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2009 Player Rankings: Tight Ends
Updated: September 10, 2009
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: 12%
Auction 12: 14%
2006 SDC 16 71 924 13.0 9      
2007 SDC 16 75 984 13.1 9      
2008 SDC 16 60 704 11.7 8      
Avg   16 69 871 12.6 9 0 0 0
Proj SDC   70 910   9      

Gates comes off his worst season since 2003 when he was a rookie. A turf toe and later a high ankle sprain conspired to leave him with just 60 catches for 704 yards and eight touchdowns which was still #2 in the league for tight end touchdowns. Gates had remained above 900 yards for four consecutive seasons until 2008. Gates enters his contract year and the Chargers will be looking to extend it before the season if they can. This is the big payoff for Gates who was undrafted in 2001 and has spent the last five years being an elite in his position.

Gates is only 29 and has not been injury prone in the past. Expect a bounce back this year which will see him back to form and at the top of the tight end heap once again.

Jason Witten - DAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 14%
2006 DAL 16 64 754 11.8 1      
2007 DAL 16 96 1145 11.9 7      
2008 DAL 16 81 952 11.8 4      
Avg   16 80 950 11.8 4 0 0 0
Proj DAL   79 950   7      

Witten’s numbers were actually down last season and yet his 952 yards still ranked #2 among tight ends and his 81 catches were third best in the league. But that still looked small coming off his 96 catch, 1145 yards and seven scores from 2007. He remains supremely consistent every year in yards per catch and having Terrell Owens leave should make Witten be no less important to the passing scheme. The Cowboys want to run more but Witten’s role should not take any hit. He’s an integral part of what happens on third down and a safe bet for top three fantasy numbers.

Witten doesn’t have much upside since he is already at the top of his position but just as importantly – he’s as safe of a bet as any tight end.

Tony Gonzalez - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 12%
Auction 12: 14%
2006 KCC 15 73 900 12.3 5      
2007 KCC 16 99 1172 11.8 5      
2008 KCC 16 96 1058 11.0 10      
Avg   16 89 1043 11.7 7 0 0 0
Proj FA   72 900   7      

The future Hall of Famer finally left Kansas City and shows up in Atlanta at the age of 33 and with 12 seasons under his belt. Does he have much left? Hard to prove age has caught up with him at all. Gonzalez has turned in over 900 receiving yards in each of the last six years and comes off a ten-touchdown season. He eclipsed 1000 yards in each of the last two years and there has been absolutely no sign that he is slowing down other than a slight decline in his yards per catch.

What makes this one even more interesting is that the Falcons only threw a total of 30 passes to the tight ends last season and completed just 19. But that was in the first year of the new offense with a rookie quarterback and realistically, Justin Peele probably maxed out with his position leading 15 catches for 159 yards. Gonzalez doesn’t come in as a tight end; he comes in as one of the premier receivers in the NFL. He is bound to slow down soon and he has the first change of scenery since he left CAL back in 1997. But we’ve been waiting for a few years for it to happen.

The Falcons could use the help since Roddy White was the sole receiving threat last season and now Matt Ryan has a full season under his belt. Gonzalez also may end up with no bad weather games thanks to a freakish four home games during weeks 12 to 16 and only a trip to play the Jets in week 15 as a chance for poor weather. Gonzo should not be downgraded just for moving – his situation may be even better.

Greg Olsen - CAR YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 6%
2006                  
2007 CHI 14 39 391 10.0 2      
2008 CHI 16 54 574 10.6 5      
Avg   15 47 483 10.3 4 0 0 0
Proj CAR   61 790   7      

(+Upside) Olsen saw a nice leap in production in his second season when he had 54 catches for 574 yards and five scores. That was good enough to just barely sneak into the top ten in most leagues. He also finished out the season on a strong note with a touchdown in three of his final four games. Now that Jay Cutler has been added to the offense, Olsen should see yet another nice jump in production since the Broncos ranked in the top five for tight end yards and touchdowns under Cutler last season. Olsen makes a great tight end to take when you have waited to take one until after half the league has chosen theirs. He’ll be no worse than be a top ten tight end and could surprise this year thanks to Cutler.

Tier 2
Dallas Clark - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 6%
2006 IND 12 30 367 12.2 4      
2007 IND 15 58 616 10.6 11 2 29  
2008 IND 15 77 848 11.0 6      
Avg   14 55 610 11.3 7 1 10 0
Proj FA   68 780   7      

The Colts made great use of the tight ends last season and ranked #2 in the league with 109 completions to the position and 5th best in yardage with 1090 yards. Clark had the lion’s share of that action with a career high 77 catches for 848 yards and six touchdowns. He even broke the Colt’s all-time record for tight end catches previously held by John Mackey. The decrease in productivity by Marvin Harrison was caused in part by Anthony Gonzalez, but also by Clark.

