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Fantasy Forecast: Tight Ends

The tight end position is one of the best positions in football. You get to bang bodies on the line, but also run passes, get the occasional hand off, and even split out from time to time. You can pretty much do anything but pass (easily) from the tight end position. A great tight end is usually part of an NFL winning strategy, but so few are used effectively, the position's importance in Fantasy is difficult to gauge. Often times the players at the top go too early, simply because people don't want to deal with not having a solid tight end. There's definitely some players who have climbed to the top of the heap however, particularly as the NFL gravitates more towards passing.

The Aforementioned Top of the Heap

1. Jason Witten – Antonio Gates started out strong last year, but Witten poured it on at the end. He's a force. And I believe I've said something about Dallas and high powered offense a few times before.

2. Antonio Gates – He's still an elite tight end, but he had a few poor games last year. His size and speed make him a matchup nightmare, and he'll still catch a lot of balls.

3. Tony Gonzalez – He had 99 catches last season, which is staggering. He only had five touchdowns however, but the offense shouldn't have as much trouble getting to the red zone this year.

4. Dallas Clark – Less volume than other tight ends, but more touchdowns, so that's perfectly fine (good value in touchdown only leagues by the way). He has a great rapport with Peyton Manning, so that doesn't hurt either.

5. Kellen Winslow – Has shaken off early career injury concerns by not missing a game in two full seasons. The Browns' offense should continue to score points, and don't forget, Cincinnati in week 16.

6. Chris Cooley – He's a very versatile player in real life, and he has great hands. Very solid numbers last year, and they should only improve.

The Dropoff

The dropoff in tight ends is pretty quick. Here are the top six tight ends fantasy points in 2007: 147, 145, 139, 133, 121, 121. The seventh? 93. Followed by 85, 82, then three players in 70s and three in the 60s. Other positions generally have a clear favorite, then some tiering. This is like swimming over the Atlantic shelf.

7. Todd Heap – He has the skills to get back into the first set of tight ends, but an injury last year has me concerned.

8. Jeremy Shockey – He's too injury prone to draft particularly high anymore, but he must have cleared a physical to be traded. The Saints' offense just got even more high powered, and I like a healthy Shockey in it.

9. Owen Daniels – A healthy Andre Johnson should spread the defense, open things up for Daniels a little more this season.

10. Alge Crumpler – After a horrible quarterback situation and injuries hampered his 2007, I like Alge to bounce back a little in 2008.

11. Heath Miller – He's a big target, good hands. He'll churn out a few points a game, that's about all you can ask for I guess.

12. Randy McMichael – Similar situation to Crumpler, injuries decimated his team last year, he should bounce back some.

13. Ben Watson – Has more value in touchdown only leagues, but doesn't get enough consistent looks to be of much value in normal leagues. It's also particularly painful to watch Mike Vrabel steal all of the easy goal line touchdowns.

If you pick one of the above guys and things aren't working out, just look and see who's having a decent season, it's that easy with tight ends. The next set of five or so tight ends are exactly the same, and if you're stuck with one, it doesn't matter which one.

For the record, those five are: Tony Scheffler, Desmond Clark, Vernon Davis, Chris Baker, and then, Donald Lee.

The big loser form last year is Donald Lee. He had some great games late in the year, boosting his value, but I just don't see things working out for Green Bay this year. Keep him on your radar if some one goes down, young quarterbacks tend to look for the tight end more often to bail them out, but they won't be near the endzone that often this year, so I don't think it will matter.

Coming Soon: Defenses and Kickers

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