The annual debate among top fantasy experts over the past several years when it comes to tight end is simple; Gates or Gonzalez? Other than some minor injury problems for Gates and a change of venue for Gonzalez, neither player seems headed for a drop-off in 2008. So why do these two long-time stalwarts at tight end find themselves outside the top 2 this year? Read on and see if you are convinced.
1. Dallas Clark, Ind - No more Marvin Harrison means 3rd year receiver Anthony Gonzalez moves to the outside and to replace him in the slot they signed...I mean they drafted...oh wait, they did not get anyone capable of replacing Gonzalez's production in the slot, meaning Clark will be lining up as an actual WR quite often in 2009. Gonzalez had over 600 yards receiving last season and 4 touchdowns while mostly lining up as the slot receiver. Consider that Clark will get a good portion of those targets plus his usual 70+ receptions for 800+ yards from the tight end position and it should be a career year for Peyton Manning's favorite red zone target.
2. Greg Olsen, Chi - Olsen was the biggest winner in Jay Cutler trade. Just as he comes into his potential breakout season he gets a young, strong-armed QB who loves his tight end. And without a big-time #1 wide receiver, Olsen should be the go-to guy and get into the end zone as much as any tight end in the league.
3. Antonio Gates, SD - Gates fought through some injuries last year and was still able to score 8 Tds. San Diego has one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL that will produce fantasy points from all positions. The only possible concern about Gates could be the emergence of Vincent Jackson. At 6'5 240, Jackson is built like a tight end and now has the confidence of Philip Rivers which could translate into more TDs for VJ and fewer for Gates.
4. Jason Witten, Dal - Tony Romo's best friend is not only the most complete tight end in the NFL, he could be the most complete player. With the departure of Terrell Owens, Witten will continue to get 100+ targets and will flirt with 1,000 yards receiving. His biggest caveat in recent years has been his lack of production in the red zone, which should also he aided by the loss of TO.
5. Tony Gonzalez, Atl - Don't take this ranking as an insult to Gonzalez's greatness. His role is going to change in Atlanta from #1 option to #2 option and he will do more blocking. He should still get his 8-10 TD's but do not expect him to eclipse 800 yards receiving.
6. Brent Celek, Phi - Okay this one may be a bit of a reach, but the Eagles offense is going to be explosive this year. DeSean Jackson is too small to be considered a red zone threat and Brian Westbrook's goal-line struggles are legendary. Also, don't forget Celek's 10 catch 2 touchdown performance in the NFC Championship Game. Celek will be a great value in '09 with tremendous upside.
7. Chris Cooley, Was - Cooley had a career year in 2008 in all categories except touchdowns. Considering his history and his 111 targets last year his 1 touchdown can be classified as a fluke. Look for Cooley to get back to his old self in '09 with 5-6 Tds.
8. Kevin Boss, NYG - I don't love the Giants this year without Plaxico Burress but Eli Manning is g - oing to throw touchdowns to someone, and Boss is that man. Manning threw to Boss in the red zone 19 times last year and that number has nowhere to go but up. His yardage stats will ascend as well as Boss creeps towards becoming an elite tight end.
9. Owen Daniels, Hou - The Texans' offense is quickly becoming one of the best in the league, and Daniels' emergence is a big part of it. His biggest problem may be that his teammates are too good, as he has had trouble getting into the end zone. He should continue putting up good yardage numbers, but as long as Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton are on the field Daniels is no batter than the third option around the goal-line.
10. John Carlson, Sea - The Seahawks receiving corps had more names on IR last season than on the depth chart and Carlson grabbed the oppurtunity by the horns and had a very good rookie campaign. The return of a healthy Matt Hasselbeck will help his maturation but the addition of TJ Houshmandzedah means he will not improve on his touchdown numbers.
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