Fantasy football player analysis: Tight ends

by Cory J. Bonini on September 1, 2011 @ 10:40:00 PDT

 


Note: All fantasy points references are based on standard scoring without PPR, unless stated otherwise.

1) Antonio Gates | San Diego Chargers | 6-foot-4, 260 pounds | 9th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
617169679646

Analysis: Gates is about as dynamic as they come at the position, and defenses must account for him every single snap. He is a big-play threat (averaged 15.6 yards per reception last year) and has a nose for the end zone - he has averaged a touchdown every 7.5 catches since becoming a full-time starter. Gates is coming off a 10-game season in which he caught 50 passes for 782 yards and scored once per contest. He suffered a plantar fascia injury, and isn't quite 100 percent yet, but Gates has returned to the field. His pain tolerance is the key to his recovery, and he should be fine for Week 1. Fantasy owners are usually drafting him as the second tight end, in the early fifth round, which is likely a sign of trepidation surrounding his foot.

2) Jason Witten | Dallas Cowboys | 6-foot-6, 263 pounds | 9th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8999988108868

Analysis: A key cog in Dallas' passing game, Witten has topped 1,000 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. He scored a career-high nine touchdowns in 2010, and Witten hasn't missed a game since his rookie season. He has hauled in a minimum of 81 receptions in the last four years and should continue to see plenty of work with a healthy Tony Romo (clavicle). Roy Williams (Bears) was released and hasn't been replaced yet. Jon Kitna favored Witten last year, but Romo and the Tennessee product have had chemistry for years. The addition of right tackle Tyron Smith could impact Witten's blocking responsibilities; if Smith is as good as billed, expect to see more of Witten running free. One negative, however, is Witten's general lack of scoring. He has been inconsistent and scored just once every 29.2 catches in 2008 and '09. Witten is typically the first tight end off the board in the early fifth round, and his value is at its highest in PPR leagues.

3) Vernon Davis | San Francisco 49ers | 6-foot-3, 250 pounds | 6th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
5060808908911

Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

Analysis: The super-athletic tight end ripped off 16.3 yards per reception in 2010, up three full yards from his previous career-best average. Davis hasn't missed a game in three years and has the trust of quarterback Alex Smith, who returns under the tutelage of new head coach Jim Harbaugh. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman's system is quite friendly to the position, and Davis has praised the offense for his heavy involvement. Davis is one year removed from a monster 13-TD effort. The Niners added Braylon Edwards, a deep threat, who should open up the middle for Davis. Michael Crabtree (foot) could miss Week 1, so Davis may see more balls coming his way. Fantasy footballers are snagging him in the middle of the fifth round, on average.

4) Dallas Clark | Indianapolis Colts | 6-foot-3, 252 pounds | 9th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: A severe wrist injury limited Clark to six games in 2010. He is working on regaining his range of motion and will wear a protective splint in training camp. Barring any setbacks, he should be back to normal when the regular season resumes. In 2009, Clark played in every game for the first time in his career. He caught a personal-best 100 passes for 1,106 yards, while scoring 10 times. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is recovering from offseason neck surgery, loves targeting Clark down the seam. The Iowa product is a constant injury risk, but he produces with the best of them when healthy. His ADP is the late fifth round.

5) Owen Daniels | Houston Texans | 6-foot-4, 260 pounds | 8th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
324240550524

Analysis: Injuries have robbed Daniels of the better part of the last two seasons, although he came on strong late last year. Now finally healthy, expect big things once again from this fixture in the Houston offense. Over the final four games of 2010, Daniels, who looked more agile than he had all season, caught 22 passes for 271 yards and two scores, averaging 12.3 per grab. Houston likes to push the ball downfield and rely often on Daniels over the middle. After all, he caught 133 passes from 2007 to 2008. Daniels hasn't been forgotten by fantasy owners, although you can still land him at a very fair spot in the mid-11th round, on average.

6) Kellen Winslow | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 6-foot-4, 240 pounds | 8th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Analysis: Believe it or not, Winslow has played a full slate in four of his last five seasons, including two straight! The former Miami Hurricanes star caught 66 balls last year and 77 the year before, scoring five times in each season. Quarterback Josh Freeman is on the fast track, having thrown 25 touchdowns to just six picks last year. Second-year wideout Mike Williams appears to be a bona fide No. 1 receiver, and Tampa really doesn't have much to work with at the position after Williams. Winslow is a nice buy-low option and has a tad more value in PPR leagues because of his lack of scoring. Last year's seventh most targeted tight end is drafted, on average, in the 14th round. Talk about value!

