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2016 Fantasy Football Tiered Rankings

After an off-season move from Miami to Houston, Running Back Lamar Miller is in line to put up some big numbers and is a Tier 1 RB in my rankings.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tier: noun; a row, rank, or layer of articles; one of two or more rows, levels, or ranks arranged one above another.

This is the definition of a tier that I found online from Merriam-Webster, one which I'm sure most of you are at least loosely familiar with. In reference to fantasy football, tiers will refer to a way to organize similarly ranked or viewed players at each position, which is one of the most important tools you can take into your drafts. Most places tend to post Top-200 Overall rankings, which can be useful, but I find that I prefer to look at my individual positional rankings divided into tiers when draft day actually comes around. This has a lot to do with the cut-and-dry nature of Overall rankings, which tells you when you should take a specific player over another, but doesn't necessarily create a distinction between players when a drop-off occurs within a particular position or among different ones. For example, you'll see that in my Wide Receiver Tiers, DeAndre Hopkins is my #8 WR and Jordy Nelson is #9. Now, if you were only looking at a list of WR rankings, you'd think those two guys were close to evenly valued. But as you can see, I have Hopkins as the last receiver in Tier 2, while Nelson is the top guy in Tier 3.

So how does this help you? Well, let's say you're on the clock somewhere near the end of Round 1 and you see that Hopkins is sitting there on the board, along with running backs Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell and Jamaal Charles, who comprise my Tier 2 of RBs. Now, if you were using a Top-200 list, you'd pick the best available player according to the rankings and move on, but with tiers, you could see that Hopkins is the last WR available in that tier -- meaning you'd face what you feel is a drop-off in production when you jump to the next WR -- while there are three RBs left in their respective tier. In this case, you could take Hopkins and have a better player at WR and still get one of those three RBs who you feel will end up close together in production when all is said and done. If you had taken one of the RBs with your first pick, it's unlikely that Hopkins would have come back to you if he is valued more or similarly by others.

This is just a loose example of how the tier system works and it is exceptionally important, particularly in the early-to-mid rounds of your drafts, where you really need to nail your picks. As I'm sure many of you have heard from numerous places before, you can't win your league at the draft, but you can lose it. As I move into the later rounds, normally beginning in the neighborhood of Round 8 or 9, I tend to go for more upside and less stability, at which point tiering is less important, but still valuable if a player of a higher tier is still available where you feel he shouldn't be. Also, as you will see in my Quarterback Tiers, it can allow you to feel fine when you wait on certain positions, as my Tier 3 for that position is huge, including 9 guys ranked 6-14. In that situation I may like the players in the order I list them, but it doesn't really matter if I get the #6 guy or #14, as I feel all of them have a chance to end up with similar numbers.

Now that you can see how important tiers are, let's get into my Tiered Rankings! Remember that these were made with standard leagues in mind.

Quarterbacks

Tier 1 - The Elite

1. Cam Newton, CAR

2. Aaron Rodgers, GB

The best of the best.  These are guys that will go earlier than they probably should in most drafts because they're just that good.  We all saw what Newton did last season and I may be one of the few who think he could actually put up similar numbers again this year.  Rodgers was a bit off last season by his standards (which still meant 31 TDs and only 8 INTs), but #1 WR Jordy Nelson is back and RB Eddie Lacy has gotten at least somewhat back in shape.  I see Rodgers getting back to his old self.

Tier 2 - Could Join The Guys In Tier 1

3. Russell Wilson, SEA

4. Drew Brees, NO

5. Andrew Luck, IND

All three of these QBs have the ability to jump up into that Elite Tier.  Wilson showed what he can do in the second half of last season when he was given the reigns to the Seahawks' offense.  I don't think he's quite on Newton's level, but he has both a very high floor and tremendous upside if he can continue what he started last year.  Brees is as steady and reliable as they come and even in a down 2015 he was the #6 QB in standard leagues with over 4,800 yards and 32 passing TDs.  He's probably the only guy in the upper tiers that I'm going to have on any of my teams because he can be had in the mid-rounds.  Luck showed what he was capable of back in 2014, but a bad o-line finally caught up with him last season in the form of injuries.  I look for him to bounce back this season in a more wide open offense.

