|Dynasty Tight End Rankings|
|Written by Jay Charles Johnson, Assoc. Editor|
|Tuesday, 26 May 2009 03:19|
Copyright © 2009 Jay Charles Johnson, all rights reserved
This article on the TE position will complete my initial Dynasty rankings for the 2009 season. Rankings are based on leagues with standard scoring that do not award additional points for receptions.
Below are my top 30 TEs ranked as I would pick them in a startup Dynasty league. Players are listed in tiers of roughly equal value, with the age the player turns this year in parenthesis. Rookies are designated by an asterisk after their name.
1 - Jason Witten (27)
It is very close between the Top 3, but Witten gets the nod over the other two due to age (over Gonzo) and injury concerns (over Gates).
Terrell Owens is now with Bills and there are lingering doubts whether Roy Williams has what it takes to step into his shoes. Adding to that, there are no other established receiving threats on the team.
With the muddled WR situation, it stands to reason that Witten will not only match his 2008 numbers of 81 catches for 952 yards and 4 TDs, but should probably exceed them. The only concern is the presence of TE Martellus Bennett, who, while only having 20 receptions last year, 4 of those were for TDs and arguably were at Witten’s expense.
Was Witten used occasionally as a decoy and if so, should we expect that to continue this year? It is hard to say if this suggests a continuing trend or was an experiment that will not be repeated (defenses would certainly adjust to the threat of using Bennett in the red zone).
At this point, Bennett’s presence is not serious enough to merit downgrading Witten, however it is a factor that has to mentioned in this discussion.
2 - Tony Gonzalez (33)
Tight Ends don’t have the shelf life of WRs, so I never thought that I would rank a 33 year old in the # 2 slot - but then again, Tony G. has never been your typical TE. He has not only outlasted most of his contemporaries but continues to perform at a high level.
Gonzalez has yet to show the effects of age. Talk about an iron man - he again did not miss a single game in 2008 because of injury and in 12 years in the league has only missed 2 games out of 190 starts.
2008 was not a career year statistically, but his 96 catches for 1058 yards and 10 TDs ranks among his three best. As far as longevity is concerned, perhaps he will be the Jerry Rice of TEs, who kept putting up top numbers well past the age (in theory) he should have.
Gonzalez does has a new offense to learn, but outside of Roddy White, the Falcons don’t have anyone else much to throw to. Gonzalez should be a key element in helping Ryan progress further in his sophomore season.
3 - Antonio Gates (28)
Gates did start all 16 games last year but lingering effects of off-season foot surgery and a subsequent high ankle sprain made 2008 an injury plagued season. Compared to expectations, his stats were disappointing with 60 catches for 778 yards and 8 TDs
It is still unclear if he is going to be 100% going into 2009. I find it a little disturbing that he did not participate in the Charger’s first mini-camp with the official reason given as a “toe” issue (although Bill Williamson of ESPN attributed it to a precaution due to the high ankle sprain).
My concern is that I would have expected these injuries to have been completely healed by this time and the fact that they haven’t would give me a slight pause in selecting Gates as my starting TE.
However, Gates is still Gates and was amazingly productive given that the injuries certainly limited him but also must have also made playing extremely painful. Gates himself has been quoted as saying “I don’t know how I got through last season.”
The good news is that Gates is such a tough guy, that even if these injuries linger into 2009, his stats shouldn’t be any worse than last year - which were good enough for him to finish in the Top 4 in every league.
The bad news is that there may be no improvement over last year’s numbers and if the toe problems continue to plague him, what he saw last year may also represent his ceiling as a Fantasy player. Weigh everything carefully before selecting him in your draft.
4 - Kellen Winslow (26)
His owners will always have to worry about his knees, which in the past two years not only made him a regular on the weekly injury report, but severely limited his practice time as well. These ongoing injury concerns, plus his only starting 10 of 16 games in 2008, caused him to drop from the top tier.
Assuming his body can hold together for an entire season, his prospects look good for some solid numbers with his new home in Tampa Bay. I don’t see the unsettled QB situation working against him, as his pass catching ability should help ease a transition period for whoever is the signal caller, either Leftwich or Freeman.
5 - Greg Olsen (24)
When Olsen was drafted in 2007 he was considered one of the top TE prospects to have come along in years. Unfortunately, his potential was limited by being chosen by the Bears and he has significantly underachieved on this team (not surprising with the likes of Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman throwing the ball).
