One of the most durable players ever to don an NFL uniform, the 37-year old Gonzalez turned in a 16-game season for the sixth consecutive year. He showed no signs of slowing down on the field, finishing with 93 receptions, second among tight ends. His eight touchdowns were a four-year high, and while his 17 red-zone targets were his fewest since 2008, he made up for it by doubling his targets inside the 10-yard line from five to 10 over the previous year.
Gonzalez has stellar hands and runs crisp routes to create separation from opposing defenders. He also benefits from working over the middle as teams have to play him honestly with Julio Jones and Roddy White on the outside. It's worth noting Gonzalez planned to retire after last year’s wrenching NFC-title-game loss, but the Falcons convinced him to come back for at least one more year, signing him to a two-year deal.
Just when it looked like age was finally catching up to him, Gonzalez dodged Father Time and posted three-year highs in receiving yards and touchdowns last season, finishing with 875 yards and seven scores. Gonzalez was effective in getting open down field as he had eight catches of 20-plus yards and recorded 7.5 yards per target, his highest mark since 2007. He’ll resume his role working between the numbers, as he signed a one-year deal to stay with the Falcons in what could be his final season at age 36. Gonzalez is still is one of the best slant/post route runners in the league, and while he’s not as fast as he once was, he remains among the most durable at his position – he has incredibly missed only two games in his 15-year career. Atlanta will again think run first, and Julio Jones will become more involved in the offense this year, so be careful to not pay for last season’s numbers. Still, Gonzalez should continue to be a presence in the offense as the third receiving option, making him a mid-tier tight end to target.
The future Hall of Famer is still a productive fantasy tight end, but he's showing signs of decline. For the fifth consecutive season, his yards per target declined, hitting a paltry 6.0 last season. And after posting 155 targets in 2008, his targets have declined by at least 20 the last two seasons, though he still had a healthy 109 in 2010. Gonzalez also had seven drops last season, a significant number considering he had only 70 catches, his lowest total since his rookie season. He scored six touchdowns, but his 21 red-zone targets and 11 targets inside the 10, both the most among tight ends, suggest Gonzalez should have found the end zone more often. Don't write off Gonzalez, but with Roddy White, who had an NFL-leading 189 targets last season, and prized rookie Julio Jones competing for attention in a run-first offense, it's hard to see the 35-year-old reversing his declining trends.
Gonzalez quickly settled into his new offense
in Atlanta last season. Once again he led tight
ends in targets (135), though that was 20 less
than in 2008. The Falcons were hit by the injury
bug last season, which allowed Gonzalez to play
a bigger role in the offense, tying for a leaguehigh
25 red-zone targets among tight ends.
Gonzalez himself dealt with a calf injury and was
limited in the season’s final two games but still
finished with 83 receptions (third among TE).
While Gonzalez’s second season in Atlanta
has a positive outlook, a few words of caution
are appropriate. First, Gonzalez is in his mid-
30s, which means injuries and physical decline
can’t be too far off. Second, he’s seen his yards
per target steadily decline the last four seasons
(8.7, 7.6, 6.8 and 6.4), and, third, other than
2008 when he had 10 touchdowns, he has not
caught more than six in any season in the last
five years. While his 25 red-zone targets were a
three-year high last year, he managed only six
touchdowns. Gonzalez is still a quality fantasy
option, but it’s an open question how much
longer he’ll be able to play at such a high level.
