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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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fantasy football rankings: Tight ends

You know this position is loaded at the top when Antonio Gates, who has 49 touchdowns the last five seasons, is ranked third.

Gates was bothered by hip, foot and ankle injuries last season, and he posted his worst numbers since he was a rookie in 2003. Since sensational back-to-back seasons in 2004 and '05, in which he averaged 85 catches, 1,033 yards and 12 TDs, Gates' receptions have fallen to 69 per season, and he hasn't reached 1,000 yards or double-digit touchdowns.

Still, he's a clear-cut No. 3 at tight end behind Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez, who are interchangeable at Nos. 1 and 2. I'd give Witten the edge in point-per-reception leagues, but it's a slight one. Witten was more prolific than some No. 1 fantasy wideouts in 2007 (96 catches for 1,145 yards and seven TDs), and he should be more of a red-zone target this season with Terrell Owens shuffling off to Buffalo.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, will catch passes from Matt Ryan instead of Tyler Thigpen. The former Chief has had 96 or more receptions in three of the last five years, but struggled in the touchdown department from 2005-07 (12 combined scores) before recording 10 TDs last season.

Once one of the three are chosen in your draft, you can be certain the other two soon will follow. Regardless, I wouldn't choose Witten or Gonzalez until late in the fourth round of a 12-team league, and Gates is a fifth-rounder at best.

Dallas Clark, Chris Cooley and Owen Daniels -- Nos. 4-6 in the rankings below -- averaged 77 receptions for 853 yards between them. After they're gone, though, there's quite a dropoff.

On to the numbers:

Rank, player, team GP-Rec-Yds-Avg-TD
1. Jason Witten, Dal 16-81-952-11.8-4
2. Tony Gonzalez, Atl 16-96-1,058-11.0-10
3. Antonio Gates, SD 16-60-704-11.7-8
4. Dallas Clark, Ind 15-77-848-11.0-6
5. Chris Cooley, Was 16-83-849-10.2-1
6. Owen Daniels, Hou 16-70-862-12.3-2
7. Greg Olsen, Chi 16-54-574-10.6-5
8. John Carlson, Sea 16-55-627-11.4-5
9. Kellen Winslow Jr., TB 10-43-428-10.0-3
10. Zach Miller, Oak 16-56-778-13.9-1
11. Dustin Keller, NYJ 6-48-535-11.1-3
12. Visanthe Shiancoe, Min 6-42-596-14.2-7
13. Anthony Fasano, Mia 16-34-454-13.4-7
14. Kevin Boss, NYG 15-33-384-11.6-6
15. Jeremy Shockey, NO 12-50-483-9.7-0
16. Tony Sheffler, Den 13-40-645-16.1-3
17. Bo Scaife, Ten 16-58-561-9.7-2
18. Brent Celek, Phi 16-27-318-11.8-1
19. Vernon Davis, SF 16-31-358-11.5-2
20. Heath Miller, Pit 14-48-514-10.7-3
21. Donald Lee, GB 16-39-303-7.8-5
22. Marcedes Lewis, Jac 16-41-489-11.9-2
23. Benjamin Watson, NE 14-22-209-9.5-2
24. Brandon Pettigrew, Det ROOKIE

Clark scored 11 touchdowns in 2007. ... Cooley, who scored just once in 2008, had a combined 27 TDs from 2004-07. ... Don't overrate Winslow, who has 11 touchdowns in 44 career games. ... Daniels also doesn't find the end zone very often (10 in 46 games). ... Carlson was impressive as a rookie last season. ... Don't draft Shockey, who has never played a full season, as your starter. ... Scheffler falls in the rankings because of rumors that he doesn't fit Denver's new offensive system. ... A possible sleeper: New England's Watson, who had a combined 85 receptions for 1,032 yards and nine TDs in 25 games in 2006 and '07. ... How the mighty have fallen: Baltimore's Todd Heap doesn't crack the top 24.

Next: Running backs

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