Finding a ranking system that suits their franchise’s current position as either a contender or a builder is one of the challenges any owner in a dynasty league has.
Fantasy football players who excel in dynasty leagues have a commitment to building excellence. That requires much more than a simple set of rankings in a “one size fits all” category.
With that in mind, here are our top 15 tight ends presented in two distinctly different categories.
Competing Team = Use these if you have a team competing to win a title in the next two to three years.
Rebuilding Team = Use these if you have a team rebuilding and not in contention in the near future.
COMPETING TEAM RANKINGS
1. Vernon Davis, SF
Davis annually teased fantasy owners with his freakish size, speed, and athleticism, combined with a lack of production. However, he finally put it all together in 2009 with 78 receptions, 965 yards, and a ridiculous 13 touchdown catches.
For years, his owners have been clamoring for Davis to give them a reason to argue his status as the No. 1 TE in dynasty leagues. Now it’s tough to make an argument against it.
2. Dallas Clark, IND
Clark led many fantasy leagues last season with 100 catches, 1,106 yards, and 10 touchdowns. This former Iowa Hawkeye is an absolute mismatch for defenses and he’s become one of Manning’s favorite targets.
From a dynasty perspective, there are a few other more desirable tight ends based on their age, like Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley. However, it would be no surprise if Clark led all tight ends in scoring in each of the next two seasons.
3. Antonio Gates, SD
Gates has the ability to lead the tight end position in scoring every season. He returns as the top target in the potent San Diego passing attack after posting a ridiculous career high of 1,157 yards to go with eight touchdowns in 2009.
While still in his prime, there are some concerns with Gates, though. He’s 30 years old and seems to always be fighting some different ailments, most notably a significant toe injury.
If I’m not an owner of a competing team this season, I’d start kicking the tires to see if I could get a good return for him in trade. If I’m competitive, I’d bank on him giving me elite production as he’s had six straight seasons with at least eight touchdowns.
4. Jason Witten, DAL
Many owners in dynasty leagues are down on Witten, but there’s really no reason to be. His TD total last year of two is simply a fluke. I focus more on his ridiculous 94 catches and 1,030 yards as a TE.
He’s right on par with Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, the rising Jermichael Finley, or any other TE you want to compare him against. I see Witten as a “buy low” candidate in dynasty circles right now.
5. Jermichael Finley, GB
Finley’s 55 catches, 676 yards, and five touchdowns in 2009 don’t get you too excited. His 34 catches, 496 yards, and four touchdowns in his last six games played do, though.
His combination of speed and size creates havoc for opposing defenses. His late emergence has some dynasty owners thinking he’s the No. 1 TE prospect in their respective leagues.
While we’re not quite ready to value him more than Vernon Davis and a few others, it’s hard to throw stones at those who do.
6. Brent Celek, PHI
Celek was one of our favorite sleepers last year and his performance justified that label. With 76 catches, 971 yards, and eight touchdowns, Celek established himself as one of the premier TEs in reality and fantasy.
There’s certainly no shame in having Celek as your No. 1 TE.
7. Vinsanthe Shiancoe, MIN
Most remember Shiancoe for his 11 touchdowns last year, tops for the TE position. Let’s not forget he also had 56 catches for 566 yards as well.
He’s a No. 1 TE right now and even if there’s a dropoff at quarterback soon, he’s entrenched as a solid fantasy option.
8. Tony Gonzalez, ATL
Gonzo has been an absolute monster for a long, long, time. Last year was solid with 83/867/6, but he’s 34 and won’t play more than another season or two.
9. Owen Daniels, HOU
Daniels was well on his way to becoming a top five tight end in dynasty leagues until he blew out his knee last season. With three major surgeries under his belt now, durability is a serious question mark. He should be ready to go for Week One, but he needs to make it through the year before his value can be resurrected in dynasty leagues.
10. Dustin Keller, NYJ
Many dynasty league owners expected more from Keller than the 522 yards and two touchdowns from a year ago. Don’t let those numbers fool you, though. Keller had 181 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs, and emerged as a favorite target for the developing Mark Sanchez. Expect more of the same in the future.
