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Tight End Rankings - Standard Leagues (Updated)

Heath offers a fresh look at his standard league tight end rankings.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year I focused solely on tight ends during the fantasy football season. Here is a recap of what I observed. And here lies my first take on standard tight end rankings, but that has been a whopping three weeks ago. Much has changed since then, so it is in this space that I offer my humble revision. Please agree or disagree if you will. Conversations centered around different points of view can make each of us better in the fake game. Moving on...

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Jordan Reed

3. Greg Olsen

There are no surprises in my upper echelon. I can see the argument for posting the ueber-consistent Olsen a spot ahead of Reed, but any player can get hurt at any point in the violent NFL, including Olsen. As such, I prefer to draft the player with more upside and let the injuries sort themselves out how they will. Reed is currently healthy, so he is my current #2 tight end. If you want to play the "what if" game with injuries, feel free. But I am playing for today.

4. Coby Fleener

5. Zach Ertz

6. Delanie Walker

7. Gary Barnidge

8. Travis Kelce

9. Antonio Gates

10. Julius Thomas

11. Dwayne Allen

This is a large tier in my opinion. Any one of these guys could easily make the leap into the Top 5 this season. Fleener has the most upside, despite all the negative chatter out of Saints camp recently. He is a superior athlete to Benjamin Watson, and Watson was the TE8 last season (825/6). Ertz already had the receptions (75) and the yardage (853) last season. All he lacks is the scoring, but the Eagles are thin in the receiving group and have already mentioned getting Ertz more involved in the red zone this year. That, coupled with his strong finish in 2015 have me buying a potential breakout year.

You may think I am bearish on Travis Kelce, but he was the TE7 last season (875/5). With Jamaal Charles back healthy and the emergence of Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West last season, I don’t see any reason for the Chiefs to begin to pepper Kelce with more targets. There’s some guy named Jeremy Maclin they like there, too. Only a litany of injuries to the Chiefs skill positions would vault Kelce into the elite tier. And again, I’m not in the habit of predicting injuries.

Gates, Thomas, and Allen are all similar players to me. The only question is: who will remain healthy? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll slot the inner circle Hall-of-Fame tight end at the top of this trio and work outward from there. Gates is an elite red zone threat, even if most of his speed is sapped at this point in his career.

12. Martellus Bennett

13. Jared Cook

14. Eric Ebron

15. Zach Miller

16. Charles Clay

17. Tyler Eifert

I know giving one’s self a nickname is generally considered inappropriate, but "The Black Unicorn" is here to stay, folks. As is the return of the two-TE set by these mismatch-crazy New England Patriots. I like Bennett to just crack the Top 12 this season, in large part due to the scoring upside that the Patriots offense offers.

If you are surprised by the Jared Cook ranking, just know that Richard Rodgers is a lesser athlete who finished with a 510/8 line as A-Rod’s starting tight end in 2015, good for TE9 overall. That has to be the quietest Top 10 tight end performance of all time...right? Anyway, you might say that the return of Jordy Nelson is enough reason to downgrade Cook’s potential—i.e. Rodgers would have had less opportunity if Jordy were healthy in 2015, and Jordy is healthy now, so less opportunity for Cook. And while I do hear that argument, I view it another way—I see it as a reason to upgrade Aaron Rodgers from his QB7 output last season. This season Rodgers will hop right back up to the upper tier where he belongs, aided by the considerable talents of a healthy Nelson, a free-to-roam Randall Cobb, and the best receiving tight end in Green Bay since the days of Jermichael Finley.

Eifert’s consensus ranking at FantasyPros is TE11, but I am always bearish on injury returns. Now that the prediction is 4 to 6 weeks, I lean towards the longer timeframe. Also, the Bengals have a Week 9 bye, so that’s another week to knock off of Eifert’s scoring potential. Even if you predict nine healthy games, that’s about 35 receptions, 420 yards, and however many touchdowns the big man amasses. If he scores 5 touchdowns, that line would have been roughly TE16 last season (Zach Miller was TE16 had a 439/5 total). I love Eifert and his red zone dominance but the injury concern is already present and we’ve not even begun yet...

18. Vance McDonald

19. Will Tye

20. Austin Seferian-Jenkins

21. Clive Walford

22. Virgil Green

23. Jason Witten

24. Ladarius Green

25. Jimmy Graham

26. Maxx Williams

27. Kyle Rudolph

28. Cameron Brate

29. Jesse James

30. Tyler Higbee

I would be worried about a team's chances if it's starting tight end was any of the above guys. I suppose you could make a case for Witten as a low-end TE1 based on his really boring dependability, but the loss of Romo for what sounds like half of the season is a negative development. I think that will be Zeke's team now, as the Cowboys run a ball control offense and should attempt to lessen the burden on rookie QB Dak Prescott.

The real mover here (if there is one) could be Maxx Williams, who was oft-compared to one Heath Miller and now has a golden opportunity due to the loss of Benjamin Watson for the season. The Baltimore skill positions are all a puzzle, but whoever rises to the top is going to offer some value. I have some Williams on at least one MFL10 squad and will likely have him on some deeper rosters this season.

Finally, the waters around Ladarius Green and Jimmy Graham are still murky. Obviously both players possess a ton of upside, but both are currently sidelined and the season begins in a week's time. At least with Eifert we have a clear timetable. With these two guys, who knows? I prefer to let them be someone else's headache this season. There is enough injury risk in the fake game. There's no sense in adding more to your roster from the onset.