Tier 3 - Everyone Else I Feel Good About Starting

6. Carson Palmer, ARI

7. Philip Rivers, SD

8. Eli Manning, NYG

9. Matthew Stafford, DET

Matthew Stafford is a QB I'm targeting late in drafts. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SPORTS

Matthew Stafford is a QB I'm targeting late in drafts.

10. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

11. Tony Romo, DAL

12. Tom Brady, NE

13. Blake Bortles, JAX

14. Andy Dalton, CIN

These are the guys you can draft in the mid-to-late rounds and feel fine about starting to begin the season.  The standouts for me are Rivers and Stafford, who have ADPs of #87 and #132 overall, respectively.  I see big years coming for those guys.  I'm a little lower on Bortles than some, but he's looked good in the preseason and definitely has the weapons around him to put up numbers.  Dalton was on pace to finish as the #4 QB in fantasy last season before missing basically 4 complete games.  I know he's lost some weapons, but he'll get Tyler Eifert back at some point and I think he should be a steady starter.

Tier 4 - The All-Upside Tier

15. Derek Carr, OAK

16. Jameis Winston, TB

17. Tyrod Taylor, BUF

18. Kirk Cousins, WAS

19. Marcus Mariota, TEN

20. Robert Griffin III, CLE

Yes, there is some massive upside in this tier (hence the name).  I have Carr and Winston at the head of this class for a reason, because I think they are in the best position to step up and be possible QB1s.  Taylor plays in a run-heavy offense, but he can make some plays on the ground himself and has Sammy Watkins who can get deep.  Cousins finished last season as the #10 QB and while I won't bet on him repeating that, he does have the weapons to do so if he's legit.  Mariota's offense will likely run the ball as the first, second and third options and he doesn't have great weapons, but he does have great ability.  RG3 looked pretty darn good in the Browns' second preseason game and there are some capable weapons around him.  If he can stay healthy, he might actually put up some nice numbers in Cleveland.

Tier 5 - Blah (Or Meh If You Prefer)

21. Matt Ryan, ATL

22. Alex Smith, KC

23. Jay Cutler, CHI

24. Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ

25. Ryan Tannehill, MIA

26. Joe Flacco, BAL

The name says it all.  Nobody is excited to draft any of these guys, yours truly included.  I really want to believe that Matt Ryan will bounce back from last season, but I just don't see anybody that scares me on that offense besides Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman.  I think Flacco might remind some people that he's not completely horrible after coming back from tearing his ACL last season.  There might be so many WRs, RBs and TEs in Baltimore to make you want to stay away from all of them, but there's only one QB getting them the ball.  All of these guys could provide decent numbers as bye-week replacements or streaming options, so keep your eyes open for good match-ups.

Tier 6 - Wait, What? These Guys Have A Tier?

27. Teddy Bridgewater, MIN

28. Sam Bradford, PHI

29. Brock Osweiler, HOU

30. Jared GoffCase Keenum, LA

31. Blaine GabbertColin Kaepernick, SF

32. Any Broncos' QB

Stay away.  Far away.

Running Backs

Tier 1 - The Elite

1. David Johnson, ARI

2. Todd Gurley, LA

3. Lamar Miller, HOU

4. Adrian Peterson, MIN

These are the only RBs I feel safe drafting in the 1st round of my drafts.  I know Johnson seems risky, but he was so good last season and I just can't see Cardinals' coach Bruce Arians putting Johnson back in the bottle and rolling with Chris Johnson.  He has massive upside and can catch the ball with ease.  Gurley looks like the heir apparent to the #4 guy on this list in both running style and production.  The Rams' offense will feature Gurley in the same way that the Vikings have always done with Peterson and he's got younger, fresher legs.  The surprise here to many will be Miller, who I think may be the safest guy at the position.  He was great in Miami for several years on limited touches and should now get all he can handle in Houston with no real competition for touches. Enormous upside as well.  What is there to say about Peterson? He just keeps churning out great seasons, despite now being over the dreaded age of 30.  I'm not worried about him falling off yet, we've seen him defy the odds several times before.

