As most positions go, there are clear premium tiers and subsequent levels thereafter. The Tight End is no exception, with Jimmy Graham resting atop almost every expert ranking in the land. Tight end statistics may have been slightly down last year, but it was due to several key injuries that should not factor into 2014. Rob Gronkowski, the most notably injured, has been declared fit and ready to regain his massive role in Tom Brady’s passing game.
Unlike wide receiver rankings, there is no need to factor in return yards, but when defining the best Tight ends in the game, understand that fantasy does not measure blocking capabilities or leadership characteristics. Therefore these are purely reflective on statistic prognostications (PPR Redraft leagues to be exact) and their effect on fantasy. Game on.
30. Jeff Cumberland, NYJ
A great blocker that is under-utilized in the passing game. Marty Mornhinweg will look to Cumberland more than he anticipated with the fact that second-round pick Jace Amaro is not NFL-ready becoming clearer by the day in camp. Jeff will get plenty of field time and has been more than adequate when relied on to catch the ball. Geno Smith will look to Cumberland early as a security blanket.
2014 Prediction: 396 Yds. 3 TDs
29. Levine Toilolo, ATL
Guaranteed Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez has left a massive hole in the Falcons’ offense. 6’8’ 260 lb. Levine Toilolo, a relative unknown will fill Gonzalez’ role physically, but his targets shouldn’t begin to sniff the 120-130 numbers that TG enjoyed throughout his days in Atlanta. His role on the depth chart should be fairly concrete after spending a year behind one of the greatest tight ends of all time while the Falcons showed no intention of finding a better replacement in the offseason. Look for Toilolo to find plenty of short to intermediate routes including redzone opportunities.
2014: 447 Yds. 4 TDs.
28. Mychal Rivera, OAK
Sixth-round pick Rivera made the most of a roster without pass catching tight ends and cemented himself as the number one TE in Oakland. Matt Schaub should find Rivera quite handy in the redzone.
2014: 487 Yds 4 TDs
27. Scott Chandler, BUF
Scott Chandler’s two year, no money guaranteed deal should have plenty of incentive on the hands of the former Iowa Hawkeye. His size (6-7) makes him an optimal redzone target with sneaky speed. Mike Williams will find his targets, but Chandler is what EJ Manuel will be looking for in the clutch,
2014: 489 Yds, 4 TDs
26. Marcedes Lewis, JAX
In recent history, we have not seen such a disparity between what a tight end is capable of and what he has accomplished due to terrible Quarterback play. In 2010, Marcedes Lewis caught 58 passes for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. Never again have we seen the big-bodied former Bruin sniff those numbers. Incoming quarterback Blake Bortles would be well-advised to take advantage of the lightly used TE’s experience and above average hands.
2014: 502 Yds. 4 TDs.
25. Delanie Walker, TEN
Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter’s development process should slightly hinder the 30 year-old’s numbers after finally making it atop an NFL depth chart last season. However, Jake Locker should continue to look his way in traffic and redzone situations. The tough veteran may very well be able to match last year’s six touchdowns with the right amount of targets.
2014: 512 Yds. 4 TDs
24. Coby Fleener, IND
The Colts offense will be extremely different with Dwayne Allen back in the fold and Hakeem Nicks joining as another mouth to feed. Coby Fleener will remain the same reliable TE as the 2013 version that caught 52 balls for 608 yards and four touchdowns, only with significantly less targets. Look for the redzone to be more favorable with Allen’s presence on the other side.
2014: 516 Yds. 5 TDs
23. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TBB
Seferian-Jenkins should quickly find his way to the top of the depth chart with great hands and above average blocking skills. If it wasn’t for a foot injury, ASJ would have been the number one TE taken in the draft. Only Brandon Myers and Tim Wright’s lingering presences can take away from ASJ’s playing time and targets.
2014: 523 Yds. 5 TDs
22. Travis Kelce, KCC
Last year’s third round pick brings a ton of athleticism and solid blocking ability, which should overcome Anthony Fasano somewhat quickly and secure the top roster spot while snatching up his fair share of targets in the Chiefs’ west coast offense.
2014: 534 Yds. 5 TDs
21. Ladarius Green, SDC
An extremely talented pass catcher, Ladarius Green is already a better blocker than Antonio Gates and will continue to soak up targets from the Chargers legend. The challenge for offensive coordinator Frank Reich will be to get Green and Gates on the field at the same time. Green has incredible upside and will be increasingly valuable as Gates approaches his golden jacket.
2014: 533 Yds. 5 TDs
20. Garrett Graham, HOU
With Owen Daniels gone to Baltimore, Garrett Graham should have no problem achieving the 49 receptions, 545 yards and five touchdowns he delivered in relief of the injured Daniels in 2013. New head coach Bill O’Brien is known to use tight ends frequently in his offensive scheme and will utilize Graham the best he can with the quarterback situation in relative disarray.
