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2008 Player Rankings: Tight Ends
Updated: September 2, 2008
Top 10's:        
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Tier 1
Jason Witten - DAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 12%
2005 DAL 16 66 757 11.5 6      
2006 DAL 16 64 754 11.8 1      
2007 DAL 16 96 1145 11.9 7      
Avg   16 75 885 11.7 5 0 0 0
Proj DAL   92 1100   8      

Any concerns about how Jason Garrett’s new offense would use Witten were quickly answered when he caught 29 passes for 407 yards and four scores in just the first five games. Witten ended with a career high 96 catches (second in the NFL) for 1145 yards and seven scores (again, second in the NFL). He even had four games over 100 yards. The new offense didn’t need a complementary wideout to Terrell Owens. It just used Witten.

Witten’s forecast this year should call for much of the same. The same players are on the team other than Felix replacing Julius Jones and the Cowboys, yet again, have plenty of motivation after another quick exit from the playoffs. While the passing numbers for Tony Romo decreased later in the season, they never did for Witten who had 31 catches in just the last four games including a 15 catch game in Detroit. He’s in his prime in the offense that relies heavily on him.

Kellen Winslow - CLE YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 12%
2005                  
2006 CLE 16 89 875 9.8 3      
2007 CLE 16 82 1106 13.5 5      
Avg   16 86 991 11.7 4 0 0 0
Proj CLE   85 890   5      

(-Risk) Winslow underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason but at least this time it was not a knee reconstruction. He is expected to be fine for all required minicamps and training camp and comes off a career best season of 1106 yards and five scores. That’s 3rd best in the NFL in yardage among tight ends and only Tony Gonzalez had more passes thrown to him in 2007 than Winslow did. In a year with big passing numbers for tight ends, Winslow was one of the big four and a big value to those who drafted him.

One of the factors that scared people off last season was the lengthy injury history that left Winslow with only 32 starts over the last four years. Winslow is also pushing for a renegotiated contract despite having three years left on his current one. Speculation is that Winslow wants a renegotiation of his contract because he knows that his career will end early because of the knee surgeries. As he himself has said, he is not 100% from what he was but that’s still better than most any tight end out there. When the Browns moved up in the draft to select Martin Rucker with their second pick (4.12) it was because the Browns are worried about Winslow’s knees. And Winslow is only 25 years old.

Considering the number of passes and catches that Winslow had last year, five scores is lower than normal but he did turn in three games over 100 yards. Of some concern too is that Winslow started out on a hot streak with an average of 79 yards per game through week 12 but then tailed off without any scores and only around 46 yards on average over the final five games. In 2006, he never scored after week eight and only averaged around 45 yards per game for the final seven weeks. By the stats, it appears that he wears down starting around the middle of the season and has tailed off right during fantasy playoffs in both of the years that he has been able to play. Winslow is productive but he will always be a risk with those knees. And –he has been getting worse when you would need him most.

Antonio Gates - SDC YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 14%
Auction 12: 12%
2005 SDC 15 89 1101 12.4 10      
2006 SDC 16 71 924 13.0 9      
2007 SDC 16 75 984 13.1 9      
Avg   16 78 1003 12.8 9 0 0 0
Proj SDC   70 760   7      

(-Risk) One of the biggest training camp watches will be Gates and even then, the information may be speculation more than facts. Gates comes off yet another great season with 75 catches for 984 yards and nine touchdowns that were #2 among all tight ends. But he injured his foot which initially was called a dislocated toe but later was revealed to be a torn plantar plate. Gates underwent surgery in February with a recovery time of four to six months. There is no certainty that Gates will be 100% for training camp or even by the start of the season.

The team stance is that he will be ready to play in September at worst case but there he will be a major concern until he actually lines up and turns in a big game. That risk has to drop his draft stock and he’ll be one of the highest risk/reward players this summer. Until he shows up healthy, the best assumption is that he either misses or plays sparingly in the first month of the season and then returns to form.