No reason to downgrade Clark much this year though he has likely found his ceiling and could have less action with Gonzalez more experienced and other players coming up deserving playing time. He’s a lock to end up top ten among fantasy tight ends but his limited upside says there’ll be at least four or five tight ends better than him. Clark is being drafted a bit early this year based on his career season of 2008.

Kellen Winslow - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 5%
Auction 12: 6%
2006 CLE 16 89 875 9.8 3      
2007 CLE 16 82 1106 13.5 5      
2008 CLE 10 43 428 10.0 3      
Avg   14 71 803 11.1 4 0 0 0
Proj FA   69 800   5      

(-Risk) (+Upside) Winslow agreed to a six-year, $36.1 million contract. The deal includes $20.1 million guaranteed and gives Winslow the chance to make another $7 million in incentives. He finally went through an offseason without having any surgery but must learn a new offense which will be quite different than Cleveland. Winslow was cranking out 850+ yard seasons but last year fell to just 428 yards on 43 catches and missed six games. He will also be faced with what could well be a continually changing quarterback situation this season. The Bucs intend on using two-tight end sets this year and Jerramy Stevens will join Winslow as a potential passing target. Expect a decent season for Winslow – baring injury – but expect a lesser year for him at least for 2008 in a new offense with a much different situation than in Cleveland. He has upside but also risk.

Owen Daniels - BAL YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 5%
2006 HOU 13 34 350 10.3 5      
2007 HOU 16 63 768 12.2 3      
2008 HOU 16 70 862 12.3 2      
Avg   15 56 660 11.6 3 0 0 0
Proj BAL   71 830   4      

Three seasons and Daniels just gets better and better. 2008 ended with 70 catches for 862 yards that ranked #3 among all tight ends in the league. That was second only to Andre Johnson for team receptions. Where Daniels falls short is in touchdowns with only ten career scores over three seasons and just two last year. That precludes Daniels from being a top three tight end but his yardage is among the best for the position and in a points-per-reception league, there’s no reason to let him fall very far in the top ten. He’s been a low risk player with increasing impact for his team.

John Carlson - ARI YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 4%
Auction 12: 4%
2006                  
2007                  
2008 SEA 16 55 627 11.4 5      
Avg   16 55 627 11.4 5 0 0 0
Proj ARI   64 660   6      

The three years that OC Greg Knapp was in Atlanta, Alge Crumpler was the leading receiver with never less than 750 yards or five scores. Last year with the Raiders, Zach Miller led the team with 778 yards. That is not to say that Carlson is necessarily due to lead the Seahawks this year since those other situations were dependent on the quarterback and other players on those teams. But – you should not be as concerned that Houshmandzadeh is going to come in and completely take over for the second year Carlson as the possession receiver that Hasselbeck always prefers. Carlson had a wildly effective rookie season in 2008 when he caught 55 passes for 627 yards and five scores. The return of Hasselbeck changes the offense and Houshmandzadeh will command his share of passes. But Carlson was impressive as a rookie – very few manage that – and will play in a system that still used the tight end. Carlson won’t be a top tight end this year but he’s a definite fantasy starter and one that is available later in the draft.

Chris Cooley - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 4%
2006 WAS 16 57 734 12.9 6      
2007 WAS 16 66 786 11.9 8      
2008 WAS 16 83 849 10.2 1      
Avg   16 69 790 11.7 5 0 0 0
Proj FA   80 820   3      

Cooley ended up with a career high 83 catches last year which ranked #2 in the NFL for tight ends. His 849 yards was also a personal best. But the new West Coast offense by HC Jim Zorn actually reversed how Cooley was being used. Once he was a common receiver but a nearly exclusive red zone target with at least six touchdowns in each of his previous four years. In 2009, he ended up great in yardage but only managed one touchdown catch. That dropped his value to around 8th best in non-reception point leagues despite being 4th best in yardage.

Cooley’s value rises in reception point leagues if only because he proved very consistent last year with catches and yards. Eleven of his games had around 50+ yards and usually four to six catches. That won’t win your weekly game but it certainly won’t hurt it.

Tier 3
Dustin Keller - FA YEAR TM GMS CAT CYD YPC CTD CAR RYD RTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 13
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 4%
Movement:
2006                  
2007                  
2008 NYJ 16 48 535 11.1 3      
Avg   16 48 535 11.1 3 0 0 0
Proj FA   68 700   5      

(-Risk) (+Upside) Keller is a good news/bad news sort of player this year. The good – his rookie season saw him end with 48 catches for 535 yards and three scores. That’s wildly successful compared to all rookie tight ends. Even better – he had 35 catches for 388 yards in the final eight games. However… that was with Brett Favre throwing the ball. This year it will be either Kellen Clemens or more likely the rookie Mark Sanchez. That could be a great thing for the long-term and Keller remains a strong play in a dynasty league but for 2009, it’s a big risk to expect the same stats let alone an increase. Many first year starters will rely on their tight end which could benefit Keller. And the Jets let Laveranues Coles go so they are short proven receivers this year anyway. Keller could still have a great year but with the changes in personnel it is a risk to rely on.

   
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