2014: 557 Yds. 6 TDs
19. Eric Ebron, DET
Eric Ebron is part of the movement to distribute the ball outside of Calvin Johnson. The Lions surprisingly spent the number ten overall pick on the Tar Heel and should fully take advantage of his pass catching abilities. Brandon Pettigrew is not chopped liver, but Ebron’s arrival could spell trade bait until mid-season.
2014: 588 Yds. 6 TDs
18. Jared Cook, STL
The money that Cook found in St. Louis was based on Sam Bradford’s abilities getting him the football. While Jared had some interesting games, he never really found that wow factor that his talent can provide (Outside of week one’s two touchdown performance). If Bradford can stay healthy and the wideout concerns can heal themselves, look for Cook to jump into the top ten in fantasy TEs.
2014: 618 Yds. 6 TDs
17. Tyler Eifert, CIN
Eifert’s first round pick was based on his excellent pass catching ability and aggressive run-after-the-catch technique. We saw bits and pieces of his game, but a thoroughly incentivized Jermaine Gresham fought to stay on the field as much as possible. The main question in Cincinnati will be how Hue Jackson’s run-centric west coast offense will utilize the two TEs and the blocking allocation.
2014: 629 Yds. 7 TDs
16. Heath Miller, PIT
Miller has not played a full season the last two years and has picked up more and more blocking responsibilities under Todd Haley. With the offensive line and LeVeon Bell gaining experience, look for Haley to cut loose Heath Miller for some wheel routes that can turn up yardage quickly and find the end zone. Miller is a well-rounded player that when involved in the passing game, can produce in bunches.
2014: 655 Yds. 6 TDs.
15. Zach Ertz, PHI
The former Stanford Cardinal showed signs of the vast potential that Chip Kelly drafted him for, but never quite found reliable fantasy traction. Kelly mixes and matches personnel at such a rapid pace, the tight end playbook may have been tough to grasp for Ertz with such a heavy rotation. As far as fantasy goes, Ertz would be and interesting pairing to run a TE by committee with another high-end TE2/low-end TE1.
2014: 673 Yds. 6 TDs
14. Dwayne Allen, IND
Months of rehabilitating from a hip surgery will place Dwayne Allen in line to be a focal point in a talented offense with one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the game. Allen should quickly produce via his speed and linebacker and safety mismatches en route to erasing last year’s lost season. Look for Fleener and the former Clemson Tiger to form one of the most dynamic TE tandems in the league. Consistency will be the only concern with Luck having so many targets.
2014: 678 Yds. 6 TDs.
13. Antonio Gates, SDC
Antonio Gates may not be a top-tier TE anymore, but he is the owner of San Diego’s best hands and an optimal red zone threat. Gates’ quick burst ability has dwindled slowly and he is no longer the prime focus of the Chargers’ offense. That said, he has enough experience and maintains a high enough level of fitness to contribute consistently while Ladarius Green sneaks up on his numbers. A healthy Gates will out produce Green, but is no more than a low-end TE1 as of late.
2014: 712 Yds. 7 TDs
12. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
A foot injury derailed what looked like a top ten fantasy tight end year for Rudolph in 2013. Norv Turner’s arrival should reveal an enlarged stat sheet for the elite athlete Rudolph. Targets have always come the TE’s way in Turner-run schemes and Rudolph’s size will pay dividends in the red zone for Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater.
2014: 717 Yds. 7 TDs
11. Charles Clay, MIA
Clay appears to have his ducks in a row with Michael Egnew on the roster bubble and Dion Sims relegated to blocking. His recent contract extension spells fantasy stats to come for the experienced, playbook expert from Tulsa. Ryan Tannehill was inconsistent, but seemed to have a knack for finding Clay at will in 2013. Enter new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and his line stacking and mismatching ways, Clay should match or exceed last year’s 759 yard, six touchdown season.
2014: 754 Yds. 7 TDs
10. Martellus Bennett, CHI
Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman made Martellus Bennett a massive part of his offense in 2013. Bennett’s first year in Chicago was not a disappointment, racking up 65 receptions, 759 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the first installment of a four-year, $20.5 million contract. His size and physical play make him a prime target in the redzone and fuel his uncanny ability to fight for yards on every play.
2014: 775 Yds. 7 TDs
9. Dennis Pitta, BAL
Pitta’s 61 reception, 661 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 were enough to nail down a five-year, $32 million contract in Baltimore, even after a serious hip injury cut his 2013 season short. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s effect on the active in-line TE will depend on how aggressive the Ravens get with two TE sets and developing complementary receivers to free up the slot for the BYU alum.
2014: 785 Yds. 7 TDs.