Tier 2 - Elite...Sort Of

5. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL

6. Le'Veon Bell, PIT

7. Jamaal Charles, KC

I'm a little scared of this tier.  All three of these guys have the ability to be in the Elite Tier, but have issues that give me pause to put them there.  Elliott is in a great situation in Dallas, but I just can't bring myself to take a rookie with my first pick.  I will say that he looked great in his Preseason Week 3 debut against Seattle.  We all know how good Bell is and he would likely be in Tier 1 by himself if he wasn't suspended for the first 3 games of the season.  But there's also injury concerns, as he's ended two seasons in a row with a worrisome knee injury.  Charles is also riding the injury concern boat, but I'm also not sure that the offense will feature him in the same way as he's used to.  With guys like Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West playing great last season in relief of Charles, will the Chiefs and coach Andy Reid give him the same number of touches? I have at least enough doubt to put him as the last guy in this tier, even if he's ahead of other solid players in Tier 3.

Tier 3 - Solid 1s

Bills' RB LeSean McCoy is a safe bet for high volume touches this season. Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY SPORTS

Bills' RB LeSean McCoy is a safe bet for a high volume of touches this season.

8. LeSean McCoy, BUF

9. Eddie Lacy, GB

10. Mark Ingram, NO

11. Devonta Freeman, ATL

12. Doug Martin, TB

You can draft all of these guys as your #1 RB and feel alright about it.  None of them are without some questions, but all of them have been #1 RBs before, even if just for stretches (Ingram) and should be put in positions to have high amounts of touches.  I think Freeman and Martin will both be fine and probably deserve to go in the mid-to-late 2nd round, but I'm just a little put off by them.  Martin has had two great seasons and two bad ones and Freeman had a pretty bad second half after bursting onto the scene last season.  The guy I'll probably end up with most here is McCoy, who often drops to the 3rd round and who I think will see a ton of touches in Buffalo's otherwise weak RB situation.  I also think Lacy will bounce back nicely and the reports in camp and preseason have been good.  Ingram was amazingly consistent last season and as an Ingram owner, I can tell you I was very happy to have him on my team.  I'm not expecting quite the same number of receptions as last year, but he'll be solid.

Tier 4 - Could Be 1s

13. Latavius Murray, OAK

14. Thomas Rawls, SEA

15. C.J. Anderson, DEN

These are guys I seem to end up with in a lot of my mock drafts, especially Murray, who I love this season.  I know he wasn't particularly efficient last year, but I don't see him coming off the field a lot and in his second year as the starter in this system, I really like both his floor and his upside.  Rawls was a complete monster last season when Marshawn Lynch was out, averaging a league high 5.65 yards per carry.  Unfortunately, he broke his ankle late in the year and hasn't played in the preseason yet, although he's off the PUP.  If I go light at RB early, he's a guy I'm targeting in the 3rd-4th as someone who could end up being a RB1.  When he hasn't been hurt, Anderson has flashed as someone who can put up great numbers for the past two seasons.  If he can stay healthy, he has a good chance to be a RB1 in Gary Kubiak's RB friendly system.

Tier 5 - 2s All The Way

16. Carlos Hyde, SF

17. Jonathan Stewart, CAR

18. DeMarco Murray, TEN

19. Ryan Mathews, PHI

20. Melvin Gordon, SD

21. Jeremy Hill, CIN

22. Jeremy Langford, CHI

It looks like I'm championing last year's All-Bust Squad with the likes of Hyde, Murray, Gordon and Hill all making their way into this tier.  Realistically though, Hyde was injured and the 49ers were terrible, Murray was a bad fit in Philadelphia and was coming off a bajillion touch season (seriously!), Gordon was a rookie with a horrible o-line and Hill...well, Hill was just bad.  Now, the 49ers are still a bad team, but Hyde has a lot of talent and Chip Kelly's offense should feature him.  I couldn't bring myself to move him up a tier, but he has that kind of upside.  Murray is a better fit in the Titans' offense and has looked good in the preseason.  As I've written before, Gordon is a legit post-hype sleeper and has also looked improved in the preseason.  There's no way Hill can be worse than last year on a per carry basis and he's going to get a lot of goal line opportunities.  Stewart is the forgotten man, but I think he's the most reliable option of this group.  Sure, he could get injured, but when he's out there he's gonna get almost 20 touches a game.

