The rankings were compiled with point-per-reception (PPR) scoring in mind. While I did rely largely on final 2008 regular season statistics, I also tried to factor in future expectations for a player’s production and legitimate upside potential. I decided to disregard rookies for now, because it would be way too challenging to predict which teams will draft a tight end and how well that player will perform.
The rankings are not etched in stone and are subject to change. Since the start of the 2009 fantasy football season is obviously more than six months away, keep in mind that a lot of things can happen between now and then that could positively or negatively affect a player’s predicted fantasy value. Some NFL teams are currently hiring new coaching staffs and will install new offensive schemes, and we obviously have not gone through free agency or the 2009 NFL Draft yet.
1. Jason Witten |
| 7th Year
The ultra-consistent Witten finished the 2008 regular season ranked No. 2 in targets (122), No. 2 in catches (81) and No. 3 in receiving yards (952) among all tight ends while scoring four times. Witten also caught at least four balls in 12 of 16 regular season games and amassed at least 40 receiving yards in 13 of 16 regular season games – despite being hampered by late-season injuries. If wide receiver Roy Williams is given a bigger role in the offense and wide receiver Terrell Owens returns (possible salary cap casualty), a small dip in
With wide receiver Marvin Harrison on the decline,
3. Tony Gonzalez |
| 13th Year
The soon-to-be 33-year-old Gonzalez led all tight ends with 159 targets, 26 red-zone looks, 96 receptions, 1,058 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Gonzalez also caught at least five passes in 13 of 16 regular season games and topped the 40-yard receiving mark in 12 of 16 regular season contests. If
4. Antonio Gates |
Gates was hindered by health problems in 2008, including preseason toe surgery and a late-season ankle injury, which is why he posted his lowest reception (60), receiving yardage (704) and touchdown (eight) numbers since 2003. However, Gates still ranked in the top six in receptions and receiving yardage among all tight ends, and only one other tight end found the end zone more times than he did. Gates also ranked No. 6 in targets (92) and No. 4 in red-zone looks (19). In addition, Gates hauled in at least three passes in 12 of 15 regular season games. With better pass-catching talent around him now, it looks like Gates’ days of posting monster numbers like he did from 2004 to 2005 are over.
5. Chris Cooley |
The No. 2 option in the Washington passing attack posted career highs in receptions (83) and receiving yards (849) while finishing 2008 ranked in the top five in targets (111) among all tight ends. Cooley also caught at least four passes in 14 of 16 regular season games. On the downside, he scored just one time and tied for 15th in red-zone looks (10) at his position. Although the odds are against Cooley topping or even matching his 2008 reception and receiving yardage numbers next season, he should rebound in the scoring department.
6. Kellen Winslow, Jr. |
As you may remember, Winslow had publicly feuded with Browns team management during 2008, and the club had tried to move the disgruntled star before the trading deadline. For now, I am assuming the talented Winslow will welcome a fresh start with a new head coach and a new general manager, and play for
7. John Carlson |
Carlson amassed 55 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns in 2008, which were all Top 10 numbers among tight ends. He also ranked No. 12 in targets (80) and No. 8 (tie) in red-zone looks (14) at his position. Despite playing with three different starting quarterbacks, Carlson still managed to catch three or more passes in 10 of 16 regular season games. If wide receiver Bobby Engram (potential unrestricted free agent) leaves, Carlson will likely receive more looks each week. A supposedly healthy starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is expected to return, which also bodes well for Carlson.
8. Zach Miller |
Oakland’s top pass-catcher caught just one touchdown, but he finished 2008 ranked No. 8 in receptions (56), No. 6 in receiving yards (778), No. 8 in targets (86) and No. 12 (tie) in red-zone looks (11) among all tight ends. Miller never failed to catch at least two passes in a contest. During the second half of the regular season, he averaged 4.3 catches for 57 yards per contest. We will likely see a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator in
9. Greg Olsen |
Olsen wrapped up 2008 ranked No. 11 in targets (82), No. 5 (tie) in red-zone looks (17), No. 10 in catches (54), No. 12 in receiving yards (574) and No. 7 in touchdowns (five) among all tight ends. Olsen’s production was inconsistent in September and October, but he came on strong during the last four weeks of the regular season, averaging five receptions for 44 yards and 0.75 scores per game. Olsen’s fantasy value has a ceiling, because he shares targets with backup tight end Desmond Clark.
