2009 Tight End Rankings

With TO out of town, Jason Witten has the opportunity to put up amazing numbers.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the fourth installment of the series, we look at tight ends.

I put up my original rankings about a month ago, but now it's time to fine tune the list with information learned at camps and in exhibition games (Note: I only watch preseason football for injuries - there is nothing to be learned from watching a quarterback throw against fourth-string defensive backs who likely will be cut before September 8th).

1) Jason Witten, Dallas - With Terrell Owens shuffled off to Buffalo, Witten has the opportunity to put up amazing numbers. He finished last year a distant second to Tony Gonzalez in fantasy points (212-153), but with Gonzalez traded to a run-first offense and TO gone, Witten should take over the top spot. It appears that fantasy owners agree as Witten's RapidDraft ADP is 53.1 to 64.2 for Gonzalez.

2) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta - Gonzalez was amazing in the Chiefs' "Pistol" offense last year, hauling in 96 balls for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now he is in Atlanta with a talented second-year quarterback in Matt Ryan, but the Falcons threw the ball 434 times last year to Kansas City's 541 attempts. His numbers will drop, but not so far as to make him a bad selection. As noted above, he's going in the early sixth round.

3) Antonio Gates, San Diego - Gates struggled with injuries for most of 2008 and still finished fourth in tight end fantasy points with 121. His quarterback, Philip Rivers is starting to blossom into a star and Gates is healthy again. Just recently he said, "I cannot wait for this season to start because think I am going to be at my best ever. I really believe that." Sounds like he'll be a bargain with a RapidDraft ADP of 67.4

4) Dallas Clark, Indianapolis - Clark's reception total has jumped from 30-to-58-to-77 over the past three seasons as he has become Peyton Manning's "go-to guy" when he needs a big catch. He's being drafted in the seventh round (RapidDraft ADP 77.8) making him a likely solid bargain this year.

5) Chris Cooley, Washington - Cooley doesn't get the fantasy respect he deserves. His RapidDraft ADP is 100.4, yet he finished 2008 No.6 in fantasy points after an 83-catch, 849-yard season. His TD total was off last season (one TD catch) after averaging 6.75 over the previous four, but if that number returns to normal, he'll also be a bargain selection.

6) Owen Daniels, Houston - Daniels finished 2008, third in yards receiving by a tight end, but just two TDs, hindered his fantasy value. Like Cooley, he's holding around an ADP of 100. If quarterback Matt Schaub can stay healthy for a full season, Daniels might shoot up into "elite" range.

7) Greg Olsen, Chicago - Olsen was 10th in TE receptions and 12th in yards while hauling in Kyle Orton "floaters." Now that the Bears have traded for Jay Cutler, Olsen's numbers should increase across the board. With the questionable outside receivers in Chicago (Devin Hester and talented but untested Earl Bennett), Olsen should end up being Cutler's favorite target, particularly in the red zone. An ADP of 105.6 is too low and he'll be a solid bargain in 2009.

8) Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay - Winslow, like the rest of the Cleveland Browns offense disappointed fantasy owners in 2008. He was the No.3 TE selection last year (ADP 51.54) and finished 16th in fantasy points. He's gone from the Browns and will be doing his work in Tampa Bay this season. With an unsettled quarterback situation, it's going to be hard to rely on Winslow until after you see him play. His current RapidDraft ADP is ahead of both Cooley and Daniels, setting owners up for another year of disappointment.

9) John Carlson, Seattle - Rookie John Carlson put up pretty good numbers last season (55-627-5), primarily because he was the only Seahawks receiver of any kind not injured. This season, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has newcomer T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and a healthy Nate Burleson and Deion Branch (at least as of this writing) so Carlson's numbers could go down.

10) Dustin Keller, New York Jets - Keller, like Carlson a rookie in 2008, put up solid numbers in New York with Brett Favre. But the Hall-of-Fame-to-be quarterback is now in Minnesota and Keller will be working with rookie QB Mark Sanchez. It remains to be seen whether he likes throwing to tight ends as much as Favre did. However, his ADP of 124.9 means it won't be a huge gamble if you pick him in the 11th round.

11) Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota - As previously noted, Favre loves to throw to his tight ends. Over his brilliant career, Favre has thrown 464 TD passes, 93 to his tight ends (20%). Shiancoe only caught 42 balls last season, but seven were of the touchdown variety which helped him finish seventh in TE fantasy points. That kind of percentage should continue under a Favre-led offense and his RapidDraft ADP of 178.8 will make him a late-round bargain.

12) Bo Scaife, Tennessee - Scaife got off to a big start in 2008 with 105 yards on six catches in the season opener. Unfortunately, he couldn't match that over the next 15 games where his top receiving total was just 78 yards. In the run-oriented Titans' offense he has limited upside making him a borderline fantasy starter.

13) Brent Celek, Philadelphia - The Eagles has always like to throw to their tight ends near the goal line and with L.J. Smith out of the picture, Celek could become a solid red zone scorer. He showed against Seattle in Week 9 last year that he can put up solid numbers, collecting six balls for 131 yards. Celek was going to have competition from Cornelius Ingram out of Florida, but the rookie is out for the season with a torn ACL.

14) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh - In a better aerial attack, Miller would probably be a fantasy starter. He has the tools, but in Pittsburgh where it's always run-first he's at best the No.3 receiving option behind Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. He's a great blocker too, but that doesn't have any value in fantasy football, so like his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he's a better "real life' player than fantasy player.

15) Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans - Shockey has the talent and the offense to put up big numbers, but he always seems to disappoint fantasy owners. When he was in New York with the Giants, you kept waiting for him to step up to the "elite level" after a 74-catch, 894-yard rookie season, but it never happened. I don't think it ever will despite a quarterback who will throw for more than 4,500 yards this year. His RapidDraft ADP of 153.4 says fantasy owners are tired of that disappointment and have moved on.

16) Todd Heap, Baltimore - Heap is an example of a supremely talented player who because of injury will never reach the goals he could have. He had just 35 catches for 403 yards and three scores last season. which is about half of what you could expect from him had he been healthy.

17) Zach Miller, Oakland - Miller has a lot of talent and in the right system with the right quarterback he could be a solid fantasy starter. Unfortunately, he's in Oakland and JaMarcus Russell is the starting quarterback. He will consistently get you 3-5 catches for 50 yards, but he could be so much better.

18) Tony Scheffler, Denver - Scheffler was a reliable tight end for Jay Cutler even while splitting time with Daniel Graham. Together they combined for 73 receptions, 1,034 yards and seven scores. Too bad you can't use they're combined statistics. Individually they aren't worthy of a start.

19) Anthony Fasano, Miami - Fasano set career highs in receptions (34), yards (454) and touchdowns (7). That was enough to put him 12th in fantasy points - a borderline starter. I'm not convinced that he can repeat those numbers which is why he sits at No.19.

20) Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville - Lewis was a talented receiver in an offense which doesn't use him enough in 2008. Now they have brought in Torry Holt and he'll see even less action which explains his RapidDraft ADP of 241.1.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.
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