AccuScore, a company that specializes in thorough game simulations, has released its initial projections for the 2012 NFL season.
These 30 tight ends, based solely on AccuScore projections (not mine), will collect more than 400 receiving yards this season:
(I'll have a rankings slideshow for tight ends in points-per-reception leagues next week.)
1. Antonio Gates, Chargers—1,103 yards
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots—1,058
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys—1,034
4. Jimmy Graham, Saints—988
5. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons—834
6. Fred Davis, Redskins—783
7. Jermichael Finley, Packers—748
8. Vernon Davis, 49ers—741
9. Dustin Keller, Jets—728
10. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots—727
11. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals—702
12. Coby Fleener, Colts—681
13. Dallas Clark, Buccaneers—681
14. Owen Daniels, Texans—668
15. Heath Miller, Steelers—658
AccuScore starts out with a bang—or a shot heard 'round the fantasy world—by declaring that Antonio Gates (64 catches, 787 yards, 7 TDs last year) will be the seasonal yardage leader. As an aside, Gates has only eclipsed the 1,103-yard mark once in his borderline Hall of Fame career (2009). To counter that stat, Gates has enjoyed a range of seven to 13 touchdowns for eight consecutive seasons.
- New England's Gronkowski had 10 games of 78 yards receiving or more last year, including six triple-digit efforts for the regular season and playoffs. So I sincerely doubt that Gronk will average just 66.13 yards per game in 2012.
- With New Orleans, Jimmy Graham also had 10 games of 78 yards receiving or more last year. That means he'd have to endure a major slump—without Sean Payton calling plays for the Saints—to finish below the 1,000-yard mark (assuming full health).
- The fantasy optimist would say that, in just two NFL seasons, Jermaine Gresham has become a reliable source for 4.5 catches, 7.5 targets, 55 yards and 0.4 TDs every week. The fantasy pessimist, in turn, would say—roughly the same thing. Yes, Gresham (56 catches, 596 yards, six TDs last year) made across-the-board improvements in his age-23 season, but the numbers were curiously similar to 2010.
- If I was a betting man, I'd buy the 'over' for Aaron Hernandez (projected for 727 yards) and Dustin Keller (728) and 'under' for Heath Miller (projected for 658 yards).
16. Brent Celek, Eagles—651 yards
17. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions—640
18. Jared Cook, Titans—583
19. Jacob Tamme, Broncos—554
20. Martellus Bennett, Giants—549
21. Benjamin Watson, Browns—513
22. Todd Heap, Cardinals—505
23. Greg Olsen, Panthers—493
24. Tony Moeaki, Chiefs—472
25. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins—470
26. Dennis Pitta, Ravens—469
27. Ed Dickson, Ravens—442
28. Joel Dreessen, Broncos—437
29. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars—408
30. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings—404
- Noticeably absent from this list: Kellen Winslow, Lance Kendricks, Evan Moore, Luke Stocker, Tony Scheffler, John Carlson, Scott Chandler, Kevin Boss and Colts rookie Dwayne Allen.
- Tennessee's Jared Cook had two December goose eggs on his 2011 resume. But his response to that short-term infamy led to a top-20 ranking on my board—21 catches for 335 yards and one touchdown in the final three weeks.
- I'm not the greatest admirer of Kellen Winslow in standard-scoring leagues, but he has certainly earned the right to be earmarked for more than 400 yards with Seattle. From 2009-11, Winslow averaged 66 catches, 792.3 yards and four touchdowns for Tampa Bay.
- If Tony Moeaki wasn't coming off a season-ending injury, he would probably rate as a top-10 asset in receiving yards and touchdowns. In his only season with the Chiefs, Moeaki caught 47 balls for 556 yards and three TDs.
- I have no super-confident proclamations of how Dallas Clark will fare in Tampa Bay. Yes, he's just three seasons removed from a 100-catch, 1,106-yard, 10-TD campaign with the Colts; and yes, Bucs head coach Greg Schiano, historically speaking, favors a conservative passing game, which may allow for more Clark opportunities in the red zone. But we're still talking about an aging asset (Clark turned 33 in June) who's only played 16 total games in the last two seasons due to injury. On the positive side, Clark caught 71 balls for 699 yards and five TDs during that 16-game stretch.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.