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CASHMAN
07-15-2005, 04:39 PM
A fantasy grader: Tight end


By Dave Gladow
NFL.com


(July 14, 2005) -- With the preseason approaching fast, the time for fantasy football is approaching fast as well. In the coming weeks, we'll use this space to break down individual fantasy positions and provide a somewhat informal grade of the top players. We'll start with the tight ends and eventually work our way through the entire offense.

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The idea is to give people a general guideline to keep in mind when ranking the top players for themselves. You may love Marcus Pollard's potential, for example, but you don't want to draft him too early and look like a goober. Here are the rankings:

(A+) -- Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates. These are unquestionably the top two tight ends in fantasy football, but who deserves to go higher? Going strictly by the numbers, Gonzalez caught 102 passes for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns, while Gates caught 81 passes for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns. So in standard scoring leagues, Gates averaged 10.3 points a week to Gonzalez's 9.9 (though the difference is greater if you factor in actual games played). However, Gonzalez's longevity and supporting cast make him a much safer choice, and he also gets a boost in leagues that factor in reception totals. Gonzalez gets the slightest of nods with us.

(B+) -- Alge Crumpler, Todd Heap, Jason Witten. Throw out last year for Heap -- he had been averaging 63 receptions, 765 yards and five touchdowns over the previous two seasons -- and his numbers last year may well have surpassed those averages if he had stayed healthy. Crumpler is one of the most underrated players at the position, but he produces (48-774-6 last year). And the talented Witten has basically one productive year under his belt, but it was a huge one (87-980-6 in '04), and he's with a coach, a quarterback and a system that are all conducive to his success. Don't forget that the Bill Parcells/Drew Bledsoe regime in New England utilized Ben Coates to the tune of 295 receptions, 3,430 yards and 30 touchdowns in their four years together (averaging 74-858-8!). That's good news for Witten fans.

(B) -- Dallas Clark, Randy McMichael, Jeremy Shockey. Don't be confused into thinking these guys are the fantasy equivalent of the players above them -- these players all have some question marks. Clark has the best upside of perhaps any tight end, as he will be the tight end for the premier passing offense in the league. But he just hasn't proven himself yet, catching 54 passes while splitting time in two seasons. McMichael had a great year last year (73-791-4), but he has yet to score more than four touchdowns in a season, and he has some off-the-field concerns as well. And Shockey? His numbers have been good, but he appears to have better value in reception leagues (he averaged just 10.9 yards per catch in 2004). And more importantly, he "gets" to face the tough defenses of the NFC East (ranked third, 10th and 16th in '04) twice a year. Those factors could put a cap on his potential.


Dallas Clark may have the best fantasy upside of any tight end in the NFL.
(B-) -- L.J. Smith, Eric Johnson, Marcus Pollard. This is what we like to call the "serviceable" group. If your league had a sudden run on tight ends, you might be faced with picking one of these guys up. They'll do their job and they may even surprise you. Smith caught 34 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns last year, and a repeat showing looks fairly likely. He'll probably never approach the big numbers of the elite tight ends, but he'll continue to get the ball in Philly's pass-happy offense. Johnson could be the biggest mystery at the position. In 2004, he had more catches than Gates (82 to Gates' 81) and more yardage than Crumpler (825 to Crumpler's 774), but use caution as he only scored two touchdowns. He is also playing in a pretty inept offense, and his career numbers do not match last year's explosion. Pollard has averaged 40-517-6 over the past four years, but he is getting older (33 years old) and is changing teams. Since he's surrounded by talented skill players once again, the early guess is that he'll be used in a similar fashion in Detroit as he was in Indianapolis.

(C) -- Bubba Franks, Jermaine Wiggins. The players in this range are long on potential, but would likely be considered big gambles in most leagues. At this point, though, it's probably better to gamble on greatness because your other options aren't very appealing either. Franks can be a beast at scoring touchdowns, but it isn't a lock he'll do so in '05. In five seasons, he's scored one, nine, seven, four and seven touchdowns. That's somewhat streaky. And of course, he's having contract issues with the Packers right now, so a holdout would hurt his stock. Wiggins blew up in his fifth NFL season, catching 71 balls for 704 yards and four touchdowns. He'll need to prove he can do it again, and he'll have to do it with Jim Kleinsasser (who caught 46-401-4 in '03) returning from injury.

Didn't make the grade -- Daniel Graham, Ben Troupe, Heath Miller, Doug Jolley.

Reader Ramblings
The interesting thing about fantasy football in general is that everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone has a good story, but everyone has some sort of experience that could potentially make for an interesting or funny anecdote.

One thing we've also taken note of is that people don't always have time to do some of the research they'd like to do (either that, or they're lazy). So questions about who to hold onto in keeper leagues and who to start in a given week are inevitable.

We'd like to do something a little different in this space. We're going to invite all submissions for content, but the more interesting or clever you can get with your questions and stories, the more likely we'll be to address them in this space. The e-mail you need to send submissions to is: fantasyquestions@yahoo.com.

Now, we're not looking for outrageous nonsense, but a sort of balance between sublime and amusing can go a long way in getting your question answered.

For instance, asking who to start between Priest Holmes and Cedric Benson will have an obvious answer. If, however, you decide to jazz the question up slightly and ask if there are any statistical oddities or patterns that would make the choice tougher, then we'd be more likely to address it. It's that simple.

And once again, funny and interesting fantasy stories are more than welcome. Tell us what's happening in the offseason, folks.

Anecdote Alley
This writer's first draft of 2005 went about as expected -- we had to adjust our strategy on the fly. That's what generally seems to happen in 12-team leagues, as a run on a certain position can occur very suddenly. At this draft, like most, there was a mad dash for running backs. After our first two selections, we found ourselves staring at the prospects of taking a player we didn't have any faith in or waiting until the fourth round to take a scrub off the scrap heap. So say hello to J.J. Arrington in the third!

