1. Antonio Gates (San Diego)
Antonio Gates had 50 catches for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, good enough for 2nd among tight ends. The kicker, he did it in 10 games. Over 16 games, that’s 80 catches for 1251 yards and 16 touchdowns. I’m not going to predict that for several reasons. For one, no tight end does that. Hell, no wide receivers do that. Two, he’s still hurting and he’s no lock to play 16 games. In fact, I’d bet he won’t. Also, Vincent Jackson is back and that will cut into his targets, especially in the end zone. Vincent Jackson being out was a huge part of the reason why he had 10 touchdowns in 10 games.
Projection: 67 catches, 1030 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns (169 pts, 236 PPR)
2. Jason Witten (Dallas)
Witten has at least 80 catches for at least 950 yards in each of the last 4 seasons and at least 94 catches for 1000 yards in 3 of the last 4. Tony Romo and Jason Garrett, the new Cowboys coach, loves him, just ask Terrell Owens. He’s not a huge end zone threat, though he did have 9 touchdowns in 2010, but he’s still one of the top tight ends in the league.
Projection: 90 catches, 1010 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns (137 pts, 227 PPR)
3. Vernon Davis (San Francisco)
Stability at the quarterback position, as well as a better offensive coach, should improve the 56 catches for 914 yards he had in 2010. I’m not sure about his 7 touchdowns though, however. Braylon Edwards has been brought in and he’s a great goal line guy. I don’t know if there’s enough touchdowns to go around for Davis to have a high touchdown season like he did in 2009 (13).
Projection: 62 catches, 950 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns (137 pts, 199 PPR)
4. Owen Daniels (Houston)
8/28/11: The case for Owen Daniels: In 2007, his 2nd season in the league, he caught 63 passes for 768 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2008, he caught 70 passes for 862 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2009, he caught 40 passes for 519 yards and 5 touchdowns in 8 games before tearing his ACL. Stretch that over 16 games and you get 80 catches for 1038 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2010, he came back too quickly from his ACL tear, struggled for 7 games and then missed 5 before finishing strong. In his final 4 games, he caught 22 passes for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns. Over 16 games, that’s 88 catches for 1084 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Texans rely heavily on the tight end. In Daniels absence last season, career backup Joel Dressen caught 19 passes for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns in 5 games. Combine that with Daniels’ stats from his final 5 games and you get 41 catches for 546 yards and 4 touchdowns. Over 16 games, that’s 72 catches for 971 yards and 7 touchdowns. Daniels should be the #2 option in Houston behind Andre Johnson and, by all indications, is due for a huge season should he play 16 games.
He’s healthy now and seems to have put that ACL tear behind him. The Texans gave him a 4 year deal in the offseason and say they plan to feature him a lot in their offense. In the Texans’ 3rdpreseason game, Daniels was targeted a team high 8 times by Schaub. He’s healthy, he’s talented, and he’s a popular target of Schaub. There’s definitely upside here and I’d say he’s more likely to play 16 games than he is to miss a game.
I’m going to be conservative with his projection. I’d say he gets slightly better than 72 catches for 971 yards and 7 touchdowns should he play all 16 games. Remember, in 2009, he was on pace for 80 catches 1000+ yards and 10 touchdowns. In the last 4 games of last season, he was on pace for similar numbers. Hell, the Houston tight end spot in the last 9 games of last season (4 games of Daniels, 5 games of Dressen) was close to those numbers. I’d say 75 catches, 1000 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns should he stay healthy, but I’m going to be conservative and say he plays 15 games. That still makes him my #4 tight end.
Owen Daniels is great when he’s healthy, but he hasn’t been for the past 2 years. In 2008, he had 70 catches for 862 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 2007, he had 63 catches for 768 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those are the kinds of thing he can do when healthy. However, he’s a risk and I expect the Texans to be pass less this year with an improved defense and running game.
Projection: 70 catches, 940 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns (136 pts, 206 PPR)
5. Jermichael Finley (Green Bay)
Jermichael Finley was really on his way to breaking out as an elite tight end last year with 21 catches for 301 yards and 1 touchdown through 4 games before getting hurt. He’s still not quite 100%, but he has Aaron Rodgers throwing to him so it might not matter. I think he’ll still be a very, very good tight end this year.
Projection: 65 catches, 950 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns (125 pts, 190 PPR)
6. Jimmy Graham (New Orleans)
In the 2nd half last year, Graham had 26 catches for 307 yards and 5 touchdowns in 8 games. Over 16, that’s 52 catches for 604 yards and 10 touchdowns. Now he’s actually the starter with Jeremy Shockey gone. His upside is off the charts.
Projection: 60 catches, 700 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns (118 pts, 178 PPR)
7. Dallas Clark (Indianapolis)
8/25/11: If Peyton Manning misses a game and struggles (by his standards) for 7 games, that’s obviously bad news for Dallas Clark’s fantasy value. I think Clark will be hurt the most. Reggie Wayne still had very good numbers in the first half of 2008, though he is older now. Austin Collie is very, very talented player. Clark, however, had just 31 catches for 396 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half in 2008 and that was without having Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie stealing targets.