Tier 6 - The Flex Zone

23. Giovani Bernard, CIN

24. Matt Forte, NYJ

25. Frank Gore, IND

26. Rashad Jennings, NYG

27. Arian Foster, MIA

28. Matt Jones, WAS

All of these dudes could end up as RB2s and it wouldn't surprise me, but I feel a lot more comfortable having them as flexes in 12-team standard leagues.  I'm not super high on any of them, but I think Gore, Bernard and Jennings are all presenting good values with current ADPs of 76, 77 and 90 Overall, respectively.  Jones is dropping like a rock after his shoulder injury, although it supposedly he'll be ready for Week 1.  Foster's ADP will continue to rise after his decent performance in Preseason Week 3, but I'm not willing to pay up for him.  It's highly unlikely that I'll own Forte in any league this season, as he's going with the #36 Overall pick (what is this, 2010?!).

Tier 7 - Meh (We've Been Here Before Haven't We?)

  • Isaiah Crowell, CLE
  • Charles Sims, TB
  • LeGarrette Blount, NE
  • Chris Ivory, JAX
  • Jay Ajayi, MIA
  • Duke Johnson, CLE
  • Ameer Abdullah, DET
  • Danny Woodhead, SD
  • T.J. Yeldon, JAX
  • Derrick Henry, TEN
  • DeAngelo Williams, PIT
  • James White, NE
  • Justin Forsett, BAL
  • Bilal Powell, NYJ
  • Christine Michael, SEA

There's a reason none of these guys are ranked with numbers.  With the exception of a select few, I feel like I could pull these names out of a hat as my RB4 or 5, shrug about the pick and move on.  I will say this: Blount (#119 Overall) and Crowell (#121) present great values in drafts right now, particularly in standard leagues, so keep an eye out for them late.  Sims and Powell are also going much later than they should, at 112 and 133 Overall, respectively.  They get a pretty decent bump in PPR formats (along with the other primary receiving backs in this tier), but I'm more than willing to have them on my team this season, especially at those prices.  In fact, I think Powell could produce similarly to his backfield-mate Forte this season.  Woodhead always outperforms his draft spot, but he's just not reliable enough in standard formats to be drafted higher.  Michael was in Tier 8, but has looked great in the preseason and needs to be owned in all leagues now, especially with Rawls coming back from injury.  Williams is obviously most important to the Le'Veon Bell owner, but will have some standalone value in the first 3 games of the season.

Tier 8 - Handcuffs and Late-Round Fliers

  • DeAndre Washington, OAK
  • Devontae Booker, DEN
  • Jerick McKinnon, MIN
  • Spencer Ware, KC
  • Tevin Coleman, ATL
  • Terrance West, BAL
  • Alfred Morris, DAL
  • Shaun Draughn, SF
  • Kenneth Dixon, BAL
  • Chris Thompson, WAS

Guys like Washington, Booker, McKinnon and Morris are true handcuffs here who could produce if the guys in front of them went down with injury.  I think Ware could have some stand-alone value this season in Kansas City, especially if they hold Jamaal Charles back somewhat.  It was believed that Coleman would have a bigger role this season in Atlanta, but it looks like Devonta Freeman is set to dominate touches again, at least for now.  West and Draughn are two of my favorite late-rounds grabs as guys who have reportedly looked great in training camp.  Thompson is the receiving downs back in Washington and is more valuable in PPR leagues.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1 - Supermen

1. Antonio Brown, PIT

2. Odell Beckham Jr., NYG

3. Julio Jones, ATL

Being elite is for chumps, these guys are basically superheroes!  Draft them accordingly.

