Dallas Clark is coming off a monster season.
We’re back with more of the 2010 RotoRob NFL Draft Kit. So while we wonder if the Raider offense has improved enough for them to make a run at the division title — or at least a .500 season — let’s take a look at the Top 20 tight ends.
Legend: rank, name, team, tier
1. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, 1
2. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, 1
3. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, 2
4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, 2
5. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles, 2
6. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, 2
7. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, 2
8. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3
9. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, 3
10. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins, 3
11. Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders, 4
12. Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings, 4
13. John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks, 4
14. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers, 4
15. Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints, 4
16. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears, 5
17. Kevin Boss, New York Giants, 5
18. Dustin Keller, New York Jets, 5
19. Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens, 5
20. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins, 5
There are two, and only two, surefire Fantasy studs at the tight end position: Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates. Clark put together an amazing season in 2009, snagging 100 passes for 1,106 yards and ten touchdowns — giving him 27 scores in the past three years. He’s unlikely to approach that number of receptions in 2010 with the emergence of Pierre Garcon and return of Anthony Gonzalez, but he’s Peyton Manning’s safety blanket in the middle of the field and a beast in the red zone.
After being hampered by a toe injury throughout much of 2008, Gates rebounded last year to post a career-high 1,157 receiving yards. He also added eight touchdowns, marking the sixth straight season he’s tallied at least that many. It’s not all double rainbows for Gates, however, as the uncertainty surrounding Vincent Jackson (he’s suspended for three games and has also refused to sign the club’s one-year tender, sparking trade rumours and has even talked about sitting out the whole season) could be a blow for the big tight end as Jackson’s ability to stretch the field allows Gates to work more freely underneath. Of course, no Jackson could also mean even more passes for Gates. Either way, expect Gates to get his in a big way.
This next group has a nice mix of up-and-comers (Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis and Brent Celek) and veterans (Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten), so let your personal preference dictate which direction you want to go as there’s little separation between No. 3 and No. 7 on this list.
Topping the group is Finley, a physical specimen that’s too big for most defensive backs to handle and too quick for linebackers. His final totals may be weaker than his four contemporaries, but in his final eight games (including playoffs) he amassed 44 receptions for 575 yards (13.1 YPC) and four scores. Finley has drawn rave reviews from Aaron Rodgers in training camp, and the team is even having him line up in the slot like a receiver. Trust me, 1,000-plus yards and a dozen TDs aren’t out of reach.
Entering last season Davis was considered a bust, best known for being banished to the locker room by head coach Mike Singletary during a game. Not anymore. Davis started slowly before really coming on once Alex Smith took over. In their 11 games together, Smith and Davis combined for ten touchdowns, including at least one in eight of them. The continued development of Michael Crabtree could vulture some of Davis’s numbers, but until further notice Davis remains the focal point of San Francisco’s passing game and an every week Fantasy starter.
Celek came out of nowhere to post a 76-971-8 line last year. However, he’s the only player in the top two groups that’ll be catching passes from a new quarterback in 2010, which immediately makes him riskier than the others. The switch from Donovan McNabb to Kevin Kolb shouldn’t hurt Celek too much, and if Kolb utilizes Celek as a safety net (something young quarterbacks routinely do) his numbers might even improve. Young wideouts DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will compete for balls, but Celek’s size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) makes him a more viable option in the red zone.
Gonzalez’s first season in the NFC produced his lowest yardage output (867) since 2002. It’d seem logical on the surface to place some of the blame on Matt Ryan’s injury, but in reality Gonzo excelled with Ryan sidelined (23 receptions, 205 yards in three games). The trouble came when Ryan returned in Week 15 as, over the final three games, Gonzalez managed just seven catches for 79 yards. A calf injury that the durable Gonzalez played through bears some of the blame, but now that he’s 34 one has to wonder if those minor injuries will start popping up more often.
Some may bristle at putting Witten this low coming off his second 1,000-plus-yard performance in the last three years, but the reality is he has become an afterthought in the red zone. Over the last two years the veteran has turned his 175 receptions into just six touchdowns — a score every 29.2 catches — including just two last season. Witten’s strong rapport with Tony Romo ensures he’ll always been in line for plenty of targets, though the addition of Dez Bryant suggests the pie will be divvied up into even thinner slices than in years past.
