2013 Tight End Rankings Version 3.0

2013 Tight End Rankings Version 3.0

Updated Rankings with ADP
By: Pete Davidson : August 01, 2013 10:13pm

Bookmark and Share

Welcome to the third edition of the tight end rankings. A reader just sent me an article at Rotoworld, and I see they are making a big deal out of ranking tight ends (actually just Jimmy Graham) in round one. That’s funny, because we told people about the tight ends (just Gronk and Graham) rightful place among the elite a year ago. They are also Drafting in Reverse this year over at Rotoworld. We started that one back in 2009. We’re often ahead of these big sites, folks. Sometimes I just have to mention it. Sue me.

The tight ends this year are already going through what the position went through last year in term of injuries. It’s August 1st and we’ve already seen 20% of our TE1-quality tight ends go down for the year or perhaps for life in Aaron Hernandez’s case.

That leaves us with the top eight.

  1. Graham
  2. Gronkowski
  3. Witten
  4. Davis
  5. Gonzalez
  6. Olsen
  7. Rudolph
  8. Bennett

In our estimation, these are the tight ends worth going after before round nine or so. There’s some separation between the top four and the bottom four in terms of worth, but they are all strong bets to be weekly starters. And, make no mistake, other weekly starters will develop. There are another 15-20 tight ends with TE1 upside. No, really, there are that freaking many.

Once you get past this group, we see no point in passing up on more scarce high upside talent to take tight ends from such a deep barrel. It’s better to just wait it out and nab a few solid upside options later on. There’s just not that much of a difference between the talent at 9 overall and the talent in the mid 20s. In fact, the players are going in fairly random order once Jared Cook is off the board. Waiting may not even cost you the player you want.

When I craft Drafting in Reverse in about two weeks, I’ll certainly address what will be more concrete drafting patterns (it’s still a little early for ADP) and we’ll isolate the guys who seem to be consistently good value.

Lastly, my advice with tight ends is to be aggressive when you do select. Go for guys with high ceilings. Even if you do strike out, which I doubt you will if you use our tools, we’ll still have your back with the waiver wire. We’ll have the right names for you. 

I'll be back with updated QBs tomorrow.  The RBs will be posted over the weekend.

