With the glamor positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver being out the way, it’s time this week to move in the bulk of any successful team, details. It’s huge to build a strong early core of guaranteed impact players, but once the obvious picks are out the way, the picks that make the difference between playoff stud and bust are in the 5th round and back. And that’s what we will focus on this week as THE CHEAP SEATS Fantasy Football Preview concludes. Today, we look at a crucial starting position….

TIGHT END

In recent years, the tight end position has become as vital as a second receiver for many teams, and in some cases, the most important and go to receiver on the team. In the fantasy sense, having an elite tight end gives an edge where many other teams won’t have one. However, despite the rarity of these impact players its important to judge their importance in the big scheme of the game. Taking one too high is a waste, but waiting too long is just as big of a waste of a chance to add quality points to your weekly mix. If there is an opportunity to grab another impact running back or a solid quarterback that has slid, that still has to be the priority. However, if gauging them against an equal wide receiver, the smart money may be in taking the TE, who could get more looks around the end zone that more than makes up for the lesser yardage totals. Of course, some put up superior or equal numbers to many quality receivers. Let’s take a look at the dedicate selection of a tight end and where to get the best bang for your pick.

1. Antonio Gates-San Diego Chargers

–          2009: 79 receptions, 1157 yards, 8 TD

–          3 year average: 71 receptions, 948 yards, 8 TD

–          Summary: For years he has been the top target in the Chargers’ attack and he set career highs in yardage in 2009. More of the same will be in order this year as he will be Philip Rivers’ first target again and could potentially benefit from more attention being paid to Malcolm Floyd’s development at wide receiver by defenses. Early 4th round is good value area. Trend: Steady

For years Gates has been the top target in San Diego, which skyrockets his value.

2. Dallas Clark-Indianapolis Colts

–          2009: 100 receptions, 1106 yards, 10 TD

–          3 year average: 78 receptions, 856 yards, 9 TD

–          Summary: Being Peyton Manning’s favorite short-range target means plenty of opportunities for Clark to make a big impact weekly and he will finish with reception numbers worthy of a wide receiver, even if he doesn’t top 1,000 yards again. The only thing that drops him beneath Gates is the multitude of options that the Colts feature, but he’s great 4th round grab as well. Trend: Steady

3. Vernon Davis-San Francisco 49ers

–          2009: 78 receptions, 965 yards, 13 TD

–          3 year average: 53 receptions, 610 yards, 6 TD

–          Summary: Davis finally reached the potential that made him the 6th overall pick 2006 Draft, and exceeded it, as he tied for the league lead in touchdowns. His ’09 numbers were such a jump it’s hard to predict where he’ll end up exactly, but he will share more looks with Michael Crabtree in 2010, which may decrease his totals. A slight decline in yards and touchdowns still places him in elite company at the position. Solid mid to late 4th round pick. Trend: Downwards

After years of under performing, Davis put it all together in 2009. But is an encore in order?

4. Jason Witten-Dallas Cowboys

–          2009: 94 receptions, 1030 yards, 2 TD

–          3 year average: 90 receptions, 1042 yards, 4 TD

–          Summary: Tony Romo’s favorite target again passed 1,000 yards, but had woefully bad attendance in the endzone, which curbed his value some. Still, 900 plus yard receivers are a great benefit and despite the increase in options at wide receiver in Dallas, Witten will still get more than enough targets to put up good fantasy starter totals. Look to him in the mid to late 5th round. Trend: Downwards

5. Owen Daniels-Houston Texans

–          2009: 40 receptions, 519 yards, 5 TD

–          3 year average: 57 receptions, 716 yards, 3 TD

–          Summary: When Daniels went down with a season ending knee injury after 8 games in ’09 he was leading all tight ends in yardage. Back healthy and in the pass happy Texans approach, look to him as a great TE yardage gainer that could easily surpass 900 yards. A slight sleeper, but don’t wait much later than early 6th round. Trend: Upwards

6. Tony Gonzalez-Atlanta Falcons

–          2009: 83 receptions, 867 yards, 6 TD

–          3 year average: 92 receptions, 1032 yards, 7 TD

–          Summary: Age doesn’t seem to be affecting his output at all, but it is going to be a constant concern at this point. What isn’t a concern is his results, which are still exceptional. While he shouldn’t be in the top 3 tight end taken anymore, he’s going to be a featured part of the Falcons attack and taking him in the 6th round is a great snag. Trend: Steady

Age is having the same luck as defenses are at slowing down Tony G, which is great for fantasy owners.

