2007 Fantasy Tight Ends : Ranking Analysis

Antonio Gates is head and shoulders above the rest

As your fantasy season approaches, we break down the top ranked 2007 NFL Fantasy Tight Ends.

  
ELITE

Antonio Gates - San Diego Chargers
Gates took time in 2006 to adapt to San Diego's change from 
Drew Brees to Philip Rivers at quarterback, but Gates' 
numbers improved as the season progressed to again recapture 
his title of "The Best Tight End in Football".   Even though 
Gates was off by 15 catches and almost 200 yards from 2005, 
his prowless toward the end of last season showed he's back 
to form (5 TDs in his final 6 regular season games) and 
should continue in 2007 where he left off last year.  The 
Chargers return as one of the top teams in the NFL...and 
Gates will again get plenty of opportunities to catch and 
score for fantasy owners.  Gates' numbers are comparible to 
that of a top 15 WR...except that tight ends are often 
rewarded with points per catch in many leagues - making 
Antonio Gates a solid early round candidate in most fantasy
drafts.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-71       Rec yds-924      TDs–9


NOTE: (Before we even get to Winslow, Shockey, Heap, and the
rest of the TEs, we'll say this - If you are unable to get 
Gates, then wait until late in the draft and grab any of the 
next 11 ranked tight ends...who may battle for similar 
numbers by year's end and don't have enough to really 
distance themselves from each other at this point.  Don't 
believe it?...check last year where the difference between 
the 2nd ranked TE and the 7th ranked TE was only 2 TDs and 
150 yards.)


ROCK SOLID

Kellen Winslow Jr. - Cleveland Browns
Winslow has arguably the most talent of any wide receiver in 
the league. In fact, after basically sitting out 2 solid 
years due to injury, he came back in 2006 to lead all tight 
ends in with 89 (EIGHTY-NINE) receptions!  And only five WRs 
caught more balls than KW last season.  Winslow finished 
third in yardage of all TEs with 875, but made it into the 
endzone just 3 times...and wasn't able to score in the 2nd 
half of the season.  The Browns never seemed to find their 
offense in '06, but Winslow held a key role in what they were 
able to produce.  Winslow is a great player on an arguably 
poor team, but KW's incredible talent and ability to stay key 
to Cleveland's offense make him worth the gamble.  Winslow is 
a bit of an injury liability, but he was on the field last 
season and produced.  If Winslow does check out in '07, my 
advice is to use a waiver pickup to fill his absence.  As 
mentioned above, there are only subtle differences at the TE 
position beyond Gates...making selection of a tight end a 
crapshoot - and pushing the selection to the later rounds of 
your fantasy draft.

2006 Stats      Rcptns-89       Rec yds-875     TDs–3


Jeremy Shockey - New York Giants
Jeremy Shockey is an animal and likes to play offense like a
top linebacker plays defense.  Each time Shockey gets the 
ball, he wants to hit someone...and it seems to work for him.  
Shockey bulled his way to 7 TDs in 2006 to rank 3rd in 
scoring of all tight ends.  Shockey scored most of his TDs in 
the first half of the season with 5 in his first 8 games to 
help lead the Giants to a 6-2 record after starting the 
season at 1-2.   But Shockey's (and the NYG team) numbers 
started fell in the second half.  Regardless, JS' total of 7 
TDs his 600+ yards for the season is still respectable and 
ranked him 3rd (albeit an early season torrid pace) of all 
tantasy TEs.  Shockey was unable to score in NYG's final 3 
games of '06 and sat out week 17 with an injury...but I think 
the Giant offense continues to heavily utilize Shockey in 
2007.  JS should have little problem finishing at or above 
his fantasy stats from 2006.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-66       Rec yds-623     TDs–7


Todd Heap - Baltimore Ravens
Todd Heap was a headache for his fantasy owners in 2006.  
Heap was listed as "QUESTIONABLE" nearly every week heading 
into the weekend, but somehow Heap rarely missed time.    
Similar to several top fantasy tight ends for 2006, Heap 
busted out early with 5 TDs in his first 7 games.  But also 
similar to other top TEs last season, Heap faltered in 
the second half of the season and scored just one touchdown 
in his final 9 games.  Regardless, Heap scored a respectable 
6 touchdowns for the year on 73 catches...even though he was 
not the scoring machine down the stretch his fantasy owners 
would have liked.  The presence of Steve McNair last season 
appeared to help the Baltimore offense somewhat, but Heap 
seemed unaffected by the QB change to McNair.  Todd Heap is 
one of the more consistent tight ends who remains the primary 
receiver in a ball control offense...and look for 2007 to be 
no different.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-73       Rec yds-765     TDs–6


Ben Watson - New England Patriots
Ben Watson is a very talented tight end and no longer has to 
share receptions with fellow TE Daniel Graham (who left the 
team in the offseason).  The already superbowl caliber Pats'
offense landed Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth...which will
open things up even further for quarterback Tom Brady.  Prior
to this season, Brady had to pick his openings in the passing
game, but I believe the addition of Moss and Stallworth will
force defenses away from Watson and provide many "by design"
options with Watson as the outlet.  Anyone who remembers New 
England's playoff game in Denver in 2005 knows the speed and 
strength of TE Ben Watson.  With the new additions in New 
England for 2007, the Pats will blow teams away on offense...
and Ben Watson could have a career year in the process.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-49       Rec yds-643     TDs–3 


