The first installment of the PFF Fantasy staff’s top 101 players for the 2016 season has just been released, and one of several players causing the division between our rankers is new Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. Green came in 86th on our top 101, and as the highest on him (I ranked him 52nd), it’s fallen on my shoulders to present the case for being aggressive and taking Green earlier than suggested on draft day.
Green was a one of the higher-profile free agency signing this offseason, finding his new home in Pittsburgh on a four-year, $20 million deal as the replacement for the retired Heath Miller. Miller ends his Steelers career as their leader in touchdowns (45) and catches (592) as a tight end, and will undoubtedly be a tough act to follow. Over the span of his nine-year career, all spent with the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, Miller averaged 62.3 catches a season (82.8 targets) for an average of 635 yards and 3.8 touchdowns, with highs of 98 targets (2014), 76 catches (2009), 816 yards (2012) and eight touchdowns (2012). It’s this production and consistency that has me predicting good things for the former Charger.
Green spent the first four years of his career in San Diego, sitting behind one of the league’s greatest-ever tight ends in Antonio Gates, which kept his playing time to a minimum — in 2013 and 2014, Green only got on the field for around one-third of offensive snaps. Last year, an early suspension and subsequent injury for Gates saw him suit up for just 114 snaps over the first seven games, allowing Green to see some significant playing time. During that seven-game stretch Green ranked as the sixth-highest-scoring fantasy tight end (despite missing Week 3) thanks to averaging more than 50 yards a game and catching three touchdowns, finally showing a glimpse of the production that was hoped for when the 6’6, 240-pound speedster entered the NFL.