Joe provides his positional rankings for dynasty leagues in this
multi-part series. He assesses these players according to three
categories—long term, short term, and job security. Joe will
update these rankings periodically throughout the year.
1. Antonio Gates, SD
Long Term View (LTV): In Gates
first season working with quarterback Philip Rivers he recorded
71 receptions, 924 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Both the franchise QB
and the star tight end have contracts that run through the 2010
season. Rivers had a strong outing as a first year starter in the
league. If he progresses as expected and comes to rely on his TE
more often in the years ahead, Gates will have thousand-yard seasons
going forward like the one he all ready logged in 2005. He also
remains a consistent threat to score 9-12 touchdowns per year.
Short Term View (STV): Given
his first year of experience as a starter in the NFL, expect Philip
Rivers to have just as strong an outing for himself in 2007 as
he had last season. As the top receiving threat in San Diego's
offense, expect 80-90 receptions, 900-1000 yards, and 8-10 touchdowns
from Gates this season.
Job Security (JS): Under his
current contract, the Chargers star tight end will remain in San
Diego for the next 4 years.
2. Jeremy Shockey, NYG
LTV: Shockey has spent five
seasons in the NFL as a member of the Giants--the last two and
a half with Eli Manning under center. Since Manning's arrival,
the former Miami Hurricane has had some of his most successful
outings in fantasy leagues. After catching a total of 4 touchdowns
his first two seasons, Shockey has scored 20 over the last three
years (16 by way of Manning).
With the increased frequency in which he has found the end zone,
Shockey has proven to be among the elite tight ends available.
He's a threat to catch 65-75 passes, and record 650-750 yards
in coming years as well. Should Manning improve upon his career
accuracy rate of 54.1%, Shockey is capable of reaching 800-900
yards per season.
STV: After throwing for more
than 3700 yards in 2005, Manning's production in that category
dropped to under 3300 last year. The over 500-yard difference
in output had an effect on Shockey that saw his yardage production
go from nearly 900 yards two seasons ago, to less than 650 yards
Expect Manning's yardage totals to surpass 3500 this season,
and with it Shockey should finish the year with at least 700-800
yards himself. With Tiki Barber no longer around, its possible
Shockey will see many of the receptions that use to go him as
well. He could be in for a very strong year.
JS: With a deal that doesn't
expire until after the 2011 season, it appears Shockey will remain
paired with Manning in New York for the next few seasons.
3. Todd Heap, BAL
LTV: Heap has been among the
most talented at his position since entering the league. He spent
a season backing up one of the all-time greats in Shannon Sharpe
before the opportunity presented itself for him to start. The
former Arizona State star amassed 68 receptions, 836 yards, and
6 touchdowns in 2002. His totals slipped a bit the following year
before injuries wiped out most of his 2004 campaign.
In the two seasons since then however, Heap has provided fantasy
owners with some of his best outings. He reached career highs
in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns in 2005 before totaling
73, 765, and 6 in those categories last year. With Steve McNair
under center, along with Mark Clayton's emergence in the offense
to keep defenses from focusing on Heap quite as much, there's
good reason to expect more strong outings from the seven-year
vet in years ahead.
STV: With the addition of Willis
McGahee this off-season, along with the talented players Baltimore
all ready has in place, the Ravens offensive attack should be
the strongest itís been in quite some time. Don't expect any drastic
improvements in Heap's accomplishments this year, but it's a safe
bet he'll finish with numbers similar to those he posted in each
of the last two seasons.
JS: Heap's current contract doesn't expire until 2011. Expect
him to remain in Baltimore for the foreseeable future.
4. Alge Crumpler, ATL
LTV: Despite the passing woes
of Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, tight end Alge Crumpler has
showed continued progress towards becoming one of the elite players
at his position in the NFL. He reached a career high in touchdowns
last season (8) and did the same with receptions (65) and yardage
(877) in 2005. New head coach Bobby Petrino will continue keeping
him an important part of the offense, so expect similar results
from Atlanta's star TE in the years ahead.
STV: The Falcons acquired Joe
Horn as a free agent in the off-season, but Alge Crumpler will
remain the most valuable receiving threat in Atlanta's offense.
Horn's presence may ultimately benefit Crumpler's output, so expect
another 55-65 receptions, 750-850 yards, and 6-9 touchdowns from
the 7th-year vet.
JS: Unless he is released before his contract expires, Crumpler
will remain with the Atlanta Falcons through the 2010 season.
5. Tony Gonzalez, KC
LTV: At the age of 31, Gonzalez is creeping closer and closer
towards his day of retirement. At the moment however, he continues
to rank in fantasy leagues among the best at his position. While
his touchdown totals have fallen off in recent years, he has annually
reached benchmarks of 70 receptions and 900 yards in each of the
past four seasons.
With the Chiefs intent on starting second year QB Brodie Croyle,
it may be a disappointing season for Gonzalez in the year ahead,
but he'll likely remain among the more valuable TEs in fantasy
leagues throughout most of his remaining years.
STV: The QB change in Kansas City this year doesn't bode well
for Gonzalez's fantasy owners, but he'll continue to rank among
the more valuable at his position nonetheless. Keep in mind however
his four-year run of at least 70 receptions and 900 yards may
be snapped before reaching a fifth consecutive year.
JS: To this point, Gonzalez has spent his entire NFL career with
the Chiefs since being drafted in 1997. Given his current age,
and a contract that doesn't expire until after his 35th birthday
in 2011, it appears he may be one of the rare players who spend
an entire career with one franchise anymore.
6. Kellen Winslow, CLE
LTV: It might have taken a while, but Cleveland Browns tight end
Kellen Winslow finally proved his worth in 2006. An injury early
in his rookie campaign forced him to miss most of the year. An
off-season motorcycle accident then cost him the entire 2005 season.