Obviously, the arrival of Jay Cutler changes things considerably – the only question being how much Olsen will benefit from working with a top NFL QB?
If Cutler adds 150 yards and 3TDs to Olsen’s numbers from last year that would put him at 825 yards and 8 TDs, enough to finish in the Top 5. However, it is all speculation as to which receiving option Cutler will favor – a good argument could be made for Olsen, but it could just as easily be Hester, Bennett or one of the rookies.
6 - Owen Daniels (27)
Owens is a yardage beast (768 yards in 08) who could have Top 5 upside, providing he can increase his TD production (he has been averaging about 3 TDs a year).
It was a very encouraging sign that for the second year in a row the Texans did not address the WR position either in free agency or the draft. This means that Daniels should remain the de facto # 2 receiver on the team, providing that Kevin Walter’s does not suddenly have an increased role in the passing game (an unlikely possibility).
7 - Dallas Clark (30)
He was the # 2 receiver for the Colts in 2008, but there are several things that suggest that his catches and yardage (77 for 848 yards) may represent a career year that he will not be able to duplicate.
To begin with, recall that Peyton Manning missed a lot of reps in preseason with his receivers, due to a slow recovery from the bursa sac injury he had surgery on. The precision timing was thrown off and it stands to reason that the WRs would be more affected, rather than Clark, who as outlet receiver would be targeted on the shorter underneath throws.
Secondly, the running game was is disarray, as it became apparent to everyone that Joseph Addai is simply not an every down back. When a team can’t run, they have to pass and usually it is the TE that picks up the slack.
Third, age caught up with Marvin Harrison and the torch didn’t pass to Anthony Gonzalez, as he simply wasn’t ready to step into Harrison’s shoes. Again, this was another void filled by Clark.
So, Manning should have the entire off-season to work with his WRs. Donald Brown was drafted in the first round, which means that the Colts should again have a sold running game. Hopefully, Gonzalez will take the next step forward that most believe he will do. All of this taken together suggests Clark should not replicate his 2008 numbers.
8 - Chris Cooley (27)
Every year I seem to say that Cooley’s prior year’s production was by default because he was the only viable receiving threat outside of Santana Moss. Well, guess what? He still is the only viable receiving threat outside of Moss.
Inexplicably, the Redskins were not able to work out a deal with any of the free agents who were available and also neglected to address the WR position in the draft. That means that unless second year players Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly step up, it will be the Moss and Cooley show once again.
It has to be noted that while Cooley gets receptions and yardage (83 catches for 849 yards last year) his TD production was terrible in 08 with his only one visit to the end zone. He averaged 7 TDs over the prior two years, so I would tend to think that last season was an anomaly, rather than a preview of things to come.
9 - Dustin Keller (25)
Coles is gone, but somehow the Jets neglected to get an adequate replacement in either free agency or the draft. That means that by default the # 2 receiving target should be Keller.
To make things even better, the old adage is a TE is the best friend for a rookie QB, so if Sanchez is handled the reins early in the season, he should look to Keller early and often.
10 - Zach Miller (24)
Miller seemed to be developing a good rapport with Jamarcus Russell, but the extent to which that carries over into the new season remains to be seen. There are many question marks about the Raiders offense that making any type of long term projections about Miller is extremely difficult.
11 - John Carlson (25)
Carlson had one of the more impressive rookie seasons for a TE in recent memory. He was tied for being the most targeted receiver on the Seahawks (perhaps by default) and impressed with 55 catches for 627 yards and 5 TDs.
Certainly his targets and stats should take a hit this year with Housh joining the team, along with a healthy Deion Branch and Nate Burleson. Still, I like Carlson’s long term prospects, acknowledging that he probably lacks the physical gifts to ever reach the elite tier of players at this position.
12 - Anthony Fasano (25)
Fasano was my sleeper special from last year, as I noted that Parcell’s had worked out a draft day deal to acquire this player, who he had drafted in his days with the Cowboys.
Fasano logged little playing time behind Witten before 2008, but rose to the challenge fairly well. Despite splitting time with David Martin, he finished the season with 34 catches for 454 yards and 7 TDs – with 4 of those TDs coming the last four weeks of the season.
Fasano is officially the starting TE with the Dolphins going into 2009 and his only competition for targets is Ted Ginn Jr., Davonne Bess and Greg Camarillo. If he could have add another 20 catches and 200 yards he would finish in the Top 5-8 providing he could equal last years TD production.
