This is the sixth in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.
With the pro game becoming more and more of a passing league, the traditional old three-year waiting period for a receiver to "arrive" is becoming a distant memory.
And that doesn't apply only to wideouts. A tight end who can get downfield and who is an exceptional pass catcher, like Bengals rookie Jermaine Gresham, can become a solid fantasy point scorer right away.
Gresham finds himself in a great spot. Anyone who has watched the Bengals, especially in recent years with Carson Palmer directing the offense, knows that Cincinnati was missing a key ingredient to its offensive attack — a pass-catching tight end who could get downfield, attract attention in the middle of the field and be a strong red-zone option.
One could argue that the Bengals haven't had the kind of receiver at the TE position that Gresham promises to be since Rodney Holman, back when Boomer Esiason was directing Sam Wyche's "Sugar Huddle" and pushing the 49ers to the limit in Super Bowl XXIII.
Gresham has the athletic ability, speed and hands to give the Bengals the offensive balance they have lacked for too long. With Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Bryant and Andre Caldwell out wide, Cedric Benson pounding away in the backfield and an underrated offensive line protecting him, Palmer finally has been surrounded by a complete supporting cast.
The jury remains out regarding Palmer's health and whether he is capable of being the passer he was before the injury to his throwing elbow. But if he returns to health, the Bengals' offense could be formidable.
And Gresham should play a key role in that offense. Last year, the Bengals' passing game consisted of Ochocinco and little else. Look no further than in the last game of the season, against the Jets, when Ochocinco was canceled out by Jets CB Darrelle Revis. Cincy had no one else who stepped up in the passing game, and Palmer's options were severely limited.
Now, with Gresham and Bryant added to the mix, Palmer should have a multitude of options from which to choose. And that should make the Bengals much more dangerous.
The Pro Football Weekly/Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football Guide 2010 projects Gresham to grab 39 passes for 443 yards with three touchdowns. I believe those numbers are on the conservative side, with 50-plus catches and 5-6 TDs a distinct possibility — a season in line with what Ravens TE Todd Heap posted in 2009 (53-593-6).
Gresham might not be one of the stud tight ends right away, but keep him in mind as a backup this year and a definite keeper for years to come.
For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.