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Fantasy Football: Top 25 Tight Ends in Points Per Reception Leagues

Jay ClemonsFantasy Sports Lead WriterAugust 3, 2012

Fantasy Football: Top 25 Tight Ends in Points Per Reception Leagues

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    The following slideshow is my current assessment of the top 25 tight ends in points per reception leagues, a listing that doesn't adequately recognize the proficiency of veterans Scott Chandler, Dallas Clark, Anthony Fasano, Brandon Myers, Kellen Davis, Kevin Boss, Todd Heap, Tony Moeaki, Evan Moore, Ben Watson, Jake Ballard, Visanthe Shiancoe or Tony Scheffler.

    It also doesn't presume top-12 greatness for Jacob Tamme or Joel Dreessen in Denver's offense, even though the Broncos encountered a serious upgrade at quarterback during the offseason (Peyton Manning).

    But hey, there will be plenty of time to adjust these rankings before Labor Day.

    Enjoy the show!

25: Martellus Bennett, New York Giants

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    2011 Stats: 17 Catches, 144 Yards, 0 TDs, 26 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. A four-year backup to Jason Witten in Dallas (2008-11), Martellus Bennett may have found the perfect landing spot with the Giants, a club long on big-name receivers and running backs but short on prospective starts at tight end (Bear Pascoe/Adrien Robinson).

    2. Bennett theoretically has a clear shot at winning the job, racking up career-highs in catches, yards and touchdowns and developing a substantial rapport with QB Eli Manning.

    3. There's a reason why the Cowboys spent a second-round draft pick (30th overall) on Bennett back in 2008, even with Witten just hitting his prime years. Bennett has the size, speed and raw power to overwhelm the opposition—especially against noticeably smaller defensive backs.

24: Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams

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    2011 Stats: 28 Catches, 352 Yards, 0 TDs, 58 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. For the fantasy owners who draft Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham—the NFL's best tight ends—they'll likely opt for "upside" with their backup tight end, preferably in Rounds 14, 15 or even 16. Enter Lance Kendricks, whose impressive physical attributes (6'3", 247 pounds, good speed and solid hands) are bolstered by the fact that the Rams don't have a clear-cut No. 1, 2 or 3 receiver.

    2. As a rookie in 2011, Kendricks had a good preseason for the Rams, but he then finished the regular season with a meager 28 catches for 352 yards—including a seasonal best of four catches for 71 yards in Week 5 (vs. Green Bay).

    3. In the latter rounds, fantasy owners won't be reluctant to take a late-round flier on a talent with a second-year ceiling of 45 catches, 510 yards and five touchdowns.

23: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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    2011 Stats: 45 Catches, 540 Yards, 5 TDs, 89 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. For Weeks 3-11 last year (spanning eight games), Greg Olsen drew seven or more targets six times (three double-digit efforts), while collecting 32 receptions and three touchdowns.

    2. Last season, Olsen passed the acceptable PPR threshold of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown six times.

    3. In the last four years (Chicago/Carolina), Olsen has averaged 50 catches, 533 yards, 5.75 TDs and 87 targets, numbers befitting of a stealth tight end who's in the middle of his prime years.

22: Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    2011 Stats: 39 Catches, 460 Yards, 0 TDs, 85 Targets

     

    2 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Marcedes Lewis fell woefully short of expectations last season, catching only 39 balls for 460 yards and zero touchdowns (compared to 58 catches, 700 yards and 10 TDs in 2010). But to become that obsolete so quickly, Lewis, unfortunately, needed some help along the way. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert simply wasn't ready for a full season's worth of starting reps.

    2. On the positive side, Lewis has averaged 86.5 targets the last two seasons, and in 2011, he posted back-to-back weeks of double-digit targets (23) with 35 in a four-game spurt (Weeks 8-12). This reveals the burgeoning level of trust between Gabbert and Lewis.

21: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

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    2011 Stats: 26 Catches, 249 Yards, 3 TDs, 39 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Kyle Rudolph's stats from his rookie season are better to scrutinize from Weeks 8 to 17, once he logged more playing time and garnered consistent reps. In that span, he had per-game averages of 3.25 targets and 0.38 TDs.

    2. With John Carlson incurring a knee sprain during training camp, Rudolph will likely see the vast majority of the Vikings' tight-end reps in August. Hopefully, that'll translate to a fast start to the regular season.

    3. Speaking of which, with games against Indianapolis, Jacksonville, San Francisco and Detroit to open the 2012 campaign, the Christian Ponder-led Vikings are reasonable bets to average 28 pass attempts in September.

20: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

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    2011 Stats: 43 Catches, 579 Yards, 7 TDs, 73 Targets



    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. At Stanford, Coby Fleener elicited many physical comparisons to another Pac-10 (or Pac-12) tight end, Arizona's Rob Gronkowski. Given his size, speed, athleticism and solid hands, Fleener has the capacity to be a top-10 fantasy tight end within three years.

    2. Fleener also has the immediate benefit of catching balls from Stanford teammate Andrew Luck, who has the stuff to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback within three years.

