The tight end position can often be overlooked when going into a fantasy draft, probably due to the fact that very few are real focal points of a given offense. In fantasy though, they can be a big difference maker for fantasy team and when chosen wisely can act as a 3rd or 4th fantasy wide out for you depending on your format. The problem is in the rarity of grabbing a highly productive one. Let’s take a look at the rankings.
1 – Antonio Gates – He’s been a given ever since he emerged onto the scene in his second year in San Diego, and he has been a consensus top pick among tight ends in fantasy. Since that time he has never scored less than 8 TDs in a season and while TDs are usually the area you look to get the most points from a tight end, Gates has also been productive in yards where he’s hovered around 1,000 yards most seasons. Gates was on pace for a record season last year scoring 10 TDs in 10 games. This was due mostly to the absence of Vincent Jackson and the lack of a strong WR1, but impressive nevertheless.
Point – Gates will put up numbers. No question.
Counterpoint: He did miss 6 games last season, and productive or not he won’t do much good for your team when he’s on the bench.
2 – Dallas Clark – I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a big Dallas Clark fan because I feel the system is more savvy than the player. Though, last season seemed to enforce that theory with Jacob Tamme, Clark will be returning at full health and back at the starting spot. One rule of fantasy I have is if you want to win you can’t always have your favorite players on your team and Clark simply puts up numbers in the system. He’ll have good value for yards and TDs, and even in PPR leagues he tends to haul in WR numbers in receptions. The Colts’ lack of a power run game should continue to result in an increased pass attack with Clark as a prime benefactor.
Point: The system works for Colts tight ends.
Counterpoint: Clark has a history of injuries so make sure you have a backup plan.
3 – Jermichael Finley – Finley came into last season with a ton of hype and looked to be backing it up with 2 100 yard games in his 5 games. He was a popular target for Rodgers early on and has great rapport with him. Look for the same this season.
Point: He is a big redzone target and Rodgers will look for him early and often.
Counterpoint: He has yet to make it through an entire season and play all 16 games.
4 – Vernon Davis – The 49ers are lacking a respectable QB under center and thus Davis will feel the effects. He did prove last season that he has turned the corner from a foul tempered youth to a reliable and hard working veteran, 7 TDs and almost 1,000 yards with sub-par quarterbacking proved that. Even with a back QB Davis is a good pick with extraordinary athleticism and the ability to play like a wide receiver on a team lacking talent in that area. He is essentially their WR1, with respect to Michael Crabtree of course. Look for him to be a solid early tight end taken in drafts.
Point: He will be a primary target all year, and if a veteran QB is brought in his value will skyrocket immediately. Don’t sleep on him.
Counterpoint: As of now it will be Alex Smith throwing the ball to Davis.
5 – Jason Witten – Witten is a solid fantasy tight end year in and out when it comes to yards, targets, and receptions, and he is a big part of the offense which is important in terms of fantasy. The big issue with Witten is his lack of TDs. Last season he hauled in 9 TDs, don’t forget though, that 7 of those TDs came from Jon Kitna and not Tony Romo. Romo doesn’t seem to get the ball to the Pro Bowl tight end as much in the redzone and Kitna clearly leaned on Witten when he was thrust into the starting role after Romo’s injury. The last 2 season with Romo, Witten had 2 and 4 TDs total.
Point: A solid pick in term of yards and receptions.
Counterpoint: Look for the number of TDs to be down from last season.
6 – Zach Miller – Similar to Vernon Davis, Miller is a very talented tight end lacking in a gifted QB. The Raiders will likely go with Jason Campbell to start the season, and that could hurt the value of Miller. He saw a spike in production when Bruce Gradkowski played and put up numbers the likes of 4 reception, 64 yards, 1 TD and 11 reception, 122 yard, and 1 TD game in games 3 and 4 of last season.
Point: He has loads of talent and is capable of putting up great numbers.
Counterpoint: Lack of talent at the QB position could leave you with similar stats to last season (60 receptions, 685 yards, and 5 TDs).
7 – Rob Gronkowski – He hauled in 10 TDs as a rookie, which was in large part due to the exit of Randy Moss and Tom Brady spreading the ball out more to his tight ends. The Patriots haven’t brought in any wide receivers of note so far in the draft so it looks like they will stick with the system that worked well for them last season. Gronk became a huge redzone target for Brady last year and should remain so this year, but he may lack in yards per game as he is a good blocker and may be utilized more for that. Also, tight end Aaron Hernandez, the other stand out rookie tight end for the Patriots last season will garner some looks away from Gronk. The good news is that Hernandez is smaller and not as good of a blocker, his size and speed may lead to him being put in formations as a wide receiver, in some situations, leaving Gronk as the lone tight end.
Point: Being a top red zone threat will help bring up what his stats lack in yards.
Counterpoint: Relying on TDs can be frustrating from a player who lacks in yard production.
8 – Jimmy Graham – The Saints rookie had a great end to the season last year with 5 TDs over the last 8 games. Probably more importantly, Drew Brees likes him, and the last time he spoke this well of a player coming into the league we saw the emergence of Marques Colston. Graham is a former basketball player from the U and is a raw talent with a 4.53 40 time, and it is important to note that when Antonio Gates came into the league it was Drew Brees at QB who helped him assimilate into the NFL from being a basketball player.
Point: His ceiling could make him one of the top 5 tight ends this season.
Counterpoint: He doesn’t block well which may keep him off the field, and has yet to put up a significant amount of yards in a game consistently.
9 – Owen Daniels – The Texans missed the presence of Daniels during the 5 games that he missed last season, and his slow recovery from a torn ACL in the 2009 season kept him from performing up to his standards. This season he should play more like he did in the ladder stretch of last year where he had 271 yards and 2 TDs over the last 4 games. Matt Schaub will likely look to Daniels as his second option after Andre Johnson and could recapture some of his 2009 stats where he had 40 receptions for 519 yards and 5 TDs during the 8 games he played that year before his injury.
Point: As a tight end being the number 2 option in the passing game can pay dividends.
Counterpoint: He was already low on redzone looks before Arian Foster became the starting back on the team.
10 – Marcedes Lewis – The Jaguars do not have a good core of wide receivers and Lewis took advantage last season, being the large target that he is at 6-6 275 lbs, and hauled in 10 TDs on the season. The continued lack of wide outs in Jacksonville, along with the likely cutting of Mike Sims-Walker making it thinner and smaller, make Lewis a prime candidate for the offense to lean on him in the passing game.
Point: The lack of talent at the wide receiver spot could land him WR1 type status on the team.
Counterpoint: His production was a seesaw battle last year, producing in one game then disappearing the next, the question would be, can he handle an increase in defensive attention.
Well that’s the top 10 tight ends. Please post any comments or questions. Good luck this season guys.
About the Author
Written by David Willow
My name is David Willow. Your NFL and Fantasy Jedi. I have lived in Dallas, TX most of my life. I have been following both football and basketball since I was a child. I love being able to research and analyze different players and teams. I've been a fantasy sports enthusiast for around 8 years with some titles to back that. I have a Bachelors degree in History with a minor in English. Other hobbies include me being part of an acting workshop for five years, playing guitar, and working out. Hit me up with any comments, questions or opinions.