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Second and Third Year Player Development: Week Eight

In this weekly column, I will explore some young players whohaven’t made much of a consistent impact to date.  Some players may be available on your waiver wire, some may be available via a cheap or moderate trade.  Acquiring any of these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years.  I will focus on their most recent matchup to draw the majority of my insight.

Leonard Hankerson, WR WAS

Hankerson was given a huge gift with the foot injury to Pierre Garcon.  It’s too bad he squandered the opportunity this past Sunday as he had the biggest drop of the game against the Steelers.  A catch would have resulted in a 22 yard catch in the end zone, but he let the safety separate the ball from his hands on his first target.   After that miss, Washington began to rotate in Dezmon Briscoe, the former Tampa Bay castaway.

Hankerson did a good job of blocking down the field in the running game and on a few occasions a Redskin receiver caught the ball.  There were way too many drops by all of the receivers (ten total) in this game due to the rainy, windy conditions.  This may mask the bad day that number 85 had.  His only catch of the day was a 16 yard curl he made in front of the defender.  It was clear he was bracing for contact while making the catch.  His general lack of concentration was most evident on his only red zone target as he let the ball slip through his hands.  This was a well placed ball from Robert Griffin, who was under duress from the blitzing Steelers.  He also missed a low throw that could have continued a drive into the red zone.  It is hard to instill confidence with your quarterback when you only catch one ball out of four targets.

I’m not giving up on the young receiver just yet and I know there has been little to be excited about so far.  Hankerson will get the opportunity to rebound after this game as the Redskins cannot stop the pass and they always seem to be trailing.  He only has 23 receptions for 293 yards and a touchdown on 37 targets.  Perhaps when Garcon comes back, he will get less of the defense’s attention.  He is a major buy-low in dynasty.  Despite his struggles, he is a talented wide receiver and is a WR6 at worst.  A savvy owner may get him as a throw-in to sweeten a trade.

Jared Cook, TE TEN

Before you write in, I know he is a fourth year player.  While he had great yardage last year totaling 759, he lacked receptions, 49 and only had three touchdowns.  He has a lot of promise, but needs to show more – this is why I listed him here.  I like the fact that Tennessee lines him up split outside like a wide receiver; however, he barely plays half of their offensive snaps.  He received the first pass from Matthew Hasselbeck, which went for an important third down conversion.  On that reception, he looked more like a wide receiver as he climbed the ladder to adjust to the high pass.

Cook struggles when targeted at the line of scrimmage as he does not do well with bodies at his feet.  He is more of a smooth strider than a quick footed “make you miss” receiver.  When I watch him, he always reminds me more of Vincent Jackson than another tight end.  He adjusts so well to the ball in the air and always finds a way to come down with it.  The Titans would be better served to keep running him towards the middle of the field as he was getting open against linebackers and safeties.

This lack of usage seems to really hamper Cook as he lacks confidence when he isn’t targeted often and involved heavily in the game plan. Hasselbeck overthrew him during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter on a 40 yard pass.  It should have been the game winning touchdown as he streaked past the coverage.  He finished the day with three receptions for 45 yards on four targets.  He has 28 receptions for 373 yards and two touchdowns on 41 targets so far this season.  I would like him to get more than five targets a game as he seems to feed on the attention.  According to rumors on twitter, he has asked for a trade.  This turned out to be more hot air than anything else as he remained a Titan.  He is a strong TE2 or a weak TE1.  I’d rather have him as my TE2.

Golden Tate, WR SEA

The scab referee’s greatest beneficiary finally had a positively noteworthy game this past Sunday against the Lions.  Tate was targeted seven times and caught all of them for 64 yards.  Normally that isn’t much to get excited about, but since Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, and Marshawn Lynch all let passes slip through their fingers in this dome game, it’s ok to be a little stoked for number 81.

Tate was getting the majority of his targets in the flat.  This is a good matchup for him as he gets to be one on one versus a defensive back in a short area.  He has the juke moves, quick feet and head shake to make most initial would-be tacklers miss.  There was a lack of downfield targets for the young receiver as I only counted one for the day.  He made it count though as he drew a pass interference penalty to place the ball at the Lions 15 yard line.  This led to a short Rice touchdown grab.

He maintained his feet down the sideline and tippy-toed a few passes between two defenders to come down with tough receptions.  His short route work was more of an extension of the running game as Lynch was held in check for the majority of the game save for his 77 yard touchdown run.  Tate showed off his mean streak when he blocked two defenders on a Rice reverse.  The block was only successful for a few seconds, but for the diminutive wide receiver, it was all about the effort.

It is very telling that when the Seahawks went for it on fourth down towards the end of the fourth quarter, Tate was the target of rookie Russell Wilson.  He kept the drive going with his determination, sure-handedness, and shifty moves. I’m not saying to trust the emotional young wide receiver implicitly who loves maple bars every week.  Instead, invest cheaply in the Seattle offense.  He is inconsistent as a summer day is long, but he is young, talented and gaining his young signal caller’s confidence.  Target him as a WR5 that could be much more.  Rice cannot stay healthy and other than Doug Baldwin, whom else do they have at wide receiver?  Lynch can’t run the ball every play.

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