Speed Bump 14 - Who is the #1 TE
Posted Aug. 08 at 02:05 AM
In what will be our first and only TE poll this year (we're going particularly deep in the polls at WR this year) we go top shelf with the position examining the top TEs heading into 2010 drafts. We have two stalwarts in Dallas Clark (31) and Antonio Gates (30) and two young bucks in Vernon Davis (26) and Jermichael Finley (23). This is a repeat poll title from last year. Clark and Gates return for the 2010 version while we exclude last year's poll vote winner Jason Witten. Sorry Jason. The champion last year was Clark (270.70 PPR fantasy points), followed by Davis (252.50) and then Antonio Gates (241.70). While we think it's a deep TE class this year and there are top-notch sleepers, these four are as an elite set of TE fantasy prospects as you will find in recent history. In mixed WR/TE leagues each of them can likely be had too cheaply if you play with folks that don't price TEs appropriately. Clark would have been the 8th best WR last year, Gates the 11th best WR and Davis the 13th best WR. Dynasty Rogues is officially pulling for Finley. In the 2010 version of the Fantasy Index Experts Rankings (where we hope to win again, we took the title in 2008 in our inaugural season) we were the only site to roll with Finley as the #1 TE prospect this year in the competition.
It's possible we've seen the best of Dallas Clark. Last year was indeed his career-defining season to date with an even 100 receptions, 1,100+ receiving yards and 10 TDs. The arrow certainly can't point upwards forever. Over the last four seasons Clarks' receptions has gone up from 30 to 58 to 77 to 100 – that's a 49% CAGR as they say in finance (Cumulative Annual Growth Rate). From a dynasty perspective Clark certainly is a good sell high guy in our eyes. He is now 31-years-old and last year was the first time Clark has ever played a complete season in his NFL career. Can Clark be dominant again or will the Colts deep set of talented WRs cut into his production too much to take the title in back-to-back seasons? Clark rates as the #1 TE in ADP data.
Freshly off signing a $36M, 5-year contract extension making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, Antonio Gates rates as the #1 2010 TE prospect in magazine rankings on average. His story certainly is one of sudden meteoric rise. After not even playing football in college and going undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, Gates went from a college forward at Kent State (who scouts said was too much of a "tweener" to get drafted in the NBA) to almost instantly dominating the TE position at the NFL level. There wasn't much of a learning curve. In just his 2nd NFL season (2004) Gates set the NFL record for most TDs in a season with 13 TDs. Since that year Gates has finished no worse than the #4 fantasy TE averaging 76 receptions, 972 yards and nearly 10 TDs per season. Gates had a remarkable 18 receptions of 20+ yards last year, as many as Randy Moss had. Unlike Dallas Clark, who has missed some games every season of his NFL career (besides last year), Gates has only missed three games in his 8-year NFL career.
Oh what a difference a year can make. This time last year many had written Vernon Davis off as an NFL Draft bust. After posting an insane 4.38 40-yard time at the 2006 NFL Combine (and a 10'08" broad jump, nearly a foot farther than the next-best tight end at that year's combine) Davis was selected with the 6th overall pick by San Francisco, the 3rd highest tight end ever drafted in NFL history behind Ron Kramer in 1957 and Mike Ditka 1961. In three NFL seasons Davis had averaged 34 receptions, less than 400 yards and 3 TDs per season. Over on our forum boards, disgruntled dynasty owners clinging to hope endured the postings of "click-clack" - Davis appeared in ads for Under Armour's then new line of football cleats with the slogan "Click Clack (I think you hear us coming)" before playing a down in the NFL - as if you could hear the forum poster saying it to a taunting tone line "Darryl, Darryl". Most lost hope and tired of waiting. Davis' ADP dropped from #6 in his 2nd NFL season (2007) and #9 in 2008 on the hopes of a breakout to #17 last year (he ranked higher as a rookie at #13). Davis paid off jumbo in 2009 scoring 13 TDs (two more than his first three seasons combined), tying Antonio Gates for the record for most TDs by a TE in a season. One of the keys was the switch from Shaun Hill to Alex Smith at QB. In the first five weeks of the season with Hill at QB Davis scored 3 TDs – once Smith took over Davis caught 10 TDs in the final 11 weeks of the season.
Can the Packers' Jermichael Finley be the next tight end to make that quantum leap? He certainly did to close out the 2009 season. After missing three weeks with a knee injury Finley returned in week 11 to collect a career-best 10 targets. From weeks 11 thru the end of the season he went on a terror (including a 6-catch, 159-yard game in the playoffs). Finley's full-season pace over those last eight games is 89 receptions, 1,150 yards and 8 TDs. He had six more receptions and one more TD than Greg Jennings over that time frame. For the season, Finley caught 77.5% of his targets as a 2nd-year player with limited NFL playing experience (better than Dallas Clark actually at 75.8%) and Finley's 9.5 yards per target trailed only Antonio Gates last year. The 6'5" Finley was also remarkably busy in the red zone where he totaled 17 targets inside the 20-yard line and 8 targets inside the 10-yard line. That success has carried over to this off-season. "In OTAs he had the least amount of mental errors of anybody," said Green Bay TE coach Bob McAdoo in late July. "He's applying himself. He knows the offense. He's not comfortable getting by on talent alone. He wants more." Finley is just 23 years old.
Vote in the official Dynasty Rogues Speed Bump Challenge: http://dynastyrogues.com/headline/?id=230
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