Fantasy footballers have differing strategies on when to draft a tight end, especially in a year with such a deep class. If you choose to select the best in the business, your options essentially come down to the Dallas Cowboys' Jason Witten and the San Diego Chargers' Antonio Gates.
When considering the two, factors that may come into play include injury history, age, offensive role, style of play, supporting cast, quarterback situation and upside.
Examining the players in question, the advantage goes to Gates in upside, scoring consistency and possibly role in the offense if Dez Bryant breaks out in the way many expect him to.
Witten gets the nod as being the younger player, having a lesser injury history and for showing better overall consistency. Dallas' offensive line may be improved this year, which could allow Witten to run freely more often.
Philip Rivers and Tony Romo basically cancel each other out. Both tight ends play prominent offensive roles for their respective teams and are regularly focal points in the passing game on a week to week basis.
Your league's scoring structure is another key ingredient in figuring out which tight end is best for you. Gates and Witten may both put up impressive point totals, but they go about it in considerably different fashions.
Cory J. Bonini
It's hard to go wrong either way. To me, it comes down to what you are looking for in an elite tight end. Gates presents more upside in yardage and scoring, but Witten offers steadier all-around production with consistently higher reception totals. Witten has recorded at least 94 receptions in three of the past four years; Gates has yet to top 90 grabs in a season.
Witten's biggest drawback is his inconsistent touchdown production. He has never eclipsed the double-digit mark and has wildly fluctuated from year to year in this department.
Point-per-reception owners may want to favor Witten; I'm partial to Gates in all formats because of his big-play ability and nose for the end zone.
Gates is easily the better big-play threat (13.2 average yards per catch) and red zone target on his respective team (69 career TDs). He has a stud QB in his prime throwing to him in Philip Rivers, but the depth at receiver is lacking; Malcom Floyd, the No. 2, could leave via free agency. The one downfall: Gates is injury prone, with a history of toe and foot ailments; he missed six games last year.
Witten is a more consistent pass-catching option and therefore may be more intriguing in point-per-reception formats. He has shown he can be productive even when Tony Romo isn't under center (career-high nine scores last season). Big D has more receiving options for Romo, and with the emergence of Dez Bryant, Witten's touches may decline a tad.
It's hard to go wrong either way, but I'll roll with Gates because of his bigger boom potential. He's a near lock to put up double-digit TDs, and if the Bolts score through the air, there is a good chance he's hauling it in.
If you're willing to pay the price for an elite tight end, it's hard to be unhappy with either player, so it comes down to the format. In a PPR league, Witten's tendency to receive a target or two more per game and dependability to be on the field week after week may be enough to convince any fantasy football player that the Dallas tight end is just as good an option, if not better. Witten's nine TDs last season aside, in a non-PPR league, Gates' prowess as a scorer mitigates the slight risk that comes with him nowadays. He's at minimum Option 1A on the league's top-rated offense.
Witten's likelier weekly consistency for catches tilts the PPR scales in his favor. In his last four 16-game seasons, Gates hasn't hauled in more than 79 passes. Witten hasn't snared fewer than 81. The returning Romo might not lean on him as much as Jon Kitna did in the 2010 second half, but Witten won't go without his bountiful middle-of-the-field grabs.
I'll select a healthy Gates in standard scoring leagues, though, because of his better history of paydirt presence and more explosive yards-per-catch averages. He matched Witten in '10 with 15 red-zone targets in six fewer games. Even with Vincent Jackson in SD, Gates is their top inside-the-20 toy. The lockout also aided Gates' recovery from his foot and leg injuries. Count on a return of his explosiveness that'll give him the edge in this format.
About KFFL Staff
KFFL, part of USA TODAY Sports, has been turning fantasy sports players into winners since 1996!
We are your one stop for all of your fantasy football, baseball, NASCAR, hockey and basketball needs all year long.
Don't miss these great reports....