ELITE Antonio Gates - San Diego Chargers Gates took time in 2006 to adapt to San Diego's change from Drew Brees to Philip Rivers at quarterback, but Gates' numbers improved as the season progressed to again recapture his title of "The Best Tight End in Football". Even though Gates was off by 15 catches and almost 200 yards from 2005, his prowless toward the end of last season showed he's back to form (5 TDs in his final 6 regular season games) and should continue in 2007 where he left off last year. The Chargers return as one of the top teams in the NFL...and Gates will again get plenty of opportunities to catch and score for fantasy owners. Gates' numbers are comparible to that of a top 15 WR...except that tight ends are often rewarded with points per catch in many leagues - making Antonio Gates a solid early round candidate in most fantasy drafts. 2006 Stats Rcptns-71 Rec yds-924 TDs–9 NOTE: (Before we even get to Winslow, Shockey, Heap, and the rest of the TEs, we'll say this - If you are unable to get Gates, then wait until late in the draft and grab any of the next 11 ranked tight ends...who may battle for similar numbers by year's end and don't have enough to really distance themselves from each other at this point. Don't believe it?...check last year where the difference between the 2nd ranked TE and the 7th ranked TE was only 2 TDs and 150 yards.) ROCK SOLID Kellen Winslow Jr. - Cleveland Browns Winslow has arguably the most talent of any wide receiver in the league. In fact, after basically sitting out 2 solid years due to injury, he came back in 2006 to lead all tight ends in with 89 (EIGHTY-NINE) receptions! And only five WRs caught more balls than KW last season. Winslow finished third in yardage of all TEs with 875, but made it into the endzone just 3 times...and wasn't able to score in the 2nd half of the season. The Browns never seemed to find their offense in '06, but Winslow held a key role in what they were able to produce. Winslow is a great player on an arguably poor team, but KW's incredible talent and ability to stay key to Cleveland's offense make him worth the gamble. Winslow is a bit of an injury liability, but he was on the field last season and produced. If Winslow does check out in '07, my advice is to use a waiver pickup to fill his absence. As mentioned above, there are only subtle differences at the TE position beyond Gates...making selection of a tight end a crapshoot - and pushing the selection to the later rounds of your fantasy draft. 2006 Stats Rcptns-89 Rec yds-875 TDs–3 Jeremy Shockey - New York Giants Jeremy Shockey is an animal and likes to play offense like a top linebacker plays defense. Each time Shockey gets the ball, he wants to hit someone...and it seems to work for him. Shockey bulled his way to 7 TDs in 2006 to rank 3rd in scoring of all tight ends. Shockey scored most of his TDs in the first half of the season with 5 in his first 8 games to help lead the Giants to a 6-2 record after starting the season at 1-2. But Shockey's (and the NYG team) numbers started fell in the second half. Regardless, JS' total of 7 TDs his 600+ yards for the season is still respectable and ranked him 3rd (albeit an early season torrid pace) of all tantasy TEs. Shockey was unable to score in NYG's final 3 games of '06 and sat out week 17 with an injury...but I think the Giant offense continues to heavily utilize Shockey in 2007. JS should have little problem finishing at or above his fantasy stats from 2006. 2006 Stats Rcptns-66 Rec yds-623 TDs–7 Todd Heap - Baltimore Ravens Todd Heap was a headache for his fantasy owners in 2006. Heap was listed as "QUESTIONABLE" nearly every week heading into the weekend, but somehow Heap rarely missed time. Similar to several top fantasy tight ends for 2006, Heap busted out early with 5 TDs in his first 7 games. But also similar to other top TEs last season, Heap faltered in the second half of the season and scored just one touchdown in his final 9 games. Regardless, Heap scored a respectable 6 touchdowns for the year on 73 catches...even though he was not the scoring machine down the stretch his fantasy owners would have liked. The presence of Steve McNair last season appeared to help the Baltimore offense somewhat, but Heap seemed unaffected by the QB change to McNair. Todd Heap is one of the more consistent tight ends who remains the primary receiver in a ball control offense...and look for 2007 to be no different. 2006 Stats Rcptns-73 Rec yds-765 TDs–6 Ben Watson - New England Patriots Ben Watson is a very talented tight end and no longer has to share receptions with fellow TE Daniel Graham (who left the team in the offseason). The already superbowl caliber Pats' offense landed Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth...which will open things up even further for quarterback Tom Brady. Prior to this season, Brady had to pick his openings in the passing game, but I believe the addition of Moss and Stallworth will force defenses away from Watson and provide many "by design" options with Watson as the outlet. Anyone who remembers New England's playoff game in Denver in 2005 knows the speed and strength of TE Ben Watson. With the new additions in New England for 2007, the Pats will blow teams away on offense... and Ben Watson could have a career year in the process. 