1 Jimmy Graham 22 NO 7 1 Graham has to be the first guy off the board at this point. I put him on even footing with a healthy Gronkowski, so he has to have the edge over Gronk right now given Gronk’s multiple injuries. Like with Adrian Peterson, Jimmy has a tier all to himself. Brees’ favorite target is a legit draft target once the elite backs and Calvin Johnson are gone. No other tight end is a rational choice until about the 3rd round.
2 Rob Gronkowski 36 NE 10 1 Do you feel lucky? If not, I’d avoid Gronk until he is screaming “value.” Right now, he’s not a player that I’ll consider until the 3rd round. If he gets good news and appears likely to avoid the PUP and play early in the year, I’ll move him up in the overall rankings. With Hernandez gone, Gronk is an even bigger factor and may become more of a “joker” tight end--moving around the formation. This would allow the Pats to pick their spots with Gronk and get him matched up against smaller athletes. They have other tight ends who can play in-line and block. This will be interesting to watch. My guess is that Gronk’s role begins to morph this year.
3 Jason Witten 57 DAL 11 1 Witten, like Gonzo, always seems to suit up. That’s a good quality, but he also produces extremely consistent numbers and with Dez Bryant demanding extra coverage, we expect Witten to have 80+ catches and 900+ yards with a handful of scores. Tony Romo is a very good regular season QB as far as statistical production goes. He can “feed” his receivers. Witten’s a TE1 all the way. Draft him with confidence.
4 Vernon Davis 60 SF 9 2 I’m not buying into the notion that VD is going to play wide receiver. I don’t care where the beat reporters saw him playing in OTAs. Davis does not possess the agility to play outside consistently; he is too stiff in the hips. We expect more of a two TE offense that features Davis as well as rookie Vance McDonald. The fact that both have high-end receiving talents will make it very hard to defend both players, who can play in-line, as an h-back, from the slot as well as outside. If McDonald gets his NFL game together quickly, the 49ers could look a lot like the Patriots of the last few years. We expect a big year from Davis regardless of where he’s lining up. A career year is very possible. The stars are aligned with Kaepernick at the helm and Michael Crabtree on the sidelines. There’s a ton of upside here.
5 Tony Gonzalez 62 ATL 6 2 Gonzo has been an amazing story since he went to Atlanta in 2009. I have to admit, I thought he was at the end in 2010, but he bounced back strong the last few years. In fact, 2012 was his best year as a Falcon. With Julio Jones drawing tons of coverage and Roddy White also demanding some extra respect, it will be tough for teams to shut Gonzo down in 2013. He may slip a bit, but he’s a solid option and should give you TE1 numbers. Gonzo also has an impressive track record in terms of staying healthy.
6 Greg Olsen 92 CAR 4 3 He slips in drafts all the time and, for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Olsen is entering his third year as Cam Newton’s tight end and they have gotten better every year so far. I expect modest improvement on the 69/843/5 line he posted in 2012. He’s a fairly safe TE1 from where I sit. It’s not like Newton has a plethora of options in the passing game. Olsen is a steal at his current ADP of 115.
7 Kyle Rudolph 83 MIN 5 3 It’s not hard to figure out why we have Rudolph in our top ten. He was a top ten finisher last year and he’s entering his third year as a pro. We expect Kyle’s best season to date. Look for 800+ yards and double digit touchdowns. As I said after he was drafted in 2011, “we like his speed/size combo for a big TE and we like the way he tracks the ball smoothly and makes plays in-stride. His speed allows for some yards after the catch, but he might be somewhat overrated in that regard. We see him as being a legit play-maker.” That’s pretty much where we are now. He is realizing his potential and with two more play-makers added this offseason in the form of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, Rudolph will not be keyed on as much as he was in 2012. This guy is a very physical player and is being underrated by some of the bigger fantasy outlet. We are not calling for any regression from Rudolph. Draft him with confidence anywhere near his ADP of 89, which is a solid value.
8 Martellus Bennett 126 CHI 8 3 I like the direction the Bears have headed in this offseason and there is perhaps no bigger addition than Bennett, who is a very solid blocker and an athletic target in between the 20s and in the red zone. He’s being taken late in a lot of drafts and he can start for you.
9 Jared Cook 102 STL 11 4 Check out my article on Cook at the bottom of the page. I love his upside and I’d take him as a TE1 in 12-team leagues, but I would make sure I had a more durable 2nd option like Dustin Keller or Dwayne Allen in case Cook gets injured or, less likely, underperforms. He’s right about at value at his current ADP of 99.
10 Owen Daniels 108 HOU 8 4 Daniels is getting on in years at age 30 (31 in November) and a decline could happen at any time. That said, he played pretty well last year and we like the additions Houston made in the passing game. Daniels will probably have a little more room to roam this year with the continued development of Keshawn Martin and the drafting of game-ready DeAndre Hopkins. Daniels can be your starter, but I’d encourage you to draft a plan B option.
