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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 5, 2012

Fantasy football: Playoff pools, top WRs and TEs

In the latest edition of the Year of the Quarterback (see Part I in this series), the elite tight ends were historically prolific, too.

The top two in the rankings that follow -- the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski and the Saints' Jimmy Graham -- combined for 189 receptions for 2,637 yards and 28 touchdowns in the regular season. The combined totals for Gronkowski and Graham (JimRob Grahamkowski?) were very comparable to the top two receivers below -- Wes Welker and Jordy Nelson, who combined for 190 catches, 2,832 yards and 24 TDs.

As is the case with the quarterbacks, the tight ends have a few no-doubt-about-it choices, followed by a huge gap. After the Packers' Jermichael Finley and the 49ers' Vernon Davis, there is a future Hall of Famer (the Falcons' Tony Gonzalez) who will be lucky if he plays more than one playoff game, followed by the Steelers' No. 3 or 4 receiving option (Heath Miller).

On to the rankings (note that we ranked only one receiver from each team, since most pools only allow you to select one player from each NFL playoff team):

1. Wes Welker, Patriots
2. Jordy Nelson, Packers
3. Marques Colston, Saints
4. Mike Wallace, Steelers
5. Victor Cruz, Giants
6. Roddy White, Falcons
7. Anquan Boldin, Ravens
8. A.J. Green, Bengals
9. Calvin Johnson, Lions
10. Michael Crabtree, 49ers
11. Andre Johnson, Texans
12. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Jimmy Graham, Saints
3. Jermichael Finley, Packers
4. Vernon Davis, 49ers
5. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
6. Heath Miller, Steelers
7. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
8. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
9. Owen Daniels, Texans
10. Ed Dickson, Ravens
11. Jake Ballard, Giants

More on the tight ends

If we could somehow have the option of choosing a team's tight ends, the Patiots would be a must-have with Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The latter, if included in the above rankings, would be No. 4, ahead of the 49ers' Davis, after catching 79 passes for 910 yards and seven TDs in the regular season. ... After Gonzalez, I would avoid the other tight ends if at all possible. The Texans' Daniels and the Giants' Ballard have both been limited by a knee injury, and the run-happy Broncos don't even have a tight end worth mentioning.

Notes on the wide receivers

Welker is an easy top choice in point-per-reception formats after racking up 122 catches for 1,569 yards and nine TDs. That is, if you want to select him instead of two of his teammates (Tom Brady or Gronkowski). ... I selected Nelson over stud teammate Greg Jennings because Nelson had 277 yards and five TDs in his last two games, and Jennings missed the Pack's last three contests with a knee injury. He is expected to play next week in the divisional round. If we were ranking more than one receiver on a team, I would put Jennings fourth, behind Colston. ... The Steelers' Wallace also has a very productive teammate at the same position (Antonio Brown, who had 69 catches for 1,108 yards), but Wallace has eight TDs to Brown's two. ... The Falcons' White is a narrow choice over teammate Julio Jones, who has reached the end zone six times in his last four contests. ... The Giants' Cruz had 82 catches for 1,536 yards and nine TDs in the regular season. I'd take him over Hakeem Nicks (76 receptions, 1,192 yards and seven TDs). ... Boldin is expected to play following late-season knee surgery. Teammate Torrey Smith (50 catches, 841 yards and seven TDs) is a tempting choice in his place. ... The great Calvin Johnson is ranked so low because we don't expect him to play more than one game, and the once-great Andre Johnson has been a shell of himself because of a hamstring injury.

PREVIOUS: Quarterbacks and running backs

NOTE: If you're hoping for defense/special teams and kicker rankings, a few words of advice: Fill out the remainder of your lineup, then take the best two options from the remaining five playoff teams. Selecting the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end combination (usually a total of seven spots) is infinitely more important.

Good luck, and may you follow the wise words of Mike Holmgren: Stay the course.

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