Targets, red-zone chances are vital for tight end values

Success on the field and in fantasy football is based on opportunities. The more times a player touches the football, the better chance he has to rack up statistics and produce for your fantasy team. In the current NFL, which has evolved into a passing league, it's more important than ever to know which tight ends are seeing the most chances to fill the stat sheets.

With that said, here is NFL.com's look at which tight ends saw the greatest number of his team's targets last season, which saw the most opportunities in the red zone, and what fantasy owners can expect in 2011.

Percentage of total team targets

1. Jason Witten, Cowboys (22.2 percent): The top-scoring tight end in fantasy football last season, it's no surprise that Witten was also the most targeted based on team totals. When you consider his immense rapport with Tony Romo, there's little doubt that he'll continue to see a ton of opportunities in the Cowboys' offense in 2011.

2. Ben Watson, Browns (21.3 percent): This one might come as a surprise, but Watson did see a good number of targets. In fact, he was one of the most targeted tight ends in the NFL during the final three weeks of 2010. When you consider his developing rapport with Colt McCoy, Watson could become a nice draft bargain.

3. Chris Cooley, Redskins (20.8 percent): Cooley finished seventh in fantasy points at his position last season, and he could have been better had he not scored just three times. He is the lone player in the Redskins' pass attack who could escape an immense loss in value if the team goes with John Beck at quarterback.

4. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers (19.8 percent): A top-10 fantasy tight end last season, Winslow finished with attractive totals as one of Josh Freeman's most popular targets. However, his lack of success in finding the end zone will ultimately cause him to be seen as more of a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end in drafts.

5. Dustin Keller, Jets (19.0 percent): Keller finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at his position and was targeted a total of 100 times, but most of his production came early in the season. In fact, he was one of the most inconsistent tight ends in the league based on the numbers. Consider Keller a late-round choice.

6. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (18.9 percent): Surprisingly, Lewis finished fourth in fantasy points at his position on the strength of his 10 touchdowns. And while he did see a good percentage of his team's overall targets, keep in mind that he'll be hard pressed to score double-digit touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

T-7. Zach Miller, Raiders (18.7 percent): Miller was targeted 92 times in a Raiders offense that lacked a true impact wideout last season. His value has taken a hit heading into the 2011 season, though, as Miller is now in a Seattle offense that features Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Golden Tate in the pass attack.

T-7. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons (18.7 percent): Despite still being targeted at a high rate, Gonzalez's reception and yardage totals have unfortunately decreased in each of the last three seasons. At 35 and on the downside of his career, the future Hall of Famer isn't more than a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end at this point.

9. Vernon Davis, 49ers (18.6 percent): The third highest-scoring tight end in fantasy football last season, Davis saw 93 targets in the 49ers' pass attack. That was down 36 compared to his breakout 2009 campaign, but his targets won't decrease further in the offense of coach Jim Harbaugh. In fact, they could increase a bit.

10. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (16.7 percent): Pettigrew was the third-most targeted tight end in the league last season, due in large part to the fact that Shaun Hill looked to him often in the pass attack. With Matthew Stafford under center, however, there's a chance that Pettigrew will see fewer opportunities to produce in 2011.

Tight ends 11-20: 11. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings (15.6 percent); 12. Tony Moeaki, Chiefs (15.3 percent); 13. Greg Olsen, Bears (15.0 percent); T-14. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (14.0 percent); T-14. Brent Celek, Eagles (14.0 percent); 16. Heath Miller, Steelers (13.9 percent); 17. Jacob Tamme, Colts (13.6 percent); 18. Kevin Boss, Giants (12.9 percent); 19. Owen Daniels, Texans (11.8 percent); 20. Antonio Gates, Chargers (11.9 percent).

Total number of red-zone targets

1. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons (20 targets): No tight end saw more chances to score in the red zone last season than Gonzalez, including nine in goal-to-go situations, but he still scored just six touchdowns. That number isn't likely to increase significantly moving forward, especially with rookie receiver Julio Jones now in the lineup.

2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (16 targets): Gronkowski, who finished fifth in fantasy points among tight ends last season, was a touchdown machine with 10 end-zone visits. The Arizona product also saw six targets in goal-to-goal situations. However, a decline in scores should be expected in 2011.

T-3. Jason Witten, Cowboys (15 targets): Considering Witten was the most targeted tight end in the league, it's not surprising that he also saw a high number of red-zone chances. With Dez Bryant back in the mix this season, however, it's hard to see Witten scoring another nine touchdowns.

T-3. Antonio Gates, Chargers (15 targets): How's this for a statistic -- out of his 65 targets last year, an amazing 23 percent of them came in the red zone. That goes a long way to explaining how a player who missed six games due to a foot injury still scored 10 touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Gates is our top fantasy tight end for 2011.

T-3. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (15 targets): At 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds, Lewis is an imposing red-zone target for David Garrard. That's why it's surprising that he scored three more touchdowns last year (10) than he had in his previous four seasons (7) combined. He's a low-end No. 1 tight end heading into this season.

T-3. Dustin Keller, Jets (15 targets): Keller might have posted career-best numbers across the board last season, but he significantly lacked when it came to cashing in on his red-zone opportunities. Of the 15 targets he received from Mark Sanchez, the Purdue product finished with just five touchdowns. He's no more than a No. 2 fantasy option.

7. Greg Olsen, Bears (15 targets): As was expected under offensive coordinator Mike Martz, Olsen saw decreased production in every statistical category compared to his 2009 totals. That included the touchdown column, where he found the end zone a mediocre five times. Luckily, a move to the Panthers means an increase in value for 2011.

8. Kevin Boss, Giants (14 targets): Boss found the end zone once for each seven receptions he recorded last season, but he also hauled in just 50 percent of his total targets for Eli Manning and the Giants. He's not a candidate to break out in 2011, either, so don't draft him as more than a potential No. 2 fantasy option in the late rounds.

T-9. Zach Miller, Raiders (13 targets): The Raiders didn't score a ton of touchdowns through the air last season, so it's not a surprise that Miller finished with a mediocre five scores. Now in Seattle, he loses some of his overall fantasy luster across the board. In fact, he's no more than a high-end No. 2 option in the majority of drafts.

T-9. Tony Scheffler, Lions (13 targets): Scheffler finished 33rd in fantasy points among tight ends last season, which was the worst total for any player at his position who saw 70 or more targets. He also cashed in on just one of his 13 red-zone targets, which is one of several reasons to avoid him -- another reason being the presence of Pettigrew.

T-10. Vernon Davis, 49ers (12 targets): The least-targeted player in the red zone of the elite fantasy tight ends, Davis ended last season with seven touchdowns -- but just four of them came in the red zone. The other three were from 42, 59 and 66 yards, which is a testament to his playmaking skills. He'll be one of the first tight ends drafted in 2011.

Wide receivers 11-20: T-10. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers (12 targets); T-10. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (12 targets); T-10. Brent Celek, Eagles (12 targets); T-14. Chris Cooley, Redskins (11 targets); T-14. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (11 targets); T-14. Tony Moeaki, Chiefs (11 targets); T-14. Jacob Tamme, Colts (11 targets); T-14. David Thomas, Saints (11 targets); T-19. Jeremy Shockey, Panthers (10 targets); T-19. Bo Scaife, Titans (10 targets).

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

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