1. Antonio Gates, Chargers- He's found the end zone 23 times over the last two years. Most elite receivers would have trouble matching that number. While a new quarterback could hurt his numbers slightly, Gates is still the top fantasy tight end in the league.
2. Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs- He has only caught one red zone touchdown in the past two seasons, but don't let that scare you. Even in a down year by his standards, Gonzalez posted over 900 yards in 2005. He should improve on his two touchdowns from last year and finish a notch below Gates.
3. Todd Heap, Ravens- Finally I'm showing the Ravens some love! I received a few e-mails for my rankings of Steve McNair and Jamal Lewis, but Baltimore fans should be happy with Heap at No. 3. He posted career-highs in receptions (75), yards (855) and touchdowns (7) last season. Look for his numbers to improve with McNair, and expect Heap to be a great weapon in the red zone for the Ravens.
4. Jeremy Shockey, Giants- Giants fans love him. Nobody else can stand him. Unless he's on your fantasy team. Shockey posted 891 yards and seven TDs last season. There's no reason he can't repeat those numbers in 2006, which would make him a top-five tight end.
5. Chris Cooley, Redskins- Is it just me, or is this an unusually strong group of tight ends? Only Gates has more touchdowns over the past two seasons at the tight end position. Cooley found the end zone seven times last year to go along with 71 catches and 774 yards. He scored five times over the last five weeks of 2005. Al Saunders, the previous architect of the Chiefs offensive attack, has now joined the Redskins coaching staff. The addition of talent at wideout is a little scary, but Cooley should once again put up big numbers.
6. Alge Crumpler, Falcons- He's Michael Vick's favorite target, yet he seems to go under the radar each year. Crumpler had 877 yards and five touchdowns last season. Atlanta's group of young receivers should improve in 2006, meaning defenses won't be able to focus as much attention on Crumpler.
Sidenote: For some reason, we never refer to tight ends by their real names in one of my leagues. Antonio Gates is Tony Gates. Tony Gonzalez is T-Gonzo. And Alge Crumpler is Crumplestiltskin. Do what you please with this information.
7. Jason Witten, Cowboys- His numbers decreased last year from 2004, but Witten still posted 757 yards and six touchdowns. The addition of T.O. means he likely won't top those scoring numbers. Drew Bledsoe has Terry Glenn, Owens and what should be a solid run game. That could mean fewer opportunities for Witten.
8. Randy McMichael, Dolphins- You can count on him for around 600 yards and five touchdowns this season. McMichael posted four touchdowns in the first four weeks of last season but managed only one the rest of the year. Still, with the addition of Daunte Culpepper, his yardage numbers could improve significantly.
9. L.J. Smith, Eagles- He had as many catches last year (61) as he had in the previous two years combined, and keep in mind that Donovan McNabb missed seven games. Without T.O., the Eagles offense will need to spread the ball around this season to be successful. Look for Smith to match his 682 yards from a season ago and improve on his three touchdowns.
10. Heath Miller, Steelers- Fantasy prognosticators are expecting big things from Pittsburgh's second-year tight end. As a rookie, he posted 459 yards and an impressive six touchdowns. While the Steelers offense typically hasn't thrown often to the tight end, Miller looks like he'll be the exception.
And the rest:
11. Vernon Davis, 49ers
12. Jermaine Wiggins, Vikings
13. Jerramy Stevens, Seahawks
14. Ben Troupe, Titans
15. Dallas Clark, Colts