Tony Gonzalez - KCC YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 10%
2005 KCC 16 78 905 11.6 2      
2006 KCC 15 73 900 12.3 5      
2007 KCC 16 99 1172 11.8 5      
Avg   16 83 992 11.9 4 0 0 0
Proj KCC   85 870   5      

Gonzalez comes off one of the better years in his career with league leading stats for NFL tight ends last year. He was thrown 154 passes, caught 99 and gained 1172 yards – all tops in the league. He’s 32 years old this year and hasn’t slowed down other than his longest catch being a career low 31 yards. He has only missed one game in the last eight years. He’s been above 900 yards in each of the last five seasons. His touchdowns have apparently leveled off at five per season for the last two years but what’s not to like about the most productive tight end in the history of the NFL? There could be one thing – his quarterback this year. Damon Huard is not being used as a starter during minicamps and was the subject of trade speculation. Even HC Herm Edwards alluded to being comfortable going into the season with only Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen and some unknown youngster to be named later. Not Huard. This is significant because in the games that Huard started, Gonzalez caught about seven passes and gained around 84 yards. Huard threw four of his five touchdowns. In five games started by Brodie Croyle, Gonzo averaged about five catches for 50 yards and just the one score. If Thigpen ends up the starter – who knows what to expect?

Gonzalez deserves to be one of the first tight ends selected and he will be heavily used. Chan Gailey did not use tight ends much when he was leading the Cowboys but that was when they had very little talent to use. And even then, David LaFleur managed 35 catches for 322 yards and seven scores one year. So the only question is if Gonzo will have just a good year or a great year? At 32 years old and with likely a worse quarterback situation, you cannot rely on more than just “good”.

Tier 2
Todd Heap - BAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 6%
Auction 12: 5%
2005 BAL 16 75 855 11.4 7      
2006 BAL 16 73 765 10.5 6      
2007 BAL 6 23 239 10.4 1      
Avg   13 57 620 10.8 5 0 0 0
Proj BAL   70 780   6      

Heap comes off his worst season since his rookie year with only 239 yards and one score over six games. Heap suffered what was later disclosed as a torn hamstring but he has resumed training in the offseason and is expected to be healthy for training camp. In a season with a new offense, new coaches and potentially a new rookie quarterback, it may seem optimistic to expect his usual 800 yards and six scores. Then again – he may exceed that if he proves healthy. Cam Cameron brings in the same offense that bred Antonio Gates and Heap is only 28 and has several good seasons ahead of him.

The new offense and the use of Kyle Boller until Flacco is ready should spell at least a decent season if not a very good one. When installing a new offense, it is not unusual for teams to rely more heavily on the tight end initially anyway and Boller has always relied on Heap. When a quarterback gets his first starts of the season, he often relies on the tight end as well. Heap will be forgotten by some after his horrible 2007 showing but he is as talented as almost any tight end in the league and now gets a very tight end friendly offense. Heap should prove to be a very nice value pick in drafts this year – as long as his hamstring is healed.

Chris Cooley - WAS YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 5%
2005 WAS 16 71 774 10.9 7      
2006 WAS 16 57 734 12.9 6      
2007 WAS 16 66 786 11.9 8      
Avg   16 65 765 11.9 7 0 0 0
Proj WAS   60 680   7      

Cooley comes off his standard good year with 66 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s had roughly the same numbers for the last three seasons and never had less than six scores even as a rookie in 2004. He ranked #3 among all tight ends in touchdowns last year. The questions for 2008 is how will HC Jim Zorn’s new offense change the remarkably consistent Cooley and will the rookie Fred Davis pose any threat to reducing Cooley’s catches?

The plus to Cooley is that he is easily the player that Jason Campbell looks for in the end zone. No other receiver had more than three scores for the Skins last year. His fantasy value should be propped up with those touchdowns in the worst case and he is expected to have a significant role in the offense. With all the new receivers, he could end up with no big increase this year but his chemistry with Campbell should manage to keep him solid in fantasy terms. He is likely to have more action early in the year than later when the new passing game and players start to come together, so have other options just in case.

Jeremy Shockey - NOS YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 4%
2005 NYG 15 65 891 13.7 7      
2006 NYG 15 66 623 9.4 7      
2007 NYG 14 57 619 10.9 3 1 6  
Avg   15 63 711 11.3 6 0 2 0
Proj NOS   68 790   5      

(-Risk) Apparently all the Giants needed to be a world champion was to lose their best two stars of Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey. Though he played through week 15, Shockey suffered a fractured fibula and was lost for the season. He already was having one of the worst seasons of his career with 619 yards on 57 catches and only three scores. He was replaced by the rookie Kevin Boss who had two scores in just the last three games. Shockey had been pretty consistent with around 700 yards per season and six or seven scores until last year. He has also been very consistent with getting injured since his six year career has yet to produce a 16 game season.