Tier 2 - The Elite

4. A.J. Green, CIN

5. Dez Bryant, DAL

6. Allen Robinson, JAX

7. Brandon Marshall, NYJ

8. DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

Alright, these guys are no slouches either.  Everyone in this tier is a great WR1, I just prefer them in this order.  I think Green is going to get a ton of targets from Andy Dalton this season and could put up the best season of his career.  So far, Bryant has looked like the monster he was pre-foot injury and I'm not concerned about his current concussion with over two weeks left until the season opener.  Robinson also continues to look like a beast and I love getting him Round 2.  I've seen what feels like some baseless hate on Marshall in some places and he's almost always the last of this group to go in mocks that I've been in.  I don't think he's going to replicate last year, but I'm pretty confident he'll be in the 100 catch, 10 TD range again.  Hopkins gives me more pause with Brock Osweiler coming to town and the Texans having a few other receiving options, but he's still an elite guy.

Tier 3 - Could Probably Be in Tier 2

9. Jordy Nelson, GB

10. Mike Evans, TB

11. Alshon Jeffery, CHI

Each of these guys could easily be in the elite tier this season, but I'm not as confident that they will be as the guys above them.  It's all about health with Nelson and I haven't seen him on the field since last preseason when he suffered a tore up his knee.  He's off the PUP, but I doubt we see him in the dress rehearsal in Preseason Week 3 and I can't consider him in the same class as the guys in Tier 2 until I see him on the field again.  Jeffery is a health concern as well, although not on the same scale as Nelson.  He's suffered several soft tissue injuries in the past, particularly last season when he was kept out for basically half the year with multiple ailments, but he has shown he can be a WR1 multiple seasons.  Evans growth should continue with that of Jameis Winston, but we haven't seen him put it all together in his first two seasons.  I don't think 1200 yards and 10 TDs is out of the question though.

Tier 4 - Great 2s Who Could Be 1s If Things Break Right

12. Sammy Watkins, BUF

13. Keenan Allen, SD

14. Demaryius Thomas, DEN

15. Amari Cooper, OAK

16. Brandin Cooks, NO

17. T.Y. Hilton, IND

Let me just say that I really like all of these guys.  I just don't want any of them as my WR1.  Watkins is one of my favorite guys to pair with one of the guys from Tiers 1 or 2 who give you assured production from the WR1 spot.  His talent is off the charts, and if he can just stay healthy and get consistent targets in the Bills' offense, I could easily see him as a WR1.  But I'm not going to bet on it by making him my WR1.  Allen and Thomas are more reliable and safe and should be even better in PPR.  I'm expecting big things from Cooper in his 2nd season and I think a second half injury prevented him from reaching his full potential last year.  Cooks and Hilton are both #1 options on great offenses with a lot of weapons who should produce good, if not excellent, numbers.

Tier 5 - Fine 2s and Great Flexes

18. Randall Cobb, GB

19. Jeremy Maclin, KC

20. Donte Moncrief, IND

21. Eric Decker, NYJ

22. Michael Floyd, ARI

23. Julian Edelman, NE

24. Golden Tate, DET

25. Doug Baldwin, SEA

26. Kelvin Benjamin, CAR

Pretty large group of guys here.  I think people are too down on Cobb after a season when he was forced to be Green Bay's #1 WR when he's not built to be that.  The Packers had no way to stretch the field vertically without Nelson and Cobb saw defenses shrink in around him because of it.  Obviously by my ranking I don't think he's going to be a WR1 in fantasy like he was two years ago, but I think he'll give you solid WR2 numbers.  Maclin and Decker are underrated WR2s who often make it into Round 5 (and sometimes beyond) in mocks.  Edelman and Tate get a slight bump down in standard leagues and I think the first 4 games without Brady are going to be rough for Edelman's early stats.  I'm not big on Baldwin or Benjamin at their current costs (#48 and #43 overall picks, respectively), but I do think they'll produce fine as WR2s or high-end flexes.  The guys I really love here are Moncrief and Floyd.  I can see huge breakouts for both guys and there are worlds were either or both of them actually make it as WR1s.

