NFL Daniel’s Fantasy Football 2011 Top 15 Tight Ends

This is my projected list of the top 15 tight ends in the league, based on last season’s statistics, schedule, team positions, and previous depth chart. This list is subject to change as a result of trades, depth chart changes, and injuries as I see fit. This is a discussion board from the mind of a fantasy football player. This is my take on the coming season to help you better your fantasy game. Let’s get started:

1. Antonio Gates: Since his arrival to the Chargers in 2003, Gates has been a receiving giant at the tight end position. Last season, he posted 782 yards and 10 touchdowns on 50 receptions, meaning that in every five catches, he scored a touchdown(one of the best ratios in the league). With QB Phillip Rivers throwing to him, and considering their chemistry, I feel that Gates is once again going to have a high yardage and possible 10 touchdown season coming up in 2011.

2. Dallas Clark: Clark was on the verge of another great season, until it was cut short due to a serious injury that kept him from continuing the season. In the 6 games that he did play, Clark recorded 347 yards and 3 touchdowns on 37 catches, putting him en route to a 1000+ yard season that wasn’t meant to be. He is #2 on my board for two reasons. One, Peyton Manning is his QB, and their chemistry is incredible. Two, Dallas Clark is very consistent in the endzone for touchdown, capturing 30 in the last 4 seasons with the Colts.

3. Jermichael Finley: One of the youngest and most talented tight ends around, get Finley the ball and he can find the endzone. However, he too was cut down after only playing 5 games and was unable to compete for the duration of the season and playoffs. During the 5 games he played, Finley racked up 301 yards and a touchdown on 21 catches. While he was cut down early, he was heading straight for the 1000+ yard mark, and was a common target in th endzone for Aaron Rodgers.

4. Vernon Davis: Davis had a very fine season last year, recording 914 yards and 7 touchdowns on 56 attempts(a 1 in 8 touchdown ratio). Davis, for the San Francisco 49ers, has been a consistent driving force for the 49er offense. One of the main receiving threats, the ball can be easily assumed it will touch Davis’ hands at some point. While the 49ers’ offense floundered last season, expect Davis to take it upon himself in the passing game to be an open target for their QB often.

5. Jason Witten: Last season’s yardage leader, Witten played a quintecential role for the success of the Cowboys’ offense. While key players like Dez Bryant and Tony Romo sustained serious injuries that kept them sidelined, Witten took it upon himself and became the only tight end last year to join the 1000+ yard club. My only knock on Witten is that with all of the talent at the wide receiver slot in Dallas, I don’t see Witten getting the receptions that he was able to grab this season. Look for his stats to drop by a small margin.

6. Owen Daniels: While Owen Danielswas injured for the majority of the season, the 10 games that he was able to start went well. In those games, he recorded 471 yards with a pair of touchdowns on 38 catches. While this is a significant drop from the stats we normally see out of Daniels, with a healthy Owen Daniels entering 2011, the only possible projection that I can give is a dramatic increase in stats, with the pass happy Matt Schaub under center.

7. Kellen Winslow: Tampa Bay got a great season out of Winslow this year, who recorded 730 yards and 5 touchdowns on 66 receptions that nearly matched his first season’s stats at Tampa. While losing 11 receptions to other receivers over that time frame, Winslow made a huge impact for fantasy owners and the Buccaneers, who went on to play in the playoffs. At a fantasy perspective, I would expect Winslow to start at the position in every league this year, due to his breakout ability.

8. Tony Gonzales: While Gonzales had a decrease in his stats in the 2010 season, I noticed in the playoffs a change that I feel will be beneficial to his stats in the near future. As the playoffs ensued, the passing game of the Atlanta Falcons was getting a higher percentage of plays, and Gonzales was getting more looks. If the Falcons keep that mentality going into the 2011 season, we could possibly see Gonzales 5th 1000+ yard season if he remains healthy. This is definitely a player to watch.

9. Chris Cooley: In 2010, Cooley broke out from the previous season, and put up 500 more yards and an extra touchdown. He was getting looks from Donovan McNabb(who is known for his love for using the tight end as another receiver), then Rex Grossman, all season long, and finally was getting the chance to prove his worth. Cooley was one of the surpises of this position in 2010, and while the Redskins may have been losing, Cooley shown that his name belonged in the list of legitimate tight ends for fantasy football.

10. Tony Moeaki: The Kansas City Chiefs, in my opinion, was the shock of the NFL last season. Going to the playoffs seemed far out of reach for this team, seeing as that the Chargers were going every year. One of the main reasons Kansas City was able to go on was this man. In his rookie season, he posted 556 yards and 3 touchdowns(in clutch situations) on 47 receptions. My arguement for him being in the top ten is this: with Dwayne Bowe now going to be double covered after his success, expect Moeaki to become big in the pass game with the ability to bust the defense with short passing options.

11. Zach Miller: Another team to break out of their shell last year was the Oakland Raider, with the help of Jason Campbell and their tight end Zach Miller. Miller racked up 685 yards and 5 touchdowns on 60 receptions, and continue that trend to follow into 2011. Jason Campbell normally doesn’t use the tight end as a receiver very much, but after seeing his performance this season, I expect Miller to become a prime part of the Oakland passing game.

12. Rob Gronkowski: Perhaps the biggest tight end story this season was in New England where rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski teamed up for 19 of Brady’s touchdowns. Gronkowski, in his first season, recorded 546 yards and 10 touchdowns on 46 receptions. Gronkowski was used as an experimental 3 tight end set Bilichick formulated that was very successful. This coming season, I would expect the same from Gronkowski, and should be considered a possible starter in your fantasy league.

13. Marcedes Lewis: Considerably one of the best improvements by a tight end in recent history, Lewis joined the 10 touchdown club and became an incredible offensive weapon for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Last season, Lewis recorded 700 yards with the 10 touchdowns on only 58 receptions, which is amazing. Watching his timeline, he has improved every year he has been in the NFL, and it just might be his time to shine.

14. Visanthe Shiancoe: Last season, Shiancoe recorded 530 yards and 2 touchdowns on 47 attempts, which was a traumatic decrease in touchdowns from 2009. However, there were many factors that caused this; the Favre injury, the Rice injury, and the switching of QBs can cause serious problems to a team’s gameplan and a player’s performance. I believe once Minnesota gets reset with a determined system and QB that we will see a rise in Shiancoe’s stats in 2011.

15. Todd Heap: For the passing game that the Baltimore Ravens have with Flacco and Boldin, Heap has been a great second and third option. In the 13 games that Heap played, he racked up 599 yards and 5 touchdowns on 40 catches. With his performance, the Ravens went on to play in the playoffs, but lost to the Steelers. Fantasy wise, I see a great tight end out of Heap and I believe he would make a great sub for anyone’s bench.

As I normally do in these top fantasy player columns, I give you my list of potential sleepers for the 2011 season.
1. Aaron Hernandez
2. Brent Celek
3. Jeremy Shockey
4. Dustin Keller
5. Benjamin Watson
6. Brandon Pettigrew
7. Kevin Boss
8. Jermaine Gresham

My next column in this series will be the top 15 defenses.

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