The future Hall-of-Famer is one of the best examples of why poor teams still have players worthy of fantasy consideration. Playing on a team with only two wins, Gonzalez led all tight ends last season with catches (96), receiving yards (1,058), touchdowns (10) and targets (154). To put in perspective how much Kansas City counted on Gonzalez, Jason Witten ranked second in tight-end targets with 121. Gonzalez’s production was helped by Kansas City shifting to an open, pass-happy offense that was usually playing from behind. Even though Gonzalez put up a monster season, a couple minor red flags come up for 2009. First, Gonzalez will be 33 entering the season, and no player stays good forever. Second, the Chiefs traded Gonzalez to the Falcons where he will join the dangerous trio of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White. Playing with a superior offense will give Gonzalez fewer targets, and Turner was one of the league’s most effective runners from in close last year, so red-zone looks could decline as well. That said, Gonzalez will see fewer double teams, and he gets a big upgrade at quarterback with Matt Ryan. The bottom line, Gonzalez is still a very strong player at tight end; just don’t count on him to duplicate his production from last year.
No matter the team's wideouts or quality of
the running game, Gonzalez remains an integral
part of the Chiefs offense. His three-year
averages (receptions per game, yards per game)
are second only to Antonio Gates'. Gonzalez's
touchdowns have dropped in recent years, but
as the position's leader in receiving yards, he
was third in 2007 with 147.2 fantasy points
using traditional scoring formulas. He led the
Chiefs in receptions the last four years and has
been the team's yearly leader in receptions for
non-running backs every year since 1998. And
even though it finally looks like the Chiefs have
developed a dependable wide receiver, rookie
Dwayne Bowe's 70 receptions were still nearly
30 less than Gonzalez's. Gonzalez will be 32
when he season starts, but he keeps himself in
excellent shape and shows little sign of slowing
Mr. Reliable as far as fantasy tight ends go. Gonzalez has missed just two games in his 10-year NFL career. He’s put up big numbers the last nine years, including 73 receptions, 900 yards and five touchdowns last season, and recently signed a five-year deal with the Chiefs. Like Antonio Gates in San Diego, he’s the No. 1 receiving option on his team, but the club drafted Dwayne Bowe (LSU) in the first round to add to the passing attack. Still, expect Gonzalez to be a main part of the team’s offense. The Chiefs were second in the league behind only Cleveland in 2006 with 33.8 percent of the team’s receptions accounted for by their tight ends.
We’re not ready to count Gonzalez out just yet, but 24 less catches, 248 less yards and five less TD receptions in 2005 means other TEs are catching up to and passing him. He failed to reach the 100-yard mark in a game last year, after doing so six times in ’04, and he turned 30 last February. Despite the reduced production, his 905 yards were still good for second (to Gates) in the league, and he’s a pretty good bet to be productive more weeks than not.
Gonzalez is the primary target in the Chiefs passing game and is with the same quarterback for a fifth consecutive season. He and Trent Green hooked up for more than 100 yards in six games last season in a campaign that saw Gonzo set the NFL’s single-season receptions record for tight ends with 102. It’s hard to make a case for drafting Gonzalez in the first round, but he is worthy of consideration in the late-second or early third round. As you might have experienced, second and third fantasy wide receivers are prone to inconsistent production, and Gonzalez, elite at his position and consistently productive, is a good hedge against such risk.
After “slumping” in 2002, Gonzalez reclaims the top spot in our rankings. He loses out to Jeremy Shockey in yardage but crosses the goal line more often. He leads all tight ends with 54.3 yards per game and 23 touchdowns over the last three seasons. Although the team predominantly uses Priest Holmes in the red zone, Gonzalez led all Chiefs receivers with 13 receptions and seven touchdowns inside the 20. He had one game over 100 yards with nine others over 50. Gonzalez missed spring minicamps with a stress fracture in his foot, but is expected to be completely healthy for the start of training camp.
After ranking atop every tight end list on the planet for the past three seasons, Gonzalez takes a back seat in 2003. He had a productive season in 2002, catching 63 balls for 773 yards and seven TDs. RB Priest Holmes (70 catches) will likely get less touches this season due to a hip injury, so we could see an increase in Gonzalez' fantasy production. We're a little concerned that he caught just one touchdown pass in his final 10 games, but he still remains the club's primary passing target in the red zone with a team-high nine catches out of the 30 completions inside the 20.