Week 4 of Fantasy Football Fridays is upon us and believe it or not, training camps and preseason games are just weeks away! This week we take a look at the tight end position. Like WRs, with the way teams spread the ball around in today's NFL, the tight end position has become exponentially more important in fantasy football.
The days of an 8-point TE being a starter are gone and a good tight end could very easily be the difference between a playoff appearance or a championship (ask Jimmy Graham owners). As always, keep in mind, these rankings are done based on PPR scoring.
1. Jimmy Graham, NO
No debate here. No other position has such a discrepancy between the number 1 player and everyone else. With 86 receptions, 1,215 yards and 16 TDs (most in the NFL) in 2013, no one is close to Graham.
2. Rob Gronkowski, NE
This is a high risk high reward pick (which I was burnt on in 2013). When healthy, Gronk and Graham are pretty even. Unfortunately, over the past two seasons, Gronk has started just 17 games. Over the past 3 seasons Gronk averages 5.58 catches, 82 yards and 0.97 TDs per start. In a PPR league that is 20+ points per start.
3. Julius Thomas, Den
If you knew Julius Thomas's name prior to 2013 you are a family member or a liar (maybe even both). However, no QB increases the value of a TE like Peyton Manning (see Ben Utecht, Jacob Tamme, Dallas Clark, etc). In 2013, his 65 receptions, 788 yards and 12 TDs (in just 14 games) made anyone that picked Thomas look like a genius...though we all know you were simply lucky.
4. Vernon Davis, SF
Davis has had many of disappointing years in fantasy and real football, but 2013 was not one of them. With 52 receptions, 850 yards and 13 TDs, Davis seems to have found his place on this team and with a healthy receiving corps in 2013, Davis should see more opportunities.
5. Jason Witten, Dal
While age is beginning to become a concern with Witten (32), he has yet to show signs of slowing down. In his 10 years as a starter, Witten averages 84.4 receptions, 945 yards and 5.1 TDs per year and regardless of the other weapons in Dallas, when it comes to crunch time, Romo still looks to Witten first.
6. Greg Olsen, Car
In Chicago, Olsen was a borderline fantasy starting TE, but since joining up with Newton in Carolina, Olsen has become a top notch fantasy TE. With Carolina losing their entire receiving corps after the 2013 season, I see Olsen improving on his 73 catch, 6 TD and 816 yard campaign from a year ago.
7. Dennis Pitta, Bal
Pitta could be another high risk/high reward guy. When on the field, he seems to be Flacco's top receiving choice and in 2012, Pitta had 61 receptions, 669 yards and 7 TDs in just 5 starts! The only problem is that Pitta is 29, has just 4 years of experience and has only started 8 games in his NFL career - 5 of which came in 2012! Oh yeah, and he is also coming back from pretty bad hip injury and how that may affect him over the course of 16 games is TBD. Draft Pitta with cautious optimism.
8. Jordan Cameron, Cle
After 2 uninspiring seasons in 2011 and 2012 (26 receptions 259 yards and 1 TD), Cameron burst onto the scene in 2013 with 80 receptions, 917 yards and 7 TDs. Generally, those number and the loss of Gordon would make him a surefire top 5 TE, however, Cameron may have a new (and rookie) QB and I am concerned about his ability to produce now that teams are aware of him.
86% of his TDs (6), 52% of his yards (481) and 49% of his receptions (39) came in his first 4 games of 2013 (before teams realized his ability) and 1 game against NE (seemingly an outlier). Once teams caught on to him, his numbers slowed tremendously. In those 5 games Cameron averaged 1.2 TDs, 96.2 yards and 7.8 receptions per game.
In his other 10 games, Cameron averaged just 0.1 TDs, 43.6 yards and 4.1 receptions per game. Those numbers are barely worthy of a fantasy roster spot.
9. Charles Clay, Mia
Like Julius Thomas, if you heard of Charles Clay prior to 2013 you were likely family or a liar. If you picked Clay in 2013, you were a happy fantasy owner. With 69 receptions, 759 yards and 6 TDs, Clay was a solid fantasy starter at the TE position. The only concern with Clay is consistency. Clay had 3 games with less than 10 yards and 10 games with 43 yards or less.
10. Martellus Bennett, Chi
Speaking of pleasant surprises - for years we had heard of the potential of Bennett but never really saw it until 2012 with the Giants. Bennett solidified his worth with a second straight solid season (this time in Chicago). With Marshall, Jeffrey and Forte on offense, Bennett's opportunities may be less than other TEs, but his 65 receptions, 759 yards and 5 TDs in 2013 make him worth the pick.
11. Jordan Reed, Was
Although he started just 4 games as a rookie, Reed made his value well known with 499 yards, 45 receptions and 3 TDs. Assuming he is the starter in 2014 - and all indications are that he will be - Reed, with a healthy RG3 and a pass oriented scheme, should see some big numbers in 2014.
12. Delanie Walker, Ten
Walker is another TE that made a name for himself in 2013. After 7 years of little productivity in San Francisco, Walker made an impact in his first year at Tennessee. At just 6'0" 248 pounds, Walker is a little short and stalky for TE, but he pulled in 60 receptions, 571 yards and 6 TDs in just 11 starts in 2013. With the departure of Kenny Britt and Chris Johnson, Walker should find himself even more involved in the Titans offense in 2014.