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1) Dallas Clark (IND): Clark led ’09 tight ends in receptions (100), was second in yards (1,106) and third in TDs (10). As his 100 receptions indicate, Clark is more of a receiver than traditional tight end in the Colts’ offense. He was the second most targeted Colt last year—just behind Reggie Wayne—and there’s no reason to believe he wont duplicate last year’s numbers. Don’t worry about his injured leg. It’s by all accounts a minor, and Clark will be ready for week one.
2) Vernon Davis (SF): Vernon Davis exploded onto the scene last year, leading all tight ends in TDs (13), including six in his last seven games. Davis was Alex Smith’s favorite target last year, and although the 49ers expect big things from MichaelCrabtree, he will still play a huge role in the offense.
Davis was a notorious underachiever—that is until Mike “the motivator” Singletary lit a fire underneath him last year. His talent has never been in question, and at 6’3”, 250 lbs, he’s one of the best athletes in the league. Vernon Davis’s stock is rising, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his stats improved in 2010. I still don’t completely trust Alex Smith, but Davis’s talent is impossible to pass up at number two.
3) Antonio Gates (SD): Gates is as close as it comes to guaranteed production as the tight end position. In the last four seasons, Gates has never missed a game. In three of those seasons he’s caught more than 70 passes, had over 900 receiving yards, and in all four seasons he’s had 8 or more TDs.
Gates was the chargers most targeted receiver last year, and with Vincent Jackson’s suspension, it’s almost a guarantee that Phillip Rivers will look to Gates even more. He’s doesn’t catch as many passes as Clark, and he doesn’t have the red-zone prowess of Vernon Davis, but 70 catches and 900 yards are practically a guarantee.
4) Jermichael Finley (GB): I hate to buy into the popular “sleeper,” but Finley’s being hyped for good reason. At 6’5”, he’s the premier red-zone threat on a potent Green Bay offense. He really turned it on towards the end of ’09 (38 catches, 416 yds, 4TDsin last 7 weeks) and he’s got the most upside of any tight end going into 2010. 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 TDs are certainly feasible for the third-year tight end.
5) Jason Witten (DAL): Witten’s stock has plummeted in fantasy rankings for one reason: he hasn’t found the end zone. With only two TDs last year and four in ’08, Witten’s lost the title of “elite” fantasy tight end.
In a ppr format, however, Witten still brings a lot to the table. He was second in receptions amongst TEs last year (94) and third in yards (1030). While it’s true that he’s not a big scoring threat, his two TDs last year were somewhat of an anomaly. It was Witten’s lowest TD total since ’06, and when you consider the number of balls Tony Romo throws Witten’s way (he and Miles Austin were ties for most targets on the team), it’s a wonder that he doesn’t score more. Like Gates, Witten is extraordinarily consistent in terms of receptions and yardage. If you can get him as the fifth or sixth tight end of the board, then you’ve got yourself a steal.
6) Tony Gonzalez (ATL): The age-less wonder did it again last year, catching 83 passes for 867 yards and six scores. The Falcon’s offense should be much improved with a healthy Michael Turner, and I could see Gonzalez catching 10 TDs. Roddy White’s obviously the primary target in Atlanta, but Gonzalez has made a living off getting open in the endzone. Ryan has looked Tony G’s way often in the preseason, and despite his age (34), he remains a viable tight end start, week in and week out.
7) Brent Celek (PHI): Celek had his breakout year in ’09, finishing fourth in yards (971) and TDs (8) amongst tight ends. He’s a big, physical tight end and should continue to be a nice redzone target for new Eagles’ quarterback, Kevin Kolb. Celek’s team target percentage (TTP) of 20.1 percent made him the second most-targeted Eagle, barely behind DeSean Jackson’s TTP of 21.5 percent. He’s improved statistically every year he’s been in the league, and I think his stock will continue to rise in 2010.
8) Owen Daniels (HOU): Daniels was on his way to a Pro Bowl season in ’09, before a torn ACL sent him to the sidelines. In eight games, Daniels had 40 receptions, 519 yards and five TDs.
Daniels has been declared 100 percent and fit to begin practice, a good sign for Texan fans. Because of the injury, he’ll likely be a forgotten man in your draft. If you choose to wait on a tight end, Daniels could be a late round steal. He’s shown he can be a premier tight end in the NFL, and considering the Texans don’t have a bona fidenumber two receiver, Daniels could once again assume that role.
9) Kellen Winslow (TB): I’ve always wondered what kind of numbers Winslow could put up if he had a halfway decent quarterback. Stuck in Cleveland, and now Tampa Bay, Winslow has still out up beastly numbers. Bad offenses have always been his Achilles heal, however, as he’s never scored more than five TDs in a season.
Nevertheless, in each of the three full seasons he’s played, Winslow has compiled over 800 receiving yards. His 6’4” frame and exceptional athleticism make him an idealredzone threat on paper, so if Tampa’s able to move the ball this year, perhaps Winslow will improve his TD totals. Regardless, Winslow’s a good late-round option at tight end.
10) Greg Olsen (CHI): Olsen led the Bears in targets a year ago, but as the only their only real receiving threat, was at times the sole focus of opposing defenses. He had an above average statistical year, but was prone to “dud” weeks—Olsen had five weeks with two or less catches.
With Mike Martz running the offense, and a more experienced receiving corps, Olsen should find more space to roam in 2010. He’s a physical specimen at 6’5”, 255lbs, and while he had his share of dud weeks, he still managed an 8TD season. He remains the Bears best red zone option, and under Martz, the receptions and yardage will improve.
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Best of the Rest:
11) Zack Miller (OAK)
12) Visanthe Shiancoe (MN)
13) John Carlson (SEA)
14) Chris Cooley (WAS)
15) Heath Miller (PIT)
16) Dustin Keller (NYJ)
17) Jermaine Gresham (CIN)
18) Anthony Fasano (MIA)
19) Todd Heap (BAL)
20) Marcedes Lewis (JAC)
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