The rookie draft and free agency didn’t produce any significant player movement at the tight end position but a number of players were affected by their team’s ability to secure talent at the other offensive skill positions.
Our updated rankings don’t include any major movements with Heath Miller, Greg Olsen and Brandon Pettigrew moving down and no player moving up significantly. Fred Davis of the Redskins moves up from 25th to 19th, but he’s a fantasy backup at best with solid upside for dynasty leagues.
The 2010 tight end crop is loaded with talented players so the days of needing to grab one of the top three or four players at the position are over. The drop-off starts at four after Dallas Clark but it wouldn’t be a surprise if any of the next four players finished in the top five.
However, the value and upside starts dropping quickly after Jason Witten at number eight. If you miss out on one of the top eight, then my advice is to move on to other positions and wait until later in your draft or auction to address the position.
Each player’s prior ranking is noted in parentheses after the current ranking.
1. (1) Antonio Gates, SD
No change at the top. I expect Gates to reclaim the title of fantasy football’s premier tight end. The addition of running back Ryan Mathews shouldn’t hurt Gates’ touchdown totals.
2. (3) Vernon Davis, SF
Do you believe? Apparently I do. Expect a repeat of his 2009 breakout campaign but maybe not quite the 13 touchdowns he had last year.
3. (2) Brent Celek, PHI
Don’t be shocked. He’s talented, he plays in a solid offense and new quarterback Kevin Kolb loves throwing to him (208 yards and a touchdown during Kolb’s two starts last year). Not to mention he was the fourth ranked fantasy tight end in 2009.
4. (4) Dallas Clark, IND
5. (5) Jermichael Finley, GB
Laugh at me now if you like but you might be crying later. Finley amassed 97 fantasy points in only nine starts and averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game over the last five games of the season. There is a good argument that he should be the top ranked tight end in dynasty leagues.
6. (6) Owen Daniels, HOU
Bit of an injury risk so his recovery needs to be monitored. However, he was having a career year last year and likely would have been the top ranked fantasy tight end had he not torn his ACL. Daniels averaged 11.4 fantasy points per game during the first seven weeks before going down in week eight.
7. (7) Tony Gonzalez, ATL
Here’s the dilemma—does he have upside because he was underutilized last year or downside because he’s a year older? Gonzalez stays in phenomenal shape but it is hard to move him higher.
8. (9) Jason Witten, DAL
Plenty of yards last year with 1,030 but finished eighth in the rankings because of his two touchdown receptions. Cowboys feature big wide receivers in Miles Austin, Roy Williams and Dez Bryant to go along with an outstanding short yardage runner in Marion Barber. Expect more touchdowns and fewer yards with hotshot rookie Bryant on board.
9. (11) Zach Miller, OAK
Miller gets a decent quarterback for the first time in his career in Jason Campbell. Miller is the most underrated tight end in the league so he could surprise.
10. (10) Kellen Winslow, TB
Racks up the yardage totals when healthy but has never topped five touchdown receptions in a year, which begs the question why anyone should bank on that happening in 2010 given the team’s young, raw talent on offense.
11. (8) Heath Miller, PIT
Coming off a career year but moves down due to Ben Roethlisberger’s four to six game suspension. Miller may become a solid check down option for Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich, but touchdown totals will almost certainly suffer.
12. (12) Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN
He’s been solid two years running but with Shiancoe, it’s all about the touchdowns. Has never surpassed 600 yards but has 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons. That means his production is going to be inconsistent and it also increases his risk factor.
13. (15) Chris Cooley, WAS
He’s talented and the Redskins have upgraded the talent at quarterback with Donovan McNabb, but Fred Davis is breathing down his neck. I expect Cooley to retain the job but Davis is too good not to be utilized or else I would have him higher. An ankle injury from last year is of no concern for 2010.
14. (14) John Carlson, SEA
Coming off a sophomore slump, Carlson has a new head coach in Pete Carroll who figures to be more imaginative on offense. However, if he has to pass protect to help the offensive line, he will be around the 80 target mark again in 2010 which prevents him from being a quality starter for fantasy purposes.
15. (17) Kevin Boss, NYG
Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants failed to draft a tight end. Boss has increased his yardage totals every year but the team ignored him in the red zone for the first half of 2009. Boss did finish with five touchdowns over his last nine games so it’s up to you to decide whether that was a mirage or whether it foreshadows fantasy glory in 2010.
16. (13) Greg Olsen, CHI
He’s talented but new offensive coordinator Mike Martz is stubborn and doesn’t utilize tight ends. Look no further than the case of Vernon Davis. Forgotten by Martz, Davis became a Pro Bowl tight end once Martz left.
17. (18) Todd Heap, BAL
Heap had a bit of a bounce back season in 2009 but has two rookies behind him who the Ravens are high on. No upside potential here.
18. (19) Dustin Keller, NYJ
19. (25) Fred Davis, WAS
Looked good last year replacing Cooley but has limited upside until one of them is on a new team.
20. (20) Jeremy Shockey, NO
Played well when he was healthy in 2009 but has promising rookie James Graham and solid receiver David Thomas behind him. It wouldn’t be a total shocker if Shockey is fighting for his job in August.
21. (16) Brandon Pettigrew, DET
Last year’s top ranked rookie tight end but is recovering from a knee injury and may not be fully healthy on opening day plus he now has Tony Scheffler to contend with. In a nutshell, the odds of him breaking out are pretty much zilch. Too bad since he was playing well when he was hurt (15 receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns in the three games before the injury).
22. (22) Marcedes Lewis, JAC
Keeps adding to his yardage total but can’t top two touchdowns in a season. Why should you expect that to happen in 2010? You shouldn’t.
23. (21) Tony Scheffler, DET
Goes from being a forgotten man in Josh McDaniels’ Denver wonderland to being a backup in Detroit. Makes you wonder what Scheffler did in his past lives.
24. (NR) Evan Moore, CLE
This guy looks the part of a solid pass catcher. No, really. I mean it. Oops, Jake Delhomme is his quarterback.
25. (NR) Jermaine Gresham, CIN
Forecasting solid production from rookie tight ends is kind of like expecting to win the lottery. It is very rare, especially when they play in an offense that’s going to run and run a lot.
26. (23) Anthony Fasano, MIA
It’s all about the touchdowns with Fasano and the Dolphins got some guy in the offseason named Brandon Marshall who has pretty good size.
27. (27) Bo Scaife, TEN
Showed some promise as a young player but his ceiling seems to be 30-40 yards a game and maybe a touchdown or two on the season.
28. (34) Leonard Pope, KC
Chiefs have to throw to some tight end. Maybe Pope’s the guy.
29. (24) Daniel Fells, STL
The talentless Rams didn’t bother to offer him a tender but re-signed him when the Patriots showed some interest. Luckily for Fells, the Rams had so many needs that they didn’t bother drafting a tight end until the fifth and sixth rounds of the rookie draft. If they don’t like him, why should you?
30. (31) Jared Cook, TEN
He’s talented and Scaife has a low ceiling, so Cook’s playing time will increase but maybe not until midseason. Has some upside if he can win the starting job.
31. (29) Brad Cottam, KC—Yawn.
32. (28) David Thomas, NO
I like this guy but unless Shockey is cut, Thomas’ playing time will decrease due to the presence of rookie James Graham.
33. (30) Dante Rosario, CAR
Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.
34. (32) Ben Watson, NE—See above.
The following player dropped off the rankings from last time:
NR (33) James Casey, HOU
Nothing against Casey but Gresham has to be included and other players figure to have more opportunity. Casey remains a decent option for dynasty leagues.