10. Owen Daniels |
This past regular season, Daniels ranked No. 5 in targets (101) and No. 12 in red-zone looks (11) among all tight ends, and he posted career highs in receptions (70) and receiving yards (862) but scored just two times. The
11. Dustin Keller |
The speedy Keller ranked No. 10 in targets (83), No. 5 (tie) in red-zone looks (17), No. 12 in receptions (48) and No. 14 in receiving yards (535) among all tight ends while scoring three touchdowns, which were all impressive numbers for what was his rookie season. Although Keller’s fantasy statistics were inconsistent early and late in the season, he flashed his big-game ability during a productive stretch from Week 10 to Week 13, averaging 6.8 catches for 78.2 yards and 0.25 touchdowns per game. If quarterback Brett Favre retires and quarterback Kellen Clemens ends up starting, don’t get too down on Keller. Clemens has been willing to throw regularly to the tight end position.
12. Jeremy Shockey |
Playing his first season in the Big Easy, Shockey ranked No. 14 (tied) in targets (72), No. 11 in catches (50) and No. 17 in receiving yards (483) among all tight ends. Shockey finished 2008 strong, notching at least four receptions in four of his last five games. However, Shockey did not score; he was targeted inside the red zone just six times. The slightly injury-prone former New York Giant also notched three or more receptions in eight of 12 regular season games played. Since Shockey has gained experience in the Saints offense, his fantasy numbers should improve noticeably in 2009. However, don’t expect a ton of scoring from him. By the way, backup tight end Billy Miller will continue to vulture targets from Shockey.
13. Heath Miller |
The steady, but not spectacular Miller notched three touchdowns while amassing 48 catches (tied for 12th among all tight ends) for 514 yards (15th among all tight ends), which were both career bests. Miller also ranked No. 18 in targets (65) and No. 15 in red-zone looks (10) at his position. In addition, Miller caught three passes or more in 13 of 16 regular season games and amassed 40-plus receiving yards in seven contests. Since the Steelers are a run-first team that is loaded with solid pass-catching talent, there is a ceiling on Miller’s fantasy production. Nevertheless, he usually has been good for at least a few fantasy points each week in PPR formats.
14. Tony Scheffler |
15. Brent Celek |
This is a potential sleeper pick. Starting tight end L.J. Smith has been slowed by injuries during the last two seasons. Since he is a potential unrestricted free agent, I strongly suspect the Eagles will let him leave and hand the starting job to Celek. While sharing touches with Smith (66 targets, 37 catches for 298 yards and three scores) during the 2008 regular season, Celek was targeted just 37 times, catching 27 balls for 318 yards and one touchdown. With Smith hampered by a shoulder injury in the playoffs, Celek had amassed 19 receptions for 151 yards and three touchdowns in three contests played, proving that he can handle a heavy workload. If Smith returns to
16. Kevin Boss |
| 3rd Year
Boss wrapped up his first full season as a starter, amassing 33 receptions for 384 yards and six touchdowns while ranking No. 25 in targets (54) and a surprising No. 3 in red-zone looks (20) among all tight ends, which suggests some upside potential. While he posted just seven solid fantasy games, Boss enjoyed a productive stretch from Week 8 to Week 13, averaging four receptions for 45.2 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per contest. Since
17. Visanthe Shiancoe |
Shiancoe finally showed a fantasy pulse during his second full season as a starter, posting career-best numbers in 2008: 42 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ranked No. 21 in targets (60) and No. 20 (tie) in red-zone looks (8) among all tight ends. Granted, Shiancoe’s numbers are inflated thanks to a career-best seven grabs for 136 yards and two touchdowns against the Atlanta Falcons (Week 16). On the season, Shiancoe caught more than four passes in a game just four times. He usually notched one to three receptions per contest. An upgrade at quarterback in the Twin Cities obviously would help Shiancoe’s fantasy stock.
