Tight ends are a dime a dozen. Tier one contains the only two tight ends I would reach for. As a matter of fact, if I missed those top two, I would skip tiers two through five because they all go higher than they should. Chances are, in a 12-team league, you can get a usable TE late.
Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark
Gates role should increase because of Jackson’s suspension. He is a touchdown machine and a favorite target of Rivers. He is capable of putting up #2 WR type numbers. Clark almost serves as a slot receiver for the Colts, more than a true tight end, but that’s where his value is. Manning looks for him in key situations and tends to find him streaking over the middle. Clark also regularly leads tight ends in YAC (yards after the catch).
Jermichael Finley, Brent Celek, Jason Witten
These three are studly tight ends, but where you have to draft them to get them, you have to take a hard look at the question marks. Finley has had drop issues in the past, and he is the third receiving option on a team that still likes to run. Celek has a new quarterback, and Witten doesn’t score many touchdowns because he is more valuable in the red zone as a blocker.
Vernon Davis, Tony Gonzalez, Visanthe Shiancoe
Davis had 13 touchdowns last year. Yes, that is a ton. But it’s also worrisome that it was a fluke season. We will see if Smith continues to target him close to the end zone. Gonzalez is a shell of what he used to be. But even then, he is still an option for Matt Ryan close to the end zone. Visanthe Shiancoe had 11 touchdowns and presents a big target for Favre. He should continue to serve that role, but he won’t put up much in the yards category.
Owen Daniels, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley
Daniels is a real threat down field for Schaub, but he has battled injuries and complacency over the last few years, so draft him, knowing you might get a few weeks of irrelevance. Winslow hasn’t become the stud we expected, but the quarterback situation in Tampa hasn’t helped. The talent is there. The effect of McNabb’s coming on Cooley is unknown, but Donovan always found tight ends in Philly, so hopefully he will do the same for Chris is Washington.
Greg Olsen, John Carlson
Carlson might be the most reliable set of hands in Seattle. Hasselbeck, who doesn’t exactly have a powerful arm, should be happy to see Carlson open on a regular basis. There is some upside here. Olsen hopes to benefit from Mike Martz’ high flying offensive scheme, but none of Martz’ tight ends have been particularly exciting, so its hard to say how Olsen will end up. We do know he gets along well with Cutler.
Zach Miller (OAK), Heath Miller, Kevin Boss, Dustin Keller
None of these can be considered “reliable” week-to-week tight ends, but they are all passable options if you wait until late to grab one. They are all red zone targets and decent check-down receivers, so they should be usable.
Jeremy Shockey, Mercedes Lewis, Tony Scheffler, Bo Scaife, Anthony Fasano
Scheffler and Scaife have quarterbacks that could have career years, so they might bring these tight ends with them. Shockey, Lewis, and Fasano have had drop problems in the past, so its hard to predict numbers, but of them, Lewis has the biggest upside if Garrard finds him.
Tier everyone else
This group should be left for backup duty, but has a chance to perform well if given the chance.
Brandon Pettigrew, Jermaine Gresham, Todd Heap, Jared Cook, Zach Miller (JAC)
Be patient. If you miss the top 2 TE, tiers five and six should be your target. Defensive rankings coming soon.