This is for the folks in Fayetteville, it'll come true if you say it will.  Red Hot Chili Peppers

It’s Tight at Tight End

                Tight ends and kickers are the Rodney Dangerfield’s of fantasy football.  They are generally ignored, although record breakers like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have made for first and second round consideration the past few years. 

                We are a big fan of Jimmy Graham as a high pick this year.  In a normal year there are 4 or 5 tight ends who separate themselves from the pack.  They will usually average in the 110-120 point range while the average starter puts up around 85.  The thing about this year is that Graham has no legitimate competition for the top spot and he has the potential to post 150 points.  In 2012 he had 127 fantasy points in what was considered a down year.  If he posts in the 150 range he’s worthy of a first round pick. 

              Let’s look at the other players capable of posting in the high end, 900 yard, 9 touchdown range.  Tony Gonzalez is the greatest tight end of all-time and he is coming off of a 930/8; however, Gonzo is on the Falcons for one reason, to have big performances in crucial games.  The Falcons may give him fewer snaps, particularly in less important regular season games, and that limits his ceiling to about where he was last year.  Vernon Davis is as talented as Graham and he has an up and coming young tosser, but his disappearance for long stretches last season was disturbing.  We still have him as our number two rated tight end but we wouldn’t feel great about drafting him before the 5th round. Gronk is a first round pick if healthy but he’s been banged up for several years and may start the season on the PUP list.  If he does he shouldn’t be drafted in the top 5 rounds.   Even if he opens the season, there are major injury concerns.  Heath Miller, last season’s 4th scoring tight end, tore his Achilles and is a fading blip on the fantasy radar screen.   Ditto last year’s 7th ranked tight end Dennis Pitta who has been lost for the year.  There simply isn’t much to get excited about after Graham and Davis making them both more valuable.

               If you don’t get a top tier tight end, and most teams won’t, think walking sticks.  7’s.  Guys who can get 700 yards and 7 touchdowns post 90 fantasy points, good enough to be on the positive side of the middle of the pack.  There are actually a number of different ways to 90 points as last year’s 90 point gang included Jason Witten 1039/3, Greg Olsen 843/5, Dennis Pitta 669/7, and Kyle Rudolph 493/9. But 700/7 is the number to shoot for and there are plenty of candidates this year.  That large group includes:

Jared Cook

Jermichael Finley

Antonio Gates

Brandon Myers

Jason Witten

Fred Davis

Greg Olsen

Rob Housler

Martellus Bennett

Owen Daniels

Kyle Rudolph

Brandon Pettigrew

We have them ranked in the same tier, but the order we have them ranked within that tier is significant because the ones at the top of the tier have the potential to have a break-out season.  (Check out our updated tight end rankings here.)  If you draft a tight end in the 9th round and he posts 900/9, you’re in business.  The guys with that type of ability are the usual suspects Jared Cook and Jermichael Finley, but we are also intrigued with the upside of Fred Davis, Brandon Myers and Rob Housler.   Davis by all accounts is almost unguardable when he plays, problem is he often isn’t playing because of suspension or injury.  Maybe this is his year.  Brandon Myers was very effective last year in Oakland with 806/4.  He’s moved to the Giants and he may be the best tight end Eli’s had since Jeremy Shockey in 2006.  Eli has regularly produced 500/5 out of also-rans like Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss so a 700/7 from Myers is a realistic expectation. Rob Housler is a guy almost nobody knows.  He had over 40 catches last year with…well quarterbacks so bad we can’t remember their name.  Carson Palmer is the new quarterback in Arizona and he made a star out of Brandon Myers last year.  Housler could emerge this year.  Remember, we had Housler rated as the top tight end in the 2011 draft class.  Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Pettigrew  and Kyle Rudolph are young enough and talented enough to be high end starters.

             The group of veterans includes some interesting players.  Witten is a consistent 1,000-yard performer who’s not so hot in the TD category.  He’s Tony Romo’s BFFL so he will continue to get 100 targets a year if he can stay healthy.  He’s 31 and the Cowboys drafted Gavin Escobar for what they must realize is Witten’s eventual decline.  Owen Daniels always looks great when he plays but he gets hurt every year.  Antonio Gates decline has been precipitous.  Is it Phillip Rivers or Gates or worse yet, both of them.  Gates has reportedly shown up leaner and quicker and has enough history to warrant a look in the middle to late rounds.

               The first big question will come in the 2nd round if we have a shot at Jimmy Graham.  Should I stay or should I go?  If we don’t pull the trigger we will probably wait until the 7th-8th round and look for someone like Finley or Cook. Remember patience is a virtue when drafting a tight end. If Finley and Cook are gone, we will look at Davis, Housler, Gates and Myers in the mid to late rounds. One thing is for sure, it’s tight at tight end.  And we like it that way.