The tight end position in the NFL is ever-changing. They can be players that are one dimensional and only are receivers or are only blocking tight ends. They can be great all-around players (both blocking and receiving), but due to team need stick to one of those skills instead of having a steady balance. They can play as an H-back, can be split out wide, can play along the offensive line, and can also play in the slot. There is almost too much of a variety when it comes to this position. So when “ranking” them for fantasy football purposes, it is important to look at each case individually. Player role, health, and obviously skill will determine the rank, but also it will be influenced by how much I perceive each player will be utilized. For example, a guy like Brent Celek could be ranked fairly high, if not for the fact that the Eagles drafted a tight end in the second round this year (Zach Ertz), picked up another in free agency (James Casey), and still have Clay Harbor who they have previously used on their roster. Compare that to a guy like Dustin Keller or Fred Davis and I know who I’m rolling with. My rankings ahead…
Graham finished last season as the number one fantasy tight end, putting up 982 yards and 9 touchdowns. People were disappointed in that production though, because it was worse than his previous year. Graham played with a wrist injury and without his team’s head coach most of the season and still put up solid numbers (despite what fantasy owners think). I think that is floor, and his ceiling is very, very high.
Witten put up over 1,000 yards in 2012 but only had 3 touchdowns. Witten’s touchdowns have been decreasing the since his career high of 9 in 2010 (5 in 2011, 3 in 2012), so that is definitely something to be a little worried about.
This hall of fame tight end had 930 yards and 8 touchdowns in the regular season last year. He is the third receiving option on the Falcon’s team, but he is about as dependable as they come, having caught 93 out of his 124 targets last regular season (and 14 of his 15 targets in the postseason).
The Gronk situation is a very difficult one to predict right now. He would normally be the number one overall tight end, but his multiple surgeries this offseason have put him in danger of missing games. He could even start the season on PUP list and miss the first six games. Still, at some point in your draft even half a season with Gronk plus the production from a waiver wire tight end is worth it. It’s up to you to decide when that gamble pay off.
Reports have come out of San Francisco that Davis has been practicing often split out like a wide receiver ever since Michael Crabtree sustained his injury this offseason. This could bode very well for players willing to take a chance on Davis. He’s got an incredible skill set and could easily post numbers to make himself the second best fantasy tight end, but he’s been known to not show up in the regular season, only really producing in the playoffs. Will things change this season?
Olsen is the second passing option for Cam Newton and the Panthers. He lead his team in receiving touchdowns last season with 5. During the 2012 season Olsen’s wife was pregnant and they had found out that their unborn son had a heart defect. His son is now born and has been through two open heart surgeries, but is doing well. Having the stress and pain of that situation may help and inspire his play this year.
Last season Rudolph only had 53 receptions for 493 yards, but made up for it with 9 touchdowns. The 6′ 6″ behemoth should continue to catch a lot of touchdowns, and with the addition of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, he may see softer coverage throughout the year to beef up his yardage.
You can tell that Bennet was a big priority for the Bears this offseason just through how well they paid him (4 years, +$20 million). As I’ve stated before, the Bears will throw it a ton this year, and Bennett was a huge redzone threat for the Giants last year, so I expect that to continue. Bennet very likely could be the third receiving option behind Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte.
Once an unknown, Myers now is playing in the Big Apple. Eli Manning has made his tight ends fantasy relevant for years. Players like Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard, and Martellus Bennet have seen solid numbers with this team, and Myers is a better pass catcher than any of them. He is not as physically imposing as some tight ends, but he is a reception machine and that should continue in 2013.
Daniels is a very serviceable tight end. He had 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the regular season last year. My concerns lie in the fact that the Texans are very run oriented, and added more of a deep threat in Deandre Hopkins so that may take away even more targets from Daniels in 2013.
Aaron Rodgers has said repeatedly this offseason how impressed he’s been with Jermichael Finley. His route running and catching have improved and he has been much more focused. Finley is in a contract year this year and may finally put it all together, but the Green Bay line is falling apart so I worry that he may be asked to block more (or at least stay back and chip before getting out on his routes). It’s a risk, but in the later rounds it could really reward you.
Davis was suspended in 2011 for drug use, and in 2012 he suffered an Achille’s tear and missed nine games. In his first preseason game back this year Kirk Cousins hit Davis for 3 yard touchdown. Davis has upside in this offense, but he also could have his fair share of struggles. Hopefully RGIII and Davis strike up some chemistry and he finally stays on the field a whole season.
Many people had high expectation for Cook last year in Tennessee. Whether it was the fault of Cook, the coaching staff, or the young Jake Locker no one knows, but the Rams paid Cook richly and reports are out that Sam Bradford has said that his confidence is growing in Cook each time the two step on the field together. He is a veteran receiver for that St. Louis team, and could find himself as the primary receiver.
When it comes to fantasy football defenses and kickers should be scooped up at the tail end of the entire draft. Defenses can earn you plenty of points from time to time, but it is too tough to predict the best units. Some teams are easier to predict (49ers, Seahawks) but just one or two injuries and even those teams can falter. I always play it safe and just take the best available defense as late as possible and attempt to play the matchup game via the waiver wire when necessary. Kickers can become rather streaky, so it important to pay attention to free agents on your waiver wire that are earning many kicking opportunities.
Top Ten Defensive Units
1. Seattle Seahawks- This is a defense that is solid at every position. No weaknesses. And a team with a great run game always helps the defense by eating up the clock, and not allowing the opponent’s offense to have time on the field.
2. San Francisco 49ers- Solid defense, but a shaky secondary. They’ll cover up that trouble with their great pass rush. Not a real problem.
3. Houston Texans- JJ Watt. Need I say more? Ok, I will. Just like Seattle, Houston run game will greatly help their defense kill the clock and maintain low scoring games.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals have premier defensive tackle Geno Atkins, and a solid linebacking corps. They’ve consistently been a good defense for years thanks to Mike Zimmer.
5. St. Louis Rams- The Rams have been drafting stud defensive players for years (James Laurinaitis, Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Janoris Jenkins, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers) and with the addition of Cortland Finnegan last year they took a big step forward. Their defense may win them (and you) a few games this year.
6. Baltimore Ravens- The loss of Ray Lewis will hurt, but this team has some major veterans on it. Ladarius Webb returning healthy plus the addition of Elvis Dumervil really helps.
7. Arizona Cardinals- The Cardinals recently signed John Abraham to boost their defense, but it’s the jump from Patrick Peterson that should truly help them out. Also, his return game can only help fantasy owners.
8. Chicago Bears- The Bears let go of Brian Urlacher this season, and that is a good thing. They have two good cornerbacks, linebackers ready to step up, and Julius Peppers. Plus Devin Hester. Don’t sleep on him.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Revis Island. I don’t know if this team will be able to muster up a pass rush, but they have good linebackers, safeties, and Revis. That’s gotta count for something.
10. Denver Broncos- Trindon Holliday may have a chip on his shoulder after getting cut by the Texans last year. He was great on special teams, and should be again. Von Miller and Champ Bailey will anchor this unit.
Keep an eye on: New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Top Ten Kickers
1. Blair Walsh
2. Sebastian Janikowski
3. Greg Zuerlein
4. Matt Bryant
5. Stephen Gostkowski
6. Matt Prater
8. Dan Bailey
9. Justin Tucker
10. Josh Brown
Check back next week for my quarterback tiers and my list of 20 sleepers that may help you steal your draft!