7) Jermichael Finley | Green Bay Packers | 6-foot-5, 240 pounds | 4th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
05-505001

Analysis: Finley came into his own during the 2009 season. He finished with 55 catches, 676 yards and five scores in 13 games. Hopes were high entering the 2010 campaign, but a cartilage injury in his right knee cost him 11 games. He wasn't even very productive when healthy. Finley underwent a second operation to clear up an infection; he says the knee is fine and that he is faster after losing nearly 15 pounds. The Packers have a lot of weapons and spread the ball around, so expecting a monster year from Finley is a bit short-sighted. There is little doubt about his talent, and he should be just fine as a midrange No. 1. He is generally drafted in the middle of the sixth round.

8) Jermaine Gresham | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-foot-5, 261 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
334333443413

Analysis: The former Oklahoma Sooner enjoyed a strong rookie season, hauling in 52 balls for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Gresham is two years removed from a major knee injury and showed signs of his athleticism in the second half of the 2010 season. Through the first nine games, he averaged a pathetic 6.8 yards per catch as he recovered and felt his way through an NFL offense. From Week 10 to the close of the season, Gresham's average was 12.3 yards per reception, including three games with averages of at least 14.0 per catch. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton figures to start for the Bengals this year, and he should rely heavily on the second-year line extension. Gresham is a sleeper candidate and has been largely ignored in early drafts. He goes, on average, in the 17th round but should be landed as a low-end No. 1 with potential for much greater.

9) Chris Cooley | Washington Redskins | 6-foot-3, 255 pounds | 8th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: The verbose tight end rebounded nicely following an injury-shortened 2009 season. Cooley caught 77 passes for 849 yards and scored three times in 16 games. Washington made a switch at quarterback, with John Beck or Rex Grossman expected to take over for the jettisoned Donovan McNabb. Cooley was the most targeted tight end in the NFL last year (141 plays). He may not see that many looks with a new quarterback, but Beck's inexperience bodes well for the flamboyant pass catcher. Grossman may have a better grasp on the offense after spending a year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in Houston. In this year's deep tight end pool, Cooley's early 13th-round ADP makes him a very attractive mark for bargain hunters.

10) Tony Gonzalez | Atlanta Falcons | 6-foot-5, 247 pounds | 15th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

Analysis: Gonzo's production slipped a tad in his second year with the Falcons. He finished with 70 catches for 656 yards and six touchdowns - not bad numbers at all, but far short of the lofty standards he has set for himself throughout his career. The addition of Julio Jones could open up the field for Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan will probably go to his future Hall of Fame checkdown more without Michael Jenkins in the mix. The former Kansas City Chief was involved in 112 plays last year, which was the fourth most across the position. Gonzalez is hurt by an extra deep class of starter-worthy tight ends. His ADP is the ninth round, and Gonzo is a low-end No. 1 or strong second option in what should be a slight rebound season for him.

11) Marcedes Lewis | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-foot-6, 275 pounds | 6th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
324240550557

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars

Analysis: Lewis came to life in his fifth pro season, erupting for 10 touchdowns - three more than he scored in his previous four seasons combined. Lewis tallied 58 receptions for 700 yards. The Jags have very little in the way of proven receivers. The UCLA pass catcher established himself near the stripe by scoring 70 percent of his '10 scores in the red zone. Quarterback concerns, with rookie Blaine Gabbert waiting in the wings, could throw a wrench in his plans, but inexperienced passers often rely on the tight end position. Lewis isn't likely to replicate last year's lofty benchmarks, but he should be a focal point of the offense. Now that he has his extension, will complacency set in? Lewis goes, on average, at the turn of the 10th and 11th rounds.

12) Brandon Pettigrew | Detroit Lions | 6-foot-5, 265 pounds | 3rd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
405039649613

Analysis: Pettigrew emerged as a strong weapon for the Lions' offense in 2010. He caught 71 passes for 722 yards and found the end zone four times. He was the third most targeted tight end in the league. In three games with Matthew Stafford under center, Pettigrew caught six passes for 32 yards and two touchdowns. Expect his receptions to come down some if Stafford stays healthy all year, because the signal caller prefers to push the ball downfield. Still, he may be reliant on the position, since, after all, Stafford doesn't even have a full season worth of starts under his belt. Fantasy footballers are typically snatching up Pettigrew in the early 10th round.

