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Weekly Fantasy Football Focus: Who and Who Not to Draft for Tight End!



The first in our weekly fantasy football articles will begin with player rankings at each position. We’ll be starting this week with tight ends, then moving on to wide receivers, running backs, and finally quarterbacks.


 The tight end position is an important, if often overlooked, fantasy position. Getting a top tier tight end can be like having 4 strong wide receivers on your time. On the same token, because so few teams highlight the tight end in their offense, top flight tight ends are very hard to come by. This situation tends to cause some fantasy owners to reach as high as the third round for the top tight ends. While a risk like this may end up paying off, it’s generally better to wait until you’ve filled both of your running back positions, the quarterback, and at least one wide receiver before snagging your tight end. Now, on to the rankings:


1. Vernon Davis, SF: Clearly Mike Singletary found a way to get through to Davis last year. Many were already labeling Davis an immature bust prior to last season. However, Davis came through in a big way last year, catching 6 touchdowns in his first 6 games, and finishing the year with an eye-popping 13 scores. Many won’t rank Davis this high, worrying that he could be a one year wonder. I’m clearly not worried about that, with Davis’ combination of exceptional athletic ability and size I only expect him to continue at his last year’s level of production.


2. Dallas Clark, IND: Clark is Mr. Consistency. He’s always going to get his looks, and with his sure hands you can bet he’ll hang on to most of those targets. Then there’s his quarterback, I don’t think I even need to discuss that advantage. Clark is the closest guy you’ll find a sure thing for AT LEAST 900 yards and 7 scores if he stays healthy. However, that is the biggest “if” with Clark. He has a habit of getting dinged up throughout the year, and can be a nightmare for an owner watching the injury lists all week.


3. Antonio Gates, SD: In 2009 Antonio Gates was finally healthy again and looked like his old self, and all was right with the fantasy world. OK, that may have been a tad hyperbolic, but Gates had been frustrating fantasy owners for nearly 3 years prior to 2009 with his inability to stay completely healthy, and the decreased production that goes with that. I’m betting on Gates staying healthy again this season and putting up similar numbers to 2009.


4. Brent Celek, PHI: The brother of Spartan TE, Garrett Celek, finds his way into the elite tight ends this season. Last year many considered him a deep sleeper pick, and he made those owners look like absolute geniuses with 971 yards and 8 scores. It’s possible that Donovan McNabb leaving Philly could hurt Celek’s production, but I have a feeling that Kevin Kolb can handle the reigns and will keep Celek a viable fantasy tight end.


5. Tony Gonzalez, ATL: It kind of feels odd to see Gonzo this low on the TE rankings, doesn’t it? But it had to happen eventually, age is catching up with one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the game. Last year Gonzo started out the season fairly strong, but in the last 4 weeks of the year (read: the fantasy playoffs) he couldn’t get above 50 yards in any one game. I have a feeling that was Gonzo finally showing his age and wearing down near the end of a long season. Also, he didn’t show the “big game” ability he has in the past and eclipsed 100 yards 0 times last season. He’s still a good option, but handle with care and watch out for the “old guy wall” late in the year.


6. Jermichael Finley, GB: Finley is not an elite tight end...yet. However, Finley has the ability to vault himself into the class of elite tight ends. Finley has great leaping ability, amazing size, and solid hands. The main issue with Finley is going to be his head. In his first year, he called out quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a dropped ball in the end-zone that was clearly Finley’s fault. However, last year Finley said, and did, all the right things on his way to becoming the Packer’s starting tight end. As he showed late in the season he has big-play ability. The question will be if he can harness that ability and become a top tight end.


7. Kellen Winslow, TB: I rate Winslow a bit higher than most other fantasy prognosticators. I thought that Josh Freeman showed some flashes last season as Tampa’s quarterback, and let’s face it, that receiving corps is bad enough that Winslow is really the only viable target for him to throw to. I understand that many owners will be wary picking Winslow, he’s burned us before with injuries, but the talent is there and he should be starting in most fantasy leagues.


