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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Top fantasy football keepers: Tight ends

As far as bad years go, Kellen Winslow Jr.'s 2008 ranked somewhere between a new-and-improved Britney Spears and a getting-creepy-like-her-big-brother Janet Jackson.

There was Staphgate -- the Browns' Does He or Does He Not? Debate of the Year (it turns out the answers were: He does, and the GM had an even worse year than the tight end) -- along with the unhappiness about his contract and the ankle injury that wiped out the last four games of his season.

The end result: 43 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games. Take away Winslow's 10-catch, 111-yard, two-TD Thursday night peformance against Denver on Nov. 6, and he had 33 receptions for 317 yards and one TD in nine games. The Broncos game was the only one in which Winslow had more than 64 yards receiving.

The player drafted five spots ahead of Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 -- one who had a combined 171 receptions in 2006 and '07 -- was less valuable in fantasy than Visanthe Shiancoe.

If you had Winslow in one of your leagues, you've moved on. If you had Winslow in a keeper league in which you hold on to more than a few players -- especially ones in which you can only keep a certain number of high draft picks -- the former Miami Hurricane could cause you to be second-guessed as if you were Phil Savage.

I wouldn't consider Winslow an upper-echelon keeper at his position. There are too many questions -- the contract, the Browns' lack of direction, the health of the body of a 25-year-old who's 35 in NFL years - and six much better options.

For now, Junior will have to settle for the second tier of fantasy starters at tight end.

All of which brings us to our top 10 keepers at the position heading into 2009:

1. Jason Witten, Cowboys (age 26): Terrell Owens can complain all he wants, but there's a reason Witten is the Cowboys' top target. He has a combined 177 receptions for 2,097 yards and 11 TDs the last two seasons. In point-per-reception leagues, he's equivalent to playing an upper-echelon No. 2 receiver at tight end.

2. Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (32): He'll turn 33 next month, but he's only gotten better as he's gotten older. The Chiefs can't settle on a quarterback (we can only hope our favorite Chanticleer, Tyler Thigpen, gets the call next season), and they've won six of their last 32 games. In that span, Gonzalez has caught 195 passes for 2,230 yards and 15 TDs. If you're keeping one of these guys for just a year, I'd rather have Gonzalez than Witten.

3. Dallas Clark, Colts (29): He got the big contract, then backed it up with 77 catches for 848 yards and six TDs. Clark had 11 scores in 2007.

4. Antonio Gates, Chargers (28): It's tough deciding between Clark and Gates, but the latter was a shell of himself in 2008. He should be better next season. Will he be the player who averaged 79 receptions for 993 yards and scored 41 TDs from 2004-2007? Doubtful.

5. Chris Cooley, Redskins (26): He had a better year blogging than he did playing, although he wasn't too shabby on the field, either (83 catches for 849 yards). The negative: After scoring a combined 27 TDs the previous four years, he had one in 2008.

6. John Carlson, Seahawks (24): The rookie from Notre Dame was impressive in the second half of the season and could crack the top five at his position this year.

7. Kellen Winslow Jr., Browns (25): A full year with Brady Quinn starting would excite K2 nearly as much as the ladies who wear the pink No. 10 jerseys on game days.

8. Owen Daniels, Texans (26): In PPR leagues, his 133 receptions for 1,630 yards the last two seasons are certainly start-worthy. He needs to improve upon his five TDs in that span.

9. Greg Olsen, Bears (23): He scored three touchdowns in his last four games and finished his second season with 54 catches for 574 yards and five TDs. He could be among the top six this year.

10. Zach Miller, Raiders (23): This 2007 draft classmate had more receptions (56) and yards (778) than Olsen, but scored four fewer TDs and has JaMarcus Russell throwing to him for the foreseeable future.

Deserves better: The Steelers' Heath Miller is only 26 and scored a combined 21 TDs from 2005-07. Still, he wasn't much better than a low-level No. 1 tight end in 2008.

Names to remember: The Jets' Dustin Keller, 24, had 48 receptions for 535 yards and three TDs as a rookie, and Denver's Tony Sheffler, 25, has a combined 89 catches for 1,194 yards and eight TDs the last two seasons. Both could be among the top 10 at their position this year. ... Same goes for Anthony Fasano, 24, who had seven TDs in his first season in Miami. ... Brent Celek, 24, of the Eagles followed a quiet regular season with a huge postseason (19 catches for 151 yards and three TDs in as many games).


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