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1. Jason Witten,
Plenty of people prefer Tony Gonzalez, but as far as I'm concerned, Witten is far and away the Number 1 tight end in fantasy football. He nearly had a second straight 1,000-yard season in 2008. He's BFFs with quarterback Tony Romo on and off the field, and with Terrell Owens gone, Witten will have even more passes come his way in 2009.
2. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Gonzalez was a monster in each of the past two seasons, topping 90 catches and 1,000 yards for the Chiefs. But after an offseason trade to Atlanta, I'm not sure he can be counted on for those numbers again. Matt Ryan is a great quarterback, but could take time for the two to develop chemistry. On top of that, Gonzalez is no longer the definite Number 1 option like he was in K.C.; wide receiver Roddy White and running back Michael Turner still need their touches in Atlanta's offense.
3. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Gates seemed to be banged up all the time last season, and his numbers dipped as wide receiver Vincent Jackson turned into a star for the Chargers. Gates is still a beast in the red zone, and he has a great quarterback throwing to him in Philip Rivers. Still, I'm not a big fan of the fact that the Chargers will face so many tough pass defenses this year. That's why I have Gates a notch below Witten and Gonzalez.
4. Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts
With wide receiver Marvin Harrison gone, Clark could see a few more passes come his way this year. Best of all, he'll continue to be one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets in the end zone.
5. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins
Cooley is quarterback Jason Campbell's favorite target, but he rarely sees the end zone for a top pass-catcher. Cooley had one measly touchdown last season and might struggle to score again this year if Washington's offense doesn't improve.
6. Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears
The Bears are promoting Olsen to their starting lineup this season, and he could end up being their best pass-catcher. He has great speed for his size, and now Chicago has a talented quarterback in Jay Cutler. Olsen's third season could be his breakout year.
7. Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs invested a lot of money in Winslow, and they figure to use him often. Tampa's quarterback situation is steady and they may not score a lot of touchdowns, but Winslow is the rare tight end who could lead his team in receiving.
8. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
Daniels has developed into one of the most effective pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. His role is similar to many Number 2 wide receivers, and he could match last season's 862 receiving yards.
9. Dustin Keller, New York Jets
He's one of the most exciting pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. As a rookie last season, Keller showed some flashes of stardom, including a 107-yard performance against the Rams. The Jets have a shaky quarterback situation, but with wide receiver Laveranues Coles gone, the talented young Keller could end up playing a big role this year.
10. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles
Celek didn't do much over his first two seasons, but season three could be a breakout year. With L.J. Smith gone, Celek will step into the starting lineup. He's a natural pass-catcher who showed excellent chemistry with Donovan McNabb during last year's playoffs. Celek had three touchdowns in three post-season games, including a 10-catch, 2-TD performance in the NFC Championship game.
11. Kevin Boss, New York Giants
The Giants have had a ton or turnover at wide receiver, as last year's starters (Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer) are both gone. That means Boss, who has gained the trust of Eli Manning, could end up playing a very big role this year.
12. Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders don't complete passes very often, but when they do, it's usually Miller catching them. He had 778 receiving yards last season, but Oakland's feeble offense ensures that he won't score many touchdowns.
13. John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks
Carlson was fantastic as a rookie, racking up 627 receiving yards and five TDs. But the arrival of possession receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh will probably hurt his numbers, as Housh will make most of those catches underneath.
14. Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints
Shockey definitely has talent, and the Saints will probably find a way to get him the ball more often. But man, zero touchdowns last season! He won't be worth anything in fantasy leagues until he starts making an impact in the red zone.
15. Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos
Scheffler could be the NFL's best downfield threat among tight ends, averaging a whopping 16.1 yards per reception last season. However, he only plays a part-time role in Denver, and the departure of quarterback Jay Cutler means Scheffler could have a tough time matching last season's 645 receiving yards.
16. Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins
Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington prefers to throw underneath, so Fasano is one of his favorite targets. Better yet, he's a great threat in the red zone, catching seven TDs last season.
17. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars
Lewis improved steadily over his first three seasons, and his numbers could get a little bit better if teams have to focus on new Jags receiver Torry Holt.
18. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller might be the NFL's best all-around tight end, but the Steelers don't throw often enough -- or throw to him often enough when they do -- for him to have much fantasy value.
19. Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings
Shiancoe has quietly emerged as a strong red zone threat and the Vikings will throw to him fairly often in their play-action passing game. He'll never be a pass-catching star, but he could get close to 500 receiving yards and score five TDs in 2009.
20. Vernon Davis,
San Francisco 49ers
Davis might be the most athletic player in the league, and he has the potential to be an All-Pro tight end. Unfortunately, he hasn't caught on yet in the NFL because of San Francisco's constant coaching changes, as well as some incidents in which he's angered coaches. The Niners have never thrown to him often enough, and this year will probably be more of the same.
21. Randy McMichael,
St. Louis Rams
Torry Holt is gone and Donnie Avery is currently injured. That means McMichael could end up emerging as the Rams' most-reliable pass-catcher. Of course, this offense might not be good enough to get him big numbers.
22. Donald Lee,
Green Bay Packers
Lee won't get a lot of yardage, but he's good in the red zone and could score a fair amount of touchdowns in a good Packers offense.
23. L.J. Smith, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens still have Todd Heap, but they use him as more of a blocker. Baltimore made it a goal to pass more effectively over the middle, and Smith could fill that role. Still, as a part-time player, he won't have a chance to put up big numbers.
24. Bo Scaife, Tennessee Titans
Believe it or not, Scaife actually led the Titans in receiving last year. But he makes almost all of his catches underneath for short yardage, and he's never scored more than two touchdowns in a season.
25. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
The rookie is a better blocker than he is a receiver, but Pettigrew still has pretty good hands. He could emerge as a reliable safety valve for the young Lions.
26. Billy Miller, New Orleans Saints
Miller actually out-produced Jeremy Shockey last season. Still, if Shockey stays healthy, it would likely mean less playing time for Miller.
27. Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens now use Heap as a blocker more often than they use him as a receiver. He might still get a few short touchdowns, but overall he's not going to be worth much in fantasy leagues.
28. Ben Watson, New England Patriots
The Patriots don't throw to their tight ends often, but considering how many points they score, Watson could have a decent number of TDs come his way.
29. Martellus Bennett, Dallas Cowboys
Bennett is an ultra-athletic tight end who can make some incredible grabs. He's clearly stuck behind Jason Witten on the Dallas depth chart, but if something happens to Witten, he could emerge as a star.
30. Desmond Clark, Chicago Bears
Clark has been overtaken by Greg Olsen, but he'll still earn decent playing time because of his good all-around game. He could still reach 400 receiving yards.
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