Ahhhhhh, the good old days.....Back in the 90's. I miss the days of listening to Nirvana on my discman, after having just finished up an intense game of Sonic the Hedgehog on my friend's Sega. The days where the macerena was considered cool, and Zack Morris was still going after Kelly in Saved by The Bell. The wondrous days of having to wait 42.5 minutes to get on to the internet through dial-up. Also happened to be the days when tight ends were just not fantasy relevant. Picking a tight end was as much of a crap shoot as picking kickers: it was just not going to make or break your fantasy team.
Lets take a look at the year 1999 as a quick example. The league leading tight end was Frank Wycheck with a whopping 768 yards and 2 TDs. Number 10 on that list was Stephen Alexander with a mind bending 383 yards and 4 touchdowns. Drafting tight ends was just not an essential part of fantasy drafts
To use an appropriate phrase from that time period, "Holy Cow" how things have changed. In 2011, Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski led the position, with 1327 yards and 17 Touchdowns! Antonio Gates was number 10 on the list with 778 yards and 7 touchdowns. This position has now morphed into an integral part of ALL fantasy drafts.
This year, don't get caught in the past and ignore tight ends. Landing a quality tight end could make the difference between making your league's fantasy playoffs, or missing them and getting stuck having to watch The Bachelorette with your wife.
Below are my Tight End rankings for the 2012 fantasy season.
1. Rob Gronkowski- no reason to think he can't continue to put up similar numbers to last season. While the 17 TDs may come down a bit, 12 is not a stretch of the imagination at all. Absolute matchup nightmare in one of the most pass happy offenses in the NFL.
2. Jimmy Graham- Graham has very quickly become the favorite target of Drew Brees in that video game offense. The fact that the Saints spread the field so much ensures that Graham will have plenty of open space to operate with his amazing combination of speed and size. Another nightmare for opposing defenses.
3. Antonio Gates- No question this is a bit of gamble. Gates was banged up last year, and there are serious questions about whether or not he can stay healthy. But with Vincent Jackson gone, I am rolling the dice with Gates. He is the unquestioned #1 target in an offense that is underrated.
4. Jermichael Finley- This might be a little high for some people. Finley did not have the fantasy season that most expected. But there is a reason why in last year's drafts Finley was being taken consistently as one of the top 3 tight ends. This year, opposing defenses are going to be coming up with more and more schemes to try and take away the Packers deep passing game: enter Finley. Another matchup nightmare who is absolutely not guardable.
5. Brandon Pettigrew- This is much higher then most experts have him ranked. If you haven't figured it out by now I have a preference for the Tight Ends who are attached to high powered offenses. Calvin Johnson is a beast and teams will be double and even tripling him. This will open up the middle of the field for Pettigrew to make an absolute living.
6. Aaron Hernandez- The Patriots have made it clear that getting this guy the ball is a priority. They line him at TE, WR, FB, and he even lined up at running back late in the season. Any guy with this many touches in a power offense needs to be ranked high.
7. Jason Witten- old reliable. you know exactly what your going to get from him. He needs to be bumped up a spot or 2 in ppr leagues. But in standard leagues he shouldn't be much higher then the 7th TE taken. For whatever reason, Romo just doesn't target him in the red zone which is where many Tight Ends do their damage. Solid player but just not elite.
8. Vernon Davis- Amazing talent but I am just not a believer in the San Fran offense. They play way too conservative, and I think that Alex Smith will not be able to recreate his success from last year. They just don't spread the field enough to give Davis the space to put up elite numbers. He will be targeted heavily especially in the red zone but I just don't see a top 5 year out of the former Terp.
9. Jacob Tamme- Similar to many of the experts who have him on their "sleeper" lists I love this guy this year. Anytime your are a starter, in a Peyton Manning led offense, you have a chance to put up big numbers. Throw in the fact that Tamme already has chemistry with Manning and he could put up scary numbers. I wish I had the guts to put him up in the top 6 because he really could be there by season's end.
10. Owen Daniels- A lot of haters out there on Daniels for this year and I just don't get it. Of course staying healthy is always an issue. But if he can, whats not to like? Dreessen is gone so he will get a lot more looks. He is part of a good offense that can run the ball and spread the field with the pass. Should have a rock solid year.
11. Fred Davis- I think RG III will have his ups and downs this year. But Davis is such a central part of everything that they are trying to do on offense. I worry a bit about their being enough surrounding talent to give Davis enough room to operate. But just based on the number of targets he should see, he is a lower level starting TE.
12. Tony Gonzalez- not a huge fan at this point in his career but he is borderline startable. Obviously knows how to play the position and should have plenty of space to work the middle with 2 good receivers on the outside. Could catch 8 touchdowns but I just don't see him doing serious damage in the yardage department.
Best of the rest
Brent Celek- just doesn't get enough targets or chances
Martellus Bennett- love the potential for a late pick
Jared Cook- value a little higher if hasselback has job
Coby Fleener- really have to see what Luck looks like