The 2009 fantasy football season was a good one for the tight end position in terms of value and production. That isn't much of a shock, though, as the NFL has clearly become more of a passing league.
Thanks in part to this shift in offensive philosophies, a total of 13 tight ends scored 100-plus fantasy points on NFL.com. The greatest number of tight ends to reach that 100-point mark in the previous three seasons was six. What's more, three scored 150-plus points in 2009. Only one (Tony Gonzalez) had hit that mark since 2006.
Top seven tight ends (2010)
The most successful player at the position wasn't a big name like Gonzalez, Dallas Clark or Antonio Gates. Sure, those players put up solid numbers for the most part, but the best player at the position had a 149.12 ADP (average draft position) on NFL.com.
The 49ers tight end finally reached his statistical potential at the NFL level, setting new career highs in receptions (78), yards (965) and touchdowns (13). He also put up double-digit fantasy points in eight of his final 14 games and averaged 10.5 points overall.
That's a great number for a tight end in a standard (non-PPR) scoring system.
It was also a very productive season for Clark.
The Colts tight end led his position in fantasy points in PPR leagues, finishing with a career highs in receptions (100) and yards (1,106). His 10 touchdown catches were the third-highest total at the position behind Davis and Visanthe Shiancoe (11). Clark will remain one of the most coveted fantasy tight ends in 2010 in an offense that will continue to feature one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning.
Gates was also a superstar for owners, bouncing back from mediocre numbers in 2008 (by his standards) with a career-best 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns. Gates should continue to find success moving forward as the Chargers offense has evolved into a pass-first unit. Gonzalez saw his totals fall across the board compared to his immense 2008 numbers, but he still finished fifth in points at the position.
Whether it's been Keith Jackson, Chad Lewis or L.J. Smith, the Eagles have had their share of productive fantasy tight ends in the past. Celek joined that list this season, leading the team in receptions (76) and posting career bests across the board. With an ADP of 141.79, Celek was one of the best draft values in fantasy football.
Jason Witten also had a solid season with 94 catches and 1,030 yards, but his fantasy appeal took a hit due to his lack of touchdown production. He visited the end zone just twice all season.
Other tight ends who put up strong numbers were Shiancoe, Kellen Winslow and Heath Miller. While none of the three were overly consistent compared to the elite players at the position, they still had value as weekly starters.
Cooley missed more than half of the season with an injured ankle, but his numbers weren't that impressive before he suffered the ailment. In fact, he was on pace for just 66 receptions, 758 yards and around five touchdowns. Those are decent numbers, but not at all impressive.
Olsen, who I thought would have a breakout season with Jay Cutler under center, did finish with career bests in receptions (60), yards (612) and touchdowns (8). However, he was dreadfully inconsistent and more of a headache than an asset for owners.
The Bears tight end was held to either no points or single-digit points in 69 percent of his games. Furthermore, close to 50 percent of his 103 fantasy points on NFL.com came in just three games. So while Olsen might have had his best statistical season at the NFL level, the numbers aren't a true reflection of his actual value.
It was also a difficult season for Carlson, who was seen as a top-10 fantasy tight end in drafts but ended up on the waiver wire in countless formats.
As we look ahead to 2010, there will be a mix of familiar names and upstarts that will be coveted in fantasy drafts. The old names like Gates, Witten and Gonzalez will be prominent, but you'll also see the likes of Celek, Shiancoe and Jermichael Finley also been taken ahead of the likes of Cooley, Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap.
Oh, and don't forget about Owen Daniels who was the top scoring tight end in fantasy before he suffered a serious knee injury in Week 8.
Here are my 2009 Guru Award winners for the tight end position.
Dallas Clark, Colts: Davis scored more fantasy points in standard leagues, but Clark had over 20 more catches and 141 more yards then the 49ers tight end. He also scored double-digit fantasy points seven times and hit the 20-point mark three times in non-PPR formats. He'll be the top fantasy tight end in 2010.
Breakout player of the year
Vernon Davis, 49ers: Davis, a preseason sleeper on NFL.com, exploded onto the fantasy scene with his best numbers at the NFL level. He was so good, in fact, he could have been highlighted in any of these categories outside of bust of the year. There will be some one-year wonder talk, but Davis is now a top-five tight end.
Sleeper of the year
Brent Celek, Eagles: Celek showed flashes of potential in 2008, and he made good on his talents this season when moved into a prominent role in the Eagles offense. He put up his best numbers as a pro and should continue to find success in an pass attack that will remain productive. Like Davis, Celek is a top-notch option.
Bust of the year
Chris Cooley, Redskins: This was a close call between Cooley and Olsen, but at least owners got some production from the latter down the stretch. The Redskins tight end was on pace for decent but unimpressive numbers before suffering an injured ankle, which cost him the final nine games and left some owners with a lineup void.
Draft value of the year
Vernon Davis, 49ers: There were some good draft value at tight end, but there wasn't a bigger bargain than Davis. On average, he didn't come off the board until the 12th round (149.12 ADP) on NFL.com. Davis went on to lead his position in fantasy points in standard leagues. Celek (141.79 ADP) was a very close second.