8. Vernon Davis, SFO
The drafting of Vance McDonald will continue to help make Vernon Davis an elite level fantasy tight end. The fastest in-line tight end in the game will not see the 13 touchdowns from 2013 with Michael Crabtree returning and Stevie Johnson joining the fold, but should continue to produce at a level just outside the likes of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas.
2014: 764 Yds. 8 TDs
7. Jordan Reed, WAS
Not currently injured, Jordan Reed’s incredible upside will run the IR gambit this year after multiple concussions cost him six games in 2013. Jay Gruden’s blur of an offense makes fantasy owners salivate and Reed will be a staple if he stays off the injury reports. Gruden should fully utilize the “Move” type TE in a Gronkowski-like role, creating mismatches with his speed and reliable hands. Do not overlook the injury prone label with Reed due to the NFL’s sensitivity towards head injuries.
2014: 774 Yds. 8 TDs
6. Greg Olsen, CAR
Greg Olsen has quietly become elite and one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL. Catching the most passes and touchdowns for the Panthers last season was no mistake and should be attainable in 2014, even with the additions of rookie Kelvin Benjamin and journeyman Jerricho Cotchery. Olsen understands his contract has just peaked at under eight million dollars and will be looking for another deal by 2015. Being the top target (111 targets in 2013) in an offense ran by Cam Newton, who is still evolving as a quarterback, makes for a delicious low risk, high reward TE1.
2014: 799 Yds. 8 TDs
5. Jordan Cameron, CLE
Last year’s 80 catch, 917 yards and seven touchdowns make Jordan Cameron an almost lock to lead the team in receiving, regardless of the outcome of Josh Gordon’s suspension. In fact, Cameron will be probably the most positively effected (stat-wise) with Gordon off the field. Cameron’s physical attributes and skill set compare favorably to number one draft-pick Johnny Manziel’s go-to receiver at Texas A&M, Mike Evans. Regardless of who is behind center in Cleveland, look for Cameron to be a top five fantasy TE once again.
2014: 828 Yds. 8 TDs
4. Jason Witten, DAL
At 32 years old, Jason Witten’s name gets less and less sexy in fantasy football circles. Last year’s 73 catch, 851 yards and eight touchdowns are a testament not to join the lemmings who get their fantasy advice from ESPN. Witten is a sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee and excels at blocking on top of his impressive receiving resume. Dallas’ line should be the best it’s been, therefore leaving Witten more freedom to produce via Bill Callahan’s playbook.
2014: 847 Yds. 9 TDs
3. Julius Thomas, DEN
Let the argument between Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski being the second best fantasy TE in the game begin. Thomas, the former basketball star at Portland State can provide a mismatch on every play, utilizing his speed and box-out skills, especially with much smaller defenders (Thomas is 6’5). With only five years of organized football experience under his belt, Peyton Manning’s new favorite target has established himself in the creme de la creme of NFL tight ends and is looking for a new contract by season’s end (Making less than $750,000 in 2014). Last year’s season opener versus Baltimore (Five catches, 110 yards and two touchdowns) put Thomas on the map after collecting only seven targets and one catch in his first two years in the league.
2014: 906 Yds. 9 TDs.
2. Rob Gronkowski, NE
Rob Gronkowski’s litany of injuries should not play into 2014. Gronk is healthy and ready to go, avoiding the PUP list. Tom Brady’s go-to guy lacks what Aaron Hernandez brought to the table on the other TE position, but Josh McDaniel’s playbooks are flexible and have shown the capability to extract production from all over a depth chart.
2014: 962 Yds. 9 TDs
1. Jimmy Graham, NO
Another tight end that has benefited from years of playing basketball. From 2011-2013, Graham has led the Saints in targets (447), receptions (270), yardage (3,507) and touchdowns (36). Graham has become the “Alpha” at his position and all other tight ends will continue to be compared with the Miami alum. His newest arbitrated contract makes him the highest paid TE and like his numbers, it will define other players’ accomplishments and value in the future.
2014: 1,017 Yds. 11 TDs
Major League Fantasy Football Radio This Sunday August 3rd from 11:30am-12:30pm EST we will have two guests – Chase Jacobs and Ryan Ingram. Chase is a writer for majorleaguefantasysports.com and an owner in MLFF Champions League. Ryan is a writer as well and also an owner in MLFF league one. We will be discussing Tight Ends and Running Backs primarily. Sports Palooza Radio Network is who we owe thanks to in providing the platform. You can call in live at 646.915.8596, you can listen online live, or you can download the podcast.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio This Monday August 4th from 1pm-2pm EST we will have two guests – Bryan Luhrs and Ryan Bishop. Bryan is the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports, an author for MLFS, and also an owner in baseball & football. Ryan is one of the original owners in our leagues who is in year 7 with us, and he is a good source of information and opinion. We will be discussing potential minor league call ups, what impact they could have, and the latest fantasy relevant information. You can call in live at 646.915.8596, you can listen online live, or you can download the podcast.