Shockey was the subject of heated trade talks with the New Orleans Saints that never materialized and that have been said to be closed since May. Shockey is a hard-nosed, determined player that is not adverse to talking badly about his team or situation. His absence in the huddle was said to have actually been a plus for Manning. Barring renewing trade talks, Shockey is back for 2009 and is signed through 2011.
,br> Boss was impressive in replacing Shockey but he was not much of a factor during the playoffs other than as a blocker. Shockey will likely see a small decrease in passes this year since the rushing game was impressive with Bradshaw and Jacobs and Shockey is not fan of blocking though he will do it. And as always, how many games does he miss this year? Usually just one per season and he plays hurt in several others. And the emotional Shockey plays knowing the Giants tried hard to get rid of him.

07-21-08 Update: Shockey was traded to the Saints in exchange for a second nad a fifth round draft pick next year. He brings an immediate expansion to the offense in New Orleans which has never used the tight end position much as a receiver. The trade gives Drew Brees a new target that comes in addition to, and not in place of, the weapons he used last year.

Dallas Clark - IND YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 4%
2005 IND 14 37 488 13.2 4      
2006 IND 12 30 367 12.2 4      
2007 IND 15 58 616 10.6 11 2 29  
Avg   14 42 490 12.0 6 1 10 0
Proj IND   44 590   8      

Finally in his fifth season, Clark delivered everything that the Colts hoped for when he caught 58 passes for 616 yards and led all NFL tight ends with 11 touchdowns. Clark had only scored 14 times in the four previous years combined. The absence of Marvin Harrison left Peyton Manning looking for a new target and Clark was the one standing near the goal line. Clark never was big on yardage with only four games over 60 yards and he never exceeded 95 yards in any game but he scored in nine different games including twice in three different match-ups.

Clark was always better at home where he scored eight times and had all three multiple touchdown games. He never developed into a “pseudo-wideout” with lots of catches and yards, he just excelled at being there for Manning when the end zone was close. The problem with relying on him for your fantasy team is that many weeks he served up minimal efforts like the six times he had less than 30 yards and no score. He is not nearly as consistent as other top fantasy tight ends because his value relied heavily on those touchdowns. The same was true in 2006 when he only had four touchdowns and other than two nice yardage games, he was only an average tight end.

Clark is still a solid choice for tight end but will likely be drafted too early by fantasy teams relying on him scoring all those touchdowns again instead of recognizing his much less - and more inconsistent – yardage as a tight end.

Randy McMichael - STL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 2%
2005 MIA 16 60 582 9.7 5      
2006 MIA 16 62 640 10.3 3      
2007 STL 16 39 429 11.0 3      
Avg   16 54 550 10.3 4 0 0 0
Proj STL   65 760   5      

(+Upside) McMichael came over from the Dolphins last year and thanks to the Rams offensive scheme, he turned in the worst season of his six-year NFL career. He only had 39 catches for 429 yards and three scores which was higher than any Rams tight end had done in many years thanks to Mike Martz, but it was still a little worse than even McMichael’s rookie season. The introduction of new OC Al Saunders offense this year will provide McMichael with a great chance to turn in his best season ever. This is the same offense that allowed Tony Gonzalez to become one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history and one that views the tight end position on equal terms with the wide receivers.

As Saunders is quick to point out, he has coached a Pro Bowl tight end for eight years straight and made Chris Cooley into the main passing target in Washington the last couple of seasons. While it is difficult to envision a top fantasy tight end in St. Louis after so many years of being one of the worst teams in using the position, get over that mindset. McMichael will see more passes this year than any before and returns to being a fantasy starter this year. In most leagues he will last just because of 2007 but he has the opportunity to be a top ten if not a top five tight end this year. The Rams will throw to him and Bulger can reduce his sacks with quicker throws to McMichael instead of waiting for Holt and company to get open farther down the field. Using McMichael more is just what Bulger needs.

Owen Daniels - HOU YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 2%
2005                  
2006 HOU 13 34 350 10.3 5      
2007 HOU 16 63 768 12.2 3      
Avg   15 49 559 11.3 4 0 0 0
Proj HOU   74 740   5      

In only his second season, Daniels enjoyed a solid showing last year when he caught 63 passes for 768 yards and three scores. His average of 12.2 yards per catch is among the highest for tight ends and there’s a very good reason why Daniels could increase his totals next year – Matt Shaub.

Schaub only played in full games seven times last year thanks to a concussion and shoulder problem. When Schaub was not the full game starter, Daniels averaged around three catches for 35 yards per game. When Schaub was the starter for all four quarters, Daniels caught over five passes per game for around 64 yards. Roughly twice as good with Schaub as without him. And Daniels is only entering his third season. If you can reach Daniels as a back-up tight end, you should smile and even as a starter you should get decent points from your tight end. Daniels has nice upside this year that may not be immediately apparent.

   
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