8. Jason Witten, DAL: A few years ago, Witten would have been much higher on this list. But now, he’s lost a quarter of a step, and the wide receivers around him are vastly improved. These factors combined to mean fewer red-zone targets for Witten, and only 2 touchdowns. If this changes Witten could rocket up this list, but I think it’s the safe bet to take him only after the stud tight ends have come off the board.

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9. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN: If Brett Favre doesn’t come back, drop him a few spots. But I think we all know the old man will be back for (at least) one more run at the Super Bowl, so Shiancoe is a safe bet for plenty of red-zone targets and probably about 8 touchdowns. Shiancoe would be much higher if he saw more targets outside of the red-zone, but the Vikes have plenty of good receivers, so he’s going to depend on touchdowns to be truly effective. A boom or bust type of guy in fantasy terms, so make sure you’ve at least filled 2 WR slots before you pick him.


10. Owen Daniels, HOU: Daniels missed a large portion of last season with an ACL tear. Prior to that point Daniels was extremely productive, with 5 touchdowns in only 9 games. He could repeat this production, but an ACL injury is difficult to return from 100%, and this could harm his production throughout the season. The talent is certainly there, and if Daniels is completely back he could be a great sleeper pick.


11. Chris Cooley, WAS: Another talented guy with a huge injury question mark above his head. Cooley played only 7 games last year, and was just OK during those games. Cooley has always been a lower-tier fantasy starter, and it looks like he’ll continue that trend. If he comes back healthy he’ll get some looks, but won’t overly impress. However, keep in mind that Donovan McNabb does have a habit of checking down to his tight ends, so this could mean more targets for Cooley. Despite that fact, I don’t see him getting more than 700 yards and 5 scores. Solid production, but nothing that warrants a high pick.


12. Heath Miller, PIT: Miller had a career year in 2009, which was mildly surprising after the issues he had (mostly due to injury) in 2008.  He’s a major red-zone target for the Steelers, and that should continue in 2010, especially after the departure of Santonio Holmes. However, you never know what is going to happen when a quarterback is out, and not having Big Ben for the first 4 weeks could severely hamper the entire Steelers’ offense. This drops Miller out of the top 10, but he should probably still be starting in most leagues.


13. Zach Miller, OAK: This guy produced pretty well with the disaster that was the Oakland quarterback situation last year. New Raider quarterback, Jason Campbell, while not an all-pro, is solid enough to check down to Miller often enough to make him a capable fantasy tight end. Miller is extremely talented, and it’s just a shame that he plays for the Raiders. If he played for even a mediocre offense, he’s probably be ranked as high as 6 or 7. But he’s in Oakland, so don’t expect anything too spectacular from Miller.


14. John Carlson, SEA: Carlson looked great in his first game of last year, but slid quite a bit for the rest of the year. The Seahawks were just pitiful last year, and Matt Hasselbeck looks like he’s pretty much done. One of Carlson’s biggest drawbacks is actually the horrific offensive line of the Seahawks. He was asked to stay in and block far more than the team would have liked last year, and that cut into his production. If the Seahawks offensive line improves, which I think it will at least somewhat, Carlson will be a good bye-week option, and a lower tier starter.


15. Dustin Keller, NYJ: Keller is exactly what you want in a sleeper. Great talent, good size, and plays in an offense that should score quite a few points. While I’m not completely sold on Mark Sanchez as a franchise quarterback, I think he can at least handle tossing the ball to Keller in the red-zone. However, with the acquisition of Santonio Holmes the Jets may use more multiple WR sets which could keep Keller off the field. Take him only as a back up with great sleeper potential.




-Greg Olsen: Olsen is ridiculously talented, but sadly he plays in a Mike Martz offense. As any Lions fan knows, Martz doesn’t exactly like to use his tight ends as anything but blockers. Sure, maybe Martz will change his ways, but I sincerely doubt it. Somebody will take Olsen as a starter, and be complaining the whole year that he isn’t being targeted. If he gets traded take him off this list and insert him as a Top 10 TE.


-Jeremy Shockey: Injury prone + great receivers around him + undeserved hype = Don’t draft this guy, seriously.


-Bo Scaife: If you like reasonably talented guys who never score touchdowns, go ahead and take this perennial disappointment. If you prefer to win, try to steer clear.