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Cullen: Titans' Cook has value at new marquee position

Scott Cullen
8/16/2012 12:08:07 PM
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Tight end has, somewhat surprisingly, become a new glamour position in the NFL, thanks to the emergence of Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and other athletic pass-catchers at the position. Even with its increasing profile, however, there could be value to be found in a lesser-known that could be primed for productive season.

Jared Cook has played three years for the Tennessee Titans, reaching career highs with 49 catches for 759 yards last season, totals that took off when he caught 21 passes for 335 yards in the last three weeks of the season.

It may not be easy to surpass 759 yards receiving, which was good enough to rank 14th among tight ends last season, but Cook should have a shot at it.

For one thing, in Weeks 13 and 14, Cook was targeted for a total of two passes, resulting in zero catches, an unusual stretch that preceded his also unusual finish to the season.

While the Titans passing game could receive significant contributions from wide receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and first-round pick Kendall Wright, none of whom is established as a dominant target in the passing game to the point that Cook would be overlooked.

In Britt's case, injuries and off-field issues remain problems for him, making him wholly unreliable.

In Washington's case, he rose to the challenge last year, surpassing 1,000 yards receiving for the first time, but it was the first year that he had surpassed 700 yards in a season, so his production could easily slide.

Wright has promise, after catching 108 passes for 1663 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior at Baylor, and he may be the starter opposite Washington, but even a solid rookie season from Wright shouldn't obscure the value that the Titans have at tight end.

This leaves 25-year-old Cook with an opportunity to build on his 2011 season, when he averaged 15.5 yards per catch, good enough for second among tight ends.

Certainly, it's possible that Cook won't take another step forward this year -- perhaps needing time to develop chemistry with young quarterback Jake Locker -- but when the best tight ends are off the board early, Cook will remain, with the potential to push for 1000 yards and half a dozen touchdowns if the Titans are prepared to make him a significant target in the passing game.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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