13) Rob Gronkowski | New England Patriots | 6-foot-6, 265 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
657593710371113

Analysis: It may be somewhat optimistic placing Gronkowski in the top 12, but he has plenty of upside and an offense that will utilize him. He proved to be the consummate red zone weapon by scoring nine of his 10 touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line. Gronk's role in 2011 should be very similar, but his overall involvement could dip after the additions of pass-catching back Shane Vereen and wideout Chad Ochocinco, as well as the continued involvement of Aaron Hernandez. Look for low-end starter production some weeks, and Gronkowski makes for an ideal target as your backup tight end. He goes, on average, in the 16th round.

14) Dustin Keller | New York Jets | 6-foot-2, 255 pounds | 4th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: The versatile tight end added eight pounds of muscle to help improve his blocking but says he hasn't sacrificed his speed at all. Keller tied for the fifth most tight end utilizations with 104. The loss of Brad Smith and addition of a diminishing Derrick Mason could mean more work for him. The Jets will start veteran Wayne Hunter at right tackle, instead of Vladimir Ducasse; this move should mean Keller will have more chances to run freely. Keller's speed is finally starting to show in the stats, as he has increased his reception average the past two years (12.5 in 2010). He also set a career high with 55 receptions. Draft him as a low-end No. 1 or upside backup; his ADP is the beginning of the 11th round.

15) Zach Miller | Seattle Seahawks | 6-foot-5, 255 pounds | 5th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
293932142124

Analysis: The athletic pass catcher came over from the Oakland Raiders this offseason and will start for the Seahawks' new-look offense. The 'Hawks added quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who should rely heavily on Miller because of his relative inexperience as an NFL starting signal caller. The Arizona State product was a staple in the Raiders' passing game for the past three seasons and was targeted 93 times in 15 games a year ago. He should benefit from the presence of Sidney Rice stretching the field. Blessed with soft hands and the ability to make big plays after the catch, Miller is a low-end starter or a perfect No. 2 fantasy tight end. He goes, on average, in the early 11th round.

16) Jimmy Graham | New Orleans Saints | 6-foot-7, 265 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8999119112911315

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

Analysis: Graham is an immensely talented and physically gifted athlete, but he is still more of an athlete than a football player having just started the football in his senior year at Miami (Fla.) after having grown up as a basketball standout. The Saints have a lot of weapons and really haven't used the tight end position all too much under Sean Payton. Graham's size will make him a red zone target, but he will be too inconsistent to count on as a weekly starter. He has had troubles looking in routine receptions in training camp and will be set back some by the lockout. Graham is being overvalued and shouldn't be considered anything more than a top-flight backup. His seventh-round ADP illustrates the health of his hype machine.

17) Kevin Boss | Oakland Raiders | 6-ffot-6, 253 pounds | 5th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: Boss replaces Zach Miller as Oakland's starting tight end and will have his work cut out from him to fill Miller's shoes. The behemoth tight end provides a great red zone target for Jason Campbell. Oakland's receiving corps is largely unproven, so it's a safe bet to believe the tight end position will continue to be utilized heavily. Furthermore, Campbell is a master of the checkdown and has relied on his tight ends considerably throughout his career. Boss is a bit of a sleeper but has struggled to stay healthy for an entire season during his career. He is a backup target in all formats.

18) Brent Celek | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 5th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
314145455435

Analysis: The Eagles plan to get Celek more involved this year after he suffered a steep drop-off in production a year ago. Michael Vick said he overlooked a wide-open Celek often last season and has worked toward incorporating the tight end more. If Jeremy Maclin's mystery illness returns, Celek could be called on even more if it turns out to be something serious. Fantasy owners should consider him a backup in normal formats and will have look to work him into their flex spot at times during the year. He can be had cheaply in the 16th round.

19) Benjamin Watson | Cleveland Browns | 6-foot-3, 255 pounds | 8th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
172719629624

Benjamin Watson, Cleveland Browns

Analysis: Watson enjoyed a breakout year in 2010, catching 68 passes for 763 yards and scored three times. He was targeted 104 times, which tied for fifth most among tight ends. Colt McCoy relied on him often, and the oft-injured Watson has stayed on the field for 32 consecutive games for the first time in his pro career. Pat Shurmur's modified West Coast offense caters to tight end involvement, and the Browns don't have much to speak of at wide receiver. Watson may regress a little but should be a reasonable backup option in deep leagues.

