Remember the golden age of football video games? Bernie Kosar could throw the ball 100 yards down field, Flipper Anderson would jump off the screen to catch a pass, Bo Jackson was untouchable, you didn’t want to touch Christian Okoye and Jake Delhomme could win a game by throwing into triple coverage. Everything was so easy. The same can be said about the Tight End position this year, if your league plays with 14 or fewer teams. There is a Tight End for everybody and there is only one way to screw up, by paying too much or drafting one too early. I don’t see much of a difference between the top seven players so you won’t find MDS paying for the most expensive TE. There isn’t much of a drop off between the tiers until we get down to tier six. In a league that has more than 14 teams, I would be sure to lock up one of the top 14 or 15 tight ends. With that, let’s jump into some tiered rankings.
Tier 1 Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark
Tier One has your highly productive, dependable Tight Ends. Will Antonio Gates be affected by his sore foot? If not, look for him to pick up some of the slack left behind from Vincent Jackson. Will the Colts lean less on Dallas Clark with Anthony Gonzalez coming back and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie being more experienced?
Tier 2 Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis, Brent Celek, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez
Any of these Tight Ends could lead the league in points, I like them all. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jermichael Finley ranked as the No. 1 TE next season. Vernon Davis could struggle to match his production from last season with a more run focused offense and Michael Crabtree being more experienced. I don’t think Kevin Kolb will slow down Celek’s game and I actually think he’ll outproduce Vernon Davis. Jason Witten didn’t get much red zone action last year and Dez Bryant has entered the picture. I still like Witten, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in Dallas. The ageless wonder Tony G, can he keep on going? Why not, right?
Tier 3 Zach Miller, Kellen Winslow, Chris Cooley, Owen Daniels
Tier Three has four players who want to be in Tier Two. So close, but no Monica Lewinsky. Zach Miller did well with JaMarcus Russell at QB, we can only wonder what he can do with Jason Campbell. The former Redskin enjoyed throwing to his Tight Ends in Washington so I can only see good things for Miller. Kellen Winslow is slowed down by the quarterback play in Tampa and he isn’t someone to trust to play a full season. Maybe the injury woes are overblown, but my right eye seems to squint every time I look at Winslow’s name and I trust my evil eye. Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels are two players who need to prove they have recovered from their injuries. It’s your guess if they can make it through the season.
Tier 4 Vinsanthe Shiancoe, John Carlson, Heath Miller
With Vinsanthe Shiancoe, we are hoping for Favre to throw to him inside the red zone. He doesn’t rack up the yards in an offense that has many play makers. John Carlson also has a nose for the end zone, but Hasselbeck is old and decrepit. There is a lot of hope for Carlson as a sleeper in some circles and I share some of the enthusiasm. Heath Miller could stand to gain an increased percentage of targets after the Santonio Holmes trade, but Pittsburgh will be without Roethlisberger for four-to-six weeks and the team may look to run the ball more this year. They just lost one of their better linemen at tackle (Willie Colon), so Miller may be asked to block more when they do pass.
Tier 5 Dustin Keller, Greg Olsen
Keller is your perennial sleeper here. He is talented, but he is slowed down by the Jets offense. New York runs the ball often, they now have three good WR and Mark Sanchez needs to improve. Greg Olsen gets snubbed because of Mike Martz, the Bears new offensive coordinator. I will not draft Olsen.
Tier 6 Jermaine Gresham, Fred Davis, Kevin Boss, Marcedes Lewis, Todd Heap, Jeremy Shockey
I guess you’re hoping for 500 yards and a few scores from these guys.
Tier 7 R.Gronkowski, B.Pettigrew, T.Scheffler, T.Moeaki, B.Watson/E.Moore, B.Scaife, J.Cook, A.Fasano
Tier 8 Ed Dickson, Jimmy Graham, Travis Beckum