Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who are the top 15 fantasy tight ends for 2014?

Last up in our series on the top fantasy football skill position players for 2014, we look at the tight end position. Generally speaking, draft Jimmy Graham anywhere from the middle first round, and Julius Thomas is a great pick in the 3rd round - however, if you aren't one of the first to draft a tight end then load up on running backs and wide receivers and be one of the last teams to draft one. 

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans - This one doesn't take much analysis: Jimmy Graham is in his own tier among fantasy tight ends. Scoring 16 touchdowns again is asking for a lot but then again it is Jimmy Graham we are talking about. Graham could reasonably go as high as pick five in a draft. 

2. Julius Thomas, Denver - Like Jimmy Graham (and Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates before that), Julius Thomas is a former basketball player turned tight end star in the NFL. Thomas scored 12 touchdowns last year and he is a good bet to replicate that this year, if not exceed that, with Eric Decker off the team and Wes Welker battling a new concussion. 

3. Rob Gronkowski, New England - Based on upside, Rob Gronkowski deserves to be the 3rd-ranked tight end but simply put I don't trust him and I am not drafting him anywhere near where he likely will go in drafts. As an added bad mojo factor, the Patriots just traded for Tim Wright from the Buccaneers. 

4. Jordan Cameron, ClevelandJordan Cameron popped last season for 80 catches, 917 yards and 7 TDs, and he should be just as busy (if not more) this season. Cameron is easily the Browns' best receiving threat. The only concern is double-digit touchdowns seem unlikely in this offense. 

5. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota - Minnesota inked Kyle Rudolph to a new 6-year, $37M deal this off-season and for good reason - he is a Pro Bowl type talent and we have not yet seen his best days. Rudolph has dropped about 10 pounds and is running much faster this year – we saw that in Week 2 of the pre-season with Rudolph collecting a 51-yard touchdown, plus new offensive coordinator Norv Turner knows how to turn tight ends into NFL (and fantasy) stars. 

6. Vernon Davis, San Francisco – I wouldn’t overpay for Vernon Davis, especially as I like the next two tight ends on this list nearly as much, but there are few on the board that have a reasonable chance for double-digit touchdowns (Davis had 13 last year).

7. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia – If you are looking for a sleeper tight end this year, look no further than 2nd year Zach Ertz. Philadelphia QB Nick Foles has compared Ertz to Rob Gronkowski in terms of talent (Foles played with Gronkowski at the University of Arizona). Ertz could be the Eagles’ leading red-zone threat. 

8. Jordan Reed, WashingtonJordan Reed brings big-time upside as a receiving tight end and we saw that last year. Over a five-week span from Weeks 6-10, and prior to missing most of the end of 2013 battling effects from a concussion, Reed was actually the No. 1 fantasy tight end scoring 82.90 fantasy points over that time period. As an added bonus, former tight end coach Sean McVay is now the team’s offensive coordinator. 

9. Greg Olsen, CarolinaGreg Olsen is one of the safest tight end picks on the board, and his reception total has increased every season since joining the Panthers (from 45 in 2011 to 69 in 2012 and 73 in 2013). However, while Olsen has a high floor, his ceiling isn’t as high as others in terms of a chance at 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns. 

10. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore – New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak heavily utilized the tight end position while in Houston (they averaged 88 receptions, 1,067 yards and 8 TDs over the last five seasons), and Dennis Pitta is much more talented than anyone he had on those rosters. Baltimore signed Pitta to a 5-year, $32.5M deal this past off-season. 

11. Jason Witten, Dallas – Now 32 years old, Jason Witten has been a model of elite consistency. Since 2007, Witten has finished in the Top 10 among tight ends every single season, ranking No. 1 in 2007, then No. 2, No. 8, No. 1, No. 6, No. 5 and No. 6. That said, Witten dropped to 851 yards last season (his lowest since 2006) and a slight drop-off from that is reasonable given his age and the other receivers on the Cowboys. 

12. Ladarius Green, San Diego – Depending on where you put the cutoff for receptions, Ladarius Green’s 22.1 yards per catch average last year was the best season on that metric in NFL history. The big factor is how will San Diego utilize Green, and with Antonio Gates still starting. Green though is worth the gamble and San Diego has to find a way to utilize Green in the offense. It's a short list of 6-6 tight ends that can blaze a 4.53 in the 40-yard-dash, as Green did in the 2012 Combine.

13. Martellus Bennett, Chicago – Similar to the write-up above on Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett likely isn't a candidate for 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns, but he is super safe to replicate what he did last season (Bennett finished as the #10 tight end with 65 receptions, 759 yards and five touchdowns). 

14. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh – Coming off of a season with one touchdown, Heath Miller could be flying a bit under the radar. This is especially true as Pittsburgh will not have Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders on the team who collectively scored 15 TDs last year. Miller was one of the NFL leaders around the end zone as recently as 2012 when he collected 8 TDs that year (and in 2012, Miller caught 10 passes inside the 10-yard line, the most of any player in the NFL that season).

15. Charles Clay, Miami – As mentioned in the article preface, waiting on a tight end is not such a bad strategy and you wouldn't be too bad off with Charles Clay (and maybe you quickly draft another tight end such as Cincinnati's Tyler Eifert). Clay was the surprise No. 8 fantasy tight end last year with 69 receptions, 759 yards and 6 touchdowns – plus there aren't many tight ends that will also get some random rushing attempts (Clay, initially drafted as a fullback, also scored a rushing touchdown last year). 

You can get full tight end rankings here at Fantasy Football Warehouse…