Mar 23, 2009
It’s time to cover the TEs for those of you in keeper leagues. For many in these leagues, you’re not going to hold on to a TE, unless you have a high-end stud who is young, like Antonio Gates or Jason Witten – or unless you’re able to keep a high number of players.
Let’s assume for now you can keep only a small number of players, like 2-3. If so, keeping Gates or Witten is a tough call. You have to consider your scoring, first of all, for example I’d view Witten as a VERY desirable in a PPR league. He may catch 100 balls this year if healthy with Terrell Owens gone. Gates is still a beast in a great spot, but I’d value a young quality back or a stud wideout over him. He hasn’t exactly been a fantasy savior the last couple of years.
But those two are clearly the top guys for keeper leagues. Tony Gonzalez is still playing at a high level, so he should be considered a top starter at the position for at least 1-2 more years. I have to assume his new coach will utilize him well.
The next tier of players includes Dallas Clark, Owen Daniels, and Kellen Winslow. Winslow may be ranked as high as #3 overall for keeper leagues, but he’s on a new team and I always do worry about his injury history and his overall instability. I’d be okay letting him back into the player pool in a league that retained only 2-4 players. But on the other hand, he is still elite and young, so in most large keeper leagues, I’d be inclined to keep him around if possible. Clark is safer, and he should be set for 2-3 more years as a go-to guy for the Colts, especially with Marvin Harrison gone. There’s a lot to be said for the incredible chemistry he has with Peyton Manning. As for Daniels, I continue to be very high on him. I know he doesn’t score, but I love his ability and his role in the offense. Daniels is very athletic, and he’s a go-to guy and a huge part of the Texan offense, one that continues to inch closer to dominance. All he really needs is 2-3 more TDs, and he’ll be money.
If you’re still considering a TE in a keeper league, it must be a league that allows you to retain a high number of players, 5-6 at least, or a full blown dynasty league. For these leagues, you want a young player with the talent to be a difference-maker, and preferably someone who looks like a go-to guy for his offense. John Carlson still needs to prove he can consistently produce and play at a high level (Daniels, for example, definitely has already), but he’s a very solid player who is athletic and well-rounded enough to be a difference-maker. Dustin Keller is probably a better upside choice, since he’s very athletic, but he does have a small QB issue right now. Greg Olsen is another young player with a lot of upside and juice, but expectations needs to be tempered a tad, since he’s still splitting time and hasn’t exactly shown he can be a true go-to guy. But he’s very young and very talented, and that’s what you look for. I’ll also throw my guy Zach Miller into this mix. Miller probably has more value right now in a PPR league than Keller or Olsen, since he’s already emerged as a go-to guy for QB JaMarcus Russell. He fails to land higher on this list simply because he’s a dreadful situation still on the Raiders. Miller’s not a freak talent, but I think he’s a little better than a guy like Chris Cooley. Cooley’s a viable starter in a keeper league, but I think we’ve seen the best from him already, so I don’t see a ton of upside.
The talent level at the position does drop off at this point, but there are still some viable options, both for future potential and production now. Kevin Boss should be the guy for the Giants going forward, and while he doesn’t have a ton of upside, he did improve as the season wore on last year. Visanthe Shiancoe had a breakout season for the Vikings last year, and we view him as a legit starter for 2009, which says a lot. He’s still relatively young and he does have some juice due to his speed.
Jeremy Shockey’s value has plummeted for sure, but he’s worth a shot this deep given his experience and since he’s in a good situation. Heath Miller has little upside, but he’s a quality starter in a pretty good spot. Tony Scheffler may be on his way out of Denver, and if so his value may soar. He’s not a complete TE, since he’s not a good blocker, but he’s a dynamic receiver. I would not be surprised if he eventually had a true breakout season, even in 2009 on another team. The other guy here who has issues but still potential is Vernon Davis. I’m officially in believe-it-when-I-see-it mode, but he is still very young and very gifted. He just has to actually learn how to run pass routes. Bo Scaife is a solid option this deep for the near future. He’s been franchised by the team, so they obviously value him, and he’s sneaky athletic, so he’s capable of putting up decent numbers.
After these guys, we’re looking at a lot of hit-or-miss guys, but Brent Celek in Philly has a chance to pan out. He can run, so he has potential, but he’s not a great blocker, so the Birds may look to upgrade the position. I quite frankly don’t know what to do with guys like L.J. Smith, Todd Heap, Ben Watson, Anthony Fasano,
Marcedes Lewis, and Donald Lee for keeper leagues. Smith has disappointed and will split time with Heap, so I’m not enamored with either. I like Watson’s ability, but he’s proven on this team that he won’t command the ball, plus they added a decent veteran in Chris Baker. Fasano is a decent option, but he doesn’t command the ball, either, and neither do Lewis and Lee. But these guys do have value right now, since they will be very active in their respective offenses in 2009. The Smith-Heap situation, we’ll just have to see about, but they basically do cancel each other out.
I think it’s much easier to say good things about some younger players who have a legit chance to emerge in a year or two and possibly be impact starters. Ben Patrick, Martellus Bennett, Martin Rucker, and Brad Cottam are viable. Patrick’s not a beast, but he may have an advantage over Leonard Pope now. Bennett is a specimen with big upside down the road, but he’s obviously behind Witten right now, and still raw. Rucker has the talent to be a starter, so if he can improve his route-running he might have a chance to be their starter, making him a legit sleeper. Cottam is a really good long-term prospect. Once Gonzalez calls it a career in KC, he’s probably the guy, so he’s a good one to stash away in a large keeper or dynasty league.
Even deeper, Jacob Tamme, Jermichael Finley, Fred Davis, and Derek Schouman are the guys to look at. Tamme is a Ben Utecht clone, and Finley, while raw, was considered perhaps the top receiving threats at the position from last year’s draft class. He could be a factor in 1-2 years. Davis is also very athletic, and his value could soar if the team trades Chris Cooley, which has been rumored. It’s revealing how they switched to a west coast system last year and took Davis high in the draft, despite having Cooley on the roster. Schouman is a player the Bills are high on, and have been since last year. He may be the front-runner to replace Robert Royal this year, over 2008 draft pick Derek Fine.
Speaking of Robert Royal, he does have some value now, as the presumed starter in Cleveland. So to backtrack a little, he has actual value right now. Desmond Clark
Daniel Graham, Randy McMichael, and Ben Utecht do as well as active receivers for their teams from this position. But other than maybe Utecht, have little upside for keeper leagues.
Jerramy Stevens, Alex Smith, Chris Baker, Leonard Pope, Steve Heiden, Derek Fine, Dante Rosario, Alge Crumpler, Jeff King, Billy Miller, David Martin, Michael Gaines, and Joe Klopfenstein have a prayer and something of a role for their team, but we’re now digging really deep.
Even deeper, if you’re in like a 30-team dynasty league, Kellen Davis (Chi), Craig Stevens (Ten), and Scott Chandler (SD) are young and likely to stick with their respective teams.
Well, that’s about all the TE market is offering right now. Keep in mind 5-10 of these guys will fall off the list, once the draft takes place.