Spotlight - TE Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City Chiefs
Posted 8/8 by Jason Wood and Mark Wimer,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
You don't need me to explain that Tony Gonzalez is a great tight end. You also don't need me to articulate that he'll be the 1st tight end drafted in most leagues this year, and no worse than 2nd (behind Antonio Gates) in the vast majority.
Even if you assume he won't repeat his historic 2004 numbers (102 recs for 1,258 yards and 7 TDs), you have to recognize that he's been the 1st or 2nd ranked fantasy TE for six consecutive years. That's consistent PRODUCTION.
You KNOW that at least one person in your league is willing to draft Gonzalez at his expected draft position, so the question becomes, should YOU be that person?
According to Antsports ADP data, Gonzalez is currently being selected 29th overall in 12-team redraft leagues. Now, let's look at Gonzalez's VBD ranking:
- 2004 -- 11th overall; VBD X-Value 99
- 2003 -- 13th overall; VBD X-Value 87
- 2002 -- 27th overall; VBD X-Value 56
- 2001 -- 23rd overall; VBD X-Value 55
- 2000 -- 8th overall; VBD X-Value 114
- 1999 -- 10th overall; VBD X-Value 91
To summarize, even in Gonzalez's worst season relative to other fantasy players, he finished 27th, higher than his current projected draft position! The truth of the matter is that even in today's day and age, there is a bias toward tight ends which artificially reduces Gonzalez's perceived value. If you're in a league that requires a starting TE, there are few (if any) players at any position that have consistently delivered such elite production. If you have the chance to grab Gonzalez in the third round of 10- and 12-team leagues, history suggests it's the smart move to make even if it doesn't "feel" right.
- Putting together a Hall of Fame caliber career, and showing no signs of decline having set career highs in 2004 in receptions and receiving yards
- The Chiefs remain a potent offense but are no better off at WR than they were a year ago, ensuring Gonzalez his rightful place as Trent Green's top target
- Gonzalez has consistently exceeded his draft position, but the bias against TEs almost assures you can grab him in the early part of the 3rd round if you're so inclined
- The Chiefs entire offense is powered by their offensive line. While the line projects to be elite once again, they are aging and Will Shields contemplated retirement. Any erosion in the line play could have ripple effects on the entire offense
- You will have to use a top 30 pick on Gonzalez in competitive leagues, leaving less margin for error in drafting other positions, particularly running back which suffers from scarcity
As someone who has long endorsed the virtues of Value Based Drafting, I must admit that I often threw VBD out the door when it came to drafting tight ends. I, like so many others, felt compelled to draft them late and grab a tandem that would come reasonably close to top 10 status, instead focusing on bolstering my other positions in the early and mid rounds. While I'm not completely throwing that methodology out the door, it's important that you separate Tony Gonzalez from the rest of the TE pack (Gates may also warrant this attention but that's for another discussion). Tony Gonzalez is a mortal lock to provide top 20 overall VBD value if he's healthy, yet you can draft him a round or two later. That's fantastic value and you shouldn't lose sight of that because he's a tight end. Draft accordingly.
Mark Wimer's Thoughts
Tony Gonzalez is one of the Iron-Men of the NFL. He has played in 16 games every season during this millennium. He has averaged 80 receptions for 1013 yards and 7.8 TDs per season over the past 5 years (since 2000). He plays in one of the most powerful NFL offenses and has been a linchpin for the team under both Coach Cunningham and Coach Vermeil. The guy is a phenomenal NFL tight end who produces statistics more closely resembling a wide receiver than a tight end.
All of this, and Gonzalez is still on the right side of 30 (born 2/27/76) – did I mention that he is 6’5” tall? There are many more reasons to admire Tony Gonzalez as a fantasy football tight end than there are reasons to avoid him.
However, the remarkable durability and productivity that Gonzalez has displayed during his career means that even the most casual NFL fan has a good idea about who he is and what to expect out of Gonzalez during the coming season. He’ll be consistently drafted in the top 3 tight ends in almost any conceivable fantasy draft, if not going off the board as the #1 tight end. My question is this: where’s the upside to drafting Tony Gonzalez in a typical fantasy football draft? He’ll be likely to cost you a 3rd round pick in most leagues (he’s the #32 overall selection on our Footballguys.com rankings as of August 4th) – that’s a selection that would still yield a premium wide receiver or quarterback who may have more upside potential than a guy coming off a career season (Gonzalez set career highs in receptions and receiving yardage last year, hauling in 102/1258/7 during the season).
- Consistent fantasy production: since 1999, Gonzalez has missed 1 game (none in the past 5 years); he has caught a minimum of 63 passes for 773 yards during that span, with a minimum of 6 TDs (73/917/6 during 2001). Gonzales has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving twice during the past 6 years (1999, 2004) and snagged double-digit TDs twice (11 during 1999, 10 during 2003).
- K.C. has one of the best NFL quarterbacks in the game calling signals, and Green is thoroughly familiar with Gonzalez.
- Gonzalez is only 29 (born 2/27/76) despite playing 8 NFL seasons to date – he’s still young enough to be resilient when faced with minor injuries.
- Gonzalez has played through assorted injuries during the past few years (a stress fracture in his leg, a nagging foot injury) – he has 8 NFL seasons of wear-and-tear on his body.
- TE Kris Wilson (who missed most of 2004 due to broken left leg) is back to full strength heading into 2005 training camp – he turned heads during training camp and pre-season last season. Will Wilson diminish Gonzalez’s role during 2005? The team anticipates using him in 2 and 3 TE sets with Gonzalez this year.
- Gonzalez’s 2004 performance – 102/1258/7 – ensures that his fantasy profile is very high. He will cost a premium pick in TE required leagues, but will he live up to expectations?
Gonzalez set a career-high in receptions and yards receiving last year – with Kris Wilson back in the lineup to challenge for balls and what looks like a somewhat-improved defense, Gonzalez probably won’t see as many receptions during the coming season. He’ll still be a very productive fantasy TE, but will you get a good return on the pick it will require to draft Gonzalez? My feeling is that Gonzalez owners in 2005 will be hard-pressed to get Gonzalez at a good value, and may have to over-pay to acquire his services.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
As I've noted in other threads, Tony Gonzalez is the most consistently underrated player in fantasy football. We have all these elaborate statistical models to determine value, and we discard them in the case of tight ends for no reason other than bias against the importance of the position. Hey, the TE position is important if it provides points in my starting lineup, and there are few players in the league that are more likely to provide points in the starting lineup than Tony Gonzalez.
The big man is still the No.1 passing threat for Kansas City. The rule change on how defenders can play defense really seemed to help out the tight ends around the league and for Gonzalez it helped him earn one of his greatest seasons ever. Things haven't changed much in K.C. this year so expect another solid season from Tony.
Gonzo went for 43/576/5 in 8 games Holmes played in last year. I don't think Gonzo's role in the offense changed at all when Holmes went out. As far as KC actively looking for WR, I see no evidence of that. They got Freddie Mitchell, who may not even make the team, and they didn't draft a WR until the 4th round, and they drafted a project WR at that (Cro Thorpe). If the Chiefs are planning on featuring the WR in their offense this year, I don't see any signs of it.
As goes the KC passing game, so goes Gonzo. Over the past 4 years Gonzo has produced 27%, 22%, 20% and 27% of the KC receiving yards. Expect him to fall in the range of 25% and I ignore the issue of Holmes as other guys have produced when Priest was off the field. The % of passing offense that Gonzo gets is more correlated to the team record with the higher % coming in years of losing records as KC was forced to throw to stay in games and chase.
Tony Gonzalez Projections
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