Fantasy Football 2012: Top 5 Tight Ends to Target in the NFC East
While the NFC East is full of intriguing prospects you’ll want to acquire during your quest for fantasy glory, this segment zeroes in on the tight ends of the division.
Although tight end talent is plentiful amongst these four teams, it is not evenly spread.
As you continue to read, you’ll begin to notice that two non-starters have made their way onto this list at the expense of one giant omission (pun intended).
5. Clay Harbor, Philadelphia
As the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 2 tight end, one may assume that Clay Harbor’s fantasy value is directly linked to the health of Brent Celek, but this is far from the truth.
With left tackle Jason Peters expected to miss the entire season, Philadelphia will utilize Harbor as another blocker to alleviate quarterback pressure.
After experiencing plenty of success in 2011, the Eagles are looking to employ more two tight end sets this season. This means that Harbor should be on the field for more than just 29.7 percent of all offensive snaps in 2012, and will see his opportunities rise dramatically.
The 6’3” tight end should become a solid red-zone option for Michael Vick and receive a healthy number of targets with such dangerous weapons surrounding him.
Keep the third-year pro on your fantasy radar, but don’t roster him until he’s proven to be reliable.
4. John Phillips, Dallas
After a promising rookie season, John Phillips missed all of 2010 with a torn ACL. This upcoming season marks the second year that the fourth-year pro will be removed from that injury.
Martellus Bennett’s departure to the New York Giants means that Phillips gets an automatic upgrade in playing time and fantasy value.
As the third tight end on last year’s team, Phillips spent time lining up as a blocker and in the backfield. His ability to play Jason Garrett’s hybrid H-back position makes him even more difficult to account for on a team with playmakers at every position.
Since it’s no secret that Tony Romo has an affinity for his tight ends, you can safely bet that Phillips will become a targeted commodity in more ways than one.
3. Brent Celek, Philadelphia
On a Philadelphia Eagles team with explosive wideouts and an emerging star at running back, the man in the middle is often overlooked.
Although fantasy owners had to wait until Week 8 for Brent Celek to amass 50 receiving yards in one game, he is not just some consolation prize for those who miss out on the elite class of fantasy tight ends.
By overcoming a slow start, Celek finished the year strong and collected 62 receptions, 811 yards and five touchdowns while playing the entire season with a sports hernia and torn labrum in his left hip.
After undergoing successful offseason surgery to fix both nagging injuries, he should return as a top candidate to make his first Pro Bowl and as one of the most reliable options at his position.
2. Jason Witten, Dallas
Jason Witten has been in discussions as the No. 1 fantasy tight end for nearly a decade, but isn’t the one to target in the NFC East. His team’s high profile and renowned reputation work against him by inflating his average draft position, which tricks owners into overpaying for his services.
We’ve already previously mentioned the expected impact that teammate John Phillips is going to have, but the chances of Witten falling outside of the first three tight ends selected in your draft remains slim.
This is largely in part due to his durability and consistency. Not including his rookie season, Witten has played in every single game and averaged over 82 receptions, 945 yards and five touchdowns during the past eight years.
If you prefer to pay a premium price for a safe option at tight end, by all means, stick with Witten.
1. Fred Davis, Washington
It’s not often you find a tight end that gets targeted like a No. 1 wide receiver, but Fred Davis is definitely that kind of commodity. Before serving his four-game suspension to close out the season, Davis was on pace for 79 receptions, 1,048 yards, four touchdowns and 117 targets.
With Jammal Brown, Kory Lichtensteiger and Trent Williams returning to the offensive line as starters and Robert Griffin III taking over quarterback duties, expect Davis to truly break out during his first year atop the depth chart.
As RGIII transitions to the professional level, the fifth-year USC product will be expected to act as his safety valve. This in turn will allow Davis ample opportunities to become the dynamic playmaker he’s already shown he can be.
If you’re looking for a tight end that comes with a limitless ceiling and is his team’s top receiving threat, skip all the brand names during your draft and go with “Freddy Franchise.”
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