18. Billy Miller |
Since I’m expecting an uptick in tight end Jeremy Shockey’s numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that Miller’s statistics will decline a bit. Miller closed out 2008 ranked No. 19 (tie) in targets (62) and No. 30 in red-zone looks (five) among all tight ends while amassing 45 catches for 579 yards and one touchdown. Miller also caught at least two passes in 11 of 12 regular season games played. While splitting snaps with Shockey, Miller will likely rely on receptions and yardage to roll up fantasy points, since he is not one of his team’s primary scorers.
19. Marcedes Lewis |
Lewis has shown some modest overall improvement in his game during the last couple of seasons. He finished 2008 ranked a surprising No. 14 (tie) in targets (72) among all tight ends while logging 41 receptions for 482 yards, which were both career bests, along with two touchdowns. Lewis’ week-to-week fantasy numbers, however, were inconsistent. He caught two or fewer passes in seven contests and hauled in more than four passes in a game just one time. If the Jaguars do not upgrade their wide receiver corps, a modest uptick in Lewis’ numbers is not out of the question. Some more consistent performances from quarterback David Garrard also would help Lewis’ fantasy stock.
20. Todd Heap |
| 9th Year
I think Heap offers some modest sleeper potential, but don’t regard him as a No. 1 fantasy tight end. A former fantasy stud, Heap amassed 35 catches for 403 yards and three touchdowns in 2008. He also ranked a surprising No. 16 (tie) in targets (66), which was encouraging. It’s always difficult to get a read on Heap, because he has missed significant playing time in three of his pro seasons due to injuries. It’s reasonable to speculate that the presence of promising quarterback Joe Flacco help boost Heap’s production.
21. Anthony Fasano |
Because of his strong finish during the last month of the 2008 regular season (2.8 catches for 36 yards and one touchdown per game), Fasano has been rocketing up many preseason fantasy cheat sheets, but I am not ready to put him in the Top 10 just yet. Fasano ranked just No. 24 (tie) in targets (54) but an impressive No. 10 (tie) in red-zone looks (12). He caught more than three passes in a game just one time, amassing 34 receptions for 454 yards and seven touchdowns. Don’t forget – the presence of tight end David Martin will limit Fasano’s fantasy production most weeks.
22. Bo Scaife |
It’s hard to devalue a starter who ranked No. 7 in targets (89) and No. 10 in red-zone looks (12) among all tight ends, but Scaife’s large number of touches did not yield huge fantasy numbers in 2008. He caught 58 passes but amassed just 562 receiving yards and scored only twice. Although Scaife grabbed at least three passes or more in 11 of 16 regular season games, his fantasy production dropped off dramatically with quarterback Kerry Collins under center. During the last seven weeks of the regular season, Scaife did not score and caught more than three passes and exceeded 30 receiving yards in a game just one time. Scaife is a potential unrestricted free agent.
23. Donald Lee |
| 7th Year
Without quarterback Brett Favre under center, Lee’s numbers (48 catches for 575 yards and six scores in 2007) took an expected nose dive in 2008. Lee started very slowly with new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm but came on during the final five weeks of the regular season, averaging a respectable 3.2 receptions for 26.8 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per outing. Lee ranked No. 27 in targets (51) and No. 18 in red-zone looks (nine) among all tight ends. He caught 39 balls for 303 yards and five touchdowns. There is one red flag associated with Lee: he was far more productive in home games than he was on the road.
24. Jerramy Stevens |
| 8th Year
It looks like Stevens has resurrected his career to an extent. He ranked No. 23 in targets (56) among all tight ends but received just five red-zone looks, catching 35 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Stevens also caught at least two passes in all 11 of the games in which he played. On the downside, tight end Alex Smith (21 catches for 250 yards and three scores) cut into Stevens’ fantasy production and will likely continue to do so. There will be a new head coach, offensive coordinator and offensive assistants in
25. Randy McMichael |
McMichael was a popular sleeper heading into the 2008 season and with good reason. The once-vaunted Rams wide receiver corps is extremely thin now, and he was expected to be a key cog in the club’s passing attack. McMichael played just four games, amassing 11 catches for 139 yards and zero touchdowns, before a broken right leg sidelined him for the rest of the season. In 2007, McMichael caught 39 balls for 429 yards and three scores. Keep an eye on him during the preseason to see how he fits into the team’s rebuilding plans and what will likely be a new offensive system.