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FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT GUIDE

2007 Player Rankings: Tight Ends
Updated: September 3, 2007
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Antonio Gates - SDC YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 16%
Auction 12: 14%
2004 SDC 15 81 964 11.9 13      
2005 SDC 15 89 1101 12.4 10      
2006 SDC 16 71 924 13.0 9      
Avg   15 80 996 12.4 11 0 0 0
Proj SDC   80 1010   10      

While Tomlinson was busy setting records, all Gates did was to yet again lead all NFL tight ends with 924 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s easily the best tight end to draft since he has locked down the #1 spot for the last three seasons but his 2006 campaign was his lowest since becoming a starter in 2004. Gates numbers increased later in the season which is a favorable sign that he is getting in synch with Phillip Rivers and the Chargers should be able to get more from their wide receivers this year with Vincent Jackson, Eric Parker and the rookie Craig Davis. In his worst year, he is still the best tight end.

Tony Gonzalez - ATL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 12%
2004 KCC 16 102 1258 12.3 7 1 5  
2005 KCC 16 78 905 11.6 2      
2006 KCC 15 73 900 12.3 5      
Avg   16 84 1021 12.1 5 0 2 0
Proj ATL   75 900   6      

Entering his 11th NFL season, the 31-year old Gonzalez has yet to slow down. While the team being taken over by HC Herman Edwards was a concern last year, the reality was that Gonzalez ended with almost the exact same receiving numbers, catching 73 passes (tied for #2 in the NFL among all tight ends) and 900 yards (#2 yet again). His five touchdowns were up from only two in 2005. He remains the only guy that challenges Antonio Gates for the top spot in both NFL stats and fantasy drafts.

This year will have Gonzalez without Trent Green for the first time since 2001 but he had better numbers with Damon Huard last year than he did with Green. In a position devoid of many difference makers, Gonzalez is about as low risk as there is once Gates is off the board, regardless which quarterback is used. Should Brodie Croyle take over in 2007, what better target downfield than the tall and sure-handed Gonzalez? The only question with Gonzalez this year is how long you can afford to wait once Gates is drafted.

Kellen Winslow - NYJ YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 10%
Auction 12: 8%
2004 CLE 2 5 50 10.0        
2005                  
2006 CLE 16 89 875 9.8 3      
Avg   9 47 463 9.9 2 0 0 0
Proj NYJ   80 820   5      

(-Risk) (+Upside) Winslow finally comes off a full season with great results. He caught 89 passes to tie a team record and to rank #1 among all NFL tight ends – by a margin of 13 receptions. His 875 yards ranked third best for tight ends in 2006 though his three scores were obviously low. It is Cleveland, after all. Winslow never scored after week eight but he had nine games with more than 50 yards including three of 90 yards or more.

Winslow is recovering from offseason microfracture surgery on his knee and has not participated in minicamps with the hopes he can return in time for training camp. His January surgery typically has around four months of recovery time and not all athletes have returned to the same level of performance afterwards. Winslow said he was basically playing on one knee last year and evidently his right knee cartilage was almost gone by the season’s end.

The Browns have brought in OC Rob Chudzinski who was a TE coach in Cleveland before serving as the TE coach in San Diego for two seasons. Apparently the addition of Chudzinski should be a great benefit for Winslow not only from his NFL background with tight ends, but for the fact that he was also the OC and TE coach at Miami when Winslow was there. This could be a big season for Winslow but it all depends on how his knee responds to rehabilitation and of course, that he is able to remain healthy if that happens. Definite risk here with definite upside.

Tier 2
Jeremy Shockey - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 10%
Auction 12: 6%
2004 NYG 15 61 666 10.9 6      
2005 NYG 15 65 891 13.7 7      
2006 NYG 15 66 623 9.4 7      
Avg   15 64 727 11.3 7 0 0 0
Proj FA   65 690   7      

After three seasons with Eli Manning, Shockey has been pretty consistent each year with around 700 yards and seven scores – good enough to remain one of the top tight ends in the league even if he has never started all 16 games in a season. For the last three years, he has only missed one contest each season though and usually ends up playing injured for several games of the year. Shockey’s 66 catches in 2006 was 5th best for NFL tight ends and his seven scores ranked 3rd best but his yards per catch fell to a career low 9.4 last year. That largely reflected him playing with a foot injury for much of the year and ending the season with a sprained ankle.

Shockey has never risen to being considered a lock certain great tight end each year but his productive consistency warrants him being one of the first tight ends drafted every year – just make sure to have someone else for his bye week and the other week he misses with an injury.

Vernon Davis - SFO YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 6%
Auction 12: 6%
2004                  
2005                  
2006 SFO 9 20 265 13.3 3 2 5  
Avg   9 20 265 13.3 3 2 5 0
Proj SFO   65 720   6      

Davis was the hot rookie with freakish size and speed when he was drafted by the 49ers last year but thanks to a broken fibula in week three, Davis only played in nine games and ended with 265 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns. His 13.3 yards per catch was better than all but Alge Crumpler for tight ends with 20 catches of more. He had low numbers in most games but did turn in 74 yards on three catches against the Packers and had four receptions for 91 yards against the Cardinals during the final four weeks of the season. Davis has huge upside in this offense and a broken leg is not like a bad knee or shoulder – it’s a freak one-time thing. The new OC Jim Hostler has already said he is working on ways to expand Davis’ role in 2007 and while he may not be among the top tight ends taken in your fantasy draft, he could end up being one of the top scoring tight ends in your league. If you miss out on one of the top three, take a swing for the fence with Davis. In a position that begs for playmakers and mainly offers up run blockers, Davis should see a dramatic increase this year.

