SleepersJuly 27, 2006

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Sleeper Watch

By Pat Hunley

In the fantasy world, tight ends are more of an after thought in most drafts. If you have one of the elite tight ends, you have a huge advantage every week. The key to drafting a tight end is to find one that comes at a cheap price, will put up solid numbers, and has the potential to become one of the elite tight ends. This year, no one better fits that description than Heath Miller.

Last year, Miller broke an unspoken fantasy rule that tight ends do not perform well as rookies. He caught 39 passes for 439 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season, and caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the postseason. His two best stretches were in weeks five through eight, when he proved he was a threat in the red zone by catching five touchdowns in four weeks. Toward the end of the season he proved his deep threat ability by averaging over 20 yards per reception in four out of the last eight games, and averaged almost 16 yards per reception in the postseason.

Miller’s chances this year look promising. He has shown that he can score touchdowns and catch passes downfield; if he can do both consistently, he will have an excellent year. Miller will have more opportunities to do so with the losses of Jerome Bettis and Antwaan Randle El. Jerome Bettis was the Steelers’ goal line back, and with his retirement, there will be more passing in the red zone, and Miller will be one of the primary targets. Antwaan Randle El was the Steelers’ #2 receiver, and one of their best deep targets before departing to the Washington Redskins in free agency. Miller will take many of the looks Randle El got downfield. In addition, the Steelers’ young offense is improving every year and will help Miller’s odds of improving. Ben Roethlisberger has developed into a great leader and he proved he could play with the best in the postseason, when he threw for seven touchdowns and only one interception, before his poor performance in the Super Bowl. As the coaching staff gains more trust in him, there will be more passing in Pittsburgh, which will mean more opportunities for Miller. In addition, there are many receivers surrounding Miller that will draw attention away from him. Hines Ward has asserted himself as one of the best receivers in franchise history. Santonio Holmes, the Steelers’ first round pick who adds speed and another deep threat to the offense, and Cedrick Wilson who is a solid number three receiver, will play behind Ward. These players should take some attention away from Miller. The running game is in great hands with Willie Parker, who emerged as the starter last year while filling in for the injured Jerome Bettis, and Duce Staley. His nickname, Fast Willie Parker says it all, and he is a threat to take it to the house on every play. This translates to opposing teams having to play the run whenever he is on the field, which opens up the opportunity for play action passes.

Heath Miller is a great tight end to target in drafts this year. While he is usually drafted late, he is a guarantee to put up solid starting numbers. If Miller can consistently score touchdowns and catch passes downfield, there are no limits to what he can do.

Pat Hunley is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Pat in the Cafe’s forums where he posts under the name of steelerfan513.
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