Fantasy Football 2011 Positional Rankings: Tight Ends

Nick Sero@@thesportscannonCorrespondent IIIMay 23, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball after a reception for a long gain late in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 2, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Cowboys defeated the Eagles 14-13.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The fantasy football season is quickly approaching, and it is time to get your fantasy football cheat sheets together. Although there is still a lot of time before the NFL season kicks off (IF it kicks off), it is never too early to do your homework. These are just the first round of fantasy football rankings, and there will undoubtedly be some developments during the offseason that will shake up the rankings.

How the rankings work: Every year when we get together to make our fantasy football positional rankings, projections and cheat sheet we have to take a few variables in to mind. We calculate fantasy football strength of schedules for certain players and teams, decide a realistic amount of games for injury prone players and take into account the supporting cast for each player.

As the season progresses you will be able to see the change in rankings as we continue to tweak the projections.

Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Tight Ends 1.0

Drafting a tight end is a very tough thing to do. You can always reach for Antonio Gates or Jason Witten early on in the draft and risk using a high pick on a tight end instead of a more pressing position. Or you could end up waiting too long and being stuck with say, Heath Miller, who will generate far fewer targets than his fellow tight ends.

Later in the offseason, we will be able to look at player’s Average Draft Position to determine who is worth the risk and who isn’t. Until then we can only rank them as they are right now.

You may notice that only one Patriot tight end has made the list, and it isn’t disrespect for Aaron Hernandez. Until roster have been filled and depth charts have been made, we can only guess as to which starter will have the best season.

At the same time, the limbo of the offseason means players like Kyle Rudolph will sit near the bottom until the Rook proves he has ability and that he will even get the starting nod over Visanthe Shiancoe.

1. Antonio Gates, SD

All of the injury concerns surrounding Antonio Gates seemed to go out the window at the beginning of the 2010 season. In 2009 Gates had his best year, playing a full 16 games and breaking his personal receiving yards record. This past season looked like it could end being even better for the San Diego tight end.

Gates technically is a tight end but may as well have been the Chargers sole receiver on the field. The lack of receiving talent around Gates made him even more dangerous, but he still seemed to be left wide open routinely throughout the season.

Gates ended up missing six games in 2010, right near the end of the season when fantasy postseason hopes and dreams are crushed or made. Despite missing six games, Gates was still the second-best tight end option in fantasy, so this is a no-brainer.  Bye: Week 7

2. Jason Witten, DAL 

Even though his best friend, Tony Romo, went down with injury, Jason Witten still put up the numbers we have grown accustomed to. Witten ended up dominating the last five weeks of the NFL season once he and John Kitna seemed to find a rapport.

Say what you want about him, but Romo is a definite upgrade over Kitna, so Witten should have a better 2011, even though it won’t be by too much. Bye: Week 5

3. Zach Miller, OAK

Odds are that Miller will not return to the Raiders in 2011, which is unfortunate for Miller considering the Raiders have the sixth easiest schedule for tight ends. Miller has a few different possible landing spots, but for now, we will keep him as a Raider.

This rating is about as high as Miller could hope for. In the case he moves elsewhere, he will likely fall down the rankings. One possible destination for Miller that seems to generate the most buzz would be the New York Giants who also have an easy schedule…interesting…Bye: Week 8

4. Kellen Winslow, TB

Don’t be afraid to draft Winslow because the Buccaneers went out and drafted a tight end. It may hurt Winslow’s Dynasty rankings, but the Buccaneers like to run multiple tight end sets, so Luke Stocker shouldn’t take too much away from the veteran Winslow.

Stocker does bring an additional receiving threat to Tampa, but Winslow has had solid numbers throughout his entire career. That even includes his years in Cleveland with Derek Anderson as his quarterback. Winslow should have another year around the top. Bye: Week 8

5. Dallas Clark, IND

Is Clark dropping in our rankings because of his injury last season? For now, yes. If Clark can stay healthy all season, he will undoubtedly be one fantasy football’s best tight ends.

Before injuring his wrist, Clark had already posted 350 yards and three scores and was on pace for his second best season statistically. Clark will undoubtedly move up the rankings once, maybe if, we get some more good news about his rehabilitation.  Bye: Week 11

6. Vernon Davis, SF

Davis’ owners saw a bit of a drop in his production from Davis’ breakout 2009 season, but he was still one of fantasy’s best. The knock on Davis in fantasy would be his inconsistency. In 2009, he was able to overshadow lack of receptions and yards because he was scoreless in only five games.

