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Dustin Keller: The NFL’s next great Receiving Tight End


At the start of every season for the last 5 or 6 years, I have been forced to purchase a new, up-to-date and viable Jets jersey. Let me rattle my current collection off for you; Mark Gastineau, Mo Lewis, Curtis Martin, Chad Pennington, Jonathan Vilma, Laveranues Coles, and most recently, Brett Favre.

Obviously, the only viable ones out of that group are Mark, Mo and Curtis – once again leaving me at the start of the season without Jets flair that applies to their current franchise. Perhaps Favre was a short-sighted decision – but on the night that I found out he was going to a Jet, my unbridled joy for the fact that the Jets actually made a splash and got a starting QB obscured my (and about 25 million other Jets fans) long-term vision.

So here I am, naked and cold trying to make the big decision one more time. Here are my realistic options as I see them; Mark Sanchez, Leon Washington, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, David Harris, Darrelle Revis, and Kerry Rhodes. I chose those names because they are the players who are locked up for a while (except for Leon but Mike T will be paying him eventually) and give me the best chances to avoid this annual game of musical chairs.

Sanchez has the hopes of this franchise on his back, and I feel that he will be well represented in the Meadowlands this season and I should focus my efforts elsewhere. And if he does turn out to be the truth, I will obviously rep my QB and end up buying a jersey as any good Jets fan will. But there is a lot of time between now and then. Out of everyone on the list, perhaps Shonn Greene has the highest upside – his vision compared to that of Curtis Martin’s, his size and toughness compared to Thomas Jones.

Jerricho is solid, but hes not a real playmaker in the sense of the word; I equate a Cotchery jersey to the likes of Amani Toomer and Torry Holt in his later years. Leon obviously could make this “his year” with his increased # of touches and explode into the 2000+ total yard (rush/rec/return yds) that most Jets fans know he’s capable of, but that purchase is not a very unique and thoughtful choice as I see #29 all over the place. Revis is a considerable option as he will be the next great lockdown corner in the AFC, and he will be on the outside of the Jets D for years to come.

David Harris and Bart Scott are going to be monsters together this year, but I can’t pick between them – thats too difficult with my limited exposure to them working in tandem and I have a feeling that getting one without the other will prove to be sacrilegious. And as much as I love Brick and Kerry, there’s just not a lot of excitement there to warrant a purchase.

So that leads me to Dustin Keller, TE #81. Let me start by saying that this kid is going to be the truth. Brett Favre (who was quoted as saying he “wishes he had him a few years back”) wasn’t the only one taking notice of his soft hands, ability to get open, and the fact that he could be a great safety net for any QB looking for an outlet while being chased down by massive defensive lineman. Taking a look at some of the rookie year numbers of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL over the last 5 years;

Rookie Year Numbers
Tony Gonzalez:     33 rec, 368 yards, 2 TD
Antonio Gates:      24 rec, 389 yards, 2 TD
Jason Witten:        35 rec, 347 yards, 1 TD
Todd Heap:           16 rec, 206 yards, 1 TD
Chris Cooley:         37 rec, 314 yards, 6 TD
Alge Crumpler:       25 rec, 330 yards, 3 TD
Kellen Winslow:      5  rec, 50 yards, 0 TD
Dallas Clark:          29 rec, 340 yards, 1 TD
Jeremy Shockey:   74 rec, 894 yards, 2 TD
Owen Daniels:       34 rec, 352 yards, 5 TD
Dustin Keller:       48 rec, 535 yards, 3 TD

Outside of Jeremy Shockey’s absurd rookie year (an obvious outlier), Keller is #1 in receptions, #1 yards, and #3 in TD’s. Lets take this one step further and take a look at some sophomore numbers for the most heralded few TE of this group:

Sophomore Numbers (+/- Year 1 to Year 2)

Tony Gonzalez:      59 rec, 621 yards, 2 TD         +26 rec, +253 yards, same TD
Antonio Gates:       81 rec, 964 yards, 13 TD       +57 rec, +575 yards, +11 TD
Chris Cooley:         71 rec, 774 yards, 7 TD         +34 rec, +460 yards, +1 TD
Jason Witten:        87 rec, 980 yards, 6 TD          +52 rec, +633 yards, +5 TD
Todd Heap:            68 rec, 836 yards, 6 TD         +52 rec, +630 yards, +5 TD

AVERAGE CHANGE (Year 1 to Year 2): +44.2 rec, +510.2 yards, +4.4 TD

Judging based on this, would it even be fair to predict what scary numbers that Dustin is projected to put up in 2009? How about he is projected to have 92.2 receptions, 1,045.2 yards, and 7.4 TD. If there is one player on the team that is about to explode, its Dustin Keller. I am sure that if you ask anyone on the Jets staff, they will say the same thing about this kid. That is why on Sunday, September 13th when the Jets kick off the 2009 season at Houston, I will have the #81 on my chest and KELLER across my back.

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