Tony Gonzalez – Kansas City Chiefs
Gonzo led the league with 102 receptions in 2004…including wide receivers. In addition to being the leader in grabs, he finished 7th in total yards with 1258. Assuming Priest Holmes stays healthy this year, Kansas City will become more run oriented. This may hurt Gonzalez’ reception and yardage totals, but could help him in red zone touchdowns as teams are forced to stay honest against the run. Tony Gonzalez is a six time Pro-Bowler and has been the bench mark at the tight end position for many years. Expect Gonzalez to again be the key to the KC passing game as he puts up top 10 WR-like numbers in 2005.
2004 Stats Rcptns-102 Rec yds–1258 TDs–7
Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers
Gates and the Chargers had a phenomenal year in 2004. He is number two on our board, only because he doesn’t have the track record of Gonzalez. Gates was an absolute monster in the red zone last season, catching 12 of his 13 touchdowns from inside the 20. Gates’ thirteen TDs placed him 4th overall behind Muhsin Muhammad, Marvin Harrison, and Terrell Owens. We’re not sure if he will continue his torrid red zone pace in 2005, but we know this…Drew Brees is a very accurate passer and is locked to Antonio Gates. Fantasy owners tend to overlook tight ends, but shouldn’t. Gates will continue to have statistics comparable of top NFL wide receivers and should be drafted accordingly.
2004 Stats Rcptns-81 Rec yds–964 TDs-13
Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten’s 87 grabs in 2004 would have been tops for a tight end any other year if it wasn’t for Gonzalez’ whopping 102 catches last season. Although Witten made his mark in his sophomore year, defenses started to swarm his direction as the season concluded. Bill Parcells’ Cowboys will be improved this season, especially with a healthy Julius Jones. If Jones can stay healthy, it will free Witten up more in the red zone and help his TD production. Witten has speed, good hands, and the ability to get open. Look for Witten to build upon his output of ’04.
2004 Stats Rcptns-87 Rec yds–980 TDs–6
Alge Crumpler – Atlanta Falcons
Crumpler may be one of the thickest tight ends (6’2” – 262lb) in the league, but also one of the fastest. His speed has helped him earn the highest yards per reception average (16.1) of all TEs in the league. Without a dominant wide receiver on the Falcons' offense, Crumpler led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in 2004. Until Atlanta gets a legitimate receiving threat, look for Crumpler to be Michael Vick’s main outlet in the passing game. The Falcons ran for as many yards as they threw in ’04 with no desire or means to make any adjustments. With Atlanta’s continued emphasis on the run, Crumpler’s numbers should only slightly increase in 2005 as Vick looks to pass a bit more in red zone situations.
2004 Stats Rcptns-48 Rec yds–774 TDs–6
Jeremy Shockey – New York Giants
Eli Manning has one more year under his belt and the addition of Plaxico Burress to the Giants should give New York Giants the big wide-out for whom they have searched. But unlike Shockey, Burress and Eli have voluntarily worked extensively in the off-season to fine tune routes and timing. Although Shockey would rather live the high life during his vacation than work with his quarterback, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a top tight end. He has talent and perhaps more on-field enthusiasm than any offensive skill player in the league. In the heat of battle, Shockey produces and demands the ball. Eli and the Giants will understandably continue to look for Shockey and his bull-like prowless around the goal line.
2004 Stats Rcptns–61 Rec yds-666 TDs–6
Todd Heap – Baltimore Ravens
Todd Heap was plagued with injuries last season, but he is still one of the game’s prominent tight ends. Heap has the same sure hands and will again dominate upon regaining his health. The Ravens have helped Heap’s cause by adding wide receivers Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. With another year of experience beneath Kyle Boller, Jim Fassel’s willingness to redesign the offense, and the best wide receiver tandem the Ravens have had since their inception; Baltimore may have a chance to throw the football. Don’t expect things, however, to change too much in Baltimore. When all is said and done, the Ravens will run a predominant smash mouth offense and Todd Heap will be the again be the weapon in the red zone…which is good for fantasy owners.
2004 Stats Rcptns-27 Rec yds–303 TDs–3
Randy McMichael – Miami Dolphins
Randy McMichael is the first tight end on our list that doesn’t dominate his team in both receptions and yardage totals (Heap doesn’t count due to 2004 injuries). WR Chris Chambers had a slight lead in receiving yardage, but McMichael still led the Dolphins in receptions with 73. Gus Frerotte appears to be the favorite to land the quarterback job in Miami, which is a good thing for McMichael and the other Fins' receivers. David Boston (a WR in a TE body that draws injuries like bad habits) will most likely beat out Marty Booker for the slot opposite Chambers. Miami’s offense was abysmal last season. But with the addition of rookie RB stud Ronnie Brown and a healthy stable of WRs, Miami may actually approach an average offense. Randy McMichael is a very talented athlete whose best years are ahead of him. Expect him to have no problem exceeding last year’s numbers (esp. TDs) as Nick Saban and the Dolphins find their way through 2005.
2004 Stats Rcptns-73 Rec yds-791 TDs–4
Dallas Clark – Indianapolis Colts
In case you have been in a cave for the last eight months, Peyton Manning is the quarterback of the Colts and threw a record breaking 49 touchdown passes last season. Manning has an uncanny ability to find the open receiver and doesn’t seem to have favorites. The Colts’ other primary receiving tight end (Marcus Pollard) took his six TDs from 2004 and departed for Detroit, leaving Clark as the Colts’ sole pass catching TE. With the Colts destined to achieve offensive numbers close to that of last season, there will be plenty of touchdowns to spread around. Dallas Clark is quick, runs a great route, and is in a perfect position to be a top three tight end by season’s end.
2004 Stats Rcptns-25 Rec yds–423 TDs-5
Jermaine Wiggins – Minnesota Vikings
Moss is gone, but Culpepper is still in Minnesota. And C-pepp’s gonna throw the rock. Wide receiver Nate Burleson has moved up to the number one slot with newly acquired Travis Taylor expected to line up on the opposite side. The Vikings will primarily use a two tight end set with Wiggins being the primary pass catcher (other being Jim Kleinsasser). Wiggins doesn’t flow with the raw talent held by most on this list, but will rank in the top ten of all TEs at season’s end. Wiggins’ stats from ’04 ranked him 6th and 7th respectively in receptions and yardage for all NFL tight ends.
2004 Stats Rcptns–71 Rec yds-705 TDs-4