11 Jermichael Finley 101 GB 4 4 Toxic. That’s what Jermichael is in fantasy circles. It’s what happens when you let fantasy GMs down. This is especially true when the player has been at odds with his own coaching staff and quarterback as Finley has been at times. How to value Jermichael is not an easy question, but I AM targeting him in drafts if he slips late enough. I might even take him as my first tight end. Why? Because he is talented. Because he is all the way back from a lingering knee issue. Because his QB is Aaron Rodgers and Finley has serious red zone potential even though it didn’t show up last season. Because the improved ground game should open up some play-action. And, lastly, because the loss of Greg Jennings will open up more slot opportunity and Finley is very effective in the slot with Rodgers throwing the pill. Oh yeah, Finley is also a player that has been accused of motivational issues and pouting. Being that this is a contract year for him, we expect that stuff to be kept to a minimum as Jermichael sells out for his big pay day. So, yes, I like Finley for a few reasons. The key to drafting him is to NOT reach. Let him fall to you and MAKE SURE you back him up with another solid option like Cameron, Housler or Dwayne Allen. I want to draft Finley after his ADP.
12 Brandon Pettigrew 137 DET 9 4 Pettigrew is a bit of a forgotten man after an injury-riddled 2012 season. His problems were not limited to injuries as the talented tight end struggled with drops and ball security. While we don’t like the idea of putting all our eggs in his basket, we do think he has a lot of upside. Don’t discount the fact that he’ll be hitting the open market in 2014. We expected Pettigrew to be in shape and ready to go this year and he showed up in the best shape of his career according to his HC. He could be a good value if he slips far enough.
13 Jordan Cameron 181 CLE 10 5 Cameron is a guy we really liked coming out of USC a few years back, but he needed developmental time. Now that he’s had some, we look at him as a potential breakout candidate. We’re not alone here. The keys for Cameron’s rise are the new coaching staff and the departure of Ben Watson. Cameron should be the primary TE and that will mean a statistical jump right there. Now factor in Norv Turner and I think you have real reason for optimism. Cameron could easily finish the year as a TE1. Take a safer option with him in deeper leagues and you’ve done well. He can be taken a little before his ADP.
14 Dustin Keller 178 MIA 6 5 I wrote a dynasty report on Keller. It’s linked at the bottom of the page. He’s been moving up boards and is now on the radar. I like him right around his ADP. He could be a weekly starter if he hits and he’s a decent matchup play for sure. He’s had plenty of big games over his career and he is entering his prime.
15 Coby Fleener 174 IND 8 5 Fleener is a savvy upside pick this year as we expect his role to increase. He’s got a long term relationship with Andre Luck going back to their days at Stanford, so there’s plenty of reasons to buy-in. He’s also a receiver first and a blocker second. That’s always a plus for fantasy purposes. Fleener is starting to creep up boards as positive news slips out of Indy. He’s good value at his current ADP and even a few round sooner, but don’t go crazy.
16 Dwayne Allen 182 IND 8 5 Check out the scouting report on Allen at the bottom of the page. He’s a player that, for whatever reason, is under the radar. He played very well for a rookie. His game is only going to expand and get better. Allen could be a fantasy staple for years. I love him in long term formats at his price and in redrafts, he is one of the better sleepers out there. I like his floor too as I don’t think there’s any way he fails to improve on last season barring injury.
17 Robert Housler 194 ARI 9 6 Housler is a very nice sleeper and this could be the year he begins to strut his stuff a little bit. Check out my dynasty update linked below. Housler has a rare combination of abilities in terms of size and speed and he has a very good chance to put it all together in 2013 with significantly improved play at the QB spot plus two VERY good downfield threats outside in the form of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Housler is going to have room to operate and is blinking value with an ADP of 194. This is a player to know about, especially in big leagues and long terms formats like dynasty.
18 Fred Davis 169 WAS 5 6 Davis is flying under the radar a bit. That’s probably because he’s yet to put a full year together for various reasons. First, we have the suspension for use of the demon weed in 2011. Then we have the year-ending Achilles injury in 2012. Folks might be wondering what will constitute the trifecta. Fair enough. Just don’t forget about this guy in deeper leagues. With RGIII under center, Davis could be a very valuable player. He makes a nice upside sleeper later on in 12-team drafts. This is a talented receiver on a team that needs them. If he is playing at 100% in preseason, I’m going to bump him up some.
19 Ed Dickson 210 BAL 8 6 Dickson is now a guy with a ton of upside. He makes the big play even better than Pitta, but he’s not as refined with his routes. It will interesting to see how he does with more regular snaps. My guess is that he does pretty well. He posted nice stats in 2011 before Pitta took the starting gig for himself. Dickson entering his 4th year with Joe Flacco, so there should be plenty of trust and familiarity. Dickson is another player that absolutely could play like a TE1, but it’s all projection at this point.
20 Antonio Gates 94 SD 8 7 Gates was a favorite of mine for a long time, but I can’t see myself targeting him this season. His stats spell out a clear decline in terms of yards per catch, catches and scores. I could get past that if he’d been healthier, but he’s been battling foot problems over the past few years. Now to his team, which has been a mess of late and is now bringing in a new offense. The TE-friendly scheme of Norv Turner’s is gone. That may not hurt Gates, but it certainly has the potential to. If the trend continues, Gates will not be a TE1 this year. I still think he has the ability, but he’s got too much that he can’t control working against him. If you take him, there is some upside, but you need to back him up with a quality upside option in deeper leagues.
