Spotlight - TE Erron Kinney, Tennessee Titans
Posted 8/15 by Jason Wood and Marc Levin,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
You might look at Erron Kinney's 2004 stat line and think, "big deal." After all, his 25 receptions for 193 yards and 3 TDs didn't even crack the top 30 among fantasy tight ends. Furthermore, you might be excited by the hype behind 2nd year Ben Troupe, the vaunted 2nd round pick who had more catches (33) and yards (329) than Kinney despite being a rookie.
But I'm here to save you from making a critical error in judgment. If there's one Titans tight end worth drafting this year in redraft leagues, it's Kinney, not Troupe.
Yes, Troupe had the better yardage and reception totals last year. HOWEVER, Troupe amassed his numbers in 14 games while Kinney played in 10. Compare their per game production and it tells a different story:
- Receptions per game -- Troupe (2.36) vs. Kinney (2.50)
- Yards per game -- Troupe (23.5) vs. Kinney (19.3)
- TDs per game -- Troupe (0.07) vs. Kinney (0.30)
But the story doesn't end there. Remember that Steve McNair missed a chunk of last season. While backup QB Billy Volek was productive, he didn't seem to have a rapport with Kinney for whatever reason. But McNair is back in the saddle, which means good things for Kinney potentially. Consider:
- In 5 games with McNair, Kinney had: 17 recs/141 yards/3 TDs
- In 5 games with Volek, Kinney had: 8 recs/52 yards/0 TDs
Pro rate those over a 16 game season:
- McNair + Kinney = 54 recs/451 yards/9.6 TDs
- Volek + Kinney = 26 recs/166 yards/0 TDs
So, as long as McNair stays healthy (an admitted IF), Kinney should be in line to not only be the more productive TE, but a borderline fantasy starter in 12-team leagues.
I don't want to completely discount Ben Troupe for several reasons.
1) New OC Norm Chow promises a wide open attack that uses the RBs and TEs prodigiously in the passing game
2) Troupe is unquestionably more athletic than Kinney and has his best years ahead of him
3) The Titans lack a bona fide option beyond Drew Bennett among the WR corps
Assuming Ben Troupe recovers from surgery to repair his broken left foot on schedule (he's due to return in October), he could be an intriguing mid season waiver wire option. But in the meantime, Kinney should be on his way to a surprisingly productive 2005.
- Norm Chow promises a wide open offense that makes liberal use of the tight ends in the passing game
- Kinney was highly productive in the five games with McNair at the helm, but his full season stats were mediocre enough to ensure you can grab Kinney late in your draft
- Steve McNair, league MVP two seasons ago, appears healthy and ready to return to his Pro Bowl form
- If McNair gets hurt, Kinney was a forgotten man with Volek last year, and may be again in 2005
- The offense may be so balanced no player save for Drew Bennett gets enough looks to make a consistent fantasy contribution
- Ben Troupe is recovering from surgery to repair his left foot, and the official date of his return remains in flux
In redraft leagues, it's ALWAYS a good idea to wait until the very last rounds of your draft to pick up a backup tight end. With that in mind, your goal should be to find a backup late, who COULD end up among the top 10 or 12 players at the position. In my mind, Erron Kinney is among the short list of tight ends who fit that bill. He'll be available late in your draft, he has the talent and experience to produce if healthy, he has a rapport with Steve McNair, and Ben Troupe is out until at least September/October. Don't forget about Troupe either, as he's young and talented enough to get significant PT once recovered.
Marc Levin's Thoughts
The 2005 fantasy outlook for the Tennessee Titans’ tight ends as a unit looks very good. New offensive coordinator Norm Chow is expected to use his TEs more than in the past few years, and was especially looking forward to moving last year’s rookie Ben Troupe around a bit to free him up. Troupe had a great rookie season after starting the year slowly. He busted out in week 7 against the Vikings with 11 targets, 6 catches and 57 yards. He averaged 4.75 targets per game for the last 8 games of the year, which shows the team was gaining confidence in sending the ball his way.
Meanwhile, six-year veteran Erron Kinney has been a rock at the position for the last two years. Kinney had a decent fantasy year in 2003 after the departure of long-time Titan staple TE Frank Wycheck. His 2004 season was marred by missing weeks 4 through 9 due to injury. His production was then stifled as the team looked more to Ben Troupe to close out the year.
For 2005, everything was looking good for these two players to both have good fantasy years. Then, Troupe was injured, and the landscape changed a bit. Troupe is likely to miss the first few games and not return until October. Missing all of training camp and preseason is not good for a second year player. The team drafted a Ben Troupe look-a-like in Bo Scaife in the ’05 draft. The line on Scaife is that he has great receiving skills, like Troupe, but needs to add some pounds to take on blocking NFL defensive linemen, like Troupe. Scaife signed early, so if the coaches feel he has picked up the playbook well, he may see extended time in the Titans’ two-TE sets across from Kinney.
