Ravens' Heap might merit late-round pick

Posted Aug. 07, 2010 @ 10:56 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

This is the 31st 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.

Undoubtedly, the Ravens are preparing to replace Todd Heap. They selected Oregon's Ed Dickson in Round Three and BYU's Dennis Pitta in Round Four of the 2010 NFL draft, and they are obviously hoping one, or both players are capable of taking over for Heap, who enters the final year of his contract.

Also, the Ravens clearly made a statement about their 2009 passing game in the offseason by acquiring Anquan Boldin and signing Donté Stallworth. The statement: QB Joe Flacco needs more help than he had last season.

Both of these sets of circumstances have seemed to zap Heap's fantasy stock; indeed, he is just No. 24 in Pro Football Weekly and Yahoo! Sports' 2010 TE rankings. However, I believe Heap isn't done being a starter-caliber performer, particularly in bigger fantasy leagues. And he comes with the added bonus of not having to be selected until the final rounds of a draft, if at all.

Heap is a fine insurance policy for owners required to draft two tight ends. He still has relatively good speed, and the Ravens still send him downfield, as evidenced by his 10 catches of 20 yards or more last season — his most such catches since 2005.

Also, at 6-foot-5, Heap can be an inviting target in the red zone. QB Joe Flacco found him for three TDs of 14 yards or less in Weeks 15 and 16, when Heap racked up four of his six TDs in 2009.

Finally, I see the additions of Boldin and Stallworth as positive factors when assessing Heap's potential. Boldin is an excellent possession receiver whom defenses may have to key upon, and Stallworth's speed will keep secondaries honest.

Most importantly, I don't see either as a threat to steal many TDs from Heap, whom I expect to be most effective in the red zone and to continue to have a good rapport with Flacco.

I acknowledge that younger tight ends like the Bengals' Jermaine Gresham and the Titans' Jared Cook probably have more upside than Heap and thus have to be drafted before Heap; potential gets players selected in the late rounds of fantasy leagues, and steady producers usually can be found on the waiver wire. Also, Dickson and Pitta, if quick studies, could take some of Heap's playing time.

But Heap, in my view, looks to continue to have an important role in the Ravens' offense — and a shot at scoring 5-6 TDs.

 

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