Donte Moncrief is one of my favorite breakout candidates this season. Frederick Breedon-Getty Images

Donte Moncrief is one of my favorite breakout candidates this season.

Tier 6 - Silent But Lifesaving

27. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI

28. Jarvis Landry, MIA

29. Allen Hurns, JAX

30. Emmanuel Sanders, DEN

31. Jordan Matthews, PHI

32. DeSean Jackson, WAS

33. Michael Crabtree, OAK

This is a group that nobody really wants to draft for one reason or another: too old, too hurt, too boring, whatever the case may be.  Fitzgerald had a renaissance last season but can he really do it again? Plus he's been hurt this preseason.  Landry will catch a billion passes, but he won't gain a lot of yards or score often.  Hurns is the #2 WR to Allen Robinson and it's doubtful he'll produce 10 TDs again.  Sanders is also the WR2 in his offense and they don't have the best QB situation, to put it mildly.  Matthews was the king of garbage time last season and was a nightmare to own.  Jackson has always been the ultimate boom-or-bust guy, but people are getting tired of the busts, especially injury related ones.  Finally, Crabtree is another WR2 for his team and is probably one of the least exciting picks to make in the draft for most people.  You know what though? All of these guys will probably give you some decent numbers if you need them as a WR2, specifically if you went away from WR early in your draft.  That being said, that's not normally how I draft and I mostly skip over this tier of players in favor of guys with more upside....

Tier 7 - Upside Galore

34. Marvin Jones, DET

35. Tyler Lockett, SEA

36. John Brown, ARI

37. Josh Gordon, CLE

38. DeVante Parker, MIA

39. Sterling Shepard, NYG

40. Kevin White, CHI

We call that a lead-in folks! These are the guys I'm targeting in Rounds 7-10, when I'm usually looking for my WR4 with some nice upside.  Jones is currently my favorite of the bunch, as he's looked great in the preseason and in camp and has a chance to be the #1 option in a high-volume passing offense.  Lockett and Gordon are my other main targets here.  Lockett has always gotten rave reviews in Seattle and looks great so far and we all know what Gordon can do if he's right.  If you're going for upside, go big or go home, right?  I will mention that Brown likely would have been higher on this list, but his issues returning from a concussion suffered several weeks ago has scared me enough that I have a hard time drafting him.

Tier 8 - Late Round Values

41. Torrey Smith, SF

42. Tavon Austin, LA

43. Stefon Diggs, MIN

44. Willie Snead, NO

45. Kamar Aiken, BAL

46. Markus Wheaton, PIT

47. Vincent Jackson, TB

48. Rishard Matthews, TEN

All of these guys present values at where they're currently going in drafts and have a high probability of out-performing their draft spot.  I considered putting Smith in the upside tier, but I just haven't seen enough from him in the preseason to mix him in with those guys, although he has the chance to put up good numbers as the WR1 in Chip Kelly's system.  Jackson is old and nobody will be excited to pick him, but I don't think he's completely dead yet.  Austin got exactly the same amount of rushes and receptions last year (52 each) and was a fringe WR2.  All of the other guys should have a pretty safe baseline, even if that baseline isn't sky-high.

Tier 9 - Fliers

  • Corey Coleman, CLE
  • Michael Thomas, NO
  • Travis Benjamin, SD
  • Devin Funchess, CAR
  • Phillip Dorsett, TEN
  • Tajae Sharpe, TEN
  • Tyler Boyd, CIN
  • Chris Hogan, NE
  • Will Fuller, HOU
  • Laquon Treadwell, MIN
  • Sammie Coates, PIT

No more rankings here, just pick your favorites.  Coleman is probably in the upside tier for many, but I haven't seen him play yet and I just don't see it happening once Josh Gordon comes back for Cleveland.  Coates is even almost out of this range now, as he has now shown well in the Steelers' preseason games so far.  Sharpe has been killing it in camp and the preseason games, as I'm sure many of you have heard.