Tony Gonzalez - Kansas City Chiefs
Always a player at TE...Gonzo overcame dominance by 
Larry Johnson and a Chief quarterback change to remain a key factor 
in the KC offense.  Gonzalez put up 900 yards on 73 catches 
for 2006...ranking him 2nd in both categories for tight ends.  
Although Gonzo was consistent in touches and yardage, the 
downside to his performance was a lack of TDs - finishing 
with just 5 for the year.  Although the smallish TD total is 
a bit confusing for the amount of receptions and yardage 
(especially for a tight end of Gonzo's caliber), it may also 
be an indicator of how defenses play Gonzalez in red zone 
situations.  Concerning is the fact that TG had only 2 TDs in
2005 and has fantasy owners hoping KC finds better ways to 
get the ball in Gonzalez' hands in scoring opportunities. 

2006 Stats        Rcptns-73       Rec yds-900     TDs–5


Alge Crumpler - Atlanta Falcons
"Big Alge" was a "Big TD Target" inside the 20 for QB 
Michael Vick.  With 6 touchdowns in his first 8 games, Crumpler was 
key to Atlanta's early victories.  In fact, Crumpler had a 4 
game pace (weeks 6-9) where he caught 19 balls for 302 yards 
with 5 TDs!  But as the season progressed, Crumpler's numbers 
declined and so did the Falcons.  Fast forward to 2007...and 
as of this writing, Michael Vick is undergoing serious 
federal (FEDERAL) charges for dog fighting operations (with 
corporations and many fans peeling away from Vick).  
Regardless of what happens with Michael Vick, it isn't going 
to be good...and it likely won't be good for Crumpler.  
Although Crumpler's 2nd overall TE fantasy finish in 2006 
can't be denied, fantasy owners need to take heed of the Vick 
situation and draft accordingly.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-56       Rec yds-780     TDs–8



SOLID      

Dallas Clark - Indianapolis Colts
Clark missed the last several games of the regular season
last year due to injury, but came on in the playoffs with 
20+ grabs and over 300 yards.  Although many believe Clark 
will start losing touches to the Colts' 1st round draft pick
(Antonio Gonzalez) and 5th round selection Roy Hall (plus to 
TE Ben Utecht), DC is still the top tight end on arguably the 
best offense in the NFL.  Clark is a burner in the open field 
and Peyton Manning likes to find the open man...which is 
often the TE in Indy as opposing defenses blanket the Colts' 
wide receivers.    

2006 Stats        Rcptns-30       Rec yds-367     TDs–4 


L.J. Smith - Philadelphia Eagles
Smith adjusted to a change at QB from Donovan McNabb to 
Jeff Garcia in 2006 and it didn't affect his performance much.  
L.J. was fairly consistent on the season with 50 grabs for 
600+ yards and 5 TDs...not great...but good enough (esp. if 
in a league that requires use of a tight end).  Who knows 
what to expect from McNabb this season, but Smith proved he
can adjust to the most adverse conditions and still be 
productive.  As with most tight ends on our list, Smith is 
just as likely as any TE (beyond Gates) to post top fantasy 
statistics.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-50       Rec yds-611     TDs–5 


Chris Cooley - Washington Redskins
Like many on the board, Chris Cooley had similar numbers in
2006 to the top fantasy TEs with 57/734/6...and finish 6th 
overall for the season.  The nice thing for Cooley fantasy 
owners last year was that he went off in game 14 with 3 TDs
and scored 5 of his 7 TDs towards the end of the season.  
But bring on 2007 and you have an unpredictable Washington
team with a below average offense...typically not so good on
the fantasy front.  Cooley is still in our top 10 of fantasy
tight ends, but he's not good enough (and in a poor offense) 
to grab prior to the last round of your fantasy draft.

2006 Stats        Rcptns-57       Rec yds-734     TDs–6


Jason Witten - Dallas Cowboys
Many Cowboys' fans love Jason Witten, and we like him too.
But the arrival of Terrell Owens to the 2006 offense had a 
definite impact on Witten's production...and it will again  
in 2007.  Owens and Glenn did allow a wide open middle for 
Witten, but Owens took away nearly all of Witten's red zone 
production (Witten scored just ONE TD in '06).  In fact, 
Witten's production last year was nearly exact to 2005...
except for TDs (where he had a significant decline).  Feel
free to grab Witten on draft day in the last round of your 
fantasy draft, but don't be surprised if his TDs are again
lost to Owens. 

2006 Stats        Rcptns-64       Rec yds-754     TDs–1



Vernon Davis - San Francisco 49ers
With the rookie stuff behind him, Vernon Davis is free to 
play a larger role in San Fran's building offense.  Davis is 
a burner with great hands (to the point of being freakish)...
so much so that the Niners made Davis an early 1st round 
draft selection last season.  But Davis didn't produce in '06
like most thought.  Much of his problems were related to 
rookie adjustments to the NFL, but most was do to the 6 DNPs
and 3 bookend 0/0/0 games on either end of his injury.  With
the departure of TE Eric Johnson (free agency) and Davis' 
initial season behind him, expect Vernon to bump his way into
fantasy starting lineups in 2007...and give the Niners a much 
needed boost in their offense.

2006 Stats       Rcptns-20      Rec yds-265       TDs–3



      
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