13 - Tony Scheffler (25)
The Broncos tried to shop Scheffler before the draft, but could not find a team to work a deal out with. Remaining on the Broncos pretty much kills Scheffler’s value this year, as in McDaniels offense the TEs are used primarily for blocking.
If you are in deeper leagues or have the roster space, hold Scheffler until 2009. Eventually he will surface with another franchise and providing he can stay healthy has a shot at making the top tier – although it will all turn on the who is playing for.
14 - Jeremy Shockey (29)
Shockey has unquestioned talent and is on a Top 3 passing offense. The downside is that he always seem to have some sort of injury. Add to that he tends to be a disruptive force on a team, and whines when he is not seeing the ball enough.
He still has Top 5 upside but his other baggage makes him backup material in my eyes and a player I would never feel comfortable using as my every week starter.
15 - Visanthe Shiancoe (29)
Shiancoe came out of nowhere to finish in the Top 5, posting 42 catches for 596 yards and 7 TDs. Breaking that down further, he averaged less than 3 catches per game but made the most of them - averaging 14.2 yards per catch, third best in the league among TEs.
It is tempting to dismiss 2008 as a career fluke year for Shiancoe. He did have high TD production, but that was based on a limited number of catches and TD production is not a reliable predictor of future success.
The problem with the above analysis is that in 2006 (with the Giants) he only had 12 catches, but 4 of those receptions were for TDs. The point is that he does a history of making the most out of limited opportunities and arguably greater opportunity should yield better results.
In any event, a few things have changed in Minnesota. Sidney Rice should be completely healthy and may finally play up to the hype we have been hearing the last two years. The Vikings also added Percy Harvin, a jack-of-all-trades whose versatility allows him to be used in different capacities. A good year for either of these players would probably be at the expense of Shiancoe.
16 - Heath Miller (27)
Miller always has pretty much the same write up every year – a fine TE who would finish consistently in the Top 10 if he were on any other team but the Steelers. No change for 2009.
17 - Vernon Davis (25)
If Vernon Davis couldn’t improve his situation in a pass happy Mike Martz offense, can we finally agree that this former first round pick now can officially be labeled a bust?
Now, I know I will hear from some readers who will say “Martz never featured the TE in his stints with either the Rams or the Lions – why would you expect things to have been any different with the 49ers?”
While it is true that TEs have had little Fantasy value in any Martz offense, it did appear that if any exception were to be made, it was going to be with Vernon Davis.
Martz raved about Davis during training camp and mentioned that they were designing plays to specifically feature him. Despite that, Davis’ numbers did not improve and were actually worse from the prior year in the following categories: receptions (from 52 to 31) yards (from 509 to 358) and TDs (from 4 to 2).
Davis still has his supporters, who are once again predicting a breakout year. Somehow, having Mike Singletary as HC will finally allow Davis to realize his potential. I will believe it when I see it.
18 - Jared Cook* (22)
Although he was taken in the third round and was not the first TE chosen, there surprisingly is a lot of buzz on Fantasy message boards about this guy, with some folks predicting he could be the next Antonio Gates (!).
The next Gates, well…I dunno know about that, it is also just as likely that he could also be the next Vernon Davis.
In his favor, he appears to have the measurables of an elite TE. He has been clocked at 4.4 and at the combine he jumped higher than all but two WRs, higher than all but 2 CBs and higher than all but 1 RB. He also has basketball in his background and appears to be able to catch just about everything thrown his way.
However being a converted TE (from the WR position) he bears the risk of being one of those projects that doesn’t always work out. He is a player to stash if you are set at the TE position and have the roster space – although it will be 2-3 years before you see a return on your investment (he won’t see much playing time this year with veterans Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife on the roster).
19 - Kevin Boss (25)
Boss was hyped in some quarters going into 2008 as being a worthy successor to the departed Jeremy Shockey. That didn’t happen and surprisingly, Boss’ numbers didn’t even marginally improve after Plaxico Burress was out of the lineup (you would think he would have gotten at least a few more catches).
Perhaps, as his critics contend, he is more of a blocking back and perhaps that was confirmed by the third round pick of Travis Beckham, who is noted more for his playmaking ability.
20 - Shawn Nelson* (24)
Nelson seems to have the makings of what could eventually be a top receiving TE. He is a quick, fluid player and tough enough to work over the middle.
He does not seem to have the frame to excel as a blocker, but so much the better for his Fantasy owners.
