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written by Ari Ross on Jul 1st, 2014
Follow them at @aross50

Jason Witten: A Staple of Consistency at Tight End

As successful of a career Jason Witten's had, can he keep it up as he gets further past his prime?

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Each and every year, Jason Witten seems to be in the mix of the top tight ends in the NFL. Even at the age of 32, when many players have started to decline, Witten's fantasy performances each year rank up there with some of the best tight ends in the NFL. Here's a snap shot of his last five seasons in standard fantasy leagues:

YearFantasy PointsRank
20091158th
2010154.21st
2011124.26th
2012121.95th
2013133.16th

With the retirement of Tony Gonzalez, Witten will be one of the oldest remaining active tight ends in the NFL. But unlike other aging tight ends, such as Antonio Gates, Witten's performance over the past few years hasn't declined. Rather, he's been remarkably consistent, and as good as his performances in years previous.

The great Cowboy tight end just doesn't seem to age. This past year, Witten finished another great season, averaging 11.7 yards per catch while averaging 4.6 receptions per game.

Based on numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which measures how many points a player is adding or subtracting to his team's expected point total based on his performance, Witten hasn't varied much over the past five years. Reception NEP measures the points a player adds on receptions, while Target NEP looks at the points added on all targets, including drops, incompletions and interceptions. Reception NEP per target takes a players Reception NEP and divides it by their total targets, a way of determining how efficient a receiver is.

Take a look at Witten's ridiculous consistency over the past five seasons:

YearReception NEPTarget NEPReception NEP per Target
200977.7745.000.63
201088.0151.550.69
201179.6643.120.68
201293.1049.560.63
201377.3644.460.70

Since 2009, Witten has been one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL. In every year besides 2012, he's averaged over 10 yards per catch, while catching upwards of 4.5 receptions per game. He's stayed very healthy through his 10-year career, unlike some other, better tight ends, and he's had relatively good quarterback play - Drew Bledsoe early in his career, and Tony Romo for the last eight. This has certainly helped.

But not only has Witten been one of the most consistent tight ends in the NFL, he's also been one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Among players at the position with 50 or more receptions and 80 or more targets, Witten has never finished outside of the top 10 in Reception NEP, Target NEP or Reception NEP per target over the last five seasons, a feat that only Gonzalez and Witten have accomplished.

YearReception NEP RankTarget NEP RankRec. NEP/Target Rank
20096th5th8th
20101st1stT-2nd
20116th7th7th
20122nd2nd9th
20135th5th5th

Witten may be past his peak, but there's been nothing to suggest he can't keep up his play. Similar to Gonzalez, who played at an incredibly high level until he was 38, Witten could play either until he decides to retire or his body can no longer take the burden of an NFL season. With almost no injury history and good quarterback play, Witten, who's the number six tight end in numberFire's fantasy football rankings has little stopping him from continuing an incredibly successful career.

The Cowboys did draft San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. And last year, Escobar had a 13.60 Reception NEP and a 6.63 Target NEP on 15 targets (0.91 Reception NEP per target). However, even with these great efficiency numbers, Escobar won't take a significant amount of targets away from Witten, as his NEP was inflated because two of his nine receptions were touchdowns. But even if Escobar does remove targets from Witten, with a high Reception NEP per target, Witten will still make the most of his opportunities.

So while everyone's getting excited about up-and-coming tight ends, don't forget about the veteran Witten. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Witten's being selected close to the seventh round. His guaranteed production may be hard to resist at that point in the draft.

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In This Article

Antonio Gates
TE, San Diego Chargers

Jason Witten
TE, Dallas Cowboys

Tony Gonzalez
TE, Atlanta Falcons

Tony Romo
QB, Dallas Cowboys

Drew Bledsoe
QB, Dallas Cowboys

Gavin Escobar
TE, Dallas Cowboys

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