2006 Stats Rcptns-49 Rec yds-643 TDs–3 Tony Gonzalez - Kansas City Chiefs Always a player at TE...Gonzo overcame dominance by Larry Johnson and a Chief quarterback change to remain a key factor in the KC offense. Gonzalez put up 900 yards on 73 catches for 2006...ranking him 2nd in both categories for tight ends. Although Gonzo was consistent in touches and yardage, the downside to his performance was a lack of TDs - finishing with just 5 for the year. Although the smallish TD total is a bit confusing for the amount of receptions and yardage (especially for a tight end of Gonzo's caliber), it may also be an indicator of how defenses play Gonzalez in red zone situations. Concerning is the fact that TG had only 2 TDs in 2005 and has fantasy owners hoping KC finds better ways to get the ball in Gonzalez' hands in scoring opportunities. 2006 Stats Rcptns-73 Rec yds-900 TDs–5 Alge Crumpler - Atlanta Falcons "Big Alge" was a "Big TD Target" inside the 20 for QB Michael Vick. With 6 touchdowns in his first 8 games, Crumpler was key to Atlanta's early victories. In fact, Crumpler had a 4 game pace (weeks 6-9) where he caught 19 balls for 302 yards with 5 TDs! But as the season progressed, Crumpler's numbers declined and so did the Falcons. Fast forward to 2007...and as of this writing, Michael Vick is undergoing serious federal (FEDERAL) charges for dog fighting operations (with corporations and many fans peeling away from Vick). Regardless of what happens with Michael Vick, it isn't going to be good...and it likely won't be good for Crumpler. Although Crumpler's 2nd overall TE fantasy finish in 2006 can't be denied, fantasy owners need to take heed of the Vick situation and draft accordingly. 2006 Stats Rcptns-56 Rec yds-780 TDs–8 SOLID Dallas Clark - Indianapolis Colts Clark missed the last several games of the regular season last year due to injury, but came on in the playoffs with 20+ grabs and over 300 yards. Although many believe Clark will start losing touches to the Colts' 1st round draft pick (Antonio Gonzalez) and 5th round selection Roy Hall (plus to TE Ben Utecht), DC is still the top tight end on arguably the best offense in the NFL. Clark is a burner in the open field and Peyton Manning likes to find the open man...which is often the TE in Indy as opposing defenses blanket the Colts' wide receivers. 2006 Stats Rcptns-30 Rec yds-367 TDs–4 L.J. Smith - Philadelphia Eagles Smith adjusted to a change at QB from Donovan McNabb to Jeff Garcia in 2006 and it didn't affect his performance much. L.J. was fairly consistent on the season with 50 grabs for 600+ yards and 5 TDs...not great...but good enough (esp. if in a league that requires use of a tight end). Who knows what to expect from McNabb this season, but Smith proved he can adjust to the most adverse conditions and still be productive. As with most tight ends on our list, Smith is just as likely as any TE (beyond Gates) to post top fantasy statistics. 2006 Stats Rcptns-50 Rec yds-611 TDs–5 Chris Cooley - Washington Redskins Like many on the board, Chris Cooley had similar numbers in 2006 to the top fantasy TEs with 57/734/6...and finish 6th overall for the season. The nice thing for Cooley fantasy owners last year was that he went off in game 14 with 3 TDs and scored 5 of his 7 TDs towards the end of the season. But bring on 2007 and you have an unpredictable Washington team with a below average offense...typically not so good on the fantasy front. Cooley is still in our top 10 of fantasy tight ends, but he's not good enough (and in a poor offense) to grab prior to the last round of your fantasy draft. 2006 Stats Rcptns-57 Rec yds-734 TDs–6 Jason Witten - Dallas Cowboys Many Cowboys' fans love Jason Witten, and we like him too. But the arrival of Terrell Owens to the 2006 offense had a definite impact on Witten's production...and it will again in 2007. Owens and Glenn did allow a wide open middle for Witten, but Owens took away nearly all of Witten's red zone production (Witten scored just ONE TD in '06). In fact, Witten's production last year was nearly exact to 2005... except for TDs (where he had a significant decline). Feel free to grab Witten on draft day in the last round of your fantasy draft, but don't be surprised if his TDs are again lost to Owens. 2006 Stats Rcptns-64 Rec yds-754 TDs–1 Vernon Davis - San Francisco 49ers With the rookie stuff behind him, Vernon Davis is free to play a larger role in San Fran's building offense. Davis is a burner with great hands (to the point of being freakish)... so much so that the Niners made Davis an early 1st round draft selection last season. But Davis didn't produce in '06 like most thought. Much of his problems were related to rookie adjustments to the NFL, but most was do to the 6 DNPs and 3 bookend 0/0/0 games on either end of his injury. With the departure of TE Eric Johnson (free agency) and Davis' initial season behind him, expect Vernon to bump his way into fantasy starting lineups in 2007...and give the Niners a much needed boost in their offense. 2006 Stats Rcptns-20 Rec yds-265 TDs–3 ___________________________________________________________ send your fantasy questions to: email@example.com
2007 Fantasy Tight Ends : Ranking Analysis
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