20) Heath Miller | Pittsburgh Steelers | 6-foot-5, 256 pounds | 7th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
617166376346

Analysis: Miller is just year removed from a career season (76-789-6) and deserves a bit of consideration with Ben Roethlisberger slated to start all 16 games. Unfortunately, there are only so many balls to go around in Pittsburgh's somewhat limited passing game, and Miller's role as a blocker cannot be overlooked. Count on a slight uptick in production but not enough to make him more than an occasional spot play. Select him as a backup toward the end of your draft.

21) Greg Olsen | Carolina Panthers | 6-foot-5, 255 pounds | 5th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8393918101868

Analysis: The former Miami Hurricane was traded to Carolina this offseason but enters a crowded situation after Jeremy Shockey and Ben Hartsock were signed earlier in the summer. Olsen figures to be heavily involved, and the quarterback situation could help his cause. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has worked with Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates, so he knows a thing or two about helping tight ends produce quality numbers. Olsen has mild sleeper intrigue but shouldn't be relied on as anything more than depth.

22) Visanthe Shiancoe | Minnesota Vikings | 6-foot-4, 250 pounds | 9th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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Analysis: You can count on Shiancoe's durability, as he has yet to miss a pro game in his career. A minor hamstring strain isn't likely to cost him any time in the regular season. He was a fantasy contributor in 2008 and '09 before regressing with the entire offense last year. Donovan McNabb is comfortable throwing to tight ends, and Minnesota doesn't have much at wide receiver behind the complementary Percy Harvin. Shiancoe may lose reps to rookie Kyle Rudolph as the year wears on. Draft the veteran as a low-end No. 2 option.

23) Jared Cook | Tennessee Titans | 6-foot-5, 248 pounds | 3rd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
445458768735

Analysis: Cook has some breakout potential as a sleeper and should benefit from the addition of Matt Hasselbeck, as well as Tennessee's weak receiving corps. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer has gone on the record saying he expects big things from Cook. Take a chance on the young tight end if you're looking for a late-round flier. He largely goes undrafted in everyday leagues.

24) Ed Dickson | Baltimore Ravens | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
243425535502

Analysis: Dickson has a great opportunity with the release of Todd Heap, but he is losing valuable time while dealing with a hamstring strain. The athletic second-year player has lukewarm fantasy potential in an offense that has three options ahead of him in the pecking order for looks. His long-term outlook is much brighter than his 2011 forecast. Take him as a backup in very deep leagues.

25) Tony Moeaki | Kansas City Chiefs | 6-foot-3, 252 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
233330940902

Analysis: His rookie season was pretty good, but March knee surgery has kept Moeaki slowed for much of the offseason. KC added a lot of weapons that should only take looks away from the second-year tight end. He has some value as a second choice in 2011 but may not produce until the second half of the year.

26) Aaron Hernandez | New England Patriots | 6-foot-1, 245 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

Analysis: Hernandez may have a tough time matching last year's production (45-563-6) with the addition of Chad Ochocinco to the current host of mouths to feed. Hernandez could have a few good games, but he is barely worth drafting as a No. 2.

27) Anthony Fasano | Miami Dolphins | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 6th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
304027637613

Analysis: Fasano should only be considered as a desperation play for a backup tight end or as a third in very deep leagues.

28) Jeremy Shockey | Carolina Panthers | 6-foot-5, 251 pounds | 10th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: Expect Shockey to post a decent game or two, but his injury-prone ways and rotating with Greg Olsen rob him of fantasy value.

29) Todd Heap | Arizona Cardinals | 6-foot-5, 252 pounds | 11th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: This veteran is not expected to see enough looks in Arizona's tight end-ignoring offense. Leave him for the waiver wire in standard formats.

30) Travis Beckum | New York Giants | 6-foot-3, 234 pounds | 3rd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Analysis: Kevin Boss' role will be filled by a committee approach, but Beckum is already out for an undisclosed period of time with a hamstring injury. Avoid him in typical leagues.

31) Kellen Davis | Chicago Bears | 6-foot-7, 267 pounds | 4th year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8189719713

Analysis: The Bears' offense doesn't utilize the tight end position enough to matter for fantasy purposes. Davis has no value in 2011.

32) Kyle Rudolph | Minnesota Vikings | 6-foot-6, 259 pounds | Rookie

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
718184794779

Analysis: Don't count on Rudolph to see the field much in 2011. He has long-term value only in full-retention keeper leagues.

33) Michael Hoomanawanui | St. Louis Rams | 6-foot-4, 265 pounds | 2nd year

2011 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
5157217202

Analysis: "Oh-oh" has a cool name, but his fantasy value in a Josh McDaniels offense will be practically non-existent.

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QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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