Mar 30, 2010
For those in standard keeper leagues, especially ones that keep only 3-4 players, retaining a TE and using a valuable keeper spot on him usually isn’t a great idea unless you have one of the fantasy superstars at the position. However, with the production being spread thinly these days among RBs and WRs, keeping an elite TE you can count on may be more prudent than usual.
Although both are getting a little older these days, you still have to include Dallas Clark (IND, 31) and Antonio Gates (SD, 30) as the top options. Clark’s been in a major zone with his QB for years now, and there’s no end in sight to his production. Although the Colts have riches at the WR position now, Clark’s role is so cemented in the offense now, so he should still be golden at least two more years with Peyton Manning. As for Gates, I think he’s lost a little bit, but he did look good on film last year, and he should have 2-3 peak years left. With the team currently lacking a legit RB (they will certainly draft someone early), it’s looking like their offense will be keyed by Philip Rivers and the pass going forward. Jason Witten (Dal, 28) is younger than those two, and he does click extremely well with QB Tony Romo, so he needs to be in this conversation as well, especially in a PPR league.
Next up, you should be looking at the younger options at the position, and Jermichael Finley (GB, 23) really stands out. He’s in a great situation with QB Aaron Rodgers, and his athletic ability is off the charts. We have him in our top-5, so we’re giving him major props, but the reality is he’s capable of being the #1 fantasy TE overall the next three years. I’m not as convinced Vernon Davis (SF, 26) will be a beast because of his limitations, but he certainly was in 2009. Davis seems to be limited to mainly running vertical routes, but you have to think defenses knew that last year, yet they really couldn’t stop him. He’s also good in the red zone. His production may be a little up-and-down, but he’s clearly able to put up big numbers due to his outstanding athleticism and ability to run. I’d include Owen Daniels (Hou, 27) in the Clark-Gates realm had he not suffered a serious knee injury, but while he’s on track to play to start 2010, it’s still questionable if he’ll be the same guy. When healthy, Daniels is very athletic and, unlike Davis, is a complete player in terms of his ability to run all kinds of routes and make plays all over the field. Even if he’s not quite the same guy in 2010, he’s still (for now) in a great situation in Houston. I’ll also include Kellen Winslow (TB, 27) and Brent Celek (Phi, 25) in this group. Winslow’s no spring chicken, but he’s still in his prime, and he’s still running very well. He’s the foundation of the Buc passing game, so he has definite top-10 potential the next couple of years at least. Celek is firmly entrenched now as the guy in Philly, and he clearly has a lot to offer. Winslow has a better chance of being a major go-to guy, but Celek’s in a better situation overall, and he’s younger.
We obviously need to include Tony Gonzalez (Atl, 34), who’s the best TE to ever play. He’s still playing at an elite level, but here’s the problem with Gonzo: 2010 could be his last season. Gonzalez is getting heavy into business work on the side, and he’s indicated this year could be his last. We’ll see, but that’s certainly a concern for those in keeper leagues. Visanthe Shiancoe (Min, 30) is more of a 1-2 year guy as opposed to a young player who you can count on, but he’s in a good situation in 2010 if Brett Favre is back. Chris Cooley (Was, 28) is also an older player who has definite value this year, but the presence of Fred Davis is a concern. The good news for Cooley is that Davis isn’t a good blocker, which could hurt him under Mike Shanahan.
As usual, in a keeper league, I’d prefer to target some of the younger players who have value now, yet also have upside to put up even bigger numbers in the future. John Carlson (Sea, 26), Dustin Keller (NYJ, 25), Zach Miller (Oak, 24), and Greg Olsen (Chi, 25) fit the bill well. Carlson was off to a sparkling start his rookie season in 2008 and very early in 2009, and it’s unfair to blame him given the poor offense he was in. It’s not exactly clear if he’ll be a foundation in Seattle going forward, but he should be because he’s one of the better all-around TEs in the league. He’s definitely worth keeping. Keller’s got great upside, probably the most in this group, but he didn’t exactly establish himself as a go-to guy in 2009. As his young QB matures, Keller’s production should be more consistent. Miller’s really solid and if he ever gets a real QB (Donovan McNabb?), he’d easily be a top-10 guy and a PPR machine, so he’s a very solid keeper. As for Olsen, I’m disappointed in his 2009 season, and the presence of Mike Martz doesn’t help at all. Martz has already said he knows he doesn’t use the TE much, but that he’s never had someone as talented as Olsen. Problem is he said the same thing about Vernon Davis in San Francisco and Davis’ production was very underwhelming. But based on talent and youth, Olsen is still appealing.
The viable options are dwindling down a little, but Heath Miller (Pit, 27) is rock solid and is coming off his best and most consistent season, so he’s worth a look. Ben Watson (Cle, 29) and Kevin Boss (NYG, 26) have some short-term value, and unlike most of the younger options listed below, can actually help you now, in 2010.
