Spotlight - TE Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens
Posted 8/25 by Jason Wood and Mark Wimer,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
I can't be the only one who got burned by Heap last year, right? In what was inarguably my toughest fantasy season in a long time, Todd Heap played an important role in some of my leagues. After all, his injury was the worst kind. An elite player at a position with scarcity, who kept being "close" to returning, thus forcing us to keep him on our roster. Yet, after going down in Week 2, he didn't resurface until Week 13. For many of us, the damage had already been done, his return mattered not because we were already out of the playoff race.
For those lucky few who both drafted Heap AND held onto him AND made the playoffs in spite of his injury riddled year, he was very helpful come playoff time. In Weeks 14-16 (the typical fantasy playoff weeks), Heap had 12 receptions for 168 yards and 3 touchdowns. According to the Draft Dominator, Heap was the 2nd best fantasy tight end over Weeks 14-16:
- Tony Gonzalez -- 21 recs -- 244 yards -- 2 TDs -- 36.4 FPs
- Todd Heap -- 12 recs -- 168 yards -- 3 TDs -- 34.8 FPs
- Antonio Gates -- 9 recs -- 138 yards -- 2 TDs -- 25.8 FPs
- Jeremy Shockey -- 14 recs -- 160 yards -- 1 TDs -- 22 FPs
- Ben Troupe -- 10 recs -- 115 yards -- 1 TDs -- 17.5 FPs
- Jason Witten -- 16 recs -- 175 yards -- 0 TDs -- 17.5 FPs
- Teyo Johnson -- 7 recs -- 114 yards -- 1 TDs -- 17.4 FPs
- Daniel Graham -- 5 recs -- 54 yards -- 2 TDs -- 17.4 FPs
- Jerame Tuman -- 3 recs -- 36 yards -- 2 TDs -- 15.6 FPs
- Matt Schobel -- 5 recs -- 35 yards -- 2 TDs -- 15.5 FPs
But you already know that Heap, when healthy, is among the top four or five best at his position from a talent perspective. But a) can we count on him remaining healthy and b) how do the changes on offense impact Heap's outlook?
His Health -- I made a vow after last season that I'm not going to draft a player that projects as a starter unless they've actually participated in practice during training camp, at least for a few weeks. With that in mind, Heap is someone I would have difficulty drafting. Although Heap returned to practice on August 23rd, the team has kept kid gloves on with respect to putting his surgically repaired shoulder through the paces. I will watch the last two weeks of the preseason VERY closely to see whether he's put through the paces.
His Situation -- The Ravens went through an offensive overhaul this offseason. Jim Fassel and Rick Neuheisel are in as coaches, Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason are in at receiver. It's the second part of that statement which bears close scrutiny. If you think about all the really productive fantasy TEs (Gonzo, Witten, Gates, Heap a few years ago, Shockey), they ALL have one thing in common; there is no top tier WR in the picture. Sure, guys like Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell are capable, but they're not elite level producers any longer. So what you have to ask yourself is, are Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason good enough players that Heap will no longer be the lead option in the Baltimore passing tree? I'm not sure I have an answer to that, but it gives me pause.
- When healthy, Heap has the requisite skills to produce at an elite level
- Jim Fassel and Rick Neuheisel are major upgrades and should turn the offense (read: Kyle Boller) into a more productive unit top to bottom
- Heap's injury status allows you to draft him a round or two below where his full season projections would warrant otherwise
- The Ravens now have alternative options in the receiving game, can Heap get as many targets now that he's not the only game in town?
- Offseason shoulder AND ankle surgery plus almost no practice time during camp = a big red flag
- Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright aren't in the upper echelon of QB tandems
I approach the TE position in one of two ways. One, if one of the truly elite TEs (think Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates) falls a round or two below their projected VBD, I scoop them up. Two, I wait until the later rounds and double up on guys I think have a good shot at finishing in the money. Remember, historically very little has separated TE4 from TE12 in terms of fantasy points, and for that reason I won't generally reach for guys in the TE4-TE8 range as I believe there is far better value at other positions in those same rounds. With Heap, you know he's capable of statistical excellence, but is he healthy enough? Is his situation as advantageous as it was back in 2002 and 2003? I'm not so sure, so I'll let someone else take the risk.
Mark Wimer's Thoughts
Todd Heap was a fantasy force during the 2002 and 2003 NFL seasons Ė he actually led the Ravens in receiving during 2003 Ė but there are serious reasons for concern regarding his viability as a fantasy TE during 2005.
First of all, he has yet to play during the pre-season due to lingering ankle and shoulder woes, (he missed a huge chunk of 2004 due to injuries, as well) so we donít have a good feel for how his chemistry with Kyle Boller is progressing now that the Ravens have reconfigured their wide receiver lineup. During his one complete season with Boller at the helm, Heap only grabbed 3 TDs as the Ravensí passing game faltered for much of Bollerís first year as the starter.
Another huge problem for Heap owners is that Boller hasnít progressed much since the 2003 season. In the second pre-season game of the year vs. Philadelphia, Boller had 4 completions and 3 turnovers during his time on the field (2 interceptions and a lost fumble during a sack). He played extremely poorly, especially considering all of the two-a-day practices during training camp Ė Boller had tons of repetitions at his back and still stunk up the joint. If the Ravensí QB canít get him the ball, all the talent in the world wonít produce fantasy points.
- Heap is a proven NFL veteran who has been a fantasy force in the past.
- The Ravens donít have a lot of other top receiving talent, so Heap will be a main target for Kyle Boller most of the season.
If the Ravens finally pull the plug on the Kyle Boller era at some point this year, there isnít much hope that backup Anthony Wright will be a big upgrade Ė heís a career 49.8% passer (164/329 for 1965 yards, 14 TDs and 16 interceptions). The bottom line is that the desperate straights that the Ravens find themselves in at the quarterback position will limit Heapís upside during 2005 Ė youíll be better off investing in another TE who has better signal callers throwing him the ball.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Heap is one of those players I don't think we'll be able to accurately project until later in training camp due to continued recovery from last year's injuries. If close to /completely healthy, a 70/900/8 season wouldn't surprise me at all. Naturally I'm curbing my enthusiasm on him for now, so i'm going to say 700 & 5. Not too shabby.
I am bit gun shy of Heap since I had him last year and had to deal with his nagging injury all season. When he plays he's great and is the #3 TE IMO behind Gates/Gonzo.
Heap was, and still is, Boller's' "safety net" ...that said, the ability to spread the field a little better this year than ever is likely to limit the "upside", as you'll see Heap, Mason, Clayton, CMoore all involved... Darnell Dinkens, brought in by Fassel last yr as a former NYG player of his, is being included in 2TE sets...the team likes his attitude and work ethic
Todd Heap Projections
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