7. Brett Celek-Philadelphia Eagles

–          2009: 76 receptions, 971 yards, 8 TD

–          3 year average: 39 receptions, 489 yards, 3 TD

–          Summary: Celek took a huge step forward in his first year as a starter and it very well could become the norm. The majority of the Eagle receivers are small and quick, but not having a lot of size. This gets Celek many red zone and mid field open looks, which he capitalizes on greatly. In the midst of much bigger names at the spot, Celek is potentially a huge sleeper and should be coveted in the late 6th to early 7th round. Trend: Upwards

8. Kellen Winslow-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

–          2009: 77 receptions, 884 yards, 5 TD

–          3 year average: 67 receptions, 806 yards, 4 TD

–          Summary: In the midst of one of the league’s most underwhelming offenses, he is the top target. Spotty quarterback play makes him somewhat inconsistent week to week, but he will have a solid season overall. Don’t jump at his name appeal, wait until the 8th round and he’s a solid later pick. Trend: Steady

9. Greg Olsen-Chicago Bears

–          2009: 60 receptions, 612 yards, 8 TD

–          3 year average: 51 receptions, 525 yards, 5 TD

–          Summary: Olsen has all the talent and is the best receiver in the Bears rotation, but has been under utilized thus far in his career for what his talent dictates. Could be in for more looks in Jay Cutler’s first year with Mike Martz calling the shots, so look in the 8th round could pay off well. Trend: Steady

10. Heath Miller-Pittsburgh Steelers

–          2009: 76 receptions, 789 yards, 6 TD

–          3 year average: 57 receptions, 623 yards, 5 TD

–          Summary: Career highs across the board for Miller in ’09 could belay what his number may look like for the next few years in Pittsburgh, especially with Santonio Holmes out the mix and Hines Ward’s decline most likely approaching. Solid pick if you’ve focused on other positions early, and worth a 8th or 9th round pick. Trend: Steady

Miller's main value is consistency, which will be even greater if his looks increase this season.

11. JerMichael Finley-Green Bay Packers

–          2009: 55 receptions, 676 yards, 5 TD

–          2 year average: 30 receptions, 375 yards, 3 TD

–          Summary: He has tons of potential to make a huge leap in 2009. However, Green Bay must commit to him as the primary tight end option, as Donald Lee has been mixed in frequently. Also there lots of other offensive pieces that eat for the Pack, but he’s got a ton of potential to improve again this year. 9th round or later. Trend: Steady

12. Chris Cooley-Washington Redskins

–          2009: 29 receptions, 332 yards, 2 TD

–          3 year average: 59 receptions, 655 yards, 3 TD

–          Summary: Injuries ended his ’09 campaign early, but before that he was good for 700 plus yards annually and now paired with Donovan McNabb, who frequently uses his tight end; his numbers should resume their previous output, perhaps with a touchdown increase. Good value for a mid 9th round snag. Trend: Upwards

13. Zach Miller-Oakland Raiders

–          2009: 66 receptions, 805 yards, 3 TD

–          3 year average: 55 receptions, 675 yards, 2 TD

–          Summary: Miller is without a doubt the best option in an awful Raiders offense over the past few years, and his numbers ebb and flow like Oakland’s production does. Jason Campbell taking the reins could improve his touchdown total and raise his value. Still a 10th round option for now though. Trend: Steady

The lone quality receiver in a bad lot in Oakland, Miller's scores could double with Jason Campbell in control now.

14. Visanthe Shiancoe-Minnesota Vikings

–          2009: 56 receptions, 566 yards, 11 TD

–          3 year average: 41 receptions, 495 yards, 6 TD

–          Summary: He’s good for a few big games a season, but he finds ways to reach the end zone quite often over the last few years and is a good pick for a team solid in playmakers in most other places. Late 10th round is good grab for him to complement what’s in place. Trend: Downward

15. John Carlson-Seattle Seahawks

–          2009: 51 receptions, 574 yards, 7 TD

–          2 year average: 53 receptions, 600 yards,  6 TD

–          Summary: One of the top young tight ends in the game over his first two seasons, and could see a solid jump in his numbers if the Seahawks offensive line gives Matt Hasselbeck the time to make more plays downfield. Even if he stays at his current norms, he’s a good value in the 11th round for a team deep in other positions. Trend: Steady

Top Sleeper Options: Jermaine Gresham-Cincinnati, Brandon Pettigrew-Detroit, Dustin Keller-Jets, Jeremy Shockey-New Orleans

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