Once one of the more reliable tight ends in the game, Celek's role greatly diminished last season, when his 14 receptions on 19 targets for 155 yards were all virtually half of his previous career lows in each category. With Zach Ertz firmly entrenched as the starter and Trey Burton on the upswing, it's unlikely Celek experiences a revival at this point in his career.
Even with the emergence of Zach Ertz, Celek still projects to garner significant playing time as the Eagles figure to deploy plenty of two-TE sets under head coach Doug Pederson. He’ll operate as an in-line tight end, however, and will make most of his contributions in the running game. Nonetheless, Celek has sat out just one of 156 games in his career while displaying an aptitude to catch the ball when needed. In 2016, he will be a candidate to produce along the lines of his three-year average of 413 yards and three touchdowns, but with Ertz’s snap count concurrently trending upward, that aforementioned stat line will likely represent Celek’s fantasy ceiling.
Celek is only 30 years old and just two years removed from a season where he averaged 15.7 yards per catch and six touchdowns on just 32 receptions, but last year's 340-yard, one-touchdown season makes it appear as if Celek's days of fantasy relevance are likely gone. With 2013 second-round pick Zach Ertz pushing for more playing time, Celek is a candidate to see his role decrease from last year, when he played just under 70 percent of Philadelphia's snaps. Considering he's coming off consecutive seasons of only 32 catches and has averaged just 51.5 targets, Celek's fantasy value can't afford any role decreases.
First-year coach Chip Kelly featured the tight end plenty in his offense last year, but Zach Ertz's emergence limited Celek to five-year lows in receptions and years. Ertz (56) and Celek (51) split the targets nearly evenly, and the value that Celek did salvage came from his ability after the catch. Ertz actually averaged two yards more at the catch, but Celek turned his 32 receptions into 303 additional yards after the catch, averaging 9.5 YAC, most among qualified tight ends. His 15.7 yards per catch ranked second to Vernon Davis (16.3) as did his 9.8 yard per target. Celek will need more of the same this season as Ertz is expected to be the primary receiving tight end. The two will be used in more two-TE sets this year, but Ertz will be split out or used in the slot. Celek will continue to see heavy playing time as the superior blocker, and he could get a share of the 126 targets DeSean Jackson left behind, but Ertz is clearly the future in the Philadelphia.
Celek enters this season as one of the bigger gambles after the hiring of Chip Kelly, the drafting of Stanford standout Zach Ertz and the quarterback uncertainty between Michael Vick and Nick Foles. Celek averaged similar numbers last year to 2011, except in touchdowns where he had just one. Celek’s output fell off especially after Foles took over for Vick in Week 10 – Celek received just two red-zone targets the rest of way.
Even when Vick was under center, Celek hardly produced aside from a 100-yard game in Week 2 and the lone touchdown in Week 5. In fact, he topped 50 yards only once in his last 12 games. Celek's role in Kelly's new offense is uncertain, but that cuts both ways – he could give way to Ertz, or he could be a more frequent target.
Celek rebounded from a poor showing in 2010 to increase his receptions by 20 and his receiving yards by 300 last season, thanks to 17 more targets and a significantly improved catch rate (63.9 percent, up from 52.5 percent). In addition to 62 receptions for 811 yards, he also scored five touchdowns in his second full season with Michael Vick and posted a career-high 13.1 yards per catch as he routinely was targeted down field. A strong blocker in the running game, Celek relies more on his route-running ability than speed or quickness to get open. He excels in running short and intermediate routes before turning upfield for extra yardage. Vick should continue to run less and throw more, which bodes well for Celek to repeat last season’s numbers. Celek had a strong finish to the season, recording 294 receiving yards and three touchdowns over his final three games. He underwent surgery in the offseason to repair a sports hernia and torn labrum in his left hip but is expected to be healthy for training camp.
Celek isn’t the strongest blocker in one-on-one situations and doesn’t have the greatest hands (eight drops last year). However, he uses his speed and quickness to get in and out of patterns to elude opposing defenders. The switch to Michael Vick at quarterback, though, ultimately undermined his production. While Celek was on a season pace of 100 targets with Kevin Kolb at quarterback, he saw only 47 targets come his way in 10 Vick starts. And that number is misleading as Celek's action was quite inconsistent under Vick – in five games he totaled six targets, recording just two receptions. All told, Celek received 29 fewer targets (12 fewer in the red zone) than in 2009 and finished with 460 fewer receiving yards. The loss of red zone targets resulted in only four touchdowns after he scored eight the previous year. With much of the offense revolving around DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy, Vick might be slow to turn to Celek again this season.
At first glance, fantasy owners might be
wary about Celek’s prospects for this season
after Donovan McNabb was traded to
Washington. The Eagles will turn the offense
over to quarterback Kevin Kolb, who has two
career starts to his name. Unsettling as that
might be, Celek should be one of Kolb’s top
targets this season. Kolb relied heavily on Celek
in his two starts last season, targeting the tight
end 20 times, five of which came in the red
zone. And while two games is obviously a small
sample, Celek managed eight catches for 104
yards in each of those games. So, the odds are
excellent that Celek and Kolb will form a
Celek also was regularly employed near the
goal line last season with 24 red-zone targets,
third among NFL tight ends, and 14 targets
inside the 10, second best among TEs.
Moreover, Celek’s 971 receiving yards and
eight touchdowns were both good for top-five
among tight ends last season. He should be an
excellent option once the top few tight ends are
off the draft board.
With the loss of L.J. Smith, Celek is now the top tight end in Philadelphia. Smith leaves behind 64 targets, which when added to Celek's 38 shows good potential for 2009. Celek consistently improved and earned Donovan McNabb's trust as the season progressed. After finishing the regular season with 27 catches for 318 yards, he recorded 19 catches for 151 yards and three touchdowns during the Eagles' three postseason games. Celek will be one of the better sleepers heading into September at tight end.
Backup tight end. Underwent offseason shoulder surgery but is expected to be 100 percent for the 2008 season.
With L.J. Smith entering a contract year, Celek may be his eventual successor as Philadelphia's starting tight end. For 2007, he'll battle Matt Schobel for the backup role.