11. Chris Cooley, WAS
Fred Davis seems to be in the plans more for the upcoming season, but the coaching staff should fall in love with Cooley's natural ability. They already have him running the entire route tree and learning how to play in the slot. His value is stable as a lower end No. 1 TE.
12. Kellen Winslow, TB
It’s tough to put Winslow into a category.
One one hand, he led the Bucs with a line of 77/884/5 last year. On the other, he’s always a huge injury risk. In the end, Winslow is right in his window of opportunity for fantasy production.
Keep in mind his career is destined to be short, though. Those knees are just not going to hold up for five or six more seasons.
13. Greg Olsen, CHI
Mike Martz’s offense tends to do wonders for receivers and quarterbacks, but it absolutely kills the tight ends. Factor in the addition of Brandon Manumaleuna to the equation and there’s been a lot of speculation about Olsen being traded out of Chicago.
At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. If you’re an Olsen owner, just hope his undeniable talent can rise above an offensive scheme notoriously unfriendly to his position.
From a dynasty perspective, you also can’t really expect Martz and Olsen to be joined at the hip for the long-term. In a league with non-guaranteed contracts, free agency and an active coaching carousel, something has to give eventually.
There’s been some recent chatter about Martz really warming up to Olsen and designing a lot of the offense around him. We’ll have to wait and see if the mad scientist can really buy into that long-term.
14. John Carlson, SEA
Carlson was a bright spot for Seattle last year when he posted 574 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 51 catches.
The sky’s the limit for Carlson and he’s already getting heaps of praise from the coaching staff. Matt Hasselbeck has labeled him the most likely breakout player for this season as well.
15. Heath Miller, PIT
He produced his finest statistical year in 2009 by recording 76 catches, 789 yards, and six touchdowns. Miller is a consistent red zone threat and has shown durability by playing in 78 of a possible 80 regular season games.
Miller is a low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2 tight end in dynasty leagues for the foreseeable future.
Rebuilding Team Rankings
1. Vernon Davis, SF
2. Jermichael Finley, GB
3. Dallas Clark, IND
4. Jason Witten, DAL
5. Brent Celek TE PHI
6. Antonio Gates, SD
7. Vinsanthe Shiancoe, MIN
8. Owen Daniels, HOU
9. Jermaine Gresham, CIN
Gresham’s knee injury he suffered at Oklahoma dropped him all the way to the Bengals who selected No. 21 in the 2010 NFL Draft. From all indications after their recent camps, they’re thrilled to have him.
His college resume is outstanding. He produced 66 receptions, 950 yards, and 14 touchdowns in 2008, giving him 111 catches, 1,629 yards, and 26 touchdowns in his three years in Norman. Those are big time prospect numbers from a position the Bengals have been needing production from for a long time.
Gresham’s knees are a legitimate concern in dynasty league circles. However, his combination of size, speed, and power remind many of Jermichael Finley.
He’ll likely be eased into the offense, but Gresham is a solid late second-round choice in rookie only drafts this summer as a tight end who could become an elite weapon.
10. Dustin Keller, NYJ
11. Tony Gonzalez, ATL
12. Chris Cooley, WAS
13. Zach Miller, OAK
Miller was one of the few bright spots coming from Oakland in dynasty leagues last year, as he led the team with 66 receptions and 805 yards. Jason Campbell certainly knows how to use his tight ends as both Chris Cooley and Fred Davis had value on an awful Washington team. Expect Miller to immediately become Campbell’s best friend in the passing game. He’s a sneaky bet for six to eight touchdowns, and it’s not inconceivable to think he could push for 1,000 yards next year.
14. Greg Olsen, CHI
15. Rob Gronkowski, NE
While Aaron Hernandez may get more opportunities early, Gronkowski may end up being the better player in the long run.
His durability is a concern, but he has first round NFL Draft talent. Alge Crumpler and Aaron Hernandez stand in his way of playing time, but he’s another good player to target in the fourth round of a rookie draft.
For further explanation on the difference between the two sets of rankings, click here.
For the complete rankings beyond the Top 15, click below:
Article written by Ken Kelly
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