In 2008, tight ends basically were grouped in five different tiers. In the top tier, there was one player and that was Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs with over 1,000 yards receiving and ten touchdowns.
The second tier consisted of the Cowboys’ Jason Witten, Dallas Clark of the Colts and Antonio Gates of the Chargers. Each of these players was held back by injury at some point in the season or else they might have joined Gonzalez in the top tier.
That was followed up the threesome of Visanthe Shiancoe (Vikings), Owen Daniels (Texans) and rookie John Carlson of the Seahawks. Shiancoe and Daniels enjoyed career seasons while Carlson benefitted from the injury issues Seattle had at wide receiver.
The next tier included Greg Olsen, Anthony Fasano, Zach Miller, Chris Cooley and Tony Scheffler. Cooley was a bit of a disappointment and Fasano was a revelation although he was very inconsistent. Olsen, Miller and Scheffler were all young players who continued their ascension up the tight end ranks.
After that, it was a cast of disappointments like Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller or players with mediocre skills or who weren’t quite ready for prime time like Kevin Boss.
With the top tight ends significantly outscoring those in the third and fourth tiers, it is position worth using a reasonably high draft pick or auction dollars on. The top four or five tight ends figure to outscore players below them significantly in 2009 so they are worth spending resources on to secure their services in your fantasy starting line-up. Just don’t go overboard in doing so.
- Jason Witten – Five total points in games without Tony Romo plus Terrell Owens is gone.
- Dallas Clark – Could have huge year if his red zone targets increase.
- Tony Gonzalez – Hard to see him duplicating his 2008 performance.
- Antonio Gates – Averaged over 120 targets between 2004-2007, only 92 in 2008.
- Owen Daniels – 862 yards in 2008 with only two TDs, but that should increase in 2009.
- Kellen Winslow – QB issues in Tampa but should rebound from an off year in 2008.
- Chris Cooley – Elite status not likely given poor 2nd half performance by the Washington offense.
- Greg Olsen – This should be the year he relegates Desmond Clark to the bench.
- John Carlson – Targets should be down with T.J. Houshmandzadeh signing, and a healthy Deion Branch and Nate Burleson.
- Tony Scheffler – Could be higher but what team will he be on in 2009?
- Visanthe Shiancoe – Don’t expect seven TD’s in 2009.
- Zach Miller – Bad offense in Oakland holds him back.
- Kevin Boss – Giant offense might be without Plaxico Burress but replacement is likely.
- Dustin Keller – Expect lots of catches but few TD’s unless the QB situation changes.
- Heath Miller – Better prospects in 2009 with Nate Washington gone but still a fantasy backup.
- Brent Celek – Could be in for a big year but plenty of options in Philly.
- Jeremy Shockey – Just a bit part in the New Orleans offense.
- Bo Scaife – Solid receiving tight end but doesn’t get enough targets.
- Vernon Davis – Doesn’t taste as good as it looks in the wrapper.
- Randy McMichael – Torry Holt is gone and remaining receivers are young.
- Anthony Fasano – Boom or bust and unlikely to get seven TDs in 2009.
- David Martin – Decent player playing part-time.
- Benjamin Watson – See Vernon Davis.
- Donald Lee – Solid in 2007 but an afterthought in 2008.
- Todd Heap – More of a blocker now and will split time with L.J. Smith.
- Jerramy Stevens – Decent option given his skills and Winslow’s injury history.
- Martellus Bennett – Talented player could produce with Owens gone and better understanding of the playbook.
- L.J. Smith – See Todd Heap.
- Marcedes Lewis – The light hasn’t gone on yet, and it is unlikely to now.
- Billy Miller – Solid producer when Shockey was out of the lineup in 2008.