Our initial tight end rankings for 2009 were posted back in March with Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the number one position. Witten was enjoying a stellar campaign in 2008 before injuries and an injury to quarterback Tony Romo derailed his season.
As we noted in March, the top tight ends in 2008 significantly outscored lower tier starters. The top four or five tight ends again figure to outscore players below them by a wide margin, so they are worth using a reasonably high draft pick or auction dollars on to secure their services in your fantasy starting line-up.
In 2009, the tight ends generally consist of an upper tier and then a larger number of players that can be classified as either solid veteran producers or players capable of a breakout campaign. Therefore, the argument could be made that there is little reason to get a tight end early unless you are convinced you want a player from the top tier. Otherwise, it likely makes sense to wait to get your starting tight end later in the draft.
There were some incredible values at the position last year and that figures to be the case once again in 2009. For instance, early average draft position rankings have Houston’s Owen Daniels going in the 8th round, Seattle’s John Carlson in the 9th round and Dustin Keller of the Jets in the 12th round. These were the 6th, 7th and 14th rated tight ends last year. Keller’s ranking would have been higher had he played more in the first half of the season.
1. Jason Witten, DAL – Five total points in games without Tony Romo last year plus Terrell Owens is now gone points to a great season for Witten.
2. Antonio Gates, SD – Averaged over 120 targets between 2004-2007, but only 92 in an injury plagued 2008.
3. Dallas Clark, IND – Becomes the team’s second best receiving option with the departure of Marvin Harrison. He could have huge year if his red zone targets increase.
4. Tony Gonzalez, ATL – Hard to see him duplicating his 2008 performance in the run heavy Falcons offense.
5. Owen Daniels, HOU – 862 yards in 2008 with only two TD but that should increase in 2009. The Texans offense should be formidable in 2009.
6. Chris Cooley, WAS – Elite status for Cooley is not likely given poor 2nd half performance by the Washington offense.
8. John Carlson, SEA – Targets should be down with T.J. Houshmandzadeh signing and a healthy Deion Branch and Nate Burleson. However, team’s woeful running game will mean there are plenty of targets to go around.
9. Kellen Winslow, TB – There are quarterback issues in Tampa but Winslow should rebound from an off year in 2008. He could suffer down the stretch if rookie Josh Freeman moves into the starting role.
10. Tony Scheffler, DEN – A talented but injury prone tight end. Top five fantasy potential based on his skills but unlikely to achieve that with Kyle Orton now at QB.
11. Zach Miller, OAK – Perhaps the league’s most underrated tight end. A bad offense in Oakland holds him back. Would benefit greatly if Jeff Garcia takes over for JaMarcus Russell at quarterback.
12. Dustin Keller, NYJ – Expect lots of catches but few TD with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez running the show.
13. Kevin Boss, NYG – Giant offense loses Plaxico Burress so Boss figures to be top red zone target, at least until one of the younger wide receivers develops.
14. Brent Celek, PHI – Could be in for a big year but there are plenty of options in Philly. Offense figures to be a juggernaut and he is a solid red zone target.
15. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN – Don’t expect seven TD again in 2009. Benefits due to all of the speed at the other skill positions.
16. Heath Miller, PIT – Better prospects in 2009 with Nate Washington gone but still a fantasy backup.
17. Bo Scaife, TEN – Solid receiving tight end but doesn’t get enough targets. With Scaife a free agent at season’s end, the Titans may look to groom talented but inconsistent rookie 3rd round pick Jared Cook.
18. Jeremy Shockey, NO – Just a bit part in the New Orleans offense and seemingly on the downside of his career.
19. Vernon Davis, SF – Doesn’t taste as good as it looks in the wrapper. Davis is big, strong, fast and frustrating. Unfortunately, he’s more of the latter than any of the former.
20. Randy McMichael, STL – Torry Holt is gone and the remaining receivers have combined to start only 19 games in the league. McMichael figures to be QB Marc Bulger’s security blanket and best option on third downs.
21. Ben Watson, NE – Perennial tease and incredibly inconsistent. Only seven games of ten or more fantasy points over the last three seasons.
22. Anthony Fasano, MIA – Boom or bust and unlikely to get seven TD in 2009.
23. David Martin, MIA – Decent player playing part-time.
26. Martellus Bennett, DAL – A talented player who could produce with Owens gone and better understanding of the playbook.
27. Brandon Pettigrew, DET – Rookie 1st round pick is unlikely to post big numbers but has potential for keeper leagues.
28. Marcedes Lewis, JAC – The light hasn’t gone on yet and it is unlikely to now.
29. Jerramy Stevens, TB – Decent option given his skills and Winslow’s injury history.
30. Billy Miller, NO – Solid producer when Shockey was out of the lineup in 2008.