Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Yesterday we took a look at the quarterback position, today it's the tight ends' turn.
1) Antonio Gates, SD - Gates is the best tight end in football...when healthy. He played just 10 games last year, but still posted 50 catches for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns. While rumors have his foot still below 100 percent, Gates said "he would play if there was a game this week." That's good enough for me.
2) Dallas Clark, IND - Clark is very good, but his injury replacement, Jacob Tamme, showed that it's the guy throwing the ball that makes the Indianapolis Colts tight end position so valuable. Together the two combined for 104 receptions, 978 yards and seven touchdowns. As long as Peyton Manning is healthy, Clark will be a fantasy stud.
3) Vernon Davis, SF - The 49ers' Davis was limited by his team's inconsistent quarterback situation. The combination of Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr threw for just 19 TDs and 3,613 yards against 15 INTs. They posted a 79.4 quarterback rating as a team. Given those statistics, it's pretty impressive that Davis caught 56 balls for 914 yards and seven scores. Until rookie Colin Kaepernick is ready, Davis will not reach his full potential, but he's still going to post solid numbers.
4) Jason Witten, DAL - The only thing holding Witten back from a "monster" season is the high quality of the other receivers on the Cowboys roster. With talented Miles Austin and Dez Bryant at wideout, quarterback Tony Romo will "share the wealth" among all receivers. Witten's numbers were very good last season (94-1,002-9) because backup quarterback Jon Kitna preferred the short pass over the long bomb. Romo is back and healthy.
5) Jermichael Finley, GB - Finley was just coming into his own when a knee injury ended his season after just five games. He had caught 21 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown when he went down. If we extrapolate those numbers to a full 16-game schedule were estimating 67 receptions for 963 yards and three touchdowns. He'll score more than three touchdowns this year.
6) Tony Gonzalez, ATL - On the downside of a Hall-of-Fame career, Gonzalez still caught 70 balls for 656 yards and six touchdowns. The addition of highly-touted rookie receiver Julio Jones won't hurt Gonzalez's totals, it will actually give him more room to maneuver as defenses will have to use their manpower elsewhere and leave Gonzalez one-on-one. I'm thinking 80 receptions, 800 yards and eight touchdown catches.
7) Rob Gronkowski, NE - Gronkowski quickly became Tom Brady's favorite goal- line target, collecting 10 touchdown passes among his 42 receptions in his rookie season. He'll again be high on the list of total touchdowns for a tight end in 2011, but his yardage total will suffer from Brady spreading his throws among Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez.
8) Kellen Winslow, TB - Winslow may never reach the height we saw when he was in Cleveland in 2007, but he's one of Josh Freeman's favorite receivers. Injuries, always his downfall, hurt him again last season as he started just 11 games. Still, he produced 66 receptions for 730 yards and five scores. For the first time in recent memory, he didn't need off-season surgery...maybe 2011 is going to be his year to shine.
9) Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN - Shiancoe became a household name when teamed with Brett Favre (56-566-11 in 2009), but his touchdown total fell dramatically last season with the inconsistent Vikings' quarterback play. New quarterback Donovan McNabb likes throwing to his tight end, particularly in the red zone, so Shiancoe's TD should rebound.
10) Marcedes Lewis, JAC - Lewis finally blossomed into a receiving threat in 2010 after four mediocre seasons. He posted 58 receptions for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. With the team losing Mike Sims-Walker to the Rams in free agency, Lewis will need to play a huge role in the Jaguars' passing game in 2011.
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