Perhaps no team in the NFL has fewer proven pass catchers than Tampa Bay. Of that group, only Kellen Winslow can safely be drafted on Fantasy teams after proving last year that he can still post solid numbers (77-884-5) amid relative chaos. Josh Freeman should be improved this year and Winslow’s spot as the team’s No. 1 target in the passing game makes him a viable Fantasy starter…Owen Daniels was on pace for a monster season before tearing his ACL in Week Eight. The University of Wisconsin product is a great compliment to Andre Johnson, and as long as both Daniels and Matt Schaub stay healthy he could comfortably outperform his draft slot. Consider him a great value once the bigger names are off the draft board…Last year was a lost season for Chris Cooley, who appeared in just seven games courtesy of a broken ankle. Before that, he was the most consistent component of Washington’s passing game with four straight seasons of better than 700 yards receiving. The emergence of Fred Davis muddies the waters somewhat for Cooley, but the team doesn’t have enough weapons to simply phase him out.
The fact that Zach Miller was able to rack up 122 receptions and 1,583 yards in two seasons with a bona fide turd like JaMarcus Russell flinging the ball around speaks volumes about his ability. His new QB, Jason Campbell, did good work with Cooley and Davis in the past and should lean heavily on Miller given his status as Oakland’s top receiving threat. I like Miller’s sleeper potential as a late-round pick…The official return of Brett Favre can only mean good things for Visanthe Shiancoe, who enjoyed a career year with Favre at the helm in 2009. He’s not a volume receiver — surpassing five receptions in a game just twice last season — but is a Favre favourite in the red zone (11 TDs). Shiancoe is moderately endowed with Fantasy value and gets a boost if your league awards bonus points for exposing your pork sword on national television…Like Miller, John Carlson has done a nice job getting blood from a turnip, posting respectable totals despite some porous quarterback play during his first two NFL seasons. There’s no guarantee anything will change in that department given Matt Hasselbeck’s health woes and Charlie Whitehurst’s inexperience, but at worst Carlson should make a capable reserve…Coming off a career year, Heath Miller tumbles in the rankings partially because of the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger, but also because the team felt they got away from their identity of running the ball last season, a season in which they ultimately missed the playoffs. If Pittsburgh is indeed focused on re-establishing the run expect Miller’s numbers to fall more in line with what he did in 2007-08…Even a place in perhaps the NFL’s most explosive passing attack can’t elevate Jeremy Shockey past Fantasy reserve status. Now a full five years removed from his last truly solid statistical campaign, the outspoken tight end is clearly on the wane. He’d make a decent late-round insurance policy for an upside guy (like Finley or Celek) but nothing more.
No player was harder to rank than Greg Olsen. On one hand, Olsen is coming off a 612-yard, eight-touchdown performance in 2009. On the other, the team’s new offensive coordinator Mike Martz despises tight ends like JaMarcus Russell despises salad. Olsen has the talent to be a Top 10 Fantasy tight end; it’s simply a matter of whether Martz utilizes him enough. He’s a high-upside reserve with more than his fair share of risk…Kevin Boss registered a 42-567-5 line, though his progression went largely unnoticed amid the quantum leaps being taken by Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. With the Giants likely looking to get their ground game back on track, Boss’s ceiling isn’t as high as some. Scoop him up as a reliable backup…Despite the switch from Favre to Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller maintained his production. He raised his game in the playoffs, hauling in 12 passes for 181 yards and scoring in each of the team’s three games. If Keller can build on that he could push to be a starting Fantasy option. Draft him late as a reserve and see if his development continues…Once counted among the top Fantasy tight ends, Todd Heap is no more than a secondary option at best in Baltimore’s passing game. The veteran rebounded a little last year, but the arrival of Anquan Boldin gives Joe Flacco more options in the passing game. Like Boss, Heap is dependable depth…The lone non-starter in the top 20, Fred Davis excelled in Cooley’s absence, finishing the season with 509 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Cooley’s return pushes him back down the depth chart, but given Washington’s lack of talent on the outside Davis should still find chances to produce.