Very Deep Sleepers: Virgil Green (Broncos)
R.C. Fischer discusses deep sleeper candidate Virgil Green of the Broncos.
This piece is part of our article program that features quality content from experts exclusively at FantasyPros. For more insight from R.C. head to Fantasy Football Metrics.
Welcome to my fourth annual fantasy football article proclaiming Virgil Green as a ‘sweet’ sleeper for the upcoming fantasy season. Perhaps, the fourth time is a charm.
You have probably stumbled across a ‘Virgil Green sleeper’ article somewhere in your dynasty-fantasy travels in the last year or two. I probably wrote it. The 2015 season really looked promising, but once again…nothing. Another ‘Virgil Green sleeper’ article is more apt to put you to sleep than Virgil Green is to pay off as a fantasy sleeper for 2016 at this point. I get it. However, I think it’s important to keep Virgil Green on your radar for fantasy football 2016 for one very critical reason – a reason only a handful of NFL tight ends could have said about them…
Virgil Green is one of a handful of NFL tight ends who are so talented, that I could see any one of them finishing the 2016 season as the #1 fantasy scorer at the tight end position.
I’m not saying it will happen – I’m saying it could happen.
I have been scouting college and pro football players, in depth, for several years. Every time I watch Virgil Green get his hands on the ball in a preseason or regular-season game, I marvel at his physical skills, and the unique size-athleticism package he brings to the table. I also then lose my mind when I don’t see him get the ball but once or twice a game for the Broncos…if he’s lucky.
Derrick Henry wishes he had the speed-agility-power-vertical combination that Virgil Green has…and they are approximately the same-sized humans. Green is the superior athlete, between them, across the board.
Henry: 6′2.5″/247, 4.54 40-time, 7.20 three-cone, 22 bench reps, 37.0″ vertical
Green: 6′3.3″/249, 4.64 40-time, 6.90 three-cone, 23 bench reps, 42.5″ vertical
How the Denver Broncos do not give Virgil Green 5+ short passes out in space per game, and let him use his massive size and athleticism to barrel over defenders, especially defensive backs, is one of the most head-scratching things I could say about the NFL today.
It’s not like Virgil Green struggles catching the ball – he’s caught 80% of his targets in the regular season over his career (44 targets). I don’t need the numbers to back up what I’ve seen on tape – the guy can catch a football just fine. I’ve seen him do it time and time again in the preseason, and with the crumbs/targets he gets in the regular season. He’s a bigger, stronger, faster Jordan Reed – so why do the Broncos not use him as such?
Before Gary Kubiak, with John Fox, Virgil Green mainly served in the role of blocking tight end because of the emergence of Julius Thomas as the better pass-game weapon, and rightfully so. When Thomas left in free agency, and Gary Kubiak arrived in 2015, I thought for sure it was ‘Virgil Green time’. Of course, you let expensive Julius Thomas go when you have cheap, gifted Virgil Green in your back pocket. However, like a moth to a flame, Kubiak immediately added his old buddy, Owen Daniels, to run/work in his offense. Green was once again talented enough to be on the field as a blocking tight end who got a few targets here and there but never became the focus in a passing game.
So why would anything change for Green in 2016? They won a Super Bowl without featuring Green…so what do I know?
I think there are two events that could collide and potentially catapult/force Kubiak to expand Green’s role, and then once the world gets a load of a heavier targeted Virgil Green, there’ll be no turning back.
The first event that is set up favorably for Green in 2016 is the fact that the Broncos took another step backward in overall talent at the tight end position this offseason. Owen Daniels, Kubiak’s drug of choice, retired. That’s a huge barrier removed. Garrett Graham, former Owen Daniels understudy in Houston, was signed as a free agent by Denver this offseason, but he’s not as talented/experienced as Daniels was. I suspect Graham will get the Kubiak push, initially (July-August), but he’ll be easier for Green to topple for the main pass-game role than was Daniels. Second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman has no business as a feature pass-game tight end in the NFL. He was already too slow (4.8+ 40-time) to thrive in the pass game entering the NFL, and then he tore his ACL, forcing him to miss his entire 2015 rookie season. Heuerman is an easy target for Green to take out/put behind him on the depth chart during training camp. If Virgil Green does not push past Garrett Graham and Jeff Heuerman this season, then he’s never going to push past anybody for the main pass-game role in Denver… And it should be a sign of the coming apocalypse on earth.
The second factor I think that could give Virgil Green an extra push in 2016 is the fact that Jordan Reed had such a sensational season for Washington last year. The era of the bigger/taller/stiffer tight end profile that every team had to follow is dead/dying (a.k.a. Jeff Heuerman types). There’s no need to draft every 6′5″+/250+ tight end in the universe just because they can block well, and sneakily slip out over the middle and stand as a tall target to make a few ‘hey, look…they forgot about covering the tight end‘ catches per game. Now, shorter athletic tight ends are real weapons on purpose in the NFL; they are mismatches that confound traditional defenses. Jordan Reed and Delanie Walker, among others, are blazing the trail for non-Gronkowski/non-Graham tight end scouting profiles that every team has chased for years.
Virgil Green just needs a chance. We need him to have a game or two where he gets 5+ targets, makes 3–4+ catches, and shows that he’s not just capable, but he’s a next-level weapon to be dealt with…a guy Denver cannot just use 1–2 times a game, but a guy they can make a huge part of their offensive game plan – especially, if they’re rocking a limited starting quarterback like Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch. Virgil Green is a simple short pass away from turning it upfield and making magic out of nothing with his high-end talent…and making flimsy quarterbacks appear brilliant, in the box score.
It’s all sitting there for the taking in 2016, and if the Broncos take it – Virgil Green could be a top five tight end producer in fantasy. If you thought previously-ignored-by-his-team(s) Gary Barnidge was long overdue, Virgil Green is 10x the weapon Barnidge is.
…be sure to join me next year when I write my fifth annual ‘Virgil Green is a fantasy sleeper’ article.