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QBs, RBs and WRs are, and should be, the focus in building a legitimate fantasy roster. But games are often won and lost by the role players. Tight ends, kickers and defenses are all positions that must be filled on a weekly basis. In formats where a flex player is not utilized, the TE is your flex player. The position pool has the unique dynamic of sparse elite talent, combined with decent depth and numerous sleeper candidates. The ‘09 tight end list appears to be as deep as ever. Bargain buys can be found in the late rounds, and some legitimate talent is being left undrafted. As with every position, it's about "return on investment" - getting the greatest value at the cheapest price. So when is it appropriate to draft a TE?
The "Tight End Predicament" occurs as the top tier wideouts disappear and a fantasy GM is left with the decision on whether to draft a No. 2 wide receiver or an elite TE. Pinnacle producers at the position are rare. The scarcity of such talent can inflate their value. High-profile names often come at a high-profile price. Fantasy GM's need to be careful not to reach too early on these players. But a stud TE can be the difference maker to your team ... that is if you don't have to break the bank to get him.
An easy way to assist yourself when faced with this predicament is to create a composite list combining your WR and TE ranks. Doing so will allow you to compare stats and more accurately assess player value. Let's take a look at early and late round TE/WR ADP (Average Draft Position) trends:
4th/5th Round 4th/5th Round
TE Value: WR Value:
Antonio Gates Vincent Jackson
Tony Gonzalez DeSean
These selected few TEs are the cream of the crop. They offer consistent week-to-week production. Although these wideouts have decent potential, there are concerns and risk for streaky play.
13th Round 13th Round
TE Value: WR Value:
Dustin Keller Earl Bennett
Zach Miller Darrius Heyward-Bey
Brent Celek Devery Henderson
Kevin Boss Brian Robiskie
Visanthe Shiancoe Plaxico Burress
Point being - no other position has starting talent this late in the draft. All TEs mentioned have the possibility of weekly producton, while the wideouts would be lucky to see starting time on bye weeks. Other TEs lasting late: Vernon Davis and Anthony Fasano.
Although it is helpful to construct a composite list, there are still individual expectations for each position. One thousand receiving yards for a wide receiver is expected, but for a TE it is amazing. Eighty-plus catches is considered impressive for a wideout, where 60-plus catches gets the nod of approval for a TE. As a receiver, eight TDs may earn you the title of a "red-zone threat", where a TE may come about it much easier.
If your league roster starts three WR, the WR drought starts much earlier and a TE may be worth waiting for. But if your league only starts two WR, then an early TE selection can be afforded. Consistent tight end production can make up for streaky wideout play. If selected at the right time, for the right price, legitimate TE1's can provide your team with the weekly edge it needs to assure a playoff spot.
To sum it up: If you're not in a good spot to draft one of the Top 4 - sit back and take a nap with a sleeper. The discrepancy in production from the fifth selected TE and the 12th selected TE could be next to nil. The only difference is that you got yours five to six rounds later. Don't be uptight when drafting a tight end. Other positions will dry out quick - drink from those waters before dipping into the TE pool. WARNING: If you chose to wait it out, plan on selecting a second TE prior to the competition to ensure week-to-week production.
In short: If you can't get
Tony Gonzalez: Over the past several years we have all watched and waited for the King to fall off his thrown. Every year we pick out a successor to the crown, and every year we are proven wrong. Tony G is the greatest TE to ever play the game. Last year’s amazing performance added to his already impressive resume: 96 receptions, 1,058 receiving yards, and 10 TDs. His consistency is remarkable and his sportsmanship well respected. When you hear the name "Gonzo" you immediately think "Kansas City Chiefs.” But this year all of that changes as he travels to the ATL in pursuit of a Super Bowl ring. Gonzo produced with mediocre Tyler Thigpen throwing him the ball, but the Chiefs offense was tailor made around him. It will be interesting to see how new offensive coordinator Mark Mularkey works him into the Falcons’ gameplan. Gonzalez's presence will assist in the maturation of Matt Ryan and should allow
Antonio Gates: Once thought to be the successor to the throne, Gates has returned to earth from his early career numbers. He still produced as a top fantasy TE despite minor injuries and inconsistencies. Philip Rivers' maturation as a quarterback has hurt Gates' value. Gates is no longer the only target in the
Kellen Winslow: After a thorough washing out of coach Gruden and seasoned vets Joey Galloway, Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks, the Buccaneers have made some major off-season moves. The franchise tagging of Antonio Bryant, the acquisition of Derrick Ward and the trading for Winslow has created somewhat of a fantasy buzz in
Brent Celek: With the departure of L.J. Smith to
Dustin Keller: The Brett Favre-to-Keller connection looked like it had been years in the making. With rookie Mark Sanchez the favorite to win the starting job, look for the Jets to establish a run-first offense. Inexperienced QBs are more apt to using their safety valves. The Jets lack a true No. 1 wideout. Jerricho Cotchery is the headliner of a young and unproven receiving unit. Keller should be one of the more targeted options in the passing game. His most recent ADP has him falling to the 13th round. Good things come to those who wait!
John Carlson: Carlson was on an absolute tear heading into the fantasy playoffs of ‘08. His rookie success may have been due to the dismantlement of the
It looks like the learning curve is shorter for tight ends than wide receivers. Who, if anyone, are the Carlson's and Keller's of this year? Here are some rookies that may surprise in ‘09: Brandon Pettigrew, DET; Chase Coffman, CIN; Jared Cook, TEN; and Shawn Nelson, BUF.
Cream of the Crop: Jason Witten, DAL
Father Time: Tony Gonzalez, ATL
Bang or Bust: Kellen Winslow, TAM
Fantasy Liability: Jeremy Shockey, NO
Sleeper: Brent Celek, PHI
Super-Sleeper: Chase Coffman, CIN
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Pettigrew, DET
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