Saturday, June 29, 2013

2013 Fantasy Football: Tight Ends

1. Jimmy Graham: After a spectacular season in 2011, Jimmy Graham saw a large drop-off in 2012. His 1,310 receiving yards in 2011 fell to 982 yards in 2012. Graham still managed to finish the year as the number one ranked fantasy tight end in the league. Next season, head coach Sean Payton will return from a suspension, and the New Orleans Saints offense will be clicking on all cylinders. Don't be surprised if Graham exceeds 15 receiving touchdowns in 2013.

2. Rob Gronkowski: Gronk's offseason has been a complete train wreck so far, as he underwent a surgery to repair a herniated disc, where the recovery period will last up until the start of the regular season. New England's star tight end has had five surgeries so far since November of 2012, and there is no telling how prepared Gronkowski will be for the 2013 regular season. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez will not be present next year in the Patriots' offense, so if Gronk is ready to play, he should expect more targets from Tom Brady. When healthy, Gronkowski is the best fantasy tight end in the league, but the many surgeries should make fantasy owners nervous.

3. Dennis Pitta: Dennis Pitta had a breakout season in 2012, as he recorded 669 receiving yards with 7 touchdowns. Pitta is Flacco's favorite target in the red zone, with a combination of size and extraordinary leaping ability. Anquan Boldin will be leaving for San Francisco, so it is more than likely that Pitta's statistics improve as the number of targets increase. Joe Flacco is now entering the prime of his career, as proven by his sensational playoff run. Put this all together, and you have a lethal fantasy football weapon.

4. Vernon Davis: After Colin Kaepernick took over for San Francisco last season, Vernon Davis saw few passes come his way, and as a result, Davis averaged 2.6 fantasy points per game. Despite his disappointing regular season, Vernon Davis recorded 254 receiving yards and a touchdown throughout the playoffs, proving that there is chemistry between Kaepernick and his tight end. If this chemistry continues into next year's regular season, Vernon Davis deserves consideration over Gronk and Pittta.

5. Jason Witten: Jason Witten recorded a career high in receptions with 110, as well as 1,039 receiving yards. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, Jason Witten has struggled to find the end zone throughout his career in the NFL, where he has yet to record double digit touchdowns in a single season. Witten is competing with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin in Dallas. Luckily, Witten also saw a career high in targets, so clearly, Tony Romo trusts throwing to his tight end.

6. Tony Gonzalez: Originally, Tony Gonzalez pledged to his team that 2012 would be his last year in the NFL, but the Atlanta Falcons managed to bring him back for one more year. Obviously, Tony Gonzalez will play a key role in 2013 for this offense or else the Falcons would not have forced him to come out of retirement. At the age of 37, Gonzalez no longer has the same speed or leaping ability he had in his prime, but his size will continue to make him a dominant force in the red zone. His productivity in terms of receptions and yards will drop, but I believe the touchdown total will stay the same in 2013.

7. Greg Olsen: As Cam Newton enters the prime of his career, and Steve Smith become less and less efficient with age, tight end Greg Olsen will become one of Netwon's favorite targets. Olsen played on 98 percent of the Panthers offensive snaps, and he also hasn't missed a game from injury since 2007. With 843 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, Olsen finished sixth overall among fantasy tight ends. Olsen's potential makes him an extremely valuable fantasy option if players like Witten and Gonzalez are off the board.

8. Kyle Rudolph: At 6'6" and 260 pounds, Kyle Rudolph recorded 9 touchdowns on 53 receptions last season, despite lacking an elite quarterback in Minnesota. With Christian Ponder as the quarterback, there is a clear chemistry between these two players; however, after signing Matt Cassel in the offseason, it is possible Rudolph will not see as many targets in the red zone. As seen with Vernon Davis after Colin Kaepernick took over, quarterback changes can drastically affect a players fantasy value.

9. Owen Daniels: After Kyle Rudolph, there is a serious drop off among fantasy tight ends. Owen Daniels has never scored more than six touchdowns in an NFL season, as he competes with Andre Johnson for targets. Also, the Houston Texans rely on their running game, so Daniels is not utilized in Houston's offensive scheme. Finally, Owen Daniels' health remains a concern for fantasy owners, as he has not played all 16 games in a season since 2008. Daniels will finish in the top 10 among fantasy tight ends, but he is not a consistent scorer, and should be avoided if possible.

10. Brandon Myers: While playing for the Oakland Raiders, Brandon Myers caught a whopping 79 passes for 806 yards, as he provided offense to a team in desperate need of scoring. In 2013, he will be playing for the New York Giants, and though no tight end is challenging him at the position, he will have to compete with wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. It is highly unlikely he can replicate the same numbers in New York with Eli Manning having so many other options. 

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