Let's Give'em a Big Hand: Fantasy Football's Top Five Tight Ends
This is the tight end portion of my top-five fantasy players. In this slideshow I'm going to go through five tight ends that will help make your team successful this year.
It's not easy to determine which tight end will be good in 2009 because of the recent trades and tough divisions some tight ends have to deal with.
5. Kellen Winslow (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
After making it through two complete seasons in '06 and '07, Winslow's luck zoomed away, and he missed six games with a staph infection and a high-ankle sprain in '08.
Amazingly, Winslow will turn 26 in July (it seems like he's been saying dumb stuff to reporters for much longer than that), and, this year, he takes his high-maintenance act to Tampa, a team with a new coach and without a big league quarterback.
When he's on the field, he's good; he has averaged almost exactly five catches per game in his career. But he also has had knee surgery every year since his rookie campaign.
Winslow probably should be drafted as a fantasy starter, but realize that even the Bucs are hedging—they're keeping Jerramy Stevens around in case the new guy gets hurt. If you draft Winslow, you'd be wise to get a solid backup.
4. Owen Daniels (Houston Texans)
Daniels cracked the 100-target and 70-reception marks for the first time in 2008, and of the 11 tight ends with 50 or more catches, he had the second-highest yards-per-reception mark.
So while Daniels hasn't been anything close to an elite touchdown-scoring option in his three-year career, he is a big-time downfield threat in Houston's vertical offense. Much of his value depends on Matt Schaub. Daniels has been a solid fifth or sixth round pick for all the years he has been in the NFL.
3. Antonio Gates (San Diego Chargers)
Gates has been healthy for most of his career, and that's exactly what you want out of a tight end. If Gates can stay healthy for all of the 2009 season he wouldn't be a bad third or fourth round pick. Not only does he catch touchdowns, he is a big play tight end who can break safties' tackles. Gates would be a wise selection if he's still around in the third round.
2. Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys)
Witten followed up his '07 All-Pro campaign with a less spectacular '08, although this past season didn't lack for drama. After all, Tony Romo broke his pinkie and missed three games, Witten battled ankle, shoulder and rib injuries, and Terrell Owens accused Romo and Witten of being BFFs, which required Romo to pay extra-special attention to Owens. Like, omigod.
Anyway, T.O. is gone from Big D, and even in his "down" season, Witten was No. 2 in yardage and targets among tight ends. He's not a huge factor in the red zone; Martellus Bennett got some play from in close in '08 and might continue to do so in '09.
But Witten is as steady as they come. We see another 1,000-yard season and high single-digit touchdowns for this coming year, which makes him one of the best tight end bets around.
1. Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta Falcons)
Rarely has so much been accomplished so unwillingly. Gonzalez openly campaigned to be traded from the woeful Chiefs before the '08 deadline but nevertheless put up a massive statistical campaign, leading NFL tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Gonzo now has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons (the third and fourth such campaigns in his career) and can bank on his ticket to Canton. We'll see what the young Matt Ryan can do with the veteran Tony Gonzalez this year.