Fantasy Football Preview: Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The football season is just around the corner, and in the past few weeks, I’ve posted rankings and tiers of quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Today, for my last official installment of fantasy football previews, I take a look at the tight end position, and I’ll try to provide some insight as to how to approach the position this year.

The Elite

1. Jimmy Graham

Even during a season in which he was dealing with plantar fasciitis, which is usually a devastating injury in terms of fantasy value, Graham was the 11th most valuable player in fantasy football last year. He’s healthy this year, and remains one of the most difficult match ups for defenses in the NFL. He’s one of the cornerstones of the Saints’ passing attack, and will be the same for your fantasy teams this year…

Rob Gronkowski

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The Would-be Elite if not for Jimmy Graham

2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Julius Thomas

My generous ranking of Gronk here is my belief in his ability to stay healthy. Say what you will about his violent playing style, his injuries from previous seasons aren’t the type that linger and become prone to re-injury, so I’m a believer…Eight out of twelve of Thomas’ touchdowns last year came in the red zone, and there’s a possibility that that number will increase even more this season with red zone touchdown machine Eric Decker in New York. There may be many mouths to feed in Denver, but double digit touchdowns seems within reach once again…

Vernon Davis

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The Next Best

4. Vernon Davis
5. Jason Witten
6. Dennis Pitta

Davis was Colin Kaepernick‘s favorite red zone target, where he scored nine of his thirteen touchdowns. Ending his brief holdout early was key for Davis, who is going to be an integral part of an offense that is potentially transitioning to an aerial attack…Witten is not the dominant force he was once, but he can still produce on a weekly basis. You’re going to find this theme repeated a lot this year, but the Cowboys’ defense is going to be historically bad, which means the offense is going to be forced to carry the load…I’m expecting a big year out of Pitta, who now has Gary Kubiak calling the plays in Baltimore. Kubiak, who made Owen Daniels relevant for so many seasons, gets to feature yet another talented tight end…

Jordan Cameron

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Solid Picks

7. Jordan Cameron
8. Greg Olsen
9. Kyle Rudolph
10. Charles Clay
11. Delanie Walker
12. Zach Ertz

There’s going to be a lot of debate as to how to rank Cameron if Josh Gordon misses parts (if not all) of 2014. Cameron’s size and athleticism, which is comparable to Graham’s, makes me feel slightly optimistic that he can overcome defenses focusing on him, but uncertainty at quarterback keeps him from being a part of the earlier tier…Olsen’s averaged 70 receptions to go with 800 yards and five touchdowns in the past 2 years. You could do much worse at the tight end position with those numbers…Rudolph was preemptively rewarded with a handsome contract because the Vikings believe that new OC Norv Turner can turn him into a superstar. I don’t believe he’ll be elite, but he’ll put up at least five to six points a game…Clay isn’t sexy, but he’ll get the job done. He’s a solid pass catcher, and may even get the occasional goal line carry as the Dolphins’ fullback…Walker is one of my favorite tight end sleepers this year. He had a career year as a receiver last season, and with Ken Wisenhunt in the picture, I think Walker has excellent value this year…The Eagles run a lot of plays, and Ertz is the best receiving tight end on the roster…

The Rest of the Pack

13. Jordan Reed
14. Heath Miller
15. Antonio Gates
16. Travis Kelce
17. Ladarius Green
18. Tyler Eifert
19. Eric Ebron
20. Brent Celek

My Strategy:

If I had a pick outside of the top five, I’m taking Graham. He’s too much of a difference maker on a weekly basis to ignore. If I miss out on him, I’m probably going to wait until guys in my “Solid Picks” tier start to go. In the early rounds I still find there to be too much value at other positions to be grabbing a tight end. Once it gets to the 7th or 8th round, I’ll considering taking a tight end because honestly, there’s very little difference among the tiers outside of Graham. I’d much rather load up elsewhere, and take my guy late.

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