With the departure of Tony Gonzalez, the Kansas City Chiefs now focus their attention on 2008 3rd round pick Brad Cottam out of the University of Tennessee. Taking a peek at Cottam's resume, there's no way the Chiefs can expect him to put up a fraction of the numbers Gonzalez did for the Chiefs.
Competing with Cottam will be Sean Ryan and newly signed Tony Curtis.
Curtis is a former Dallas Cowboy (Haley Connection) playing for both Todd Haley and Bill Parcells. He also spent time in NFL Europe in 2007. At 6'5", 265 pounds, Curtis seems likely to compete with Ryan in a reserve role as a blocking tight end.
Cottam may be the most likely to "replace" Gonzalez, but he will never come close to his production level, even in a down year.
Let me put it this way. In Gonzalez's final season at Cal, he caught 92 balls for 985 yards and 23 touchdowns. Yes, 23 touchdowns means Gonzalez's average touchdown catches in a game his senior season was nearly double Cottam's career touchdowns.
Put it another way. Cottam's best season with the Volunteers was an excellent game for Gonzalez at Cal.
Do I think Cottam is the answer? Nope. Do I think that matters? Not as much as you'd think.
Take a look at Scott Pioli and Todd Haley's career with tight ends (let me give you a hint - there's not much there). Maybe they don't need a pass catching tight end or don't want one but for whatever reason they've both excelled without one.
As far as the draft is concerned, the only tight ends we've come across as being of interest to the Chiefs are TE Anthony Hill (NC State, Rd. 5-6), TE Richard Quinn (North Carolina, Rd. 5), TE Darius Hill (Ball St. Rd. 7) and TE Chase Coffman (MU, Rd. 2-3). With the exception of Coffman, who visited with the Chiefs during the Pro Day for local KC area players, the Chiefs haven't been looking very high in the draft for tight ends. The team did scout top rated tight end Branden Pettigrew from Oklahoma St. during the 2008 season but that was pre-Pioli era of course.
Recently acquired Sean Ryan figures to take on the role as a blocking tight end. He's 6'5" and 254 pounds. Having been signed in the last wave of free agency, don't expect anything out of him (even as a blocker). This would place Cottam in the featured receiving role.
Similar to the folks in the group that say the Chiefs shouldn't draft Aaron Curry as a pass rusher because he's never rushed the passer (even though he wasn't asked to at Wake), Cottam didn't get much of an opportunity to catch balls, which relegated him to a blocking role.
It's been huge for me, because after missing a lot of my senior year, teams mainly had to evaluate my potential. Early in the season I was primarily a blocking tight end and I wasn't going out on many routes. But as we went along and changed the offense a little bit, I started running a lot more routes and getting the ball little bit.
So, we're not sure if Cottam's the guy and we're not even sure if we need a receiving threat from the tight end. And we won't know that until the Chiefs step onto the field for the first time as a team. Here's what Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star had to say about not addressing the tight end in the 2009 draft:
If that's a mistake, the Chiefs can set about to fixing that next year. Let the Chiefs worry about the spots they know are problems now.
I can agree with that. Let Cottam get the chance to play and see if he can produce. Ultimately, however, I think the Chiefs will have to look at tight ends if they expect to get anything more out of Cottam. He's not a receiving threat. He hasn't proved it. Are we really ready to place our faith in a guy that has 21 receptions in four years and some injury issues?