Saturday, November 30, 2013

Top 5 Fantasy Tight Ends

It's been a while since my last installment of this series, but I'm back, and so is the age of the receiving tight end.  This renaissance has largely been sparked by two of the best tight ends that the NFL has every seen: Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.  Though these two are the centerpiece of what the NFL has to offer, there is certainly a solid supporting cast including Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, Jordan Cameron, Antonio Gates, Greg Olsen, and Tony Gonzalez.

1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
This former University of Miami basketball player has blossomed into a truly incredible tight end.  With enough speed to outrun linebackers and safeties, and the strength to overpower smaller cornerbacks, Graham is a mismatch for any defender.  With eleven touchdowns already this year, he is primed to rival, if not overtake Rob Gronkowski's record 17 touchdown catches in 2011.  In addition to averaging over a touchdown per game, Graham has also posted more than one hundred yards in already six of the ten games that he's played.  Simply put, Graham is undoubtedly the number one receiving tight end in the league right now.

2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Despite being injured for the first six weeks of the season, Gronk is only 15th in terms of fantasy points for tight ends.  This is a testament to how incredibly he has played in the last three weeks, compiling 292 yards and three touchdowns.  Even in the two weeks before that, when he was still partially injured, Gronk managed and impressive 141 yards.  With Tom Brady at quarterback, Gronkowski's numbers should only improve with his health, especially with the lack of other options in the Patriot's passing game.

3. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos,
Thomas, another former basketball player, came out of nowhere this year and has established himself as Peyton Manning's favorite red zone target.  Averaging just under one touchdown per game, Thomas is a very consistent option, for even when he doesn't manage to compile a lot of yards, he usually manages to reward fantasy owners with a touchdown.  It is by no means a coincidence that the top three tight ends on this list belong to the top three quarterbacks in the NFL: Brees, Brady, and Manning.  In years to come, with Manning at the helm, Thomas could develop into a tight end that could challenge the currently untouchable combo of Graham and Gronkowski at the top of this list.

4. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
What has really hurt Davis this year is the inconsistent quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick.  When Kaepernick has performed, though, Davis has performed too.  Like Julius Thomas, Davis is averaging just under one touchdown per game.  Also like Thomas, more than once, touchdowns have concealed games that would otherwise be considered very poor for Davis.  This is not too take anything away from his great season, but it just outlines the fact that if his touchdown production stops, Davis could be in a fair bit of trouble, especially with the up-and-down quarterback play of Colin Kaepernick.

5. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
I know it, you're surprised, but you shouldn't be. I could have picked so many players for this final spot, and I chose Greg Olsen, but when you look at all the other players I could have picked, they all have obvious flaws, and Olsen doesn't.  For example, Jordan Cameron has to deal with the horrible quarterback play of Brandon Weeden, while Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten have to compete for targets among talented receiving cores, and Antonio Gates is simply not the player he was five years ago.  Greg Olsen has a talented quarterback, is the Panther's only real red zone threat, and is only 28 years old.  The results have showed too, as Olsen has four touchdowns in his last five games.

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