While he may not have the upside of today's elite tight ends, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is one of the safest and most reliable at the position.
Over the course of the past five seasons, no tight end has more receiving yards than Witten (5,071). In addition, he is one of only 11 players with 5,000-plus yards during that span.
Only two other tight ends have over 4,000 yards during that span are Tony Gonzalez (4,639) and Antonio Gates (4,405).
Witten also has three 1,000-yard seasons. Gonzalez has two. Five other tight ends have one apiece.
Not only does Witten lead all tight ends in receiving yards, he also leads them in receptions (444) during that span as well. Only five players have more receptions than Witten during that span.
One of the things Witten's detractors will point out is that he set five-year lows last year with 79 receptions and 942 yards.
Aside from the pair of 1,300-yard tight ends last season (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham), no other tight end had more receiving yards than Witten.
Those with a glass half-empty view would counter that Witten averaged only 58.9 yards per game, which ranked sixth amongst tight ends last year. The reason Witten still finished third in the yards, though, is due to his ability to stay on the field.
Since his 15-game rookie season (2003), Witten has played in 16 games for eight consecutive years.
Witten saw his targets drop from 128 in 2010 to 117 last year.
However, there were many games Witten shared the field with three productive, talented receivers: Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson.
With Robinson signing with the Jaguars this offseason, Witten should see his targets increase (or at least remain steady).
Although plenty of tight ends have a higher ceiling than Witten, he has one of the highest floors. You can bank on 16 games, 75 receptions and 900 yards with room for upside.
(Strength of) Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to tight ends last year by all of the Cowboys' opponents this year, Witten and Cowboys' tight ends have the 16th-most favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective and 22nd-most favorable in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
Witten is my fourth-ranked fantasy tight end behind Gronkowski, Graham and Aaron Hernandez in standard-scoring leagues and behind only Gronkowski and Graham in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues. He won't cost you a high pick and he should come close to another 1,000-yard season.
Entering his tenth NFL season, the 30-year-old tight end out of Tennessee is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
Even if his best is behind him, there's no reason why he can't be productive for a few more years. But his value is clearly higher in redraft than dynasty leagues.
Projection: 85 Receptions, 935 Yards and 6 TDs
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