Typically as top-heavy as Dolly Parton standing on a pogostick, the 2010 tight end class is looking a lot less busty these days.
And that’s a good thing.
It means it is a lot harder to go bust when drafting a tight end, no matter where you do so in your league’s draft. My TE redraft rankings for 2010 include:
1. Dallas Clark, IND. With all the ones in 100 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, it’s almost like a subliminal message that Clark should be No. 1 on this list. Seriously, he produce elite receiver numbers from the TE slot, an instant advantage to anyone who owns him. Sure Clark is aging (31 years old), but he isn’t the oldest TE on this list and has arguably the best QB in football locked into him every week. Anthony Gonzalez’s return may affect his value a bit, but there is no TE I’d rather have in a redraft league.
2. Antonio Gates, SD. Some injury concerns clouded Gates’ 2009 season at times, but there was little doubting how important he was to the Chargers offense last year when healthy. Take away LaDanian Tomlinson and add in much uncertainty in terms of Vincent Jackson, and Gates is even more valuable to his team, and your fantasy squad.
3. Jermichael Finley, GB. Looks like a young Antonio Gates. Big, an integral part of a major passing attack and quickly becoming the favorite target of one of the best young QBs in the game. Only thing holding him back from No. 1 on this list is that he hasn’t created much of a track record yet. That will come. It is truly highway robbery that most fantasy magazines have him ranked so much lower. Let’s hope your opponents follow the magazines’ advice.
4. Vernon Davis, SF. Like a late-blooming perennial, Davis finally channeled his inner receiver last year to the tune of 13 TDs. Alex Smith likes him and the Niners usually pass plenty. A vastly improved O-line and defense may lead to a larger rushing scheme this season, though, and I’m not totally ready to trust Davis for back-to-back seasons.
5. Owen Daniels, HOU. Mostly forgotten in fantasy circles was how dominant Owen Daniels was for the Texans before his 2009 injury. He may miss training camp, lowering expectations on draft day. The reality is that he’s a reliable option on a pass-happy team with a young up-and-coming QB.
6. Brent Celek, PHI. Sure, Celek had a breakout 2009 campaign, but that was also with Donovan McNabb under center. Things may or may not change with Kevin Kolb calling the shots, and that uncertainty keeps Celek from placing higher on this list.
7. Tony Gonzalez, ATL. Saw a dip in stats during the 2009 campaign, but then-sophomore QB Matt Ryan was a little lackluster in his second season. Things will get better for Ryan, and ultimately Gonzalez, in 2010. Much better.
8. Kellen Winslow, TB. He was targeted in 2009 more than the dormatory urinal cakes during a frat party. And that was by a hodge-podge of questionable QBs trying to stay upright. Winslow is still the most reliable weapon on a team that needs playmakers to keep up with higher-octane opponents.
9. Jason Witten, DAL. Forget statistics and indepth analysis for a moment. When I was a kid, it didn’t take long to learn that you could only get so many PB&Js from one jar of peanut butter. Last year, Witten underwhelmed when he was allegedly going to be a focal point of the offense. This year, he’s competing with newly crowned WR stud Miles Austin, uber-rookie WR Dez Bryant and new out-of-the-backfield pass-catching-friendly Felix Jones. Witten already wasn’t much of a TD producer. Let someone else jump ways too early for Witten, You can get better options later.
10. John Carlson, SEA. Say what you will about Carlson’s 2009 showing … the reality of the situation was that he spent more time blocking than seeing passes thrown his way. That will change in 2010 as the Seahawks brought in Chris Baker as their blocking TE and plan to run plenty of two-TE packages where Carlson will be the primary weapon.
11. Zach Miller, OAK. The one thing Jason Campbell did well in Washington was find his tight end. Chris Cooley has been a long-term fantasy TE with Campbell at the helm, and there’s no reason to think Zach Miller won’t see a nice uptick in stats with the Redskins implant under center … especially since Miller was eighth among all tight ends last season in total yards with a combination of JaMarcus Russell and Brad Gradkowski holding the ball.
12. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN. Value is tied to the hip with Favre’s potential return. If No. 4 pulls a 180, than Shiancoe’s value plummets. There is little denying that Shiancoe was a big part of the team’s red zone approach last season and should continue in that role with Favre around.
13. Chris Cooley, WAS. Remember when Mr. Cooley was much higher on this list? Liking the addition of Donovan McNabb. Not liking the emergence of Fred Davis as a pass-catching option. Until we know which AARP candidates will head the geriatric offense, I’m not buying just yet on Cooley.
14. Heath Miller, PIT. Miller quietly turned in an impressive campaign last season as the Steelers turned their attention to a total aerial assault on the competition. A season later, their young stud QB is facing a four to six-game suspension, arguably their best receiver is totally gone and the head regime has promised a larger reliance on the ground game. Even if Big Ben does toe the line until his return under center, how long until he embarasses Pittsburgh again … for the last time?
15. Dustin Keller, NYJ. While he wasn’t a premier fantasy tight end last season, Keller’s size and speed make him a hard guy to cover, especially in the red zone. While Keller was inconsistent at best during the regular season, he sparked some new chemistry with Mark Sanchez during the playoffs, scoring in each of the Jets’ postseason games. Here’s expecting that chemistry to reach new levels in 2010.
Other TEs of note:
Greg Olsen posted decent numbers last year (to the tune of 60 catches, 612 yards and eight TDs), but the problem was that most were expecting much more. Mike Martz isn’t typically a benefit to tight ends, and accorinding recently to ESPN’s John Clayton, Desmond Clark has impressed the new coacing regime. Olsen could be in the battle of his career this preseason.
Brandon Pettigrew is one guy I’d love to include on this list. He’s looking good so far this offseason and showing no lingering effects of injury. He’s talented enough to be a main target on a team that should be passing a lot in catch-up mode. Too bad Detroit brought in Tony Schreffler to muddy the waters.
Jermaine Gresham is an intriguing option in that he’s blowing up expectations this offseason with the Bengals and could become an important part of the mostly anemic receiver set sooner rather than later. Carson Palmer’s regression last year and Gresham being a rookie and all, I wouldn’t take him in the top 15, but as a nice TE with major upside late in your draft.
Benjamin Watson is the best TE on a bad team that is likely to be passing a lot this season. He proved in New England that he can be a reliable safety valve. Now in Cleveland, Watson suddenly finds himself the veteran leader of the receiving squad, and should be targeted early and often as makeshift QB options scramble for their lives.
Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap are well-known names in fantasy circles. However, both are on the wrong side of the age spectrum. Heap has two rookie tight ends to fend off, while Shockey continues to be hammered by injury concerns. With the deep, deep pool of tight end talents this year, neither should be targted in your respective drafts.
Be sure to check out my other 2010 redraft rankings: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers
What are your redraft tight end rankings for 2010? Want to discuss the list above? We’d love to hear your comments in the section below.