Todd Heap - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 5%
2004 BAL 6 27 303 11.2 3      
2005 BAL 16 75 855 11.4 7      
2006 BAL 16 73 765 10.5 6      
Avg   13 58 641 11.0 5 0 0 0
Proj FA   69 730   6      

Pairing up with Steve McNair last year was expected to at least maintain the same sort of production for Heap as previous season, if not improve his stats since McNair would not lock onto his tight end and ignore the other receivers as did Kyle Boller. That was supposed to free up Heap to improve his yards per catch and touchdowns. Instead, Heap’s 765 yards and six touchdowns were right in line with what he has always done in the NFL. The oddity was that he only had 10.5 yards per catch – the lowest of his career.

The positive here is that Heap does offer consistency in a position often overlooked by most NFL teams. The addition of McGahee could impact Heap if the running game improves significantly but there’s no reason to expect that Heap won’t post his standard even then since he’s an occasional endzone target and a reliable third down receiver.

Chris Cooley - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 4%
2004 WAS 16 37 314 8.5 6      
2005 WAS 16 71 774 10.9 7      
2006 WAS 16 57 734 12.9 6      
Avg   16 55 607 10.8 6 0 0 0
Proj FA   68 710   6      

(+Upside) Three seasons into his career and Cooley has apparently settled down to his standard. For the last two seasons, he has turned in around 750 yards and six scores though 2006 had him more productive with his catches by ending with 12.9 yards per catch – very healthy for a tight end. More encouraging for 2007 is that Jason Campbell will be the full year starter and in seven common games to end 2006, the duo hooked up for three touchdowns and his three best performances – 89, 89 and 77 yards. With Mark Brunell under center, Cooley only averaged 36 yards per week but with Campbell, that rose to 59 yards per game.

With no changes in the wide receivers and the second season of Al Saunders KC-style offense taking root, Cooley should be good for no less than his standard year and it could be even higher. He actually has upside with Campbell as the starter and makes for a great tight end pick once the top three are gone.

Jason Witten - DAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 2%
2004 DAL 16 87 980 11.3 6      
2005 DAL 16 66 757 11.5 6      
2006 DAL 16 64 754 11.8 1      
Avg   16 72 830 11.5 4 0 0 0
Proj DAL   65 730   2      

After exploding on the scene in 2004 with 980 yards and six scores, Witten has spent the last two years in almost identical fashion. In both seasons, he had almost exactly 65 catches for 755 yards but 2006 served up one disappointing shocker to fantasy owners – Witten only scored once. His yardage was still 6th best in the league and he was also 6th best in receptions as well. But one score? The introduction of Terrell Owens to the offense meant that there was another target in the endzone and Owens came at a much higher price tag.

Witten started 2006 out very slowly but he picked up the pace after the first month and typically turned in around 3 or 4 catches per game for about 50 yards. He just never scores anymore and as long as Owens is there, he’s not needed in that role. The new coaching staff in Dallas spins a bit of uncertainty on the offense but HC Wade Phillips comes from the Chargers with Antonio Gates. More importantly, OC Jason Garrett has also been involved with the use of tight ends in Miami and as a quarterback with Dallas. Expect Witten to maintain a decent yardage role as a viable third down target but his scores are certain to suffer with Owens there and Barber excelling at the short touchdown.

Alge Crumpler - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 2%
2004 ATL 14 48 774 16.1 6      
2005 ATL 16 65 877 13.5 5      
2006 ATL 16 56 780 13.9 8      
Avg   15 56 810 14.5 6 0 0 0
Proj FA   50 670   4      

(-Risk) Crumpler has been the preferred target of Michael Vick for three years now and he comes off his 2007 season with 780 yards and a career-best eight touchdowns. He’s been consistently around 800 yards and six scores since becoming Vick’s main target. Over the last three seasons, he’s been one of the lowest risk tight ends in the league. His 13.9 yards per catch ranked #1 among all tight ends for 2006.

However – there’s a new sheriff in town named Bobby Petrino that casts some risk on Crumpler continuing on being the common outlet for Michael Vick. There’s zero doubt that Crumpler will not continue to figure into the passing equation but the notion that Petrino will be satisfied with his quarterback ignoring his wideouts and playing pitch and catch with Crumpler is hard to believe. Crumpler only had 56 catches last year and actually gained 117 yards and three scores in just one game. Add in that the Falcons have acquired Joe Horn and the chance that Crumpler continues to lead the wide outs is even lower. If Crumpler does end up as the primary receiver yet again, that will not be a sign of success for this offense. Look for a downturn by Crumpler that really happened last year outside of one “stat saving" game.

07-18-20 Update: The worst thing that could happen to Crumpler would be for anything to happen to Michael Vick - and that is happening with the federal indictment. With a different quarterback, chances are high that Crumpler will see a reduced role since the wide receivers will come into more production - at the expense of Crumpler.

Randy McMichael - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 11
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 1%
2004 MIA 16 73 791 10.8 4      
2005 MIA 16 60 582 9.7 5      
2006 MIA 16 62 640 10.3 3      
Avg   16 65 671 10.3 4 0 0 0
Proj FA   55 540   4      

(+Upside) When McMichael was released by the Dolphins for salary cap purposes, the Rams wasted no time in signing him to a three-year contract worth $9 million. It’s not enough to merely consider that McMichael has averaged over 600 yards per season, he was also snapped up by his ex-offensive coordinator Scott Linehan who now head coaches the Rams. McMichael is not a particularly great blocker, his forte is almost exclusively related to his ability to receive. The Rams only completed 27 passes for 333 yards and two scores among all tight ends in 2006. Expect that to increase this year – McMichael alone has never had those low of numbers.

   
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