The title says it all. Antonio Gates isn’t dead. So, why then, do we keep acting like the San Diego Chargers are planning on pushing his corpse out onto the field in 2014, just to let the younger, more athletic, better looking, cooler, faster, nicer, more popular and apparently in every possible way better Ladarius Green march out there and make the old, dead man look like a washed up tool?
Long winded run-on sentences aside, it’s because we’re preparing for fantasy football like a bunch of coked up nerds. We also salivate when we see big men who can run fast and jump. That describes Green, who is big, can run fast and also jumps. The problem? I don’t really buy the hype just yet.
I’ve been wrong about hype before. I remember saying once, “that Twilight shit, it’ll never work as a movie”. I was half right. Sure, it blew up and was an insanely popular trilogy or whatever horribleness you call a film like that broken up into a no reason for it at all four-way division of filth. Truly, it shouldn’t even have been a book. Damn that movie. Damn it to hell.
I’m not saying to damn Green. If Antonio Gates breaks his hip or loses his foot, obviously Green is going to be the second coming of something slightly less enticing than Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Heck, just to play it safe, we can probably just all agree he’d be, well, a younger Antonio Gates.
But Gates is here, and no, he’s not dead. In fact, San Diego beat writers still suggest he’s going to lead the Chargers’ tight ends in targets. And why not? Even at 34 years old, he’s still a big-bodied tight end with decent size, speed and strength for the position. Even in his near-corpse mode, he can still get it done over the middle of the field and in the red-zone. Sure, balls pop off his hands like he’s trying to catch a watermelon dipped in butter at times, but that’s just that ol’ bad hands Gates we’re seeing. That’s not age or sucktitude.
Even if it is, I think the numbers have bad a scorch misleading. The biggest deterrent to Gates all summer has been the fact that Gates averaged just three receptions and about 27 yards per game over the final four games of 2013, along with one piddly touchdown.
But does anyone bother to look at how much San Diego was throwing the ball during that span? Or how they were conducting their offense? Or how Ladarius Green fared? Like, at all?
Because when you do, you’ll find that Philip Rivers threw the ball more than 30 times just one time during those four games. The only time he did, he threw it 33 times and Gates caught a touchdown. One time he threw it just 20 times (12 completions), and out of those four games he only completed a high of 22 passes. Last time I checked, when you divide targets and receptions up between the likes of Gates, a rising Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews and even that glorious “he suddenly has the ability to fly and move mountains” Green, everyone can only do so much.
In fact, Green himself was active for all 16 games last year. Wanna know what he did during Gates’ four-game stretch of bottom feeding? Jack shit. The guy caught one pass for 22 yards and a touchdown in the season finale. And he caught an earth-shaking zero receptions in the other four games. I know what you’re thinking – “Well, Kevin, he was probably injured”. Perhaps he was dealing with something, but he was still on the field, as he drew a target in two of those three blank-filled contests.
The interim point? Why are we crucifying Gates for doing SOMETHING at the end of last year and praising Green for his mere upside?
Keenan Allen, the guy that caught a ton of touchdowns and overall went off as a rookie in 2013, caught just 13 total balls during San Diego’s final four regular season games last year. Gates caught, oh no, yes, 13, as well.
Danny Woodhead, the little elusive shit in San Diego’s backfield – he caught more passes than all of those guys. ALL OF THEM!
The end game? San Diego ran more in the final four games and the playoffs than they did earlier in the year, and they were a more balanced and efficient offense. Danny friggin’ Woodhead was their leading receiver, Ladarius Green didn’t do shit and Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen caught the same amount of passes.
It’s true that Gates is getting older and than Green is cooler, but Gates is still the starting tight end. While he ended the year slow, he still finished as fantasy’s 9th best tight end. Take away that mini slide to end the year due to a more conservative, spread out offense, and Gates actually was a little more impressive than people think.
Should you draft him as your TE1 and throw caution to the wind? Probably not. But you shouldn’t go blindly into 2014 just crossing your fingers that Ladarius Green is going to randomly murder him and take the starting job, either. Gates is still alive. Draft accordingly.
*Photo Credit – Nathan Rupert via Flickr.