I don’t know that it’s necessarily the case in 2010, but the number of injuries affecting high-profile players at every position seem to have multiplied. Elbows, hamstrings and concussions by the score have piled up to derail many a fantasy championship dream.
At the tight end position, owners of Jermichael Finley have been forced to consider waiver-wire options, such as Aaron Hernandez and Mercedes Lewis.
Hopefully, you’ve got a "set-and-forget" option available to you. If not, let’s roll through the "Lineup Calls."
Top 5 Tight Ends
(other than Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis, Dallas Clark, Visanthe Shiancoe or Jason Witten)
Zach Miller at San Francisco
Miller may ascend to the “exclusions” list with another big run this weekend against San Francisco. He’s scored in three consecutive games, and has become THE “go-to” receiver for the Raiders. Miller has averaged 5.6 receptions per game and 68 receiving yards. With Jason Campbell expected to remain under center for this one, we can reasonably expect a ton of check-downs once again.
Tony Gonzalez at Philadelphia
Gonzalez has been an afterthought in the passing game except for his Week 3 breakout against New Orleans. I expect to see Gonzalez afforded a much larger role this weekend against the aggressive Philadelphia front. Philadelphia has recorded 15 sacks, and rank eighth in pass defense while surrendering eight touchdown passes. The Eagles bring the heat on Matt Ryan and force him to get the ball out quickly.
Kevin Kolb’s return under center has brought Celek back to fantasy relevance. Celek has scored in back-to-back games, and he has recorded multiple receptions in each of the team’s first five games (35 yards per game). He’s on the slate for another big effort this week, as the Falcons have been stellar on the edges against opposing wideouts.
Kellen Winslow vs. New Orleans
Winslow established a new season-high with six catches last week against the Bengals. He’s topped 60 receiving yards twice in four contests, and Mike Williams’ emergence is affording him additional space. Winslow caught a total of nine passes in two games against the Saints last season. He’s not a sure-fire option in and around the red zone, but the sizable target total makes him a play this week.
Miller welcomes back Ben Roethlisberger under center, and we can reasonably expect the Pittsburgh offense to start to stretch. Miller caught multiple passes in each of his first four games, but hasn’t been a huge factor to date. Roethlisberger’s presence and bigger roles for Mike Wallace and Hines Ward opens the field for Miller. He caught 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown last year in two games against the Browns.
Tight End Sleepers
Aaron Hernandez vs. Baltimore
Hernandez stands as one of the big winners following the trade that shipped Randy Moss to Minnesota. He’s a PPR machine, having caught 17 passes in the three games prior to the Patriots’ bye. Hernandez becomes an even more potent threat down the middle as the Ravens seek to limit Wes Welker.
Lewis has been a red zone monster for the Jaguars to date. He’s already piled up five touchdown receptions while operating in the low post. You can’t expect sizable yardage totals, as Lewis has eclipsed 31 receiving yards only twice in five games. Still, Tennessee brings the heat and that will push David Garrard to check down to his tight end. This could be a big opportunity for him, particularly if Maurice Jones-Drew finds creases at the line.
Andrew Quarless vs. Miami
Quarless replaces the injured Finley. He caught four passes for 51 yards in place of Finley (and an injured Donald Lee), and demonstrated solid route-running.
Tight End Flops
John Carlson at Chicago
The Seahawks return from the bye and face another road test. We haven’t seen that play out well thus far in 2010. Carlson caught a total of six passes for 63 yards in two road tilts prior to the bye. Taken further, the Bears have surrendered just two passing touchdowns through five games.
Daniels has yet to put his stamp on the 2010 season. He started quickly in Week 5, but finished with minimal production overall (three catches for 45 yards). I’m not optimistic that this is the breakthrough spot against Romeo Crennel’s surging pass defense (four touchdowns allowed). He’s caught a total of 10 passes for 113 yards thus far. I know you want to see Daniels in your lineup. I don’t know that it’s time just yet.