At one time Kellen Winslow was seen as having the potential to redefine the TE position and become the greatest to play the game. That left fantasy owners salivating at the thought of how great he would be. A lack of maturity both on and off the field derailed his talent to the point that he only reached slightly above-average fantasy value and never became an elite playmaker.
Some of his knee problems are a result of an offseason motorcycle accident early in his career — his own fault — more than injuries on the playing field. He was his own worst enemy.
Winslow was not in the Bucs' long-term plans, as new head coach Greg Schiano wants and needs strong veteran leadership, not potential prima donnas. Despite not making waves since arriving in Tampa Bay in 2009, he never posted elite numbers and, in season, would be held out of practice because of his knee. This offseason he wasn’t with the team during the first week of OTAs, and in typical Winslow fashion, he defended himself and his play while not recognizing the bigger picture.
To make the new regime's transition smoother, Schiano needs veterans who are leaders in the locker room and on the field. Obviously, Schiano believes that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war, meaning the more you practice, the better you will perform. It's no surprise he was traded, with the Bucs receiving a seventh-round pick that could become a sixth-rounder if Winslow meets certain numbers. Despite the negatives, Winslow still has the talent and gas left in the tank to help the Seahawks.
Winslow is entering his ninth season, and despite having a bad knee, he’ll be only 29 in July and ended the 2011 season with 75-763-2 receiving on 121 targets. That's an average of 4.7 catches for 47.7 yards and 0.13 TDs on 7.56 targets in 16 games, which made him more of an injury fill-in or matchup play. He was also the fourth-most-targeted tight end in the league with 121 only behind Jimmy Graham (149), Brandon Pettigrew (126) and Rob Gronkowski (124).
Winslow has lost a step and will struggle to separate, but he can use “veteran savvy” to make up for some of his diminishing skills. Regardless, fantasy owners need to realize he’s not the tight end he used to be.
While the Seahawks already have Zach Miller, a solid pass-catching tight end, they like to use two-TE sets. In 2011 Miller produced only 25-233-0 on 44 targets, partially because a devastated offensive line forced him to stay in and block. It was also his first season as a Seahawk, meaning he had to make the transition to a new team and a new offense. Entering 2012, Miller will likely be the in-line blocker, with Winslow as the receiving tight end, making Winslow the player to target. The team will utilize two-TE sets to protect their young quarterbacks and provide the offense various options, whether running or passing.
Although Winslow will have to learn a new offense and develop chemistry with a new quarterback, he will immediately help with their transition. Outside Tarvaris Jackson, QBs Matt Flynn and rookie Russell Wilson are new to the Seahawks and will need a veteran like Winslow. With the offensive line returning healthy and now deep, Winslow also has a chance to produce. However, for now, view him as a late-round flier with limited upside. It's limited because Miller has the wear and tear of his knee and an unproven but up-and-coming receiving corps. The team will also emphasize the rushing attack to take pressure off the quarterback, whoever it is.
Winslow has value as a No. 2 fantasy tight end in larger leagues, but his best days are behind him, and there are now better upside options in your draft.
Follow William Del Pilar on Twitter