew, Gresham and Fred Davis go above him. Celek belongs at the top of the Next tier with Dustin Keller, Jacob Tamme, Owen Daniels.
I’m not a Celek hater. I’m an Eagles fan who appreciates his game as Phillys only big Red Zone/3rd down target, and I appreciate his role in helping the line. (which he did extensively last season especially in the 1st half of the year, regardless of whatever numbers you found).

The bottom line is that if you are in a 12 team league, then Celek is a worthy starter, however you are likely spotting points at TE for the season to 8-10 of your leaguemates, which in my mind puts you at a disadvantage. If I had Celek as my starter, then Fleener gets a bump on my rookie draft need based rankings.

team2beat01
10 years ago

Nice article, plus I think his #s might have rose to because Young came in for awhile. I could be completely wrong just guessing but I’m going to take a chance and trade for him.
His numbers could drop again if mcnutt turns out to be anything. With the rookies size he could be the red zone target.

Amoo
10 years ago

Sorry to be that guy, but last I checked Celek has never had a 1000 yard season. Very close-20 or 30 yards shy as I recall-but not quite 1000.

Admin
Reply to  Amoo
10 years ago

That’s my bad from an editing standpoint. I think that must have been meant to be nearly (971 yards), not over and I think I may have chopped that when I brought it over. Believe it or not, we actually needed three programs at once to make this article work (WP, Word, Photoshop) with the graphics.

…thanks for being that guy, though. That’s never a problem around these parts.

Admin
Reply to  Ken Kelly
10 years ago

…and thanks for being that guy! That’s no problem around these parts.

reddaddy32
10 years ago

Great article. Well-thought out and quite concisely explained. I really like the way you broke down the stats, shows understanding of football and then more specifically the Eagles and Andy Reid. Got an 11th round pick coming up, and was already kind of looking at Celek as my backup TE, but now I may be moving up just a bit to grab him.

Keith Fortier
10 years ago

Great article, Celek is a FA in our upcoming rookie / FA draft along with Gresham, Pettigrew, Cook and Rudolph. What you take him over any of them?

Also, you never did speculate as to what happened in the beginning of 2010 other than that Vick and Celek were not in sync, and that Andy Proclaimed they needed to do more in the middle. You think that is all?

phorts
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

Thanks Steve. There was an error in my post, i meant to say “Beginning of 2011”. They seemed to right the ship starting week 6 (one week before their bye). If it coincided with Reids statement that they needed to work the middle more, then that makes sense. Admittedly, i havent watched much of the Eagles, so i only have stats to look at, and averaging under 5 TGTs/G and 2.5 REC/G in the first 5 weeks, ain’t good.

Hopefully, what we saw starting in week 6 is that ultra important trust between Vick and Celek, and that carries over into 2012. Moral of the story, i’ll be buying Celek to back up my Jimmy G on the cheap!

Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

I am a Celek owner, he is my TE2, behind Jared Cook. I acquired him with the understanding that he might be a sneaky TE1.

Either way, he is likely cheaper now than he will be for the next few years. Go out and get him, if only for insurance.

Sensei John Kreese
Reply to  Sensei_John_Kreese
10 years ago

Can you guys change the site to make it so we can see who thumbed you down? That’s just sad, lol.

team2beat01
Reply to  Sensei John Kreese
10 years ago

Sensei I was thinking the same thing why can’t we see who agrees and disagrees.

Mangelo
10 years ago

Ballsy

Ryan
10 years ago

Just wanted to thank you.

I often find myself disinterested with some of the articles that come out, but this one took a much different and original viewpoint on a player, and was a good and thought provoking read.

Great Work!

Sam I Am
10 years ago

In comparison with Finley, how would Celek stand? Considering the many options in GB, Celek could be at least even with Finley.(?)

Who would you rather have?

Sam
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

How about Celek and Decker for Finley? Or Celek and future 1st rd for Finley?

lbouchard
Reply to  Sam
10 years ago

I can see the appeal but I’d stay put. Finley is maddening to own. I couldn’t handle it. So much potential but stone hands.

Sam
Reply to  lbouchard
10 years ago

I own Finley. So stay put with him?

Reply to  Sam
10 years ago

celek would be a fantastic upper 2/lower 1 te…..and decker could be the next jordy nelson with manning out there in denver….stay put. finley is like real thick frosting on a cake;…..really does’nt make the cake taste any better, just way to sweet to eat? get my drift?

Reply to  bigD
10 years ago

my bad, i was under the impression that you were trading for finley. i would rather have celek and decker.

Chris Russell
10 years ago

Just another reason to wait on a TE in redraft/startup or not go crazy trying to trade for Gronk/Graham.

There is alot of potential out there and the league is looking to copy the Patriot’s and Saints success of 2011. The tier gets crowded with pros/cons for TEs like Vernon Davis, Finley, Gates, Hernandez, Witten, Fred Davis, Keller. Not to mention Tony Gonzalez is still around.

And talents like Zach Miller and Mercedes Lewis can also bounce back.

Then add in Rudolph, Cook, Olsen, etc.

Eric
10 years ago

What do you guys think of poor downtrodden Zach Miller in Seattle with a new QB and an OL that showed signs of gelling late last season?

Tommy
Reply to  Eric
10 years ago

I’m avoiding Miller mostly because of the QB uncertainty. Miller is talented enough but with Rice, Baldwin, Tate and all the various receiving options in Seattle I don’t think Miller is a no brainer to get targets.

