The PFW folks have some justification for their RB ratings -- rookies don't get overrated, in case they're flashes in the pan -- but the magazine's TE rankings leave them open for serious questions from Cowboys fans. The position is not as deep as RB, with only 15 players getting a grade. It's how the magazine grades that will make you see red:
The review of Witten is soft and evasive, saying nothing eloquently,
Fine athlete with better-than-average speed and soft, natural hands. Can throw poorly thrown balls by adjusting and can separate from the defense in confined areas and break open. Appears a bit stiff and won't shake more limber defenders. Height helps as a blocker, where he gives good effort, but technique can be improved. Somewhat new to the position. Has good weight room strength, not functional football strength. Holds the ball on contact and shows good concentration.
It's clear that this ratings system is skewed towards guys with speed. Gonzales, Heap, McMichael and Kleinsasser are much better known as receivers than blockers. There are not many in the top eight who are good combinations of blocking and receiving. Alge Crumpler would top my list there, and deserves his high rating, IMO. (It's too bad Michael Vick doesn't trust him the way that Troy Aikman did Jay Novacek. With the Falcons' mediocre receiving corps, Crumpler should have even better stats than he's posted.)
That said, this list is wildly inconsistent. Shockey is given the third rating based on a "high ceiling," even though he was booed by Giants fans last year for dropping the ball and looking disinterested in the game. Franks is a good TE, but has shown nothing special in his time as a pro. And he's a glaring disappointment if you consider that about ten years ago, when Franks was a sophomore at Miami, Sports Illustrated singled him out as one of the players who would revolutionize the game in the next decade. I wouldn't even consider Franks the second best U. of Miami TE over that span; Shockey and Kelley Winslow Jr. can fight over the top two spots.
Witten, on the other hand, is downgraded because he does not look natural yet. These guys are not rookies. There is a better way to guage their value than their draft-day scouting reports. It's called production, and on that subject, I'll defer to Seahawks' DC Ray Rhodes. Ray-Ray is no Cowboys lover, having faced then for years as the Eagles HC and DC and as the 49ers DC. When Seattle and Dallas met last year, Rhodes declared Witten the best tight end in the NFC. I don't know if I'd take him over Crumpler, given the choice, but he's no worse than fourth on this list, behind Gonzalez, Crumpler and Gates. Witten is two- dimensional, and he's only 22 years old. The rest of these guys are older, and lack balance in their games.
Have at it.