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Fantasy Football - Sleeper Tight Ends

NFL Fantasy Football
Saturday October 20th, 2007 - Page updated at 8:00 am

Fantasy Football: That's Tight

2007 NFL Fantasy Football

Owen Daniels. Who the hell is Owen Daniels? That was the question I asked myself three weeks ago. Sure, I'd heard that the Houston Texans had a tight end who was quietly turning into Matt Schaub's favorite target. But, it was only after some serious statistical research that I realized how much Schaub liked the guy.

The Daniels File
(ranking amongst TEs in parentheses)
Receptions Yards Yds/Game 1st Down Rec.
29 (t-4th) 372 (5th) 62.0 (5th) 22 (4th)

Those are fairly big numbers for an unheralded 4th-rounder from Wisconsin who started his Badger career as a redshirt QB. But after making Pro Football Weekly's 2006 NFL All-Rookie Team last season, Daniels has quietly emerged as one of the elite fantasy TEs for 2007.

Consider the following:

  • He's had more catches than Dallas Clark, Jeremy Shockey and Todd Heap

  • He's averaging more yards per game than Heath Miller, Ben Watson and Alge Crumpler

  • His 75.9 first-down percentage (22 of his 29 catches moved the chains) is higher than that of Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow.

Daniels has survived the dreaded sophomore slump and a QB change (he spent last season dealing with the David Carr-Sage Rosenfels experience) to emerge as the Texans' leading receiver. And, he's on pace for a staggering 77 receptions for 992 yards.

"We have a good connection there," Schaub told after Houston's Week 5 win over Miami. "Owen always runs great routes. I'm very confident in getting the ball to Owen."

While his lack of touchdowns (he hasn't found the end zone in 2007) is somewhat troublesome, fantasy players in points-per-receptions leagues should be thrilled if Daniels is still available on the waiver wire. He's caught at least five passes over the last five games and has blossomed while receivers Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones remained shelved with knee and shoulder injuries respectively.

Given the strong connection he's made with Schaub, there's no reason to think that his touches will decrease when the pair gets healthy.

So, who are some of the other sleeper tight ends making noise this year?

Jeff King, Carolina

King has emerged as the Panthers' second-leading receiver behind Steve Smith.

While he's now viewed as a somewhat dicey play due to Carolina's lack of stability at QB, King was still targeted a few times by Vinny Testaverde and caught two passes. Not huge numbers by any stretch, but a good indication he won't be forgotten in the Panthers' passing attack.

His numbers thus far - 18 receptions for 189 yards - are more than enough evidence to suggest he'll remain a target, regardless of who's behind center.

Greg Olsen, Chicago

An early-season knee injury and a possible timeshare with incumbent starter Desmond Clark scared away many potential Olsen owners, so if he's still available, grab him now.

In his first meaningful action last weekend, Olsen caught four passes for 57 yards, including a 19-yard TD.

He's got a remarkable blend of speed and athleticism (being 6 feet 5 inches amd 252 pounds doesn't hurt either) and has the ability to line up as a receiver in various offensive sets.

Eric Johnson, New Orleans

After the emergence of Vernon Davis last year, Johnson was junked by the 49ers, who apparently forgot his 82-catch, 825-yard campaign in 2004.

While injuries will probably keep him from ever hitting those totals again, Johnson has looked much like his old self in New Orleans.

He's become a reliable target for Drew Brees, catching 23 passes (tied for seventh with Jeremy Shockey) including his first TD of the season on Sunday against Seattle.

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