Projecting Jordan Cameron’s Fantasy Football Production

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Dec 9 2012 Cleveland OH USA Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron 84 makes a catch against the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium Credit David Richard USA TODAY Sports

The ways in which we can project unknown fantasy football commodities are hardly limited, so I’d like to apply a little statistical test to Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron to see just how productive he might be on a per-route basis.

Pro Football Focus’s Fantasy points per snap (FPPS) has its uses, as does fantasy points per opportunity (FPPO). With the tight end position, however, you’ll find guys who are hardly ever asked to block when they enter the game, and others who spend more than half their snaps taking on defensive ends.

That skews the FPPO, at the very least. A tight end like Heath Miller would see his FPPS fall, as he blocked on 22.6 percent of his snaps in 2012. Owen Daniels, on the other hand, was asked to block on just 9 percent of his 2012 snaps.

That’s why I’d like to further explore fantasy points per route run (FPPRR), which, as you may have guessed, measures how many fantasy points a tight end scored for every time he’s asked to run a pass route. This, I think, helps weeds out touchdown dependency and gives us a slightly clearer picture of a tight end’s place in his respective offense.

FPPRR is made possible through Pro Football Focus’s compilation of route running data from 2008-2012.

The latter piece might be tougher to judge with the 6-foot-5 245-pound Cameron, since he had limited playing time in 2012 and was anything but a first or second read for Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Cameron, a third year guy out of USC, now has not one, but two tight end-friendly coaches in Rob Chudzinski and Norval Turner. You might remember Chudzinski as the guy who transformed Greg Olsen into a top-6 fantasy tight end and Turner as the coach who featured Antonio Gates during much of his time with the San Diego Chargers.

I looked at Gates’ route running history as a start to my FPPRR projection of Cameron’s 2013 season. Below is a review of how many routes Gates ran per game from 2008-2012, according to Pro Football Focus.

2008 31.5 routes per game
2009 29.3 routes per game
2010 33.4 routes per game
2011 36.8 routes per game
2012 32.6 routes per game

Gates’ overall average during this five-year span was 32.7 routes per game, or 523 routes over the course of a 16-game season. That seems like a reasonable baseline with which to begin.

Cameron, who ran 176 routes in 13 games last season – 43rd among tight ends and trailing guys like third-string Lions tight end Will Heller – averaged a fairly low .16 FPPRR. It’s tough to emphasize how low on the Browns’ offensive totem pole he truly was in 2012. The simple eye test showed that Weeden checked off two or three pass catching options before turning his attention to Cameron – a progression that is understood to change in 2013.

Cameron was seen lining up all over the Browns formation during OTAs last month, according to reports, taking snaps from the slot, as a wideout and on the line.

Josh Gordon’s suspension could be an early season boon for Cameron too. I don’t think you’ll hear Browns coaches say as much, but it’s fairly safe to assume Cameron will have a borderline prominent role with the team’s unquestioned No. 1 target out for the season’s first two weeks.

Back to the FPPRR projections: If we assume Cameron will be used similarly to how Gates was deployed under Turner in San Diego, and we use his (probably deceivingly low) 2012 FPPRR, he projects to post 83.7 fantasy points in 2013. That would’ve made him the 16th highest scoring tight end last year.

Cameron, if we project him to post Gates’ .18 FPPRR from 2012 – hardly a reach – projects to score 94.1 fantasy points, or top-12 numbers in 2012.

Running through Cameron’s potential per-route fantasy scoring confirmed what I’ve thought about him this offseason: he’s a guy whose usage is going to spike in an offense traditionally friendly to pass-catching tight ends, he’s available for the low, low price of a 14th round draft pick, and his upside is likely capped around the low-end top-12 tight end area.

With Cameron – like any player – there are a wide range of outcomes, especially since we’ve never seen him used as anything close to what we’ll see in 2013. He’ll remain an optimal streaming tight end option who just might inch his way into every-week starter status.

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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.