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TIGHT END BREAKDOWN

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Quarterback – Running Back – Wide Receiver – Tight End
Defense/Special Teams
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Heading into last season, it really seemed like slim pickins for tight ends. But by the time the final whistle blew, breakouts like Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley and Brent Celek had emerged to add depth to the position to go along with the ol’ reliable choices like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. So the advice we’re giving is not to reach for a tight end. If you like the start you’re off to after drafting a couple running backs and wide receivers, and Dallas Clark falls in your lap, that’s great. However, if you miss out on the top few guys, you can do just fine waiting a bit.

Yes, Dallas, you're the #1 tight end in fantasy football.

Tier 1 – High End

1. Dallas Clark, IND – 100 catches means Clark is more like a wide receiver than a tight end. As Peyton Manning’s top target, Clark is primed for another big season.

2. Vernon Davis, SF – Now THAT was the Vernon Davis fantasy owners and Niners fans were expecting. The alarm went off and Davis woke up, sprung to his feet and was the biggest surprise of ’09 with 13 TDs. San Fran doesn’t have a big go-to wideout, so Davis should be the man once again.

3. Antonio Gates, SD – Doesn’t get much safer than Gates. The suspension and potential holdout by Vincent Jackson could result in a hot start for Gates. The only concern here is the typical nagging injury that seems to cost Gates a game or two each year.

4. Jermichael Finley, GB – The overall numbers (676 yards and 5 TDs) won’t wow you, but Finley came on strong in Green Bay’s pass-happy offense. 4 of his 5 scores came in the Pack’s final 5 games. So you gotta like where this guy is heading. Plus, his name is Jermichael, which is cool.

5. Jason Witten, DAL – It was another 1,000-yard season for “Hard-Hittin’” Jason Witten in ’09. Yes, I know that’s Mark Whitten’s nickname, but, really, is he using it much these days? The glaring stat that vexed Witten owners last season was his 2 touchdowns. Just some bad luck. He should get back to around a handful of end zone trips.

Tier 2 – Large and in charge

6. Owen Daniels, HOU – The big Texans TE was on pace for 1,000 yards and 8 TDs until he shredded his knee. He’s still recovering, but is hopeful to be good to go for Week 1. If he is, he’s got the potential to crack the top 5.

7. Brent Celek, PHI – With tight ends, consistency is key. Lots of guys have big games, but throw in a bunch of duds. With a few exceptions, Celek was solid week in and week out, netting the fourth-most fantasy points at tight end. Kevin Kolb takes over at QB for the Eagles. That’s a good thing for Celek, who had over 100 yards in both games Kolb started in ’09.

Once again, Tony Gonzalez is a slam dunk draft pick.

8. Tony Gonzalez, ATL – Tony G is money in the bank. He’s slipping down the rankings a bit, but he’s still bringin’ it. In his first season in the ATL, Gonzo had 9 games with 5+ receptions. Another year to get in sync with Matt Ryan should result in solid stats.

9. Zach Miller, OAK – The idea here is simple. Better QB = better stats. “Off-The-Markus” Russell is toast and Jason Campbell takes over in Oaktown. Even handicapped by Russell’s shot-put passes, Miller showed plenty of potential with over 800 yards.

10. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN – In a TD-only league, “Shanks” is gold. Brett Favre will be back, and you know how he loves to dump those 2-yard TD passes to his tight end. Shiancoe is the new Bubba Franks.

11. Chris Cooley, WAS – The good news is that Cooley is fully recovered from his broken ankle. And that Donovan McNabb is his new QB. The bad news is that Fred Davis is on the rise and may snag some of Cooley’s targets.

12. Kellen Winslow, TB – The Bucs are awful. So they’ll be chucking the ball around, playing catch-up. That bodes well for Winslow, the only established receiver on the team.

Tier 3 – Hit or miss

13. Greg Olsen, CHI – A chunk of Olsen’s production came in one 3-TD game. Outside of that, there weren’t many big days. Will he get lost in Mike Martz’s receiver-oriented offense? Maybe, but Jay Cutler should be much better than last season, which could keep Olsen relevant.

14. Heath Miller, PIT – Miller’s your solid, middle-of-the-road guy. His value dips a bit with Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension, so it’s unlikely he’ll get back near his career-high 789 receiving yards from ’09.

15. John Carlson, SEA – Well, he knows how to find the end zone. Carlson scored in his last 4 games, but the yardage wasn’t pretty. The Seahawks receiving corps was a complete disaster last season, so Carlson has a chance to build on the momentum he began in Weeks 14-17.

16. Dustin Keller, NYJ – Outside of a 4-game stretch in which Keller posted mediocre numbers, there was nothing to like about this Jets pass-catcher. Most owners used him as an injury replacement, and that’s about all he’s worth right now.

17. Todd Heap, BAL – Left for dead by every fantasy owner on the planet, Heap was reborn with 4 TDs in the fantasy playoffs. Not like anyone actually started him then though. Still, that late effectiveness keeps Heap in the periphery of back-up TEs.

18. Kevin Boss, NYG – Great name for a tight end. Not great stats. If you’re lucky, Boss’ll throw around his weight and get you 450 yards and a handful of TDs.

19. Jeremy Shockey, NO – Horrible season for Shockey…except that he now has a Super Bowl ring on his finger. Name recognition will get Shockey drafted. But don’t be shocked when he misses a few games with another injury.

Tier 4 – The Unknown

20. Jermaine Gresham, CIN – Looks like he’ll be the starter in Cincy. The kid was a force in his final season at Oklahoma, grabbing 14 touchdowns. He missed ’09 with a knee injury and is low-risk, medium-reward guy to consider in super deep leagues and keeper/dynasty leagues.

21. Ben Watson, CLE – Watson collected a lot of dust in New England. He’ll be out there for Cleveland, but don’t expect a whole lot. He does have Jake Delhomme throwing to him (and the other team).

22. Tony Scheffler, DET – Scheff could make a minor impact in Detroit. He’s was acquired to be a security blanket for Matt Stafford while Brandon Pettigrew gets up to speed after suffering a knee injury.

23. Fred Davis, WAS – Freddie’s just another Cooley injury away from being a top-12 tight end. As it stands now, the talented third-year player is likely to see limited action.

24. Rob Gronkowski, NE – The interesting thing here is that Rob is just one of three Gronkowski’s that showed up when I searched the player pool. The rookie out of Arizona will probably see a bulk of the snaps at tight end for the Patriots. But Tom Brady uses his tight ends sporadically, at best.

25. Anthony Fasano, MIA – Coming off of a 450-yard, 7-TD season in ‘08, Fasano was on, oh, the middle of draft lists last year. He took a step back, though, and isn’t much more than a bye-week replacement at this point.

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