Tennessee Titans tight endDelanie Walker entered the 2013 fantasy football season as a legit sleeper. He was the replacement for Jared Cook in Tennessee and flashed enough potential in his days with the San Francisco 49ers to warrant a late-round flier in fantasy drafts.
He was to be one of the Titans’ best new weapons. After all, Kendall Wright was just entering his second NFL season, Justin Hunter was merely a rookie, and as experienced as Nate Washington was, he wasn’t much of an imposing presence.
As the locked-in starting tight end for the Titans, Walker had his biggest role of his career and suddenly carried a little bit of upside. Unlike Jared Cook before him, he also seemed a little more stable and poised to bring some consistency at the position.
Most of that ended up being true.
While fantasy owners didn’t spend a high pick to land Walker and he often went undrafted, he ultimately returned quality value for fantasy owners, finishing the 2013 season as the 12th best option at the position.
Despite lacking elite size (he’s barely six feet) and having issues with hand consistency at times, Walker fared better than the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Brent Celek, Brandon Myers, Scott Chandler and Jermaine Gresham.
Granted, Gronkowski played just half the year and these other guys aren’t exactly world beaters, but Walker still finished just 10 fantasy points outside of the top-10.
Perhaps working side by side with his overall fantasy ranking and value was Walker’s 86 targets, easily the most in his eight-year NFL career.
Needless to say, Walker posted career highs across the board in his debut season with the Titans, as he caught 60 passes, racked up 571 receiving yards and scored six touchdowns.
What did we learn? Walker proved to be a serviceable starter that excels with good matchups and has the potential to be a solid possession receiver. He has shown solid athleticism and playmaking ability, and can also be a factor in the red-zone despite less than ideal size.
With that said, he’s far from consistency, has struggled with drops and isn’t always going to win one on one matchups due to his size.
While that comparison is borderline crazy (Walker doesn’t have the size or athleticism to live up to it), Walker is still a solid player with some untapped potential. More importantly, “Wiz” seems to be a fan of Walker’s talent and should look to get the tight end involved in the offense.
That should mean Walker at least hovers around the numbers we saw out of him a year ago, and with increased targets (which can probably be expected) should naturally come a minor jump in overall production.
It likely all starts and ends with quarterback Jake Locker, however. Walker benefited for most of 2013 by having the weak-armed Ryan Fitzpatrick dump passes down to him, while his two best games (10 catches versus Colts and 8 catches versus Cardinals) came with Fitzpatrick under center.
Locker looks to take shots down the field more, while Tennessee could also be more run oriented than ever due to Locker’s erratic play.
Still, Walker is a solid asset in the passing game and should still see about 85-90 targets in 2014, if not more. Kendall Wright is locked into the number one spot in terms of targets in the passing game, but the rest remains fairly up in the air. That lack of cemented targets could help the 29-year old Walker gain an even bigger role if he can prove he’s up to the task.
All that being said, it’s highly unlikely we’re looking at some elite producer out of Walker. His 2013 season was his first full season as a starter, so it’s understandable that he could just be getting started. It’s also very possible in his first season with a huge role, he already hit his ceiling.
Walker simply isn’t an elite talent and he isn’t really in a system with a quarterback to offer up ridiculous upside. The talk of him being anything close to Gates is insane, as well.
Ultimately, Walker’s floor is a mid-level TE2. With his current role and decent ability, he should be able to get that for fantasy owners in his sleep. His ceiling is a moderate TE1, where he can get you decent weekly production. He’ll still have his bouts with inconsistency, though, and isn’t a realistic threat to approach top-five production. He’ll be lucky to even sniff top-10 production for the second year in a row.
This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose