Fantasy Football Draft Decision: Should Jason Witten Be Considered the No. 3 TE?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IAugust 8, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11:  Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against  Michael Boley #59 of the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

We all know that there is a clear-cut top two tight ends as we enter the 2012 season in Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. After that there are plenty of good options, but no one that you should be willing to spend an early draft pick on as questions abound.

Are there enough balls to go around in New England for Rob Gronkowski to produce significant numbers?

Can Jermichael Finley stay healthy?

Will his 2011 playoff run send Vernon Davis to finally reaching his potential?

Those aren’t the only questions, of course, but among them all sits Jason Witten. All the guy has done is produce, yet that often leads to him being undervalued and passed over for higher upside options. Just look at what he has done over the past five seasons:

  • 2007—96 receptions for 1,145 yards and seven TDs
  • 2008—81 receptions for 952 yards and four TDs
  • 2009—94 receptions for 1,030 yards and two TDs
  • 2010—94 receptions for 1,002 yards and nine TDs
  • 2011—79 receptions for 942 yards and five TDs

Even better is that Witten is a constant in the lineup. The only time he has not played in all 16 games was in his rookie season back in 2003, and all he did that season was play in 15 games.

One of the concerns was always his ability to find the end zone, though that is something that should have been alleviated slightly over the past two seasons. Last season he tied for 12th in TDs among tight ends, and he was fourth in 2010, one behind the league leaders (Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Marcedes Lewis all had 10).

Yes, we would like to see more consistency out of him in this department but things are stacking up favorably for him.

As it was, the Cowboys appeared primed to utilize Witten more in the passing game this season. After letting Laurent Robinson leave via free agency, the receiving corps was Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and then significant question marks. Kevin Ogletree? Danny Coale? It already appeared likely that Witten was going to be used a lot like a third receiver.

Now, with Miles Austin again limited with hamstring issues, the need for Witten to be a major cog in the passing attack grows even stronger. That’s not to say that he hasn’t been important in the past, as he does have three 90-plus catch campaigns. However, this season has the makings of a even bigger performance.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Witten exceed 100 catches for the first time in his career, and Robinson’s 11 TDs have to be targeted at someone. Could Witten go 100/1,000/10? I don’t see why not. Even if he falls short of those numbers, what he has produced in the past puts him among the best at his position. The potential for that type of line puts him among the potential the elite.

For me, if I miss out on the top two (and I probably will) I am targeting Witten in all of my drafts. He has the chance for a career year and be right there with the Hernandez’s and Graham’s of the world.


Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: