Boy what a difference a month makes! If I had been asked at the beginning of June to envision a situation where both New England Patriots tight ends were risky to unusable in fantasy football leagues this year, I could not have imagined one. Yet that is exactly what we have as we preview the tight end position for the coming fantasy football season.
This post is a little late in being published, however the very Patriots I mentioned in the opening paragraph are the reason for it. Due to the Aaron Hernandez investigation, there was too much uncertainty as to what his role with the team would be this season. That mess, at least from a fantasy football standpoint, has been cleared up now, and we can freely preview the tight end position now.
The tight end position has been revolutionized over the past several seasons, and as a result its fantasy importance has sky rocketed. Previously a position where there were only a few legitimate receiving tight ends, teams have sought athletic big men to play the position earlier and earlier in the draft. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have emerged as the clear 1-2 punch at the top of the rankings the past two seasons, however given that Gronk has underwent five surgeries this off season he is a little riskier than previously anticipated.
Without further adieu, let us move on to the fantasy football tight end preseason rankings portion of our preview.
1) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
2) Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
3) Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
4) Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
5) Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
6) Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
7) Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
8) Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
9) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
10) Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
11) Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
12) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
13) Brandon Myers, New York Giants
14) Martellus Bennet, Chicago Bears
15) Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
16) Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
17) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
18) Jake Ballard, New England Patriots
19) Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
20) Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Probably the only tight end worth selecting in the first two rounds of your draft this season. Gronk will be tempting to select, and probably will go in the second round of your draft, but don’t bite. Graham is the only sure bet at the position.
This group of tight ends represents those that I would be comfortable telling you to start week in and week out, at least as of this preseason fantasy preview. Proven veterans that are successful when healthy, no guarantee as Gronk has shown us recently, these men should prove to be an asset on your team. They will put up the yards and more importantly the touchdowns that fantasy owners crave from this boom or bust position. Expect in the neighborhood of 750-1000 yards from these men paired with 5-8 touchdowns.
Match Up Dependent
Emphasizing the boom or bust dimension to a fantasy football tight end, this third tier of tight ends shows you how little depth I see in the position. These guys are on teams that don’t always use the tight end to its fullest potential. However when the team is forced to air out the ball, watch for these tight ends to find the end zone and yardage to help you win. If you can get two of these guys in your draft, and play the match up game, you shouldn’t have to reach for a tight end in the top two tiers of this fantasy preview.
Age is the main reason that Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates find themselves on this list. They are in the twilights of their careers, and Gonzalez is even forced to learn a new offense. Expectations should be kept to a minimum for aging stars, and a back up plan is a must in case father time finally catches up with the living legends. Gronk and Gates have seen injuries become a near constant year in and year out of late, so watch the injury report every week, should you choose to own one of them.
Jordan Cameron is going to have an opportunity to crack into the starting lineup this year in training camp. He is an extremely gifted athlete at the tight end position, and once he is able to grow into a more well rounded player, the talented prospect will pay dividends for your fantasy team.
Eifert is likely to be overshadowed on the Bengals roster by Gresham, however the team used a high draft pick on him and will find ways to get him into the lineup this year. He has more talent than Gresham, and if he can show consistency, he will overtake the incumbent starter by mid-season.
Finley has been plagued by drops throughout his career with the Packers after showing promise in his rookie season. The last half of 2012 saw him turn it around a little bit, and now that he knows he isn’t untouchable thanks to fans calling for his release or trade, Finley will justify the coaching staffs faith in him with huge numbers this year. Or, he could prove to be the drop-a-holic many believe him to be and make me look like a fool for writing this.
Stay tuned for our last fantasy preview when we move on from the tight end position to the defensive and special teams units next time.
Check out all of our other fantasy football positional previews here
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express