If you're looking for some fantasy football magic, look no further than Norv Turner. Give him a tight end and he'll give you production. It's one of most sure things you'll find in the NFL today, at least I'd like to believe it to be.
Norv has been making fantasy tight end magic since before I even knew about fantasy. He emphasized the tight end in his time in Dallas, he helped turn Antonio Gates into the man he is today (albeit he is now slowing down from his prime) and he took Jordan Cameron from unknown to a top 5 fantasy tight end. Either Norv knows something we don't know or he's gotten incredibly fortunate with the tight end talent he's worked with.
I know the tight end position isn't something that people typically get excited about, however I think Kyle Rudolph may need to be the exception for 2014. He's got the talent, the opportunity and now the coach. Will all the pieces come together?
Looking at the Norv Turner Effect
While Norv was in San Diego, Antonio Gates averaged 111 targets a game and while he was in Cleveland he had Jordan Cameron averaging 117 targets in 2013. Although Cameron's numbers come from only one year with Norv I'd imagine that the trend would have continued in 2014. I mean Cameron didn't exactly have awesome quarterbacks throwing the ball his way, so he might be poised to have another good year in Cleveland. That's another argument for another day however. I'm not saying that these stats support that Norv Turner knows how to get the most out of his tight ends, but he clearly knows how to get the most out of his tight ends.
Oh, and did I mention that Norv Turner's tight end has finished as a top-seven fantasy tight end in 6 of the last 7 seasons? Yeah that's pretty impressive.
The Breakout 2014 Tight End Candidate
Anyone who paid attention to the NFL offseason knows that the Cleveland Browns shocked the world by cleaning house and starting over, once again. That meant Norv Turner was out of a job and looking for work. He's always been known as a great offensive mind and that's why it didn't take long for him to find work. He joined up with the Minnesota Vikings and immediately went to work. Some of the early rumblings out of the scouting combine was that he loves Adrian Peterson (who wouldn't) and that he is planning to get the ball to Patterson more often.
Norv loves to throw the ball and despite not having the ideal quarterback situation (at least currently) I still believe they are going to open it up. That means that he's going to stick to the tight end and involve him, heavily.
Kyle Rudolph is coming off a broken foot in 2013 but appears to be fully healthy. He's only 24 years old and comes from a basketball background, just like Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron before him. I'm seeing the similarities and connecting the dots already.
Kyle Rudolph has already made the Pro Bowl once (2012) and he may have another shot in 2014. I believe he'll see a lot of red-zone targets, just as Cameron did last year. Jordan Cameron ended up with 19 targets in the red-zone last season (3rd best for tight ends) and didn't have a great quarterback throwing his way. I think Matt Cassel is a serviceable option, for now, and will be able to provide more assistance than Cameron saw in Cleveland. Rudolph's value will be hotly debated as we move closer to the season but learning to value him early on will teach you to know at what price the upside doesn't become worth it.
Know How to Value the Tight End Position
The tight end position is extremely similar to the position in years past, there isn't much depth. After Jimmy Graham you need to know if you want a top 4 guy or if you're willing to roll the dice. If you're willing to take a chance, then it's my fantasy advice that Kyle Rudolph should be that guy.
Although he's already gaining momentum as a sleeper candidate I still believe it will be possible to snag him late in the draft. Jordan Cameron was a steal last year, however Rudolph will likely go a bit early because everyone is giving more credit to this Norv Turner theory.
I say Kyle Rudolph is at least worth a flier. What, it's not like taking your 5th running back is going to turn out great anyway. Take a chance, you've got nothing to lose.