The presence of Terrell Owens may slow his development this year. However, Owens will be out of the Buffalo after this season and with a year under his belt, Nelson might develop into a good prospect.
21 - Chase Coffman* (23)
Coffman is a bit one dimensional, as while scouts were impressed with his toughness and ball catching ability, he will probably never be more than a marginal blocking back.
However, he may have landed in the perfect spot in Cincinnati. If Ochocinco leaves the Bengals after this season (as many anticipate) Coffman could see quite a few targets competing with the aging Laverneuous Coles, problem child Chris Henry and 2 rookies from the 2008 class that have shown nothing to date.
22 - Randy McMichael (30)
New OC for the Rams, Pat Shurmur, will be utilizing a West Coast scheme similar to the Eagles (where he was the QB coach for the past few seasons). This means that the TE should be utilized more than in recent years, possibly making McMichael an excellent buy low candidate.
It has been a few years, but McMichael was once ranked as borderline elite at this position. With Holt gone and no established WRs, McMichael could well return to the Top 10 numbers he had in Miami in 2004 with 73 receptions for 791 yards and 4 TDs.
23 - Marcedes Lewis (25)
We still keep waiting for Lewis to live up to the promise he showed at UCLA, which resulted in him being a first round pick for the Jaguars in 2006. He may be limited by being on a run oriented team, so his only hope to excel in the NFL might be to find another franchise when his contract eventually expires.
24 - Brandon Pettigrew* (24)
He was chosen in the first round by the Lions, but that may have been more for his blocking ability than his reputation as being sure handed. Being on the woeful Lions and with a rookie QB perhaps starting, Pettigrew will probably have little opportunity to do anything more than block.
He is not considered an elite talent, so his upside is limited (particularly in Detroit). However once the Lions offensive improves and Stafford settles in as QB, Pettigrew should be a solid but unspectacular backup for most Fantasy Owners.
25 - Bo Scaife (28)
Scaife is usually good for about 50 catches, 500 yards and 2 TDs. Generally he has been an adequate backup, but not much more than that. However, it is an open question how much his numbers have been limited by his being on the Titans, rather than any lack of playing ability.
Scaife was franchised tagged by the Titans and after finding no takers resigned with the team for one year. He should be with another club in 2010, which means he could have some decent value, depending on where he lands.
26 - Brent Celek (24)
Celek exploded in the Week 9 game at Seattle game when L. J. Smith was out of the lineup and finished the day with 6 catches for 131 yards. There are many who believe that Celek played so well that he made Smith expendable for the Eagles.
For some reason there is a current lack of enthusiasm among Fantasy analysts for Celek, so perhaps he doesn’t have the upside that I originally anticipated. That may have been confirmed by the drafting in the fifth round of Cornelius Ingram. Ingram was at one time considered in the Top 4 of his draft class, but saw his stock take a nosedive after suffering an ACL injury.
27 - Travis Beckum* (22)
Before the Giants drafted him in the third round, expectations were that whatever team he went to, Beckum was not going to contribute as a blocker. However, that weakness was offset by his good hands and playing skills (outside of blocking) which had many analysts ranking him in the Top 3 in those areas.
Unfortunately, durability questions also compound the blocking issues, so if he is to succeed and eventually beat out Kevin Boss for the starting spot, the stars will have to align perfectly for him.
28 - L. J. Smith (29)
Smith has shown occasionally flashes of brilliance over the years, but was never able to sustain any Fantasy consistency with the Eagles. He looks a better prospect to me for the Ravens than the declining Todd Heap, but his upside is probably as a bye-week or short term injury fill in at best.
29 - Billy Miller (32)
While Shockey was out of the lineup or playing hurt when he was in, Miller filled the void quite well and finished the season with 45 catches for 579 yards and 1 TD. He was as adept as Shockey in moving the chains, with both of them making 30 first downs for the Saints.
If Shockey is out again for an extended period of time, look to Miller to pick up the slack. However his upside is limited in non-PPR leagues as he has never scored more than 3 TDs in any season in his 10 years in the league.
30 - Todd Heap (29)
Heap was once considered among the elite at this position, but after a severe ankle sprain in 2006, he never seemed to be quite the same player he was before the injury.
The signing of L. J. Smith can not be considered a good sign. At best it means that Heap will be in some sort of committee approach and at worst it suggests that his days are probably numbered, not only with the Ravens but in the NFL as well.
Next: Finding a Dynasty league.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 May 2009 03:30|