It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Though as worn-out and overused as a cucumber in a convent, I know of no other quote that can summarize Antonio Gates’ 2010 season with more accuracy than the famous opening line to A Tale of Two Cities.
Through the first half of the season, the eight-year veteran tight end looked as if he was going to rewrite the record books and give us all something to talk about for decades to come.
After just four games, Gates had 24 catches for 386 yards and an unprecedented six touchdowns to his name. After eight games, his numbers would still be going strong to the tune of 40 catches, 663 yards and nine TDs.
However, fitting to the tale, it was precisely at this halfway point of the season that Gates’ (and his fantasy owners') merciless nightmare on wheels began barreling downhill like a giant blue and gold snowball heading for hell.
After playing in 87 straight games dating back to the 2005 season, Antonio’s streak would finally come to an end in Week 9 after tearing the plantar fascia in his right foot during the second half of the game against the Titans the week before.
Throughout his career, Gates has prided himself on being able to play through pain. However, along with its already debilitating nature, this particular injury is spoon-fed with a world of agony, thus forcing the seven-time All-Pro into street clothes for the first time in six years.
Gates returned to gut it out in Weeks 12 and 13 for the Chargers, but the discomfort in his foot would eventually take its toll and sideline the big man for the remainder of the season.
Who knows what sort of dumbfounding statistics Gates would have compiled had he stayed healthy, especially when you consider that just halfway through the season, the guy was on pace for 80 catches, 1,326 yards and 18 TDs. In NFL history, the most yards a tight end has ever amassed is 1,290 by Kellen Winslow in 1980. The most TDs are 13 by both Vernon Davis in 2009 and Gates himself in 2004.
Basically, records would have been broken.
We can speculate on the possibilities all we want and wonder about what might have been, but if there is one thing I know for certain, it’s this: Antonio Gates will come back in 2011 fully recovered from his injury, and when healthy, there is no question he is the best tight end in the league—period.
No matter the type of fantasy league you play in, draft him at least a round or two before even considering another tight end. Gates is one of the few difference makers who can bring you a Super Bowl title simply by having him on your squad.
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2011 Pros & Cons
(+) Despite playing in just 10 games last season, Gates somehow managed to tie for the league lead for tight ends in touchdowns (10) while placing fourth in yards (782) and second in fantasy points (138.2)
(+) Has averaged 9.6 TDs per year since 2004 and never had less than eight in any of those seasons
(+) Continues to be a top-three athlete as a tight end in the NFL despite crossing the 30-year-old threshold last season
(+) In his seven years as a full-time starter, Gates has never ranked out of the top four, having been first in fantasy points three times, second twice, third once and fourth once
(+) His connection with Philip Rivers continues to grow and seems to get better with each passing year
(–) Gates thrived with Vincent Jackson out of the lineup last season, but might see a bit of a drop-off with him back in the fold in 2011
(–) After missing just three games during his first seven seasons, the injury bug finally caught up to him in the form of a torn plantar fascia, causing him to miss a total of six games in his eighth year
For the rest of Antonio Gates' Player Profile, CLICK HERE
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