Fantasy Football Profile: Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark
I’m interested to see whether or not T.O.’s departure will hinder Jason Witten’s production. Love him or loathe him, T.O. did make life easier for Witten when he wasn’t making his buddy Tony Romo nuts. Despite turning in a solid season with 81 catches for 952 yards 4 TDs, Witten’s numbers were way off his outstanding 96-1145-7 2007 performance. Of course Tony Romo missed Weeks 7-9 where Witten had just 7 catches for 52 yards. The Cowboys at least brought in Jon Kitna to be Romo’s backup, which is a major upgrade over Brad Johnson. With a healthy and happy Romo, who not only got rid of the T.O. headache, but the Jessica one as well, and a good insurance policy, I see Jason Witten as the top Tight End again in 2009. He’ll likely go in the 4th round of fantasy drafts, and should be the first one off the board. As Romo’s most reliable weapon I expect Witten to catch 100 passes for 1150 yards and 8 TDs.
Considering the season Philip Rivers had, it’s amazing that Antonio Gates had “just” 60 catches for 704 yards and 8 TDs. While they are impressive numbers for a TE, they are far below the 79-993-10 he averaged the previous four years. He battled through foot and ankle injuries that took away his leaping ability, which is one of Gates’ best assets. Gates committed to working harder on his conditioning in the offseason and is in great shape. With his explosiveness back, Gates can make a run at reclaiming his title of best fantasy TE. Gates will be anywhere from the 2nd to 4th TE selected in fantasy drafts, most likely in the late fourth/early fifth round. He should be good for 80 catches for 1000 yards and 10 TDs.
Tony Gonzalez made the move from Kansas City to Atlanta. While he goes to an offense with more weapons (Roddy White, Michael Turner, Michael Jenkins, Jerious Norwood), he also goes to a team with a much better QB. Matt Ryan had a solid Rookie season, and with the addition of Gonzo, he should take the next step towards fantasy greatness. Atlanta will run more than KC did so I look for his numbers to drop a little. I know he played for KC when they ran a lot an still produced, but he was younger and that was a better offense. I still expect Gonzo to be a top three TE so it’s not like I don’t value him. He’s going in the 5th Round of fantasy drafts. I’m putting him on a 70 catch, 900 yard, 7 TD season.
Dallas Clark is the low end of the elite TE, but there is a drop off after he goes off the board (likely in the late 5th/early 6th round). Clark put together another solid season with 77 catches for 848 yards and 6 TDs, showing the 58-616-11 he put up in 2007 wasn’t a fluke. With Marvin Harrison gone, Clark should consider to be one of Peyton Manning’s primary targets. I actually expect him to take a little step back this year simply because he was so productive last year. I’m looking for him to have 65 catches for 850 yards, and 7 TDs.