I need me some Black Unicorn in my life.
When Martellus Bennett was signed by Green Bay I knew instantly he'd be the tight end I'd be targeting in 100 percent of my drafts.
I figured I'd be more bullish on him than just about any other analyst out there because statistically, Bennett hasn't been anything special. He set career benchmarks in Chicago in 2014 (90 receptions, 916 yards, six touchdowns) but has otherwise been a pretty ho-hum fantasy tight end.
Plus, with the competition for targets in Green Bay, there would be question marks about his usage. So it makes sense for industry folks to be wary about Bennett. The FantasyPros aggregate ranking (average of 33 experts) placed Bennett at 99 overall (TE9) with our own Michael Fabiano being extremely cautious, ranking Bennett at 124th overall as his TE11.
UNICORNS ARE RARE
Bennett is a rare breed indeed. At 6-foot-6 and a muscular 275 pounds, the Black Unicorn runs with the agility of a much smaller man but still plays with incredible strength as a blocker on the line. We've seen his ability to be an excellent receiver as exhibited here and here. But unlike some other pass-catching tight ends, Bennett also receives praise as a blocker. We saw both skill sets on display last year in New England and as a result, he was rated as Pro Football Focus' 10th-best overall tight end in 2016.
COMPETITION FOR TARGETS
In terms of target share, it's true there will be a massive competition for looks in Lambeau.
If 2016 was any indication, the trio of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb will soak up 325 or more targets and it's a good bet that Ty Montgomery will see 50 or so targets of his own. It would certainly appear there isn't much left on the table for the tight end group but further digging reveals plenty of opportunities remain.
In fact, in his most-recent healthy seasons with Jermichael Finley (GB's last reliable pass-catching TE), Rodgers threw 115 and 104 passes, respectively, at the tight end group with Finley seeing 87 targets in 2012 and 92 in 2011.
I would think 90 targets is a good, realistic baseline for Bennett.
So let's get this out of the way: if Bennett stays healthy, he is an absolute lock to finish as a top-10 tight end.
LET'S GET DANGEROUS
Bennett also averaged a very healthy 12.7 yards per reception last year; a number that seems repeatable given Jared Cook averaged about 12.5 yards per catch for the Pack in 2016.
Assuming a 70-ish percent catch rate and about 12.5 yards per catch, if fed around 90 looks Bennett should get to around 65 receptions and 800 yards. Given his history as an elite red-zone option, I don't think I'm out of line to expect seven to 10 scores.
At 800 yards and eight touchdowns, Bennett would have been your TE2 last year, folks.
What happens if one or more of the aforementioned trio of Jordy, Davante and Cobb misses time? It's easy as hell to imagine Bennett seeing his target total go up.
And while it seems likely that Montgomery will see 50 or more targets, at the end of the day, that is a big number for a running back. If Rodgers and the Packers are more aggressive in their play calling this year, meaning fewer check downs, Bennett could again be the beneficiary. Hell, the primary concern surrounding Montgomery this year is whether or not he'll hold up. If he gets hurt and we see Jamaal Williams, a traditional between-the-tackles running back, designed pass plays to the running back will be significantly reduced. Again, Bennett would be a massive beneficiary.
So, while I'm sitting here in June telling you 90-ish targets is a fair estimate, a lot of things could happen to help push Bennett's targets into the 100-110 range, which would vault him into the conversation of a top-three fantasy tight end.
CHILLIN' AT THE HOLIDAY INN
But even without 100-plus targets, I can see Bennett easily doing more with less. A projection of 12.5 yards per reception certainly seems fair but listen, the Black Unicorn could buck and smash the Chiclets out of that number.
Over the past three years, Gronk and Kelce are the only other tight ends to post more yards after the catch than ole Marty B. Read that again ... over the past three seasons, Bennett has more yards after the catch than Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Delanie Walker and Jordan Reed. Bennett is a force of nature once he catches the rock and why not? At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds this dude is an absolute chore to bring down.
Now think about this nimble behemoth working in that Green Bay offense. While Nelson, Adams and Cobb may hurt Bennett's total target share, having all those weapons also means the field will look like a damn Holiday Inn with the number of vacancies available for Bennett to work. And as we've seen, if you give this man room to run, you best bring a hearty sack lunch because it's going to be a long day trying to stop him.
Instead of 12.5 yards per catch, let's say he pushes that to 14 or 15 yards per catch. Even with the same amount of receptions we're talking about a guy that is posting 900-1,000 yards to go along with seven, eight or 10 touchdowns. Again, these are top-three positional numbers.
Where I start fanning myself is when I think about a perfect storm coming together; a situation where Bennett sees 110 targets to pair with 15 yards per catch resulting in something that looks like 80 receptions, 1200 yards and 10 touchdowns ... LORD.
I GOT TRENDS IN LOW PLACES
Hate numbers? Love trends? I got you covered there as well.
For one, Bennett has not one, but TWO games against his former Chicago mates. Remember, John Fox and company jettisoned Bennett after Fox's first year there in the Chi. REVENNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGEEEEE!!!!!!!!
Also the schedule overall is favorable for Green Bay as they take on the NFC South this year. The secondaries for the Saints, Panthers, Falcons were all in the bottom five in terms of pass yards allowed. The Bucs were "better," allowing the 11th-most pass yards in 2016. Plus, many shootouts are on the horizon as all four of those teams are expected to have good to great offenses this year. Bad defenses combined with good offenses are breeding grounds for fantasy points.
And lest we forget, Bennett did formerly play basketball when he was at Texas A&M many moons ago.
All we're missing here is an Ivy League degree for the ultimate non-sequitur trifecta but two out of three ain't bad.
BECAUSE STONE COLD SAID SO...
The bottom line is Bennett is that rare tight end that offers up a safe floor to go along with incredibly high upside.
Despite the high competition for targets, Bennett still possesses enough skills as a pass-catcher and blocker to be on the field at all times. That means more opportunities and his special after-the-catch ability will lend itself to good yardage even in low-target games.
A 60-catch, 700-yard, seven-touchdown season is what I consider to be Bennett's floor with his upside being in the ballpark of 75 receptions, 1,100 yards and 10 scores. Put another way, at worst he's a top-10 tight end but if everything goes right? We're talking about a top one or two player at his position.
And at his current asking price in the eighth or ninth round, sign me up for that all day long.