But again, I do tend to get more excited about the young options at the position, and this far down the list, no one stands out more than Jared Cook (Ten, 23). Veteran Bo Scaife will be back, but I can see the Titans working the extremely athletic Cook into the mix much like the Packers worked Finley into the mix in 2009. So it’s very possible that, in one year’s time, we’ll be viewing Cook as a seriously emerging player and a top-10 prospect at the position. Brandon Pettigrew (Det, 25) is coming off a serious knee injury and doesn’t have a ton of upside, but he’ll be a cornerstone in their offense, and he’s a good enough receiver to put up respectable numbers. Fred Davis (Was, 24) showed a lot of ability in 2009, but I’m concerned about his inferior blocking and the presence of Chris Cooley. He’s certainly worth a shot, but I don’t think you can count on him this year, at least. Shawn Nelson (Buf, 24) should be the guy for the Bills, and he does have good athletic ability. He just hasn’t shown much yet, so we can’t count on him.
If you’re looking for a sleeper, Anthony Fasano (Mia, 26) has a chance. Now that the team is moving back to more of a traditional offense with Chad Henne in at QB, Fasano could possibly emerge as a consistent weapon. His numbers improved once Henne took over, and he caught 4 or more passes in three of his final five games, which was a decent sign. He’s not a deadly threat down the seam, but he can make some plays, and he’s a good red-zone receiver.
Next up, we have some guys who are mostly older and thus not all that attractive for the long-term, but do have some value for right now. Jeremy Shockey (NO, 30), Marcedes Lewis (Jac, 26), Bo Scaife (Ten, 29), and Todd Heap (Bal, 30) are in this mix. I don’t feel good about any of them, however. Sure, they’ll have some value this coming year, but all of them should be replaced sooner rather than later.
Back to the younger players, there are still some decent guys to look at, like Tony Scheffler (Den, 27), David Thomas (NO, 27), Brad Cottam (KC, 25), Chase Coffman (Cin, 23), James Casey (Hou, 25), Zack Miller (Jac, 25), Martellus Bennett (Dal, 23), and Travis Beckum (NYG, 23). Scheffler’s probably going to be limited to a complementary role, but if he’s moved to another team, that could change, and he could be a dynamic pass-catcher. Thomas was impressive and is in a great situation, so he’s very interesting. Shockey’s still here, however, so Thomas can’t be considered a viable starter. Cottam could be a sleeper. He did absolutely nothing for most of 2009, but he did show a few flashes. Granted, I’m literally talking about a handful of plays, but I saw some great potential. He’s an injury risk, but at 6’7” he’s a huge target who could help their offense. If he continues to improve and carves a large niche, he could surprise. Casey’s a great athlete, but he showed last year that he’s not ready, and, of course, Daniels is there, so he’s a dynasty league guy all the way. Miller may be a better prospect than Lewis in Jacksonville at this point, but the team may look for an upgrade in the near future. Bennett’s very talented so he might be worth a shot in a large dynasty league, but his disappearance in ’09 was disconcerting. And finally, Beckum is also very talented and runs like a wideout, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be utilized as anything more than a complementary role player the next 1-2 years. Starter Kevin Boss is a much better blocker and a more complete TE. As for Coffman, his rookie season was a big disappointment last year, but this far down the list, he’s worth a look because he’s a talented pass-catcher, and there’s a great need in Cincy.
Finally, we’re digging deep for some other options, and probably too deep. Daniel Fells (Stl, 26) looks like the guy for now at least in St. Louis, so he might have some value in 2010. Ben Patrick (Ari, 26) is the guy for now, but the Cards may actually draft a TE this year, which would kill his chances. Cornelius Ingram (Phi, 25) is very athletic, but he’s a major injury risk, and Celek has cemented himself in the starting lineup. Jerramy Stevens (TB, 30) has always had the tools to be an impact player, but he’s behind Winslow and isn’t someone you can count on. Jacob Tamme (Ind, 25), Dante Rosario (Car, 25), Gary Barnidge (Car, 24), and Derek Schouman (Buf, 25) are all young and have shown some potential, but there’s very little reason to feel good about their chances. Tamme’s solid, but Clark’s there, while the Panthers refuse to give Rosario a legit chance to be featured. Barnidge and Schouman are probably lost causes – but they are still young, as least.
Some other players who at least have a chance to do something of note in 2010 are
Donald Lee (GB, 30), Ben Utecht (Cin, 29), Daniel Graham (Den, 31), Leonard Pope (KC, 27), Jeff King (Car, 27), Desmond Clark (Chi, 33), but I wouldn’t count on any of them. Lee’s lost his starting job to Finely, Utecht’s coming off a nightmare injury season, Graham’s still a glorified right tackle, Pope’s probably run out of chances, King’s just a guy, and Clark’s probably out of luck in Chicago with Mike Martz there.