Finally healthy, the 6th overall pick in the 2004 draft had an
outstanding performance--catching 89 passes, for 875 yards, and
With health concerns now behind him, it appears safe to expect
similar performances from the former Miami Hurricane in the years
ahead. Though all ready entering his 4th season in the league,
at 24 years of age come the start of the new year, Winslow is
among the youngest stars at his position. The unaccomplished offense
he currently plays in may limit his scoring opportunities, but
the receptions and yardage totals will remain high.
STV: Cleveland's selection
of Brady Quinn in the first round of this yearís draft means Winslow
will need to adjust to the workings of a new QB at some point
in the upcoming year or two. Given the production he provided
with Charlie Frye in his first full season as a starter, it may
not matter which quarterback is throwing the ball when it comes
to Winslow's statistics. Taking Frye's performance into account,
it may benefit Winslow once Quinn takes over.
JS: Winslow's current deal that he signed as a rookie doesn't
expire until after the 2010 season. Expect him to remain with
the Browns until that time.
7. Vernon Davis, SF
LTV: Davis was drafted into the NFL with many high expectations
placed upon him. A broken leg suffered early in his rookie campaign
forced him miss 6 games and limited him to 8 starts. While there
were some glimpses of his star potential throughout the year,
he finished with just 20 receptions, 265 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
Provided he's healthy, and with a year of experience under his
belt, the former Maryland Terrapin should see drastic improvements
upon those statistics in the years ahead. Continued development
from QB Alex Smith will also factor into Davis' success, though
his physical talents alone will be enough to rank him among the
Top 10 fantasy tight ends for a long time to come.
STV: With the oft-injured Eric
Johnson's departure via free agency in the off-season, Vernon
Davis is the unquestioned number one tight end in San Francisco
this year. Along with Davis' totals, Johnson contributed 34 receptions,
292 yards, and 2 touchdowns himself as a tight end for the 49ers
in 2006. Many of those receptions will now come Davis' way as
he develops into one of the leagues elite at the position. Expect
a strong sophomore campaign from the Maryland alumnus.
JS: Davis has a contract that keeps him in San Francisco through
the 2010 season. He'll remain a featured presence within the offense
throughout that tenure.
8. Chris Cooley, WAS
LTV: A third round pick in the 2004 draft, Cooley has scored no
less than 6 touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the
NFL. After totaling 37 receptions for 314 yards as a rookie, the
Utah State product amassed more than 700 yards in each of his
last two outings.
As Redskins offensive guru Al Saunders continues running the
offense in Washington, there's good reason to expect similar production
from Cooley in the years ahead. He's a reliable threat for 55-65
receptions, 650-750 yards, and 5-7 touchdowns in coming seasons.
STV: After a poor start, Cooley
heated up from mid-to-late season and performed as one of the
best tight ends available during that span. Following Mark Brunell's
benching after a week 10 loss to the Eagles, Jason Campbell took
over under center and connected with Cooley on 30 passes for 411
yards--including 3 touchdown receptions--over the final 7 weeks
of the season. If Campbell and Cooley pick up where they left
off in 2006, expect solid production from the 4th-year vet.
JS: Cooley's contract expires at the end of the season, at which
time he'll become an unrestricted free agent. His agent and the
Washington Redskins are currently having negations to come to
terms on an extension before the deal expires.
9. Jason Witten, DAL
LTV: After posting 87 receptions,
980 yards, and 6 touchdowns as a 2nd-year player in the league,
Witten's numbers have dropped a bit in recent years. That 2004
season was one in which the Cowboys primary receiving threat (Terry
Glenn) was injured and missed 10 games. Keyshawn Johnson was there
to provide stability at the position, but Witten saw the biggest
increase in attention as a result of Glenn's injury.
Now with both Terry Glenn and Terrell Owens present at wide-out,
Witten continues to see less action in the offense than he had
during his first full season as a starter. Nonetheless, he remains
an important part of Dallas' offensive attack. As long as Owens
remains a Cowboy, Witten's touchdown totals may continue to suffer,
but he's a reliable threat for 60-70 receptions, 700-800 yards,
and 3-5 touchdowns in the years ahead.
STV: With virtually the same offensive cast returning to Dallas'
starting line-up this season its likely Witten's statistics will
mirror those of a year ago. Expect roughly 60 receptions, 750
yards, and 4 touchdowns from the 5th-year vet in 2007.
JS: Witten's current contract doesn't expire with the Cowboys
until after the 2012 season. Expect him to remain the starter
in Dallas for much of, if not all of that duration.
10. L.J. Smith, PHI
LTV: Smith's current deal is set to expire at the end of the season.
His agent and the Philadelphia Eagles have been working on and
off for parts of the last two years trying to come to terms on
an extension. If one is reached and the Rutgers alumnus remains
in Philadelphia for the next phase of his career, he'll likely
rank among the Top 12 fantasy tight ends on a consistent basis
in the years ahead. If not, much will depend on which team he
signs with in the off-season.
STV: Playing for a new contract much is at stake for L.J. Smith
in 2007. A strong season and his price tag increases forcing teams
to bid more for his services. His performance over the first half
of the year may play a role in how much the Eagles are willing
to bend in terms of meeting his current asking price to get an
extension done as well.
For the upcoming season however, there is no debate over where
he'll be playing. Provided Smith avoids any missed time due to
recover from hernia surgery, expect him to improve upon his 50
receptions and 611 receiving yards of a year ago. He's reliable
for 4-6 touchdowns over the course of the season as well.
JS: With his rookie deal set to expire, its possible Smith will
be playing elsewhere after the season. If he and the Eagles don't
come to agreement on an extension during the year, there's a good
chance he won't be returning to Philadelphia in 2008.