Very Deep Sleeper: Dan Arnold (Fantasy Football)

Aug 16, 2018

Drew Brees always makes his tight end fantasy relevant

R.C. Fischer discusses deep sleeper candidate, Saints tight end Dan Arnold in Season 3 of his Very Deep Sleeper series for FantasyPros.

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Quick…who’s the starting tight end for the New Orleans Saints right now? For whatever reason, when that question is pondered – why does Jimmy Graham first pop into our heads like the StayPuft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters? How many years has it been, and it still feels like he’s the eternal Saints starting tight end (as Gronk and Antonio Gates feel that way for their respective teams).

After you kick Jimmy Graham thoughts out of your head, you’ll eventually go through the mental rolodex and re-remember, “Oh, yeah – Ben Watson…I think. He’s still in the league, right?” Yes, it is 13-season veteran Ben Watson, the soon-to-be-38-year-old tight end.

You’re not fantasy-excited by this news?

How about your fantasy-enthusiasm for Watson’s listed backup, Josh Hill? Nuthin?

3rd-stringer Garrett Graham float your boat? Crickets…

You’ve seen some blurbs that the Saints ‘really like this kid‘ (the four worst words in the football lexicon), rookie tight end Deon Yelder. He sounds like he might be good. Deon Yelder is a better stage name than his fellow 4th-string tight end Dan Arnold. Dan Arnold is that helpful guy at Home Depot, not a fantasy tight end to consider…amiright?

Maybe Dan Arnold’s resume will change your perception of him and the Saints’ tight end situation? Dan Arnold’s resume:

— 65 catches, 1,176 yards, and 16 TDs in his senior season (2016). That’s pretty impressive in 11 games, but doing it at Wisconsin-Platteville takes some of the luster off it. 921 yards and 12 TDs in 10 games his junior year is pretty high-end as well.

— How about noting that he’s 6′5″? That’s legit. However, he weighed 222 pounds at his Pro Day. That’s nice height/reach but not a great NFL tight end size/bulk.

— Oh, and he wasn’t a tight end in college – he was a wide receiver. He’s converting to tight end in the NFL. That piques some interest, right? We all love WR-to-TE conversion stories in fantasyland.

— “But is he athletic?” you ask… 4.63 40-time with a pretty nice 1.60 10-yard split as his 2017 Pro Day. Oh, and a 6.81 three-cone – those of you into analytics and/or SPARQ are getting your engines revving a little now. 6′5″ and a 6.81 three-cone…now, you’re a little more dialed in. Would you also enjoy a 39.5″ vertical? Yes, you would, from a 6′5″ tight end.

Is he athletic?‘ was your question. How about noting that he was an All-American hurdler in college for the track team and was 6th in the nationals in his division in the hurdles competition, and set school records in various hurdle events? Doing all that for the track team while performing at a high level on the football field – the 2017 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Arnold was an undrafted free agent signee of the Saints in 2017 and was shuffled onto the (protective) I.R. for the season. He’s been developing ‘under wraps’ for a year+ with the Saints’ staff. He also took up eating during his conversion. You were worried about his 6′5″/222 frame being too slight? He’s now transformed his body into the 235-240 pound range this season.

Today, Arnold stands 6′5″/235+ with above-average straight-line speed among NFL tight ends and high-end agility times. He’s also one of the best vertical leapers of any NFL tight end (via pre-Draft measurables). He has ‘all the tools’. The tools may have your attention, but that doesn’t mean he can ‘play’. We’ll get to that.

Let’s assume he’s a decent receiver, a former high-end college wide receiver turned tight end with way above average athleticism, as measured, among NFL tight ends – that’s the profile of a starting NFL tight end, no? He’d be a top 100-150 overall draft prospect if he went to a D1 school and tested with the Pro Day numbers he did.

If he is a legit ‘sleeper’ tight end in development, and he starts to ‘flash’ this preseason – don’t you think he has a great (weak competition) depth chart to climb the ladder quickly on in New Orleans? He’s potentially a Ben Watson, again, the soon-to-be-38-year-old Ben Watson, injury/breakdown away from being the Saints’ most potent receiving threat at tight end, a mismatch nightmare, a weapon.

You know the Saints’ tight end depth chart looks vulnerable to a quick rise by Arnold – but can he play? I could try to tell you, or I can show you some of his work and let you decide how you would evaluate this (on tape) ability to the pro level with his higher-end athleticism and body transformation. He looked pretty solid in his Week 1 preseason work last week.

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