Rotisserie By The Numbers: The Top 25 Tight Ends
By Craig Rondinone SportsTicker Contributing Writer
BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - As I begin to tackle the position previews for the upcoming fantasy football season, let's begin with what might be the deepest position in F.F. these days - tight end.
It used to be that there were only three or four tight ends worth a lick of salt in fantasy football, and that the rest of the bunch were only good for 250 yards and a couple one-yard scores per season. Now the top tight ends get 1,000 yards or close to it, and every tight end in the top 10 has a chance for 600 yards and six touchdowns. This is arguably the deepest group of tight ends in NFL history, and it would be deeper if Kellen Winslow Jr. did not try to be Evil Knievel in the offseason.
Here are the top 25 tight ends in fantasy football heading into the 2005 campaign, starting with the man who set the NFL record for TDs in a season with a lucky 13 last year:
1. Antonio Gates, Chargers: Gates can do what 99 percent of tight ends cannot - blow by linebackers and safeties and get deep. His big-play ability and leaping ability separate him from the rest of the pack, as does his nose for the end zone. It would not be a surprise if Gates has 85 catches, 1,000 yards and 13 more scores this season.
2. Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs: The first requirement for drafting a great fantasy tight end should be making sure the guy played some basketball in his life. Both Gates and T-Gon have hoops on their resumes. Gonzalez led tight ends with 102 receptions, 1,258 yards and six 100-yard games in 2004.
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys: Coach Parcells loves him, Drew Bledsoe loves throwing to tight ends, and Dallas does not love the rest of its receiving corps. Sounds like another 900-yard season for this sure-handed playmaker.
4. Jeremy Shockey, Giants: Eli Manning should be able to hit the broad side of a barn this season, and with Plaxico Burress around to keep secondaries honest, the only thing that can prevent Shockey from a huge year is his body.
5. Alge Crumpler, Falcons: It makes sense that wild-throwing Michael Vick hits Crumpler with most of his passes. Crumpler is his biggest target. How can he miss him?
6. Eric Johnson, 49ers: Johnson got a lot of his 82 catches and 825 yards in garbage time last season because the Niners were so terrible they trailed in almost every game they were in. Things should not change much this season.
7. Todd Heap, Ravens: Thanks to about 1,000 surgeries over the past couple years, Heap's body is in a heap. He probably will not be fully healthy until late in training camp, so expect a slow start.
8. Jeb Putzier, Broncos: Lost in all the hoopla about Denver's propensity for creating 1,000-yard running backs is how many solid pass-catching tight ends have been groomed there over the years. Putzier is just another one with good hands and decent downfield speed.
9. Randy McMichael, Dolphins: Unless Ricky Williams learned how to throw a football while he was on his marijuana sabbatical, the quarterbacks have not gotten any better in Miami. Still, McMichael remains a top tight end, even though it feels like he is arrested every five minutes.
10. Dallas Clark, Colts: He is still going to be the fourth or fifth banana in Indy's passing attack, but at least he is now the number one banana at tight end. Clark is always good for at least one 50-yard touchdown every season.
The rest of the top 25:
11. L.J. Smith, Eagles: With Chad Lewis out of the picture and Todd Pinkston short an Achilles, it is time for Smith to grab the cheese steak by the buns and become a premier tight end threat.
12. Bubba Franks, Packers: Franks is as impossible to defend near the end zone as Shaquille O' Neal is under the basket. Franks has 27 touchdowns over the past four years.
13. Daniel Graham, Patriots: Graham has all the tools and talent to turn into the next Ben Coates. He just has to hold off upstart Ben Watson.
14. Doug Jolley, Jets: New York's new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger likes getting the ball to his tight ends. Just ask Frank Wycheck.
15. Jermaine Wiggins, Vikings: The returning Jim Kleinsasser will slightly dent Wiggins' numbers, but Daunte Culpepper will not forget about him.
16. Marcus Pollard, Lions: If your last name is not Williams or Rogers, I am not sure how many passes get thrown your way in Detroit.
17. Ben Troupe, Titans: If you think Erron Kinney is better than this soon-to-be superstar, you must think that gas prices are going down sometime soon, too.
18. Chris Cooley, Redskins: An H-back with sticky hands but below-average wheels.
19. Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks: He has finally gotten his personal life in order and is on the verge of almost being worth something in fantasy football.
20. Heath Miller, Steelers: This first-rounder out of Virginia is the best rookie tight end, but rookie tight ends normally suffer tons of growing pains during year one.
21. Reggie Kelly, Bengals: Cincy never has an offense that seems interested in getting the ball to the tight end.
22. Desmond Clark, Bears: He is no Dwight Clark.
23. Anthony Becht, Buccaneers: If blocking was a fantasy football category, Becht might be worthy of a look-see.
24. Boo Williams, Saints: Boo does not scare secondaries in the red zone like he used to.
25. Steve Heiden, Browns: Just for the simple fact that he does not pretend to be Ponch from Chips, Heiden ranks higher than the injured Winslow.
Next week: Rating the wide receivers.
Im sorry? I must of missed Stephen Alexander on that list?