Our Fantasy guru, James Morris, has provide fantasy breakdowns of the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers in recent weeks, but now he turns his attention to a position that is becoming more and more important in fantasy football: the tight end. Check out his 2012 fantasy tight end rankings here:
1) Rob Gronkowski: Gronk is without question one of the top two players at the TE position, and almost never came off the field last season. I doubt he will repeat the 1,327 receiving yards he racked up last season, but 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10-plus TDs is realistic.
2) Jimmy Graham: Graham may be a safer pick at TE than Gronkowski given the fact that he has a better chance at targets because the Saints lack of true depth at WR. I foresee Graham mirroring his 2011 stats, and those are nothing to sneeze at.
3) Antonio Gates: The Chargers are featuring a WR corps of Robert Meachem, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal (Vincent Brown is out until mid-season at least), which means Gates will be a big part of the passing game. Gates hasn’t played 16 games in the last two years, but he looks healthy now and should be able to hit 75 receptions, 900 yards and 9 TDs.
4) Jermichael Finley: Over his career, Finley seems to have an intimate relationship with the injury bug. Then there is his inconsistent play and drops that plagued him last season. Physically speaking, Finley is probably the most gifted TE in the league and that gives him the ability to dominate games. With Rodgers throwing the ball to him, Finley is not a bad player to target in round 5.
5) Aaron Hernandez: The Patriots added Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth at WR, which means Hernandez won’t see the same amount of targets he did last season. However, I still see him getting the ball thrown his was 5-6 times a game and he will get a solid amount of TDs for a TE (6). Once you get passed Hernandez, the TE options get sketchy.
6) Vernon Davis: Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and A.J. Jenkins are going to take some of the targets, but Davis should still see his far share every game. Davis is more of a middle-of-the-pack TE, but once you see the run on TEs happen, you better grab one before you end up with Jermaine Gresham or Brandon Pettigrew.
7) Jason Witten: Witten isn’t the TE he once was in terms of production, and now he is dealing with a lacerated spleen that is leaving him questionable for week 1. The departure of Laurent Robinson should give him a small bump in production this season, but I don’t see any way he makes it into the top 5 for fantasy TEs by season’s end. I’d look for numbers right around 80 catches, 950 receiving yards and 5-6 TDs this season if Tony Romo can get his game right.
8) Fred Davis: If you miss out on the top-5 TEs, Davis isn’t a bad option given his importance in the Redskins offense. Chris Cooley is clearly the backup at TE, and Davis isn’t going to come off the field enough to make a difference. He won’t get as many yards as Witten, but he could go TD-for-TD with him.
9) Jacob Tamme: The best thing Tamme has going for him is Peyton Manning throwing the ball his way. With just Thomas and Eric Decker ahead of him for targets, Tamme is going to be a great value pick in the 10th round when he hauls in 75 catches, 800 yards and 6 TDs.
10) Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph is someone that I think Christian Ponder is going to lean on in the red zone, given his 6’6”, 258 LBS make-up. The Vikings offense is going to be a rollercoaster ride this season, but Rudolph might just be the fantasy sleeper at TE that you need to look at on draft day if you miss out on the top 5 TEs.
Honorable Mentions: Once you get out of the top-10 TEs, the cliff is steep. Tony Gonzalez is always a good bet for production, but at age 36, the decline is inevitable. Dustin Keller, Brent Celek, Greg Olsen and Jared Cook are all bunched in the borderline TE1/TE2 bubble. If you waited past the 10th round to draft a TE, you shouldn’t be expecting much in terms of production anyhow.
For more fantasy guidance, you can follow James Morris on Twitter @Fantasyguy23
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