2013 Fantasy Football Preview: Tight Ends

2013 Fantasy Football Preview: Tight Ends

Earlier this week we previewed the quarterbacks for the 2013 fantasy football season. Looking back at how our predictions performed over the course of the season, we felt pretty good about that position.

Last year, the final position we previewed was tight end. There was - and still is - so much talent at this position that it was hard to come up with a top 17 list last summer. But we did... and you can find our 2012 tight end rankings here.

There were a few spots where we hit the mark last summer.

Devaluing Antonio Gates was a smart play, and you'll see where he sits in our rankings this year below. Also, putting former Bears tight end Greg Olsen at seventh in our rankings raised a few eyebrows at the time, but he rewarded our faith in his ability (and confidence in a sophomore setback for Cam Newton) by having a very good season (843 yards, 5 TD).

There were a few others that we missed on, though.

We've never been a big fan of the Tony Romo-led offense in Dallas, but the presence of Dez Bryant led us to move Jason Witten down in our preseason rankings. He was the top fantasy tight end last year with 110 receptions for 1,039 yards, but only had three touchdowns. In spite of his lack of end zone touches, he was the only tight end to top 1,000 yards last season.

KR

We also missed the mark on Kyle Rudolph, not ranking the eventual Pro Bowl MVP in our top 17 before last season. His numbers were the opposite of Witten; only 53 catches for only 493 yards, but he had nine touchdown catches. There are some questions about how the addition of Greg Jennings, subtraction of Percy Harvin, and Christian Ponder still being the Vikings' quarterback will impact his production, but he's developing into a legitimate fantasy starter.

Heading into this year, the tight end position is up for grabs at the top. Where most have ranked at least one, if not two, Patriots among their top five for the last couple seasons, Aaron Hernandez is now in jail and Rob Gronkowski has a lot of questions about the health of his arm arm and back. We voiced our concerns when discussing Tom Brady in our quarterback preview.

With all of that in mind, we're going to step up our game this year. We cut off our rankings last year at 17, but this year we're going to go for a full top 20. With the uncertainty in New England, and a few faces in new places, there's a lot of uncertainty at this position this year.

First, here are a few names that will be wearing a new uniform this year:

  • Martellus Bennett - Chicago Bears
  • Brandon Myers - New York Giants
  • Jared Cook - St. Louis Rams
  • Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (rookie)
  • Zach Ertz, Philadelphia (rookie)
  • Aaron Hernandez - Massachusetts State Penitentary

TG

With those changes in mind, let's rank our top 20 tight ends heading into the 2013 fantasy football season.

  1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
  2. Jason Witten, Dallas
  3. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
  4. Brandon Myers, New York Giants
  5. Vernon Davis, San Francisco
  6. Greg Olsen, Carolina
  7. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota
  8. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
  9. Owen Daniels, Houston
  10. Tony Moeaki, Kansas City
  11. Antonio Gates, San Diego
  12. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay
  13. Martellus Bennett, Chicago
  14. Jared Cook, St. Louis
  15. Brandon Pettitgrew, Detroit
  16. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville
  17. Fred Davis, Washington
  18. Brent Celek, Philadelphia
  19. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
  20. Ed Dickson, TE, Baltimore

Injured Already: Dennis Pitta, BAL

Less than one week into training camp, Pitta suffered a dislocated hip and his season is over. Dickson and Visanthe Shiancoe will fill the TE spot for the Ravens moving forward.

Worth the Reach: Brandon Myers, New York Giants

Last year in Oakland (without a real quarterback for most of the season), Myers had an invisibly fantastic season with 79 receptions, 806 yards and 4 touchdowns; he had 24 more receptions and 180 more yards than Martellus Bennett did for the Giants with Eli Manning. But the Giants, who recently gave a lot of money to Victor Cruz, might be dealing with an unhappy Hakeem Nicks this season. Look for Myers to be the sleeper tight end to bust into the top five at the position this year.

Ready for Prime Time: Tony Moeaki, Kansas City

Moeaki, 26, only had one touchdown last year with just 453 receiving yards. So how does he make the jump to number 11 on our rankings? Simple: Alex Smith. Before his injury last year, 20 percent of Smith's targets and 19 percent of his completions were to Davis in San Francisco. Also consider the averages put up by Celek as the primary tight end under Andy Reid in Philadelphia over the last four years (59 rec., 744 yards, 4 TD), and you have the recipe for a breakout season.

However, he doesn't crack our top 10 (which should be viewed as candidates to start in most ten-team leagues) because he's dealt with injuries in the past, and is a question mark for the start of training camp because of a back injury. Anthony Fasano would be a smart handicap if you like the coach-quarterback situation in KC.

The Puzzle: Vernon Davis, San Francisco

In the final six weeks of the 2012 regular season, Davis was only targeted 11 times by Colin Kaepernick. But in the playoffs, he accounted for 19 of Kaepernick's 80 pass attempts (nearly 25 percent). He's an elite athlete that can be among the best at the position, and could be a bigger part of the offense with Michael Crabtree missing to start the season.

Avoid Like A Kardashian I: Brent Celek, Philadelphia
Avoid Like A Kardashian II: Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati

I really liked Gresham heading into last season, and he rewarded that confidence with a strong season (64 rec, 737 yds, 5 TD). Celek's numbers were impacted by the lack of a healthy starting quarterback in Philadelphia, and the dead-man-walking approach from Andy Reid as the head coach.

But both of these teams used a high draft pick on a tight end, with the Bengals selecting Eifert and Eagles selecting Ertz. Gresham and Eifert could be an intriguing combination, but it's hard to assume he'll match last year's numbers. And with Philly having a new coach (Chip Kelly)and Michael Vick back under center (at least to start the season), Celek's production has a number of factors working against it.

WTF: the New England Patriots

There's a lot of unknowns heading into this year in New England, and the biggest is Rob Gronkowski's ability to stay healthy. But what happens if he's out? Does Tim Tebow become a legitimate red zone option? Do they still have a move or two coming before training camp? Someone is going to produce in that offense this year; Tom Brady isn't handing the ball off 50 times per week. But the problem for fantasy owners is knowing who will be on the receiving end this season. If you're going to draft Gronk, make sure you have a second tight end on your roster.

Comments

Leave a comment
  • Damn it. I hate it when Heath Miller gets ranked high. Then I have to fight for him against people who want his stats instead of picking him up unabated except for the inevitable online teasing from my league-mates whenever I pick a Pittsburgh player.

Leave a comment