Remember several years ago … when the tight end was more of an extension of the offensive line than a true fantasy go-to performer?
Those days are over.
Never has there been the sheer production of true fantasy stats from the tight end position as there was in 2009 … when the old standbys were joined by a large, fresh new wave of scoring options.
But which of these new players have staying power? Check out the ultimate offseason dynasty rankings below … compiled just like my dynasty QB rankings, by averaging in lists from four other websites (www.fftoolbox.com, www.rotoworld.com, www.bukisa.com and www.footballdiehards.com). This means you don’t need to go website jumping … you can get it all here.
(Composite rank, my rank (in parenthesis), player name, team, current age and composite score (in parenthesis))
1. (2) Antonio Gates, San Diego, 29 (5 pts). While Gates got out of the gates slowly in 2009, he finished strong and notched his second 1,000-yard season. He is an integral part of the team’s passing game, especially as LaDanian Tomlinson became less and less of a short-yardage receiving threat. With LT2 likely gone this offseason, Gates should again perform at the top of this list.
2. (1) Dallas Clark, Indianapolis, 30 (10 pts). I was surprised at how old Clark was when I started compiling this list. However, in 2009, Clark became the offensive beast many (including myself) expected Jason Witten to become. It is obvious that Peyton Manning has plenty of young weapons in that offense, so a “veteran” like Clark will continue to be a commodity both in 2010 and beyond.
T-3. (4) Vernon Davis, San Francisco, 26 (14 pts). No one questioned his talent … but many had grown suspicious of Davis’ ability to provide consistent, focused stats. However, he did just that in 2009, thanks in large part to a budding chemistry with Alex Smith. Smith will be the starter again in 2010 with the Niners, and Davis should provide some good stats throughout the year … just don’t be overly surprised if he regresses at least a little in his overall focus.
T-3. (5) Jason Witten, Dallas, 27 (14 pts). Many expected Witten to become an integral part of the offense in 2009 after Terrell Owens bolted for Buffalo. And Witten was … except more as a blocking option than receiving threat. However, it was encouraging to see Witten become more and more involved as the season went on. He’ll be a reliable option for years to come, but perhaps not as explosive as others on this list.
5. (3) Jermichael Finley, Green Bay, 22 (17 pts). Finley had a breakout campaign in 2009, especially down the stretch when he matched Antonio Gates stat-for-stat most of the way. Aaron Rodgers has no trouble locking on to Finley, and considering the Packers’ new-found aerial success, it is hard not to get excited about a guy who is several years younger than the next youngest player on this list.
6. (10) Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay, 26 (27 pts). Did anyone have a quieter statistical resurgence at the tight end position than Winslow in his first season with the lowly Buccaneers? Everyone knows Winslow has loads of talent, but many don’t realize that he’s still just 26 years old. Josh Freeman has a strong arm and Tampa looks like a team that will continue to be playing catch up for the foreseeable future. Winslow should continue to be a solid check-down option for the young QB and for the offense as a whole.
7. (7) Brent Celek, Philadelphia 25 (29 pts). To many fantasy owners, Celek seemed to rise out of no where to fantasy prominence in 2009. However, those who watched the Eagles closely during the playoffs of 2008 saw Celek’s rise to prominence. Donovan McNabb loves the young tight end, and if McNabb is back in Philly in 2010, Celek should have no trouble repeating or even improving upon his 2009 numbers. If Kevin Kolb is under center, expect him to lean heavily on a consistent and reliable target over the middle. Either way, Celek should fare well in 2010 and beyond.
8. (6) Owen Daniels, Houston, 27 (37 pts). No other tight end was as dominant as Daniels during the first half of the 2009 season. Matt Schaub honed in on Daniels for ridiculous numbers that actually kept the tight end among the statistically elite at the position well after a blown ACL ended his season. It boggled my mind that Daniels was ranked so lowly at some websites in our composite rankings … until I read that this was Daniel’s third ACL tear in his career. Ironic that a season after Schaub saw a major value spike due to fantasy owners questioning his durability, that Daniels now faces a similar situation.
9. (9) Greg Olsen, Chicago, 24 (38 pts). There is no denying Olsen’s talent, but he was just another casualty of a majorly underperforming Bears offense. Many question whether new Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz can actually improve the value of a tight end after historically zapping the statistical life out of TEs on previous clubs. However, Martz has few better receiving options than Olsen in that offense, and it should just be a matter of time before Olsen can work his way up this ranking list.
10. (8) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta, 33 (40 pts). It hurts to put Tony G this low on any rankings list, but he is easily the oldest player on this list. Realistically, you can probably expect one or two more seasons out of Gonzalez before he steps away from the game, but his value in 2010 may be better than some predict. Matt Ryan struggled during his sophomore campaign, yet Gonzo still neared yet another 1,000-yard season. There is plenty of reason to believe that Ryan will continue to mature into a top-flight QB, and any increase by Ryan from a statistical standpoint will directly improve Gonzalez’s value.
11. (15) Chis Cooley, Washington, 27 (43 pts). Easily one of the top five to seven tight ends in fantasy football for quite some time, a major injury set Cooley back in 2009. His loss was youngster Fred Davis’ gain, and now Cooley not only has to work his way back into the starting gig, he’ll have competition for receptions and TD passes, as well. Another determining factor will be what the Redskins do at QB.
12. (14) Zach Miller, Oakland, 24 (48 pts). When you really think about the fact that JaMarcus Russell and Bruce Gradkowski were the only ones feeding him the ball, Miller’s 2009 stats were very impressive. At some point, Oakland has to address its mediocre QB play, and any improvement there would directly improve Miller’s value. It helps his fantasy stock that the Raiders find themselves behind in many games, airing out the pigskin in an attempt to catch up to opponents.
13. (11) John Carlson, Seattle, 25 (49 pts). After a monster week one performance, Carlson disappeared from the fantasy radar screen. Where was he? Fortifying a porous Seattle offensive line. If new coach Pete Carroll can address the major O-line question marks and can harness Carlson’s pass-catching abilities (something he has said he will do to the best of his ability in 2010), than Carlson could see a drastic value bump upwards.
14. (12) Dustin Keller, New York Jets, 25 (50 pts). Consider him Kellen Winslow-lite in terms of raw talent. Also like Winslow, Keller is playing with a young QB with vast potential. Sanchez seemed to warm more and more to Keller in the passing game as the season and postseason advanced. Look for Keller to climb these rankings as the Jets offense continues to gel moving forward.
15. (13) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh, 27 (51 pts). Many loved Miller’s potential, but wrote him off in an offense known for running first and asking questions later. However, Ben Roethlisberger and the entire Steelers offense wielded quite an impressive passing game in 2009, and Miller was one of the many beneficiaries. What sort of offensive mindset Pittsburgh adapts in 2010 will go a long way to determining Miller’s long-term value.
What are your tight end rankings for 2010 and beyond? Disagree with this list? Let us know in the comments section below.