8/20/11: Any stock down for Manning is a stock down for his receivers.
Dallas Clark had 100 catches for 1106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009 and was on his way to another great season in 2010. He had 37 catches for 347 yards and 3 touchdowns through 6 games before getting hurt. He’ll be back this season and I wouldn’t worry too much about him because of how stable his quarterback position is. I don’t know if he’ll be 2009 good, but he’ll be good.
Projection: 70 catches, 800 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns (116 pts, 186 PPR)
8. Rob Gronkowski (New England)
Aaron Hernandez was the tight end to own in New England to start the year, but Gronkowski changed that. In the 2nd half, he had 28 catches for 398 yards and 7 touchdowns, good for 56 catches for 796 yards and 14 touchdowns over 16 games. However, he does worry me. The Patriots have so many options, including Aaron Hernandez at Gronkowski’s own position. Plus, his touchdown to reception rate was really high. That could fall, especially with Chad Ochocinco coming in.
Projection: 50 catches, 680 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns (116 pts, 166 PPR)
9. Benjamin Watson (Cleveland)
8/21/11: Any stock up for McCoy is a stock is up for Watson, who was his favorite target last season. Little and Watson seem to be his best two targets by far so both have fantasy value.
Watson caught 30 balls for 385 yards and a score in Colt McCoy’s 8 starts last year. Over 16 games, that’s 60 catches for 770 yards and 2 touchdowns. McCoy will be better in his 2nd year so Watson have some fantasy value, but he doesn’t get into the end zone very often.
Projection: 67 catches, 770 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns (101 pts, 168 PPR)
10. Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit)
Brandon Pettigrew had 71 catches for 780 yards and 4 touchdowns last year. Matt Stafford is coming in so Pettigrew’s numbers should go up, especially his touchdowns, right? Wrong. In the 3 games Stafford played last year, Pettigrew was targeted 12 times (4 per game) and caught 6 passes (2 per game). In his other 13 games, he was targeted 91 times (7 per game) and caught 65 passes (5 per game). His touchdowns will be higher with Stafford back as he had 2 touchdowns in 3 games with Stafford, but his other stats will be down. Stafford just doesn’t check down like Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton did.
Projection: 50 catches, 580 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns (94 pts, 144 PPR)
11. Greg Olsen (Chicago)
Greg Olsen must be glad to be out of Chicago. Mike Martz has no idea what to do with a tight end. Olsen was limited to just 41 catches for 405 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. However, he had 60 catches for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2009 and he’s still only 26. Carolina isn’t the ideal situation for any receiver, but he should rebound from an awful 2010 this year. Young quarterbacks love throwing to tight ends.
Projection: 55 catches, 570 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns (93 pts, 148 PPR)
12. Kellen Winslow (Tampa Bay)
Winslow had 66 catches for 730 yards and 5 touchdowns last year, but rookie Luke Stocker could cut into his playing game. He’s also had lingering leg injuries that could get the best of him eventually. He’s a risky starter.
Projection: 55 catches, 680 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns (92 pts, 147 PPR)
13. Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati)
Gresham had 52 catches for 471 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2010. He should improve in his 2nd year. He’ll be more experienced and both Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are gone, no longer taking away targets from him. Also, whether it’s rookie Andy Dalton or veteran Bruce Gradkowski, whoever the quarterback is won’t have a strong arm and will rely on Gresham often.
Projection: 60 catches, 600 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns (90 pts, 150 PPR)
14. Brent Celek (Philadelphia)
Brent Celek was a favorite target of Donovan McNabb, but not so much of Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick last year. Celek saw his 2009 numbers of 76 catches for 971 yards and 8 touchdowns nearly cut in half in 2009 with 42 catches for 511 yards and 4 touchdowns. He should be slightly better this season, but there’s not much he can do if Vick doesn’t look his way.
Projection: 47 catches, 600 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns (90 pts, 137 PPR)
15. Lance Kendricks (St. Louis)
On one hand, Lance Kendricks looks like one of if not the favorite target of Sam Bradford this preseason. On the other hand, Josh McDaniels hates tight ends. Tony Scheffler caught 40 passes for 645 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2008, but saw those numbers fall to 31 catches for 416 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2009 under McDaniels. On the other hand, Josh McDaniels is not head coach and the team wouldn’t have drafted him if they didn’t plan on using him. On the other hand, he’s a rookie coming out of a lockout and rookie tight ends tend to struggle. I wouldn’t recommend drafting him as a starter but he’s too risky and unproven and I don’t like the idea of drafting a TE2, but if you’re in a deep league and have a bench spot for a high upside guy, Kendricks could be your guy.
Projection: 49 catches, 580 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns (88 pts, 137 PPR)