This is the second part of our 2 part article, viewing the Tight End situations of all 32 teams as they head into camp, part 2, the NFC TE’s
Dallas, Jason Witten, high TE I, Martelius Bennett
Witten, while scoring just 4 touchdowns in 2008 moves to 1 on the board. He has the capability to put up WR I statistics. With Terrell Owens gone and his strong rapport with quarterback Tony Romo, Witten should become his favorite receiver. He has the athletic ability to score from anywhere on the field. In early drafts this summer Witten has been the first TE selected and has been drafted on average early in the fourth round in twelve team drafts. Bennett also scored 4 touchdowns in 2008, this prompts the Cowboys to use 2 TE sets more than other teams, Bennett is thirty six on the board, and in deeper drafts handcuff him with Witten.
Giants, Kevin Boss, high TE II, Michael Matthews, Travis Beckum
Boss, 14 on the board, scored six touchdowns in 2008, this alone makes him a solid fantasy back up. With Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer gone, Boss rises in the pecking order of Eli Manning’s favorite receivers. What keeps him as a fantasy back up though is the fact he caught just thirty three passes for just below 400 yards last year. He will have a better fantasy year with receptions and yards, he should be over 500 receiving yards this year, but getting a half a dozen touchdowns again will be a tough task. Defenses will focus on him at the goal line. Matthews is a better blocker than receiver and Beckum, a rookie, do not have much fantasy value.
Eagles, Brent Celek, high TE II, Cornelius Ingram, Matt Schobel
You have heard this before, I do not use the word, “sleeper” much because in the fantasy writing business it is safe label for player who you think might do well, but you do not want to commit to those projections. That label fits Celek, in the 2008 regular season he caught just twenty seven passes for 318 yards and one score. In contrast, he was the NFL’s second leading receiver in the 2008 post season with 19 receptions and three touchdowns. The 2008 regular season statistics and the fact that the Eagles have a deep group of receivers say Celek is a fantasy back up at best. What makes him a “sleeper” is that you can wait to draft him and he could be a top 10 fantasy TE, especially in the Andy Reid offense. Ingram coming off a bad knee injury and the 8 year veteran Schobel do not offer much fantasy value..
Washington, Chris Cooley, high TE I, Fred Davis
After scoring twenty seven touchdowns the prior 4 years, Cooley was held to one in 2008. Defenses near the goal line doubled Cooley and forced Jason Campbell to throw elsewhere. Cooley though still remains 5 on the board, with 83 receptions and 849 yards last year he still created value. The Redskins will keep feeding him the ball and receptions and yardage should remain close to 2008’s while touchdowns should rebound some. Davis, a second year player has the hands to become a solid NFL TE, but showed little last year.
Chicago, Greg Olsen, mid TE I, Desmond Clark
With Jay Cutler at quarterback and a lack of depth at wide receiver, Olsen is the consensus choice among fantasy writers to have a breakout season at TE. With Kyle Orton he had fifty four receptions, 574 yards, and 5 scores. He will only be better in 2009. Olsen should have at least 700 yards receiving and 5-six scores this year. Clark, 30 on the board, has always brought value near the goal line, averaging three scores a year the last 4 seasons.
Lions, Brandon Pettigrew, high TE III, Will Heller
Pettigrew, the second of their 2 first round selections should start, will get some workload this year, and is 26 on the board. The combination of him being a rookie and probably having fellow rookie Matthew Stafford throwing to him will keep his statistics modest for this season, but because he will start he has some value.
Green Bay, Donald Lee, mid TE II, Jerimichael Finley
Lee, 17 on the board, plays in a great passing offense, that creates more fantasy value than Lee’s ability itself. He had 5 touchdown receptions in 2008 but his average per catch dropped by 4 yards from 2007 to 2008. Lee should be on the receiving end of three-5 scores but that depends if he remains the starter. Finley could win the starting spot in camp, creating value for him, keep an eye on this, especially if your draft is early.
Vikings, Vishante Shiancoe, high TE II, Jim Kleinsasser
Shiancoe finally had a season where he did not drop passes, he is thirteen on the board and caught 7 touchdowns in 2008. Getting 7 scores again will be tough, but 40 plus receptions, 500 yards, and 4-five touchdowns is what you should see from him. Kleinsasser is a great blocker who does not run pass routes often, he has little fantasy value.
