I believe this season is the year of the tight end. The notoriously shallow position has become surprisingly deep. For evidence of this look no further than Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas. Both of these guys were either not drafted in your league, or someone snatched them in the very late rounds. If you were to do a re-draft right now, both of these guys would likely be taken ahead of studs like Vernon Davis and Jason Witten. Let's take a look at the top 3 TE's in both PPR and standard leagues.
Jimmy Graham (#1 PPR, #1 Standard)
No surprise here. The consensus #1 TE going into all drafts has not disappointed his faithful owners. He served up his owners a little appetizer in week 1 against the Falcons with a modest 4 receptions for 45 yards and 1 touchdown. I don't think anyone could foresee the next three games and what Jimmy Graham had cooking. Week 2 against Tampa Bay, Jimmy Graham was targeted 16 times, he hauled in 10 of those targets for 179 yards and 1 touchdown. That's just silly. The scary part is, it got even sillier. Week 3, Jimmy Graham assaulted Arizona's secondary to the tune of 9 receptions for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns. Very similar to the previous week, Graham was targeted 15 times! Allow me to illustrate just how insane this is. In those two weeks alone (Week 2 & Week 3) Jimmy Graham had more targets than Marques Colston through all four games combined!
Monday Night Football against the Miami Dolphins, Jimmy Graham decided to take mercy on the opposing defense. He was only targeted 5 times by Drew Brees, they clearly had some sort of falling out, right? Right? Wrong. He caught 4 of those targets, and 2 of those 4 catches went for touchdowns. He totaled 100 yards on those 4 catches. Is Jimmy Graham the most efficient man on earth? Is he even human? Does he like cereal? What's his favorite color? These are all important questions that we simply cannot answer. What we do know is that Jimmy Graham is freakishly good at football. In fact, in PPR leagues, Jimmy Graham is the FOURTH highest fantasy scorer amongst ALL POSITIONS! In standard leagues, Jimmy Graham is the FIFTH highest scorer amongst all positions! Granted we are only 4 weeks into the season but that is still remarkable. Jimmy Graham has been targeted a total of 43 times so far, he has 27 receptions, 458 yards and 6 touchdowns. Those six touchdowns has him tied for most in the league with Wes Welker.
Jordan Cameron (#2 PPR; #2 Standard)
Jordan was a sleeper candidate coming into the season but I don't think anyone expected him to be this good. Cameron wasted no time making all the people that touted him as a sleeper feel like they were fantasy kings. He hauled in 9 of his 13 targets against the Dolphins for 108 yards and 1 touchdown. After that game, everybody that didn't draft him, rushed to submit their waiver claim in the hopes of striking gold. If you are one of those people that were successful then congratulations because it looks like this kid is the real deal. He wasn't able to repay you with a touchdown in Week 2, but he still put up decent numbers against the Ravens. Targeted 7 times, Cameron caught 5 passes for 95 yards. Obviously, PPR players were more satisfied with that output than standard league players, but, Cameron found a way to make everybody happy in Week 3; Everybody except those that had to play against him. Jordan Cameron decided that the Minnesota Vikings were a bunch of meanies and deserved to get embarrassed in front of their home fans. He was targeted 11 times, caught 6 of them for 66 yards and not one, not two, but THREE touchdowns, including the game winning score with under a minute left to go.
Cameron kept rolling in week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals with 10 receptions on 12 targets for 91 yards and 1 touchdown. It was his 31 yard grab in the 4th quarter that set up the Browns 1 yard touchdown that put the Browns up 17-6 and evidently put the game to bed. Week 5 isn't really pertinent to this discussion since we are discussing the first four weeks but I will touch on it briefly. This was by far his worst game of the season as he only managed 3 receptions for 36 yards, no touchdowns and was only targeted a season low 5 times. It just so happens this is the week I am going up against the guy who owns him. So I would like to take a moment to say, thank you for having your worst game of the season against me, Mr. Jordan. Cameron is still tied with Eddie Royal for the second most touchdown receptions in the league with five. In PPR leagues, Jordan Cameron is the 8th highest scorer across all positions. It's pretty amazing that through four weeks we have two tight ends in the top 10 of scoring across all positions, even if it's just in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, Cameron is ranked 20th. One quarter in the books, Jordan has 27 receptions on 38 targets for 324 yards and five touchdowns. If you want to include week 5 against the Bills, Cameron has 30 receptions on 43 targets for 360 yards.
