Once while on a family vacation to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., I saw the sign and had to investigate.
A large painting of a giant chicken with fangs poking out of its beak accompanied some text. In big, blocky bold letters, it read: COME SEE THE MAN-EATING CHICKEN!!
Not being in an oppositional defiant mood that day, I obliged.
Sure enough, peeking into the window, I saw it … and was instantly mad at myself. I had fallen for the play on words. I was a sucker.
In the room was an obese dude gnawing on a chicken leg. He was a man eating chicken. Hardy stinkin’ har.
Many businesses stake their marketing dollars in tabloid-esque catchphrases. The idea is to catch us off guard … to break the norm and make us believe they know what they’re talking about just because they defied the status quo and did or said something out of the ordinary.
When it comes to your fantasy football rankings – especially for tight ends this year – don’t be one of those people who fall for the cutesy off-the-wall rankings from the “experts.” Don’t be a sucker.
Case in point: one fantasy football publication has Greg Olsen as its top fantasy tight end for 2009.
Yes, Olsen stands to improve significantly with Jay Cutler under center -- and he’ll present a decent value pick this year in most drafts – but to name him the best fantasy tight end in football for 2009 is pretty much the same as saying that little green aliens have impregnated Oprah Winfrey – you know it isn’t true, but you can’t help but read further.
What makes the Olsen claim even more outrageous, in my opinion, is that tight end rankings this year are so cut and dry, especially at the top of the heap.
The top 10 fantasy tight ends, in order, include:
1. Jason Witten
Hands down, the top tight end choice. Anyone who tells you differently is crazy.
With Terrell Owens off to Buffalo, Witten will be the center of the offense. Roy Williams primary job will be keeping defensive pressure off Witten.
Already in practice, the Cowboy brass have lined Witten up all over the field, as tight end, as a primary receiver, etc.
Yes, Witten’s numbers weren’t as impressive as Tony Gonzalez’s last year, but remember that Witten was injured for part of the season and never got his feet under him properly upon returning. That won’t be the case this year.
Even with the missed time, Witten finished with 81 catches, almost 1,000 yards and four touchdowns. Consider that Indy’s top receiver, Reggie Wayne, finished the 2008 campaign with 82 receptions, just over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns.
Expect much better things out of Witten in 2009.
2. Tony Gonzalez
The G-man was incredible last year with the Chiefs, but also remember that he was the only offense the team could muster.
He finished with 96 receptions, 1,058 yards and an amazing 10 touchdowns. Look closely at his TD totals however, and you’ll notice that he scored just five each of the previous two years – and that was when the Chiefs had other offensive weapons.
Yes, Tony Gonzalez will benefit from the move to Atlanta, a hot young QB and plenty of offensive support.
But remember, too, that he’ll have to learn a new offense, complete for looks and watch Michael Turner get carry after carry late in the game when the Falcons are running out the clock … something that didn’t happen last year in Kansas City when the Chiefs were airing it out often in catch-up situations.
3. Antonio Gates
Antonio consistently produces much less yardage and overall receptions than either Tony or Jason each season – what bouys Gates’ stock are his TDs.
He’s scored eight or more TDs each of the last three seasons and there is no reason to think he’ll slip any this season.
If he was a bigger part of the offense outside of the red zone, than we’d have to consider bumping up a notch in the rankings, but for now, Gates is the third best option this year.
4. Dallas Clark
Many think Chris Cooley belongs here, but Clark had just one less yard receiving than Cooley last year, and five more touchdowns.
Sure, Cooley will score more TDS in 2009 than in 2008, but Clark is also primed to keep improving, especially with Marvin Harrison out of Colts-land and Clark lining up in the slot and taking catches up the middle.
He is Peyton Manning’s security blanket. Enough said.
5. Chris Cooley
As mentioned before, Cooley’s visits to the endzone were about as few as my visits to Disneyland in 2008.
However, Cooley scored eight times the year before and six times in 2006.
He is QB Jason Campbell’s personal friend, and with Santana Moss fighting Father Time, Cooley should see more looks this year.
6. Owen Daniels
My Sports Illustrated magazine has Daniels ranked 11th among tight ends – behind guys who had less than half as many catches than Daniels in 2009.
Daniels accumulated 70 receptions last year, easily more than anyone outside of the five listed above.
He also registered 862 yards, more than everyone except Witten and Gonzalez.
This was all with top QB Matt Schaub playing in only a fraction of the games due to various injuries and Sage Rosenfels calling the shots.
The Texans offense is primed to be an explosive unit this year, and Daniels will be a fixture of that movement.
7. Kellen Winslow
Kellen spends more time on the IL than I do on the internet.
However, he hasn’t lost his vast talent, and is starting fresh this year with a new team.
Tampa Bay has committed to using Kellen as the center of its offensive attack, and considering the lack of true explosiveness in the Tampa passing game outside of Winslow, I expect Kellen to have his best season as a pro.
However, his tendency to get injured keeps him from ranking higher on this list.
8. Greg Olsen
The Bears have one of the most talented young tight ends in the game, and they finally have a QB that can get him the ball consistently.
Olsen’s massive size (6-5, 252 pounds) will translate into red zone opportunities and it isn’t as though the Bears have a lot of other receivers who deserve extra looks from Cutler.
9. Kevin Boss
The Giants are in need of big guys who can catch the ball consistently in the red zone.
Yes, they drafted some nice rookie receivers, but Eli Manning already has some confidence in Boss.
The tight end started his rookie campaign slow last year, but accumulated 23 catches for 266 yards and four TDs in the final eight games of 2008.
With some extra maturity in the passing game, expect 2009 to be a solid season for Boss.
10. John Carlson
Tough selection here between Carlson and Miami’s Anthony Fasano, but Carlson is much younger and has a better QB heading into 2009.
As a rookie last year, Carlson was the passing game’s lone bright spot after a slew of injuries wiped out the Seahawks receiver stable.
He finished with 55 receptions, 627 yards and five TDs.
TJ Houshmanzadeh and Deon Butler will require some of Matt Hasselbeck’s attention this year, but Carlson should continue to be a solid source of stats.
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