To be honest, things didn't go smoothly early as the (perhaps unrealistic) hope of grabbing Randy Moss as well as an elite runner dissipated rapidly. Still, Daunte Culpepper was not a bad consolation prize to Moss, and we did get the elite runner in Willis McGahee.

This league looks to be an interesting one, as it incorporates individual defensive players into the scoring. This is the sort of thing that definitely deserves some column space, but for right now, we'll simply share our thoughts on some of the top offensive players we selected ( Click here for complete draft results).

Willis McGahee (Round 1) -- grabbed the best available back in the first round; also considered Ahman Green and Domanick Davis.

Daunte Culpepper (Round 2) -- best value by a longshot when drafting in the second round and couldn't pass on him.

J.J. Arrington (Round 3) -- pounced on one of the last available starters; should be serviceable and could definitely surpass Emmitt Smith's 2004 numbers.

Reggie Wayne (Round 4) -- his numbers could go down if Peyton Manning comes back to earth, but he was solid value where picked.

Ashley Lelie (Round 5) -- not sold on him completely, especially in a receptions league, but he has a lot of yardage and TD potential.

Donald Driver (Round 7) -- thought he was a steal and was pleased to get him, particularly if Javon Walker has holdout issues.

Three times early we lost out on players we really wanted (Edgerrin James, Ronnie Brown and Nate Burleson) by a scant couple of picks. But hey, that type of frustration is what drafting is all about!





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eazyb81
07-15-2005, 04:44 PM
Even though they didn't mention him, Jeb Putzier is going to put up some good stats this year. The Broncos utilize the TE position a lot, and Putzier will be the #1 guy this year now that the Donks matched the Jets offer sheet to him during the offseason.

I have Shockey as my #1, but Putzier is a solid #2 for me.

alpha_omega
07-15-2005, 04:49 PM
Nice read...thanks!

Nightfyre
07-15-2005, 05:56 PM
underrated jeremy shockey, imo...

Rausch
07-15-2005, 05:57 PM
I had this one with Sara Michelle Gellar that I'd rate an A+...

Oh. Nevermind...

DTLB58
07-15-2005, 07:07 PM
I am loaded at TE from last year and I play in a keeper league. I have to decide who to keep between Witten,Heap and L.J. Smith who to me has a great upside this year with Chad Lewis not in Philly anymore....

I really don't think I'll keep 2 TE's so right now I'm leaning towards Witten but what scares me there is his production really went down last year from week 11 on when Julius Jones got a lot of PT he got all the touches inside the 20. :hmmm:

Heap questions lie more with his QB (Boller) than him.....

Thoughts?

eazyb81
07-15-2005, 07:22 PM
I am loaded at TE from last year and I play in a keeper league. I have to decide who to keep between Witten,Heap and L.J. Smith who to me has a great upside this year with Chad Lewis not in Philly anymore....

I really don't think I'll keep 2 TE's so right now I'm leaning towards Witten but what scares me there is his production really went down last year from week 11 on when Julius Jones got a lot of PT he got all the touches inside the 20. :hmmm:

Heap questions lie more with his QB (Boller) than him.....

Thoughts?

I think Witten is the obvious choice out of those 3. He showed a ton of potential last year and he will continue to get a lot of opportunities under Parcells. Heap has all the talent in the world, but he cannot stay healthy and his opportunities will go down now that Derrick Mason is in the fold.

Personally, I would stay away from the LJ Smith hype. He seems like he has a lot of potential, but I think he is all fluff, no substance. Plus the Eagles really don't focus on the TE much, so I don't expect his #s to go up much now that Chad Lewis is out of the picture.

Just my 2 cents...

Zebedee DuBois
07-15-2005, 08:36 PM
Where's the really cool earth mover?

Miles
07-15-2005, 08:41 PM
Nice read. This is the deepest I can ever remember the TE position being. Its usually crap past the top 2-3 players.

Chieficus
07-15-2005, 08:52 PM
underrated jeremy shockey, imo...

Maybe a little underrated... really depends upon what the FF league rules are...

In catches alone, he's averaged 4.69 per game, that's even higher than Gonzo at 4.49. It's also about double what Clark and Crumpler do.

In yardage, though, he could be better (averages 11.4 per catch, compared to 14.1 for Clark, 13.8 for Crumpler, 12.1 for Gonzo).

In touch downs he's about par for the course 3.33 per season (3 for Clark, 4.25 for Crumpler, and 3.25 for Heap--Gonzo comes in at 6.75)...

If I were making the list, I'd probably leave it the same except that I'd exchange Shockey for Heap...

DTLB58
07-15-2005, 09:26 PM
Nice read. This is the deepest I can ever remember the TE position being. Its usually crap past the top 2-3 players.

Yes it is and about time. The RB position the past two seasons has grown greatly also :clap:

Nightfyre
07-15-2005, 10:47 PM
I think Boller will have a breakthrough year this year. But maybe that's just me?

Prince22
07-15-2005, 10:54 PM
The TE position is over-rated in most leagues unless you have Gonzo or Gates. I drafted Jermaine Wiggins with my last pick last year and he turned out solid.

Miles
07-15-2005, 10:56 PM
I think Boller will have a breakthrough year this year. But maybe that's just me?

I was kind of wondering about him as well as a possible late round pick. He definitly has plenty of weapons around him now but he just looked so damn bad last year.

keg in kc
07-15-2005, 10:57 PM
Keep an eye on Jake Plummer this year. Seriously.




Try to play the defense he's facing every week.