Younger QBs often seem to fall in love with one target though so he’s definitely worth watching early in the season in case he emerges as Flynn’s ‘release valve.’ But as of right now, Miller isn’t worth rostering right now.

NT
10 years ago

Traded for Celek and gave up a 5th round rookie pick for him early this past season. So I’ve got Witten, Celek, Cook, and Julius Thomas.

Derek Willett
10 years ago

I am a huge believer in Celek, and have him as my top TE in a number of leagues. I actually compare him to another guy that I think is going to be extremely underrated this year in Greg Olsen. In many leagues, I’m going with a Celek/Olsen combo and I’m almost positive that one of them will be a top 6-7 option this year, if not both.

Olsen was asked to block quite a bit last year after Jeff Otah got hurt. In the games where Otah played (only four of them), Olsen was TE4 overall. That was also with Shockey stealing some targets.

Matt Wertz
Reply to  Derek Willett
10 years ago

No disrespect, I had faith in NoShow Moreno, not I don’t see Greg Olsen being a top 5-6 TE. He just won’t get that chane in that offense.

10 years ago

one thing to consider with the te position;….the nfl is a copycat league. when success hits, everyone tries to emulate it. thus next year will be full of many 2 te sets similar to NE? there will be a lot of young tes coming up to bigger levels of play. we saw a few good ones drafted again this year.(colts in particular). watch for opportunities in this realm. with 12 teams in an average league, there will be a great supply of tes available, so do your homework on who will be the #1 guys on each team. if you are vigulant….you will always find a gem or 2. celek could be one of those gems no doubt.

Mercenaries
10 years ago

Would you trade Finley for Celek, the 2.03 and the 3.03? I’m without a 2nd rd pick this year and I’m trying to find a way to acquire one. I took the information from this article into account, particularly the part about Celek’s production after week 7 and applied it to my league’s scoring. Based on that, Celek was the TE4 from week 7-16, Finley was the TE15.

It seems like a fair enough deal, but should I be asking for more?

Mercenaries
Reply to  Mercenaries
10 years ago

Just to clarify, the 2.03 and 3.03 are in this year’s rookie draft.

Mercenaries
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

I’m also trying to move up to get RGIII in our draft. What about offering Finley and my 1.06 for Celek and the 1.03? (Richardson and Martin will be 1.01 and 1.02) Good value, or not?

Mercenaries
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

Problem is, I gave up the 2.06 in a prior trade. What about Finley/1.06 for Celek/1.03/2.03?

Better?

Aaron
10 years ago

Recently traded Decker and Vernon Davis for Victor Cruz and then flipped Cruz in a deal with Antonio Brown for Lesean McCoy and Boldin (I know he is aging and won’t start other than bye weeks, but maybe I get lucky when I sparingly play him)…how did I do???

Rodgers,Fitzpatrick
McCoy, Helu, Moreno
Andre Johnson, Colston, D. Thomas, Boldin
Celek
Packers

I know the roster looks light (our league keeps it that way through contracts/roster limits), but through the trades I acquired a few extra draft picks to allow some growth of young players at WR and RB, but my core is solid so long as I don’t get hit hard by injuries. I was desperate at RB and was able to use my depth for one of the best…

Aaron
Reply to  Steve Wyremski
10 years ago

Thanks…yeah well I had a nice young WR core, but I was aging at RB (Turner and F.Jax were my starters last year, so I was determined to make my RB core younger)…top 3 RB’s are so hard to trade for in this league so I figured I would take the best player and deal with the loss of depth (Decker and Brown). I liked Vernon Davis, but he has been known to have consistency issues and I was okay to deal him just so I wouldn’t have to guess who to play over Davis/Celek. I have the #12, #17, #21, #27, #41, and #46 in our upcoming FA/rookie draft (12 team league) so who do you think I could target at WR in the middle rounds from a rookie standpoint? Thanks, great article (it made me feel better about having faith in Celek)…

John Harstad
10 years ago

I’d be more than surprised to see Celek as a top 5 TE..
For one he’s a gimp and thinking he plays 16 games is a reach..
Vick is no sure thing to play a complete season and the Eagles have no QB on the bench to produce if Vick goes down..
Both NE TEs along with Grahm, Gates and V Davis will smoke Celek…
I’d much rather roll the dice on Fred Davis , Finley or even Fleener for that matter..

Aaron
Reply to  John Harstad
10 years ago

The fact that you called a guy who has never missed a game a gimp renders the rest of your posts useless…that is right 6 straight seasons playing 16 games!!

And that was your main point against him, yet you cite Antonio Gates as a lock to be a Top 5 TE???

Fred Davis has a nice future and may be good this year, but Finley can’t catch at all and Fleener is a rookie on a bad team with a rookie qb…

Still can’t believe you suggested Celek playing 16 games is a reach when he has never missed a game…too funny! Steve said it best, it is people like you that inspired him to write the article…

Aaron
Reply to  John Harstad
10 years ago

Ok…I have to correct myself, i didn’t look into the numbers deep enough!!

He played in every game last year, missed 4 games in 2010, and played in every game in 2009…so he has missed 4 games in the past 3 full seasons since becoming a starter…hardly someone qualified as a “gimp.”

Gates has missed 9 games in the last two seasons, plus he is a few years older with far more serious injuries.

Finley has missed 16 games in the last 3 seasons…

Adam
9 years ago

I agree with the analysis, and I targeted Celek recently in a trade based on the number of targets, and b/c his current salary level is extremely low. I traded Colston/McGahee for 1.03 (Griffin 3 probably, happy with any of them) and Celek. Pretty happy about that one (.5 point/reception league).

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