And the injury to Troupe actually makes the ’05 outlook for Kinney more positive. The Titans scrapped nearly their entire receiving roster. Only WR Drew Bennett returns healthy and with any experience. Therefore, the sure hands of Kinney look to play a large part of the Titans’ passing game early in the year. We all remember how well Steve McNair used Frank Wycheck. From 1996 to 2001, Wycheck never finished lower than the 6th best fantasy TE. Expect McNair or backup QB Billy Volek (if called into action) to return the TE to prominence in the Titans’ passing game.
It is hard to project many negatives about the Titans TEs. They might be called on to block quite a bit if the lack of receiving threats force the Titans into a grind it out approach. In games against teams like Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Jacksonville, that approach may be necessary, but the Titans drew some excellent offenses on their schedule in Cincinnati, Seattle, St. Louis, and Oakland – along with two games against the Colts. It is more likely the Titans will be playing quite a bit of catch up, or keep up. This is especially true given the hits to the defense due to salary cap moves.
A suspect defense, few threatening receivers, solid run support, and efficient quarterbacks tend to spell fantasy gold for tight ends. Especially when Troupe returns after the first few games, both TEs should be solid FF contributors in 2005. Now, speaking of Troupe’s return, the natural instinct is to wonder about the vulture factor. Will the fact that the team has two solid pass-catching TEs limit both TEs production? Kinney did not emerge as a viable fantasy TE until after Wycheck fell apart in 2002 and 2003. But, then again, Kinney did not interrupt Wycheck’s production in 2001 and 2002. Meanwhile, as mentioned earlier, Kinney never blossomed as a fantasy player in 2004 due to Troupe’s presence.
So, in 2005, instead of a vulture situation, expect Kinney to have strong fantasy performances during the first half of the year while he is the clear number one TE. Then, expect Troupe to begin stealing targets in the second half of the year as he gets back into the groove of the offense. Also, Kinney is a proven blocker and already has the size (6’6”, 272-pounds versus Troupe at 6’4” 262) and the experience to handle NFL defenders while Troupe is best utilized as a pass catcher. If Troupe returns strong, Kinney may be relegated to more blocking assignments.
The best move with these two players could be to take both, to use Kinney early in the year, and to use Troupe after he returns. The best part of such a strategy is that both of these guys are insanely cheap. Kinney doesn’t even appear on either antsports’ or footballguys’ top-24 TE lists. Troupe is currently footballguys’ TE16, with a 12-team league ADP past round 15. If you like to wait on your TEs and have the roster space for two, taking both Troupe and Kinney and playing Kinney early and Troupe late may be a tremendous value based strategy.
- Both TEs are athletic and have demonstrable pass-catching ability.
- QB Steve McNair has a proven track record of finding his TE in the passing game and new OC Norm Chow would like to use the TE more than the past few years.
- Only one wide receiver poses a threat to defenses, which means the TEs will see a lot more targets due to the simple lack of other experienced receivers.
- Solid support from the run game, lack of other targets, and efficient quarterbacks often translates into TE production.
- Possibility the TEs will “vulture” from each other when both are playing.
- With so few receivers, there is the chance the team will be forced to a grind out the clock type of game where there will simply be much fewer passing plays to go around.
- With Troupe’s injury likely lasting into the season, there is the chance his production will be stunted or that he won’t be able to return strongly.
From the above projections, it is clear that I project Kinney to receive the bulk of the work early in the year, but that I project a very powerful season for Troupe when he returns. Especially after the team’s open date and for the last seven games of the year, I look for Troupe to emerge as a top flight fantasy TE. For Kinney, I like his outlook in certain games early in the year – especially the week 3 through week 5 games against the suspect linebacker crews in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Houston. Then I look for Troupe to start asserting himself as the pass-catching TE for the team.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
I have a special interest in this because between Kinney, Troupe, and me there are 3 Florida Gators. My projections right now are very much in flux because of questions regarding Troupe's foot. I don't think people realize that Kinney is talented, but after languishing behind Wycheck for years appeared to be supplanted by Troupe. At least one beat writer, however, is predicting that Troupe could be out until October. Even if he makes the season opener, he will have missed all of training camp and as a 2nd-year player will be behind the curve.
I just drafted both of them in my dynasty draft. Reasoning is/was that Kinney is good as a starter for the first 4-6 games (possibly all year, very possibly) at least, and if Troupe is as great as everyone thinks he is, long term I want him as well.
Erron Kinney Projections
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