Saturday, August 25, 2012

2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Tier 1:
1. Jimmy Graham, NO - Only with 3 years of organized football under his belt, Graham is arguably the most athletic TE in the NFL. As Drew Brees' top option in the passing game his upside is astronomical. With his speed, size and jumping ability, Graham should continue to improve.
2. Rob Gronkowski, NE - Far and away the best TE in the NFL last year, was 6th among all position players in fantasy points, behind only Ray Rice, Lesean McCoy, Calvin Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Arian Foster. With Brandon Lloyd coming on board as well, there are too many weapons in NE for Gronk to duplicate those numbers. The yardage and TDs should both decline.

Tier 2:
3. Antonio Gates, SD - Gates has battled injuries the past two years, missing 9 games, and playing in much less than 100% in many others. All reports have Gates back to his free-injury form in training camp, but at 32 years old, I'm a little skeptical. Regardless, a healthy Gates could push for the #1 tight end spot. 
4. Aaron Hernandez, NE - Hernandez finished 3rd among TEs in fantasy points last year and like Gronk, should see his targets decline now that Lloyd is on board. However, with how the Patriots play their TEs there is no reason that both Hernandez and Gronk can have a place in the top 5.
5. Vernon Davis, SF - Vernon Davis is a physical freak, but never has been able to reach his potential due to the 49ers conservative rushing attack. He'll have some huge weeks, but doesn't post big yardage totals so can be very inconsistent.
6. Jermichael Finley, GB - In what was probably the strangest season of any TE, Finley posted the 5th most fantasy points while only cracking 10 points in a week 4 times. Finley seems to disappear at times and has really struggled with drops. He will need to be more consistent to take the next step. 
7. Jason Witten, DAL - The most consistent tight end in the NFL, Witten has only missed one game in his 9-year NFL career. Without a reliable slot receiver in Dallas, and Miles Austin already banged up in training camp, Witten will be counted on a ton. Unfortunately, Witten has suffered a spleen injury and his status for Week 1 is in jeopardy but he will not require surgery.
8. Fred Davis, WSH - In his first year taking over for Chris Cooley as the starting TE, Davis was in the midst of a break out year before he was suspended for the last four games of the season due to violating the leagues drug policy. He has the talent to be a top 5 TE, if only he can keep his head on straight for this season.

Tier 3:
9. Tony Gonzalez, ATL - At the tail end of a 15 year career, Tony Gonzalez was left for dead last year but bounced back to finish as the 4th best TE in fantasy (despite only 3 double digit fantasy point weeks from Week 5 on). With younger more athletic weapons emerging in the Falcons passing attack, Gonzalez will still have a role, but at 36 is no longer an every week starter.
10. Brent Celek, PHI - Over the last two seasons, Celek's role in the Eagles' offense was more blocker than pass catcher, largely due to Michael Vick taking over under center. By the second half of last season, Celek became an important part of the offense, often being a security blanket for Vick. Expect a season much closer to his breakout 2009 when he caught 76 balls for almost 1000 yards and 8 TDs.
11. Jacob Tamme, DEN - Peyton Manning loves his TEs. When Dallas Clark went down in 2010, Tamme stepped in and was immediately a fantasy starter. Great rapport with Peyton and still improving, he should provide every week starter's numbers.
12. Brandon Pettigrew, DET - As Stafford's safety blanket last year, Pettigrew caught at least 4 passes in 13 of 16 games. Due to Detroit's dangerous downfield weapons, that should continue, making Pettigrew a safe TE with limited upside.
13. Jared Cook, TEN - A favorite sleeper of many fantasy analysts, Cook is another physical freak (6"5, 246 lbs, runs a 4.5 40 yard dash and has a 41" vertical). The Titans should line him out wide a ton, but he struggles with inconsistency. Great high risk, high reward pick in 10 team or 12 team leagues, where there are many good fallback options.
14. Jermaine Gresham, CIN - Gresham has a ton of upside but the Bengals haven't split him out wide that much in his 2 year career, having him block a lot instead. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has pledged to get him out wide more, so expect a big 3rd season.

Tier 4:
15. Owen Daniels, HOU - Daniels was a fantasy stud before injuries derailed his 2009 season. Even if he is completely healthy, the Texans offense has morphed into a run first attack, making Daniels a high end backup at best.
16. Greg Olsen, CAR - Olsen had a great first half last season, but struggled the second half as Cam Newton only had one game with more than 215 yards passing. With Shockey now gone from CAR, Olsen is the featured pass-catching TE, but expect newcomer Tolbert to get a lot of short catches as well. 
17. Kyle Rudolph, MIN - The Vikings let incumbent Visanthe Shiancoe leave to the Patriots, opening up more snaps for Rudolph. Rudolph should play more of a move tight end role, while new signing John Carlson lines up along the line of scrimmage. A standout in training camp with great hands, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him finish 2nd to Percy Harvin in team targets and receptions.
18. Coby Fleener, IND - At Stanford with Andrew Luck, Fleener caught 34 passes for 667 yards and 10 TDs. With Reggie Wayne in decline and Pierre Garcon now in Washington, the Colts will run a lot of two TE sets, with Fleener as more of a pass-catcher and Dwayne Allen more of a blocker. Great pick in dynasty leagues. 
19. Dustin Keller, NYJ - A reliable pass catcher, Keller has been Mark Sanchez's safety blanket. If Sanchez keeps the job all season, expect another 50+ catch season. But if Tebow takes over, Keller could quickly become a useless fantasy option.

Tier 5:
20. Martelleus Bennett, NYG - Bennett has always been a super talented TE, but being stuck being Witten in DAL, there was limited targets. Now the TE1 for the Giants, Bennett is primed for a breakout, but he is more effective as a blocker than receiver at this stage in his career.
21. Ed Dickson, BAL - Dickson caught 54 balls last year, while fellow TE Pitta caught 40. With Pitta injured to start the year, Dickson has a chance to establish himself as the top TE in that offense.
22. Heath Miller, PIT - Miller has had at least 40 receptions each of the past 5 years. While he won't ever produce like a top option, can be a reliable bye week fill in or injury replacement.
23. Kellen Winslow, SEA - Winslow has been a reliable TE for years, especially in PPR league since he racks up so many receptions. But now in SEA with Zach Miller, a team that doesn't pass much to its TEs (Only 57 total targets to TEs last year), Winslow shouldn't be a big enough part of the passing game to be a startable TE.
24. Marcedes Lewis, JAC - Lewis had a great 2010 with 10 TDs (on only 58 receptions). While a good red-zone target, it seems that season was a fluke. Especially with Blaine Gabbert under center, its hard to expect much from Lewis.
25. Dallas Clark, TB - Clark was extremely effective with Peyton Manning in Indy, but has struggled with injuries the past two years. He reportedly looks healthy in camp, but at 33 years old playing for a run first team, no more than a late round flier.

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