In 2010, he looked more like a Chad Ochocinco. He will end the year with great stats but could make you lose a week or two when he flat out disappears. Davis is going to have to become more consistent week in and week out if he wants to be a regular top-five tight end. Bye: Week 7

7. Anthony Fasano, MIA

Chad Henne is on the hot seat in Miami and will have to start making better decisions on the field. One way to create job security is to take advantage of mismatches on defense. Considering the Dolphins have the easiest schedule for tight ends in fantasy football, you can see why I rank Fasano so high.

There is always the chance that the Dolphins could go out and find a better receiving tight end in free agency (See: No. 3), but until then, Fasano is the best they’ve got. He won’t ever put up Witten like numbers, but if Fasano can raise his TD count to around eight or nine, he could be a very solid choice at tight end. Bye: Week 5

8. Jimmy Graham, NO

Graham was behind Jeremy Shockey for the majority of 2010 but finally started to see quality playing time near the end of the season. Although Graham recorded more than 50 yards only once in 2010, the Saints know he could be a devastating threat for them on offense.

Graham is a former Miami basketball player and has the ability to snag jump balls in the end zone. Graham recorded five touchdowns in limited time last season; let’s see how many he can score when he spends a full season as a starter. Bye: Week 11

9. Marcedes Lewis, JAX

The Jaguars waited and waited and waited on Marcedes Lewis to be the breakout start they were hoping for when they drafted him 28th overall in 2006. Previously, Lewis had never scored more than two touchdowns and only once recorded more than 500 receiving yards (518 in 2009).

Lewis has increased his production every year, so the 700 receiving yards he tallied in 2010 aren’t all that surprising. The 10 touchdowns that Lewis scored were a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars. Lewis will have a much harder schedule than he did in 2009, and teams won’t be surprised by him this season. Targets and yards will likely go up, but hoping for another double-digit touchdown year from Lewis could be asking far too much. Bye: Week 9

10. Rob Gronkowski, NE

It’s a copycat league, so Bill Belichick’s way of using two tight ends likely will pick up steam. No one was ready for Rob Gronkowski to beat them running post patterns to the end zone every Sunday, but he did.

As a rookie in 2010, Gronkowski exploded on the scene for 10 touchdowns and 40 receptions. In PPR leagues you may be better off taking Aaron Hernandez if you only have Patriots tight ends to choose from. Gronkowski should remain the main tight end target for Brady, however.  Bye: Week 7 

11.   Kevin Boss, NYG: Bye: Week 7

12.   Chris Cooley, WAS: Bye: Week 5

13.   Brandon Pettigrew, DET: Bye: Week 9

14.   Tony Gonzalez, ATL: Bye: Week 8

15.   Owen Daniels, HOU: Bye: Week 11

16.   Dustin Keller, NYJ: Bye: Week 8

17.   Jermichael Finley, GB: Bye: Week 8

18.   Todd Heap, BAL: Bye: Week 5

19.   Tony Moeaki, KC: Bye: Week 6

20.   Greg Olsen, CHI: Bye: Week 8

21.   Jermaine Gresham, CIN: Bye: Week 7

22.   Jared Cook, TEN: Bye: Week 6

23.   Brent Celek, PHL: Bye: Week 7

24.   Benjamin Watson, CLE: Bye: Week 5

25.   Jeremy Shockey, CAR: Bye: Week 9

26.   Heath Miller, PIT: Bye: Week 11

27.   Daniel Fells, STL: Bye: Week 5

28.   John Carlson, SEA: Bye: Week 6

29.   Shawn Nelson, BUF: Bye: Week 7

30.   Kyle Rudolph, MIN: Bye: Week 9

31.   Daniel Graham, DEN: Bye: Week 6

32.   Ben Patrick, ARZ: Bye: Week 6

Notable Backups & Rookies

Robert Housler, ARZ: Bye:

Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN: Bye:

D.J. Williams, GB: Bye:

Lance Kendricks, STL: Bye:

Luke Stocker, TB: Bye:

Jacob Tamme, IND: Bye:

Bo Scaife, TEN: Bye:

Aaron Hernandez, NE: Bye:

Joel Dreessen, HOU: Bye:

Fred Davis, WAS: Bye:

Tony Scheffler, DET: Bye:


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