One could understand Gonzalez’s reasoning behind sticking around, despite claiming he was 95 percent sure this was his last season back in November. At 37-years old, he’s coming off a fantastic 2012 campaign where he caught 93 passes (most since 2008 when he was still with Kansas City). He’s also playing on a loaded Falcons team that fell just short of a Super Bowl berth after his team blew a 17-point lead to San Francisco in the NFC championship game. Gonzalez also finally won his first playoff game in his sixth postseason appearance when the Falcons defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional round.
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While he’s a year older, Gonzalez shouldn’t see much of a slow down in production in 2013. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is entering a contract season and coming off his best year as a pro. Roddy White and Julio Jones are the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL when healthy. When they draw double coverage, it takes immense pressure off Gonzalez to be the primary playmaker.
Though he’s clearly lost a step speed-wise, Gonzalez is still a productive receiver due to his immense size. At 6’5, 247, he rarely falls backward upon initial contact with a defender, and often gets slippery and pushes his way past the first-down marker.
The Falcons also play in a division stockpiled with weak defenses. In 2012, rivals Tampa Bay and New Orleans were the NFL’s top-two worst pass defenses, with Carolina ranked slightly better in the middle of the pack. While the Buccaneers may be in the midst of curing secondary woes if they can sign Darrelle Revis, it’s safe to say the Falcons have the most favorable division for throwing the football right now.
The only obstacle standing in the way for Gonzalez’s fantasy value is the football itself — there’s only so much to go around.
Atlanta’s roster is a spectacle of offensive talent. First you have Jones at wideout, a highlight-reel receiver entering the prime of his career. Then you have White, an offensive rock who is Ryan’s favorite target and is relied on most to move the chains. Even speedy Jacquizz Rodgers showed enough upside as a receiver to warrant a meatier role in 2012. With his advanced age and so much explosive talent around him, Gonzalez could get lost in the shuffle at times during offensive shootouts.
Fantasy spin: Despite a few minor concerns, Gonzalez is still a No. 1 tight end. He’s a lock for at least 5 touchdowns due to his size, velcro hands and flawless route-running in the redzone. He’ll continue to benefit from a slew of younger talent and while he probably won’t repeat the same numbers he did last season, he should still be good for 600-700 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns in 2013.