Falcons, Tony Gonzalez, high TE I, Justin Peele
Gonzalez, 2 on the board, remains a force even though he is entering his twelfth season.
With a rookie quarterback throwing to him last year, he accumulated 96 receptions, 1, 058 yards, and 10 scores in Kansas City. He will be working in an offense with better skill players in 2009, so you could see a small drop in fantasy points with having wide receiver Roddy White taking receptions and running back Michael Turner taking some goal line scores from him. The other way to view it is that Gonzalez could take those away from them. Gonzalez has been selected on average in the lower part of the 5th round in early twelve team drafts.
Panthers, Dante Rosario, Jeff King
The Panthers have not had a fantasy elite TE since Wesley Walls left Carolina in 2002. Rosario is 42 and King is 43 on the board respectively, they will share receptions but the Panthers do not throw to the TE, both only have small value in the deepest of leagues.
New Orleans, Jeremy Shockey, low TE I, Billy Miller, high TE III
While Shockey, 10 on the board, has never played an entire season because of injury, he remains a fantasy starter. He did not score a touchdown in 2008 but he should have a bounce back season, he plays in one of the best offenses in the NFL and he should be more on the same page with quarterback Drew Brees in 2009. Some fantasy players will consider it a gamble to select him as their fantasy starter, but this is a gamble worth taking. Shockey should bring in 50-60 receptions, 550-650 yards, and at least 5 scores. Miller, 28 on the board, will be Shockey’s back up, but because of playing in a dynamic offense, he should score more fantasy points than some teams starting TE.
Buccaneers, Kellen Winslow, low TE I, Jerramy Stevens
Winslow, nine on the board, who came over from the Browns does have an injury history and the quarterbacking situation in Tampa Bay is one the league’s weakest. Even with that against him, he will put up fantasy starter statistics in 2009. Byron Leftwich appears to be the starting quarterback and besides slightly better than average wide receiver Antonio Bryant, Winslow is the only other proven receiver on the team, and by far the most talented. If he can stay on the field, Winslow should have 70 receptions, 700 plus receiving yards, and 5-six touchdowns in 2009. Stevens has talent, but drops passes, but he does have some fantasy value on a team without many receivers, he will see playing time and is 41 on the board.
Cardinals, Leonard Pope, Ben Patrick
There is little fantasy value here based on past statistics. Kurt Warner does not use his TE’s much. Patrick is suspended the first 4 games so Pope will see more action early in the season. After Patrick returns they will share snaps, because they play on the Cardinals, there are receptions and yards to be had, each will score a few points, Pope is 40 on the board, Patrick 52.
Saint Louis,Randy McMichael, low TE II, Joe Klopfenstein
McMichael was injured week 4 last year and was out for the season. He is recovered and should provide some value this year. In 2007 he caught thirty nine passes and scored three touchdowns, but was in the 60 catch range with 4-five touchdowns when he was with the Dolphins before becoming a Ram. The Rams do not have much experience at wide receiver, McMichael is the veteran of their pass catchers, he should rebound some in 2009, he is 22 on the board, you should get 40-50 receptions 450-550 yards but touchdowns may be hard to come by, in goal line sets he could be replaced by blocking specialist Billy Bajema, 2-three touchdowns is the most you will see.
San Francisco, Vernon Davis, high TE II, Delanie Walker
New offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye worked with Tony Gonzalez when he was with the Chiefs. There may finally be hope for Davis, a huge fantasy bust in his career. In the past he has shown that he does not catch the ball well, block well, run good routes, and has an attitude problem, but he has the physical tools to make plays. If he stumbles this year again the 49’ers will release him, but I think he will rebound some in their new offense, he is 16 on the board, 500 plus yards and three-4 scores are a reasonable possibility.
Seattle, John Carlson, low TE I, Cameron Morrah
Carlson, twelve on the board, as a rookie in 2008 led the Seahawks in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns with 5. The Seahawk wide receivers were decimated by injuries last year, giving Carlson more work. Matt Hasselbeck and the wide receivers are healthy, Seattle should be far more productive on offense in 2009. Carlson should be able to at least stay at last season’s level or even be a little better, 60 plus receptions, 700 plus yards, and 5 scores are on tap for him this year.