For the past few years, Atlanta has been a team that heavily relies on pass catching TE’s. Fans have seen guys like Alge Crumpler and Tony Gonzalez have productive seasons while being major contributors in the passing game. The 2012 season will be Gonzalez’s last so many fans figured Atlanta would draft a young TE in last month’s draft. When no TE was selected, I began to wonder what the TE position could look like sans Gonzo. I'll throw out some possibilities after the jumpTE is quite possibly Atlanta’s thinnest position. The TE depth chart is littered with UDFA’s and cast offs from other teams-but are any of those guys capable of taking over in 2013? Lets take a look at some possible options
- Michael Palmer-I have nothing against the guy but I’d have a hard time seeing him as the starting TE in 2013. He’s a capable blocker and can catch a short dump off here and there but Palmer would not be an ideal starter.
- Marquez Branson- He’s been around for a few seasons but his complete and utter inability to remain healthy has kept him off the field. Despite the injuries, Branson is the best pass catching TE on the roster not named Tony Gonzalez. He’s always been regarded as a great receiving TE and averaged 15 yards per catch in college and totaled 18 TD‘s. He has really good speed (ran a 4.55 40 yd dash at his Pro Day back in 2009) and has great leaping ability (35 inch vertical) which could be a huge advantage in the red zone.
- Lamark Brown-This guy has speed for days (4.48 40 yd dash) and has good hands. He also has decent height (6’3). However, at only 228 lbs, he will need to put on a good amount of weight. Once that happens, he could truly be special.
- Aron White-Could open some eyes in training camp. He was overshadowed by Orson Charles at UGA but White (6’4; 240 lbs) actually had a faster 40 time and better vertical jump than Charles at UGA’s Pro Day. He also has a knack for scoring as 10 of his 34 college receptions went for touchdowns. He doesn’t have break away speed but his hands are reliable. White cites Tony Gonzalez as his idol so I’m sure he will looking to soak in as much info as possible.
- 2013 Draft Pick-Atlanta will have its full arsenal of draft picks in 2013 and there are several TE’s projected to go early. However, team needs could play a role in whether Atlanta uses a high draft pick on TE because Turner will be 31 and is due a larger payday, Babs and Abe are aging, and the 3 starting CB’s will all be 30 or older.
2012 will be the year Marquez Branson finally stays healthy and becomes another receiving weapon in an already potent passing attack. Mike Smith obviously sees his potential since he’s kept Branson around on the practice squad despite the numerous injuries. Branson has also had a few years to learn from Tony Gonzalez. He has the size, speed, and hands to become a quality starting TE in this league.
So that’s my two cents. What do you think? Is Atlanta’s future TE already on the roster or will they need to use a 2013 draft pick to find that person?