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Tight End Player Rankings – Week 1
Tight Ends (Updated: Thursday, Sept. 6 - 11:18PM CT)
1. Jimmy Graham (vs.Was) – Here’s a little-known fact for ya: Jimmy Graham is one of only seven players in NFL history to have four or more receptions in all 16 games during a season (Jason Witten, ’09; Marvin Harrison, ’02; Jimmy Smith, ’01; Cris Carter, ’95; Herman Moore, ’95; Sterling Sharpe, ’93). Now, with Robert Meachem gone to San Diego and Marques Colston already a bit banged up, I expect Graham to be used even MORE this season—and that’s after being the clear favorite of Drew Brees in 2011 (Graham led all tight ends with 149 targets in ’11). Considering the Redskins gave up the third-most fantasy points to tight ends last season, Graham as the #1 TE this week is a no-brainer.
2. Rob Gronkowski (@ Ten) – It’s not a fantasy stat, but Rob Gronkowski is probably the toughest guy in the league to bring down once he gets the ball in his hands. Simply put—he’s a Monster. The year he had last season was one of the greatest single-seasons at ANY position ever seen in the NFL, as Gronk set records for both TDs (17 - four more TDs than the previous record) and yards by a tight end (1,327 yards – he and Jimmy Graham (1,310) are the only two ever to surpass the 1,300-yard mark). He’ll probably come up short of those numbers in 2012, but he’ll probably start the year off strong with the Titans allowing quite a few fantasy points to tight ends last season (tenth-most in 2011).
3. Aaron Hernandez (@ Ten) – They worked on it a bunch in 2011, but this season, the Patriots are going to do everything in their power to make Aaron Hernandez into the Percy Harvin of NFL tight ends. His 79 catches and seven receiving TDs from a year ago will likely stay around the same, but I fully expect his five rushes for 45 yards to multiply into about 25 for 150 yards or so with maybe a third of those carries coming in the Red Zone. Basically, double-digit TDs are within his reach, a number not often seen by the tight end position. Both he and Gronkowski should start the season off well this Sunday, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hernandez out-perform Gronk this Sunday with Aaron having an incredible offseason with the team.
4. Antonio Gates (@ Oak - Monday Night) – By all accounts (including his own), Antonio Gates is in the best shape he’s been in for quite some time and looks leaner/quicker than he has in years. In fact, he looks so good at this point that Gates could legitimately vie for the fantasy crown at the tight end position this year. When healthy and on top of his game, he’s without a doubt on par with both Graham and Gronkowski and is in just as good of a situation to dominate fantasy-wise. Gates has always been a favorite target of Philip Rivers and should be again this Monday night, especially with Vincent Jackson gone and Ryan Mathews unlikely to play. Gates had his only 100-yard game of the season last year against the Raiders and has a touchdown in three of his last four games against them, so I’m expecting big things under the bright lights this Monday night.
5. Vernon Davis (@ GB) – Green Bay HAS to be better on the defensive side of the ball this season, but even in 2010 when their defense was dominant, they STILL had trouble covering the tight end position. Last season they let up the second-most fantasy points to TEs (along with the most yards), so look for Vernon to at least get a bunch of love from Alex Smith this weekend. Considering that the ‘Niners will probably have to pass the ball more than normal to keep up with the high-flying Packers, Davis has a really good shot at producing.
6. Kyle Rudolph (vs. Jax) – Along with Fred Davis, this is my second of three calls this season for “breakout tight end you could have probably gotten later on in your draft”. His 2011 rookie season was a little sporadic as he made a few highlight-reel catches along the way, but never quite had a “breakout performance”. One of the reasons is that he was still dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered in college, thus hampering his awesome athleticism throughout the year. The second is that the Vikings were in a bit of a transitional year and couldn’t quite get to their starting QB of the future (Christian Ponder) until later on in the season. Being on the same page as your QB is a lot more important than you may think and now, after a full offseason of getting to know each other, Rudolph and Ponder are finally clicking. With the Jaguars allowing the fourth-most fantasy points and absolute most catches to tight ends last season, this should be a good place for Rudolph to start his climb up the fantasy tight end totem pole.
7. Fred Davis (@ NO) – When Fred Davis left the field after 12 games last season to honor his four-game suspension, he was fifth in the league in tight end fantasy points per game. This season, with the Redskins starting a rookie QB under center, he should get even more chances to get up into the top-5 than he did in 2011. Rookie quarterbacks tend to check down to their safety-valve (usually the tight end) quite a bit for fear of turning the ball over going deep. Maybe this happens with Robert Griffin III, maybe he bucks the trend, but against the Saints, you can bet he’ll be throwing the ball a bunch regardless.
8. Tony Gonzalez (@ KC) – Kansas City was pretty good against the tight end last season, but I really don’t believe they’ll be ready for the no-huddle offense the Falcons will be throwing out on Sunday, especially with a few main defensive players either hurt or suspended for the game. Gonzo may not get as much love as Atlanta’s wide receiver duo of Jones and White, but if he’s forgotten about for even a second, he’ll make you pay…even at 36-years-old.
9. Brent Celek (@ Cle) – Cleveland was in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season, but LeSean McCoy should keep the defense’s attention enough for Celek to slip out on some play-action pass routes and continue his late season dominance from 2011.
10. Greg Olsen (@ TB) – All the talk in the fantasy world is about how Greg Olsen is going to have this big breakout season. I’m not so sure that actually happens as people have been talking about it for years, but he should be able to put up some decent numbers this weekend against a bottom-of-the-barrel Tampa defense. I wouldn’t expect the world as the Bucs held opposing tight ends to the fourth-fewest catches in the league last season, but they also gave up a bunch of TDs, which is something Olsen has a bit of a knack for.
11. Dustin Keller (vs. Buf) – The Buffalo Bills were the worst in the league at guarding the position last season allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends on the year. Keller himself had eight catches for 125 yards and two TDs in his two games against them, so even though he’s been a bit banged up with a hamstring issue, he should have himself a pretty good game.
12. Owen Daniels (vs. Mia) – Miami allowed a ton of catches to opposing tight ends last year, with one of them coming in the endzone in Week 2 to Mr. Owen Daniels. Once Houston gets their running game going, which they will, Miami will bunch the line a bit more leaving Daniels able to escape out on some nice seam-routes later on in the game. If that happens, Owens could end up with better stats than his ranking here would suggest.
Tight Ends 13-24
13. Jermichael Finley (vs. SF)
14. Brandon Pettigrew (vs. StL)
15. Jared Cook (vs. NE)
16. Coby Fleener (@ Chi)
17. Jacob Tamme (vs. Pit - Sunday Night)
18. Rob Housler (vs. Sea)
19. Lance Kendricks (@ Det)
20. Dallas Clark (vs. Car)
21. Jermaine Gresham (@ Bal - Monday Night)
22. Marcedes Lewis (@ Min)
23. Tony Moeaki (vs. Atl)
24. Kellen Davis (vs. Ind)
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