21 Brandon Myers 118 NYG 9 7 Myers is changing teams and his success in Oakland had a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. The same could happen in NY, as Eli likes to use his tight ends. The question is, can Myers up his TD total? He might be able to as the Giants aren’t heavy with red zone options. I like Myers as a solid guy that you can pair with an upside option like Keller, Cook, Cameron or Fleener. One thing that’s very important to watch is the development of TE Adrien Robinson, who has a talent edge on Myers. If Robinson has a strong camp, he could take the top off of Myers value in 2013, but if he’s still developing, Myers can move up a few spots.
22 Jermaine Gresham 156 CIN 12 7 Gresham’s value takes a hit with all the new talent in Cincy. He’s still got upside and as much talent as anybody on the team except for A.J. Green. Having said that, he’ll need to raise his game or risk fading into the woodwork. There’s tons of competition for looks in Cincy.
23 Tyler Eifert 179 CIN 12 7 Eifert is a major talent with an elite ceiling, but he’s a crapshoot as a rookie on a team that already has an established tight end and a dominant player in the passing game in the form of A.J. Green. The expectation is that he plays right away but that he has a rookie learning curve, which is often higher for tight ends, who have multiple responsibilities. The big issue is not just Gresham as Eifert and Gresham can definitely play together. Both have all-around ability and can be used inside and outside. Eifert can play in the slot, but there’s competition there with Andrew Hawkins and also rookie Gio Bernard who can be motioned into the slot. Regardless of how they opt to use him this season, Eifert’s long term is very bright. Targeting him in keeper and dynasty is a good move.
24 Travis Kelce 287 KC 10 7 Here’s a player to watch. Kelce has high-end ability and could become a force right away in Andy Reid’s offense. We love the way he plays the game, especially after the catch. We’ll be watching him in camp and if he wins the starting job, he’ll be one of our sleepers. He should be a priority for anybody targeting tight ends in dynasty leagues. Right now, he’s going way late and is a great flier if you are looking for TE upside late in 12-team leagues.
25 Marcedes Lewis 191 JAC 9 7 Lewis is a nice sleeper in deep leagues as he is talented and can be a touchdown guy. It’s going to depend on how well they can get the QB position to play. We like Blaine Gabbert (he still has some upside) more than most, so we like Lewis’ chances more than most as well.
26 Vance McDonald 326 SF 9 7 McDonald is a player we really like and I get into more detail in our rookie reports. The injury to Michael Crabtree certainly opens the door for more rookie production than we otherwise may have seen. We like McDonald’s long term future very much. Harbaugh is going to use two tight ends much like we’ve seen in New England. McDonald is a worthy late flier in deep leagues.
27 Zach Ertz 267 PHI 12 7 Ertz is a guy to go after in dynasty leagues and he certainly could make an impact as a rookie, but it’s hard to bet on at this point of the game. The Eagles offense is like a piñata that has yet to be busted open. We just don’t know what’s inside yet and we can’t wait to see. So we’ll be monitoring Ertz throughout mini-camp and camp and preseason and we’ll bump him up if need be. The talent is definitely there.
28 Zach Miller 214 SEA 0 7 Miller will be a compelling player IF he can get healthy as he had developed a solid connection with Russell Wilson by the end of 2012 scoring in three out of his last six games including the playoffs. We’ll be watching Miller is preseason. He’s still recovering from a foot injury suffered in the divisional playoff loss to Atlanta.
29 Scott Chandler 370 BUF 12 8 Chandler is coming off of ACL reconstructions and needs to show us something with the new regime in tow before we can buy back into him at all. He has the potential to have value, so we’ll be keeping an eye on him.
30 Heath Miller 184 PIT 5 8 Miller is coming back from a serious knee injury. It was more than just an ACL. It was ACL, MCL and PCL. That could be a long rehab. I have doubts about him being ready and further doubts about him being at top form. Avoid him in drafts until he can demonstrate health and some of his old form. It’s too bad, because Miller was becoming a staple in the new offense. Miller could be a nice add at some point or if he avoids the PUP list to start the year.
31 Delanie Walker 276 TEN 8 8 He’s a player to watch as the Titans plan to use him a lot. Whether a higher profile role will translate into fantasy viability is very debatable, but if he starts off well, he could be an add in deeper leagues.
32 Joel Dreesen 354 DEN 9 8 Can be a fill-in guy in really big leagues, but is waiver wire fodder in most formats.
33 Jacob Tamme 302 DEN 9 8 Will be interesting to see if he can expand his role. He has the ability as a receiver, but Denver may be too deep now for a guy like Tamme to be more than a role player.
34 James Casey 306 PHI 12 8 A recent knee injury has cost him valuable time with his new coaches and teammates, but we like his potential in Chip Kelly’s system. Casey could be a nice sleeper in larger formats. Let’s see if he gets healthy during the preseason and can do it in games.