Antonio Gates (#3 PPR; #4 Standard)
The forgotten man. A lot of people had written off Antonio Gates citing his age and disappointing last season. I guess he heard all of you and decided to prove you wrong. The eleven year veteran found the fountain of youth and is once again becoming one of the best TE options in the league. He started the season off looking like he would once again be a disappointment, managing only 2 receptions for 49 yards on just 4 targets against the Texans. That is increasingly looking like a product of Houston's 7th ranked pass defense and nothing else. He bounced back nicely in week 2 against the Eagles as he saw 11 targets from Philip Rivers, reeled in 8 of them for 124 yards but once again was unable to score. Those were still very good numbers and it gave fantasy owners hope for a bounce back season. He repaid those owners that believed in him and started him in week 3 as he found the endzone for the first time and had 5 receptions for 55 yards. Last week, Antonio Gates was his vintage self against the Dallas Cowboys. He caught 10 out of the 11 targets he saw from Rivers for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Antonio Gates should be a solid start for the rest of the season and should finish among the top 8 TE's. He already has 364 yards receiving, 25 receptions on 33 targets and two touchdowns. To put that in perspective, he's half way to his total receptions from last year (49) and more than half way towards his total yards from last year (538). Gates has a pretty favorable match up against the Oakland Raiders this week. Tyvon Branch is expected to be out yet again so Gates should be able to take advantage of Oakland's 28th ranked pass defense.
Julius Thomas (#4 PPR; #3 Standard)
Believe it or not, this is the guy I targeted in ALL of my drafts. I've been waiting for Julius to finally be healthy because the potential he had was just ridiculous. He was drafted in 2011 by the Broncos but he could not make his presence felt due to injuries. He had surgery to repair ligaments in his ankle and it took a while for him to recover from that. It was difficult for Julius to recover from workouts and practice after the surgery and he just couldn't get to the point where he could actually contribute come game time. He's finally healthy and we are all seeing exactly why the Broncos drafted him and stuck by him throughout the past two injury plagued seasons.
Much like Antonio Gates, Julius was a college basketball star who decided his future was in the NFL, not the NBA. Much like Antonio Gates, I think Julius made the right choice. He started the season off with a bang, hauling in 2 of Peyton Manning's 7 touchdown passes against the Ravens. He was targeted 7 times by Peyton, was able to catch 5 of them and totaled 110 yards. Yes, he was on my team. No, I didn't start him. My other TE was Vernon Davis, can you really blame me? He was my TE sleeper pick for the season but I didn't think he would blow up like that from the very beginning. Week 2 against the Giants, Julius dialed it down a little with just 6 receptions on 9 targets, 47 yards and 1 touchdown. He dialed it down even more against the Raiders in week 3 but still found the endzone once on 3 receptions for 47 yards. By far his worst game of this young season came last week against the Eagles. Even though he hauled in all 4 of his targets, he only gained 47 yards and for the first time was held without a score. The Broncos face the Dallas Cowboys and their 20th ranked pass defense this week. Julius should be able to get back on track and produce for your team like he did in the first three weeks. Through four weeks, Julius has 18 receptions on 24 targets for 237 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Who will we see on this list at the end of the season? Will Vernon Davis get healthy enough to shove his way into these rankings? Will Jordan Cameron continue this throughout the season? What are your thoughts on this years crop of TE's?