Tight Ends

Tier 1 - Gronk!

1. Rob Gronkowski, NE

Gronk's gonna Gronk.  Just go into the first four games cautiously optimistic that Jimmy Garoppolo knows he should throw the ball to the big guy.

Tier 2 - The Elite

2. Jordan Reed, WAS

3. Greg Olsen, CAR

Olsen is obviously the more consistent of the two here, but he also puts up big numbers, averaging 78 receptions for 976 yards and 6 TDs over the past 3 seasons.  You know what you're getting out of him.  Reed exploded last season for 87 catches, 952 yards and 11 TDs in the Kirk Cousins-led Redskins' offense.  The concern with Reed has always been health, but if he stays on the field, he's going to be the focal point of the passing game in Washington.

Tier 3 - Massive Upside (And People)

4. Travis Kelce, KC

5. Coby Fleener, NO

Coby Fleener should put up some big numbers in the Saints' TE friendly offense. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Coby Fleener should put up some big numbers in the Saints' TE friendly offense.

These are some large human beings.  At 6-5, 260, Kelce was pegged as a breakout candidate by many prior to last season, but fell short of those expectations by scoring only 5 TDs.  He still managed 72 receptions and 875 yards, but I'd expect bigger things from him this season in Kansas City.  Fleener is no midget himself, and at 6-6, 251, stands as a mammoth target in the middle of the field for his new QB, Drew Brees.  In the offseason, Fleener was signed to a 5-year, $36 million contract by the Saints to be the starting TE after veteran Benjamin Watson left town following a season in which he finished as the #8 TE in fantasy.  With a Top-6 fantasy season already under his belt (#6 in 2014), Fleener should be able to put up big numbers in this favorable role in the New Orleans offense.  Both of these guys have the ability to put up huge seasons and make a jump into the elite tier.

Tier 4 - Starters

6. Antonio Gates, SD

7. Gary Barnidge, CLE

8. Delanie Walker, TEN

9. Zach Ertz, PHI

10. Dwayne Allen, IND

11. Tyler Eifert, CIN

12. Julius Thomas, JAX

13. Eric Ebron, DET

After the first five guys on my board are gone, I'm fine waiting until there's only one or two of these guys left and taking one of them near the end of the draft.  I'm sure some of you are shocked to see the veteran Gates up at #6, but I just think he's going to eat up targets in the middle of the field and TDs in the red zone from longtime teammate Philip Rivers.  It's between Gates and Allen for who I end up with the most in mocks, as both of them are regularly available in the 10th and 11th rounds.  I see Allen getting a large amount of targets up the middle for Indianapolis' pass heavy offense, as he no longer has Fleener to compete with for playing time.  I've also ended up with Ertz and Ebron several times each, which I have no problem with.  Ertz could be the focal point of a passing game in Philadelphia that really has no outside weapons and Ebron could easily breakout as a 3rd-year TE who was a Top-10 overall pick in his draft class for a reason.

Tier 5 - Everyone Else

14. Ladarius Green, PIT

15. Jason Witten, DAL

16. Jared Cook, GB

17. Zach Miller, CHi

18. Martellus Bennett, NE

19. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB

20. Charles Clay, BUF

21. Vance McDonald, SF

22. Clive Walford, OAK

23. Jordan Cameron, MIA

24. Virgil Green, DEN

A lot of these guys will have something to offer fantasy players at some points during the season, I just don't believe in them as much as the guys in Tier 4.  Green definitely would have been in Tier 4 if not for his inability to get onto the field up to this point for Pittsburgh.  Keep an eye on him as the season progresses.  Witten is similar to Gates, except he doesn't catch touchdowns, making him a PPR only type of guy.  Cook is interesting in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, but he's hasn't delivered on expectations so many times before that it's hard to give him another try right away.  Bennett  is probably the best 2nd TE New England has had since Aaron Hernandez and could allow the Pats to run 2-TE sets more often, but I don't think he'll be reliable, at least not right off the bat. Just keep these guys in mind as the season moves along, as they could come in handy.