35 Jeff Cumberland -- NYJ 10 9 Cumberland is a better athlete than a lot of folks realize. He has the size and speed to be an effective seam weapon and he can make plays after the catch if a QB would ever hit him in stride. This guy could end up having some value.
36 Brent Celek 212 PHI 12 9 Celek appears to be settling into the role of a blocker in the new offense. If that holds, he will be a very risky selection, even in larger formats. That said, if they flip on that, Celek is a proven player who can post solid numbers. We’ll be keeping an eye on him.
37 Luke Stocker 328 TB 5 9 We’ll have to see how things shake out and whether he has the full job. We don’t see much fantasy value here, but he’s a guy to watch in preseason.
38 Tom Crabtree -- TB 5 9 He’s a guy to watch after Tampa stole him from the Packers in free agency.
39 Lance Kendricks 329 STL 11 10 Though he has solid ability, it’s hard to see Kendricks playing a major role with both Jared Cook and Tavon Austin seeing a lot of snaps and targets. That said, if Cook goes down, Kendrick could do very well, so he’s a guy to know about.
40 Chris Gragg -- BUF 12 10 Gragg is a guy we really like long term as a “joker” tight end. He could bust out as some point, but I doubt he has redraft value in 12-team leagues this season. A strong training camp could change that, and we’ll be watching.
41 Ben Watson -- NO 7 10 He’ll be the backup in New Orleans this year and he’d have some solid value if anything were to happen to Jimmy Graham. Ben can still play as we saw in Cleveland last season.
42 Jordan Reed 342 WAS 5 11 If Fred Davis gets hurt, this kid will be a name to know later this year, but if not, he’s more of a long term asset. He’s got all kinds of athleticism and monster upside with RGIII as his QB.
43 Virgil Green 400 DEN 9 11 He has bust-out talent and he is a player to watch. That said, there is only one ball and there are a lot of quality options in Denver.
44 Tony Scheffler 372 DET 9 11 Scheffler is a guy to know about in deeper formats. You can always pick him up and get a cheap score because they use him in the red zone and Stafford trusts him to make plays on the ball.
45 Zach Sudfeld -- NE 10 11 It’s not surprising that so many unheralded Patriots are generating buzz with so many potential opportunities in the wake of the Hernandez saga and Gronkowski’s series of injuries. Throw in Danny Amendola’s injury history and everybody is interested in the NE rookies. It’s totally justified. Brady is going to throw it to somebody. Sudfield has some real appeal as I mentioned in our rookie rankings. He’s a guy to watch in preseason. His college films shows that he has the potential.
46 Adrien Robinson 348 NYG 9 11 Though the Giants seem to have him pegged as a blocker, Robinson is huge and fast and is a player to know about and keep an eye on.
47 Gavin Escobar DAL 11 11 Another young Dallas tight end that we like. He’ll have a growth curve and he’ll battle James Hanna for snaps and to be the guy who takes over for Witten in a few years.
48 Joeseph Fauria DET 9 12 Massive upside potential if there are a few injuries to other tight ends ahead of him.
49 Jake Ballard NE 10 12 He’s coming off of a major knee injury, so we need to see him run before e get excited.
50 Luke Willson SEA 0 12 The injuries in Seattle put the raw Willson (yes, spelled that way), in a position to earn playing time as a rookie if he can learn a lot quickly. We doubt that happens, but he’s a guy to watch for sure.
51 Nick Kasa OAK 7 12 We like this kid as you will see in our rookie reports, but he’s in a shaky offense and he’s not a finished product though he has a chance to play a lot as a rookie and perhaps even start. He’s a guy to watch in August.
52 Hayden Smith NYJ 10 12 A player to watch. Smith is a very good athlete and, as a former rugby player, he’s a very physical guy. He spent 2012 learning the position and is now a player to watch. The Jets do not have a dominant talent at the position, so keep an eye on Smith.
53 Tony Moeaki 379 KC 10 12 Moeaki is a holdover from the last regime, but he has talent and is now fully healthy after tearing his ACL in 2011. If Travis Kelce struggles in camp, Moeaki could move up. He’s a player to keep an eye on in deeper formats and deep dynasty leagues as Moeaki could land a starting gig next year in a place like New York or Tampa Bay.
54 Jake Stoneburner GB 4 12 We like this kid and think he could be a guy to watch if he sticks and if Jermichael Finley struggles for any reason.
55 James Hanna DAL 11 12 Hanna is a player we like a lot. He has nice long term potential, but for now, Witten has things locked down.
56 David Ausberry OAK 7 12 As we told you lat season, we thought Ausberry had more upside than Brandon Myers. He’s an athletic kid who flashed a bit on film and we were excited about his potential. Well, it seems that his potential is starting to materialize. Ausberry could be the tight end, and when you look at the Raiders’ offense, you have to like an athletic tight end’s chances of getting the ball with a solid ground game and receivers that can really stretch the field. This is yet another tight end to watch closely.
57 Julius Thomas DEN 9 12 Thomas is yet another talented TE on the Denver roster. He is battling for a starting gig and he’ll have more value if he can pull it off. Not a guy to draft yet.
58 Kellen Winslow NYJ 10 12 He could posts some numbers if he’s got the knee into a decent place. More likely he will keep the other Jets tight ends from progressing. There’s actually some talent behind him on the depth chart.
59 Michael Hoomanawanui NE 10 12 He’s big talented due who has always had some issues staying healthy, but he’s a sleeper, because he has the talent to make a broad impact. He’s probably more of a blocker, but his athleticism makes him worth watching.



ADP data from FantasyPros.

E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)