    3. From a distance, it appears the Colts' passing game will rely heavily on receivers Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Donnie Avery, rookie T.Y. Hilton and, of course, Fleener. This runs in concert with the belief that Indy (2-14 last season) will endure a slew of second-half deficits this year as well.

19: Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    2011 Stats: 51 Catches, 631 Yards, 2 TDs, 74 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Heath Miller encountered a noticeable bump in targets (74), catches (51) and receiving yards (631) last year compared to the 2010 season.

    2. Last season, Miller also crossed the acceptable PPR threshold of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown six times (seven if you include the Steelers' Wild Card loss to the Broncos).

    3. The uncertainty of Pittsburgh's rushers—from Rashard Mendenhall (rehabbing from a torn ACL last January) to Isaac Redman (142 total yards vs. Denver in the playoffs) and Jonathan Dwyer—should open up more red-zone opportunities for Miller.

18: Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

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    2011 Stats: 54 Catches, 677 Yards, 3 TDs, 84 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. In 10 games with Texans QB Matt Schaub last season, Owen Daniels averaged 3.7 catches, 5.5 targets, 47.8 yards and 0.30 TDs.

    2. All told, Daniels had five games of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown; he also had five games of six-plus targets (including two double-digit efforts).

    3. Daniels (per-season averages: 50 catches, 3.3 TDs) may be marginally better with Schaub in the lineup (compared to T.J. Yates), but he's still a middling talent whose single greatest attribute might be avoiding goose eggs from Sunday to Sunday.

17: Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens

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    2011 Stats: 54 Catches, 528 Yards, 5 TDs, 89 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. In Week 10 against the Seahawks last year, Ed Dickson pulled off a 10-catch, 79-yard, two-TD heist, eliciting two hard questions that still haven't been answered:

    a. Were Dickson's 14 targets the result of a game plan that didn't intentionally feature tailback Ray Rice (13 total touches)—or did the Ravens' early deficit prompt the heavy workload?

    b. Was Dickson extra-motivated to perform well in Seattle, the closest NFL city to Eugene, Ore., home of his alma mater, the University of Oregon?

    2. Dickson had four games of nine or more targets last season, the calling card of a physically gifted talent who garners weekly consideration in the Ravens' game plan.

    3. He also crossed the acceptable PPR threshold of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown five times last year.

16: Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans

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    2011 Stats: 49 Catches, 759 Yards, 3 TDs, 81 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. In his final three games last season—coming off back-to-back games of zero receptions—Jared Cook tallied 21 catches, 26 targets, 335 yards and one touchdown.

    2. Last year, Cook collected six or more targets eight times. He also crossed the acceptable PPR threshold of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown four times.

    3. Entering his fourth NFL season, the 25-year-old Cook (6'5", 248 pounds) has the requisite size, speed and hands to be an elite tight end sooner than later. With the Titans transitioning to QB Jake Locker at some point in 2012, this could be Cook's breakout campaign.

15: Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos

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    2011 Stats: 19 Catches, 177 Yards, 1 TD, 31 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. In years past, neither Jacob Tamme (67 catches, 631 yards and 4 TD with Indy in 2010) nor Joel Dreessen (28 catches, 353 yards and 6 TD with Houston last year) has had a year-by-year chance to showcase their skills for their respective clubs, but this opportunity in Denver has nothing but upside.

    2. Tamme already has a built-in rapport with new Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who famously engineered the Colts offense from 1998-2011.

    3. This could be huge. In 2010, Tamme averaged 10.1 targets, 6.7 catches, 63.1 yards and 0.25 TDs in his 10-game stint as the Colts' No. 1 tight end. For that year, Tamme had a streak of five consecutive games of six-plus catches (including 11 in Week 9); he also had three straight games of double-digit targets.

14: Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals

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    2011 Stats: 56 Catches, 596 Yards, 6 TDs, 92 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. 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, well, roughly the same thing. Yes, Gresham made across-the-board improvements in his age-23 season, but the numbers were curiously similar to 2010.

    2. Gresham tallied eight games of seven or more targets last year. Of equal importance, his targets never dipped below five at any point.

    3. Given his steady progress, Gresham is a reasonable bet for 63 catches, 640 yards, six TDs and 100 targets. For Weeks 13-16, Gresham could (or should) be a fantasy-playoff starter in 12-team leagues.

13: Kellen Winslow Jr., Seattle Seahawks

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    2011 Stats: 75 Catches, 763 Yards, 2 TDs, 121 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. From a receptions and yardage standpoint, Kellen Winslow profiles as a top-10 tight end in PPR leagues.

    2. Winslow collected seven or more targets 10 times last year; he also crossed the acceptable PPR threshold of five catches, 65 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times.

    3. This is a big season for Winslow (75 catches, 763 yards, two TDs last year), who signed with the Seahawks in the spring. It may even define the second half of his career—assuming he's ready to make the Buccaneers pay for releasing him with little warning.

12: Dustin Keller, New York Jets

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    2011 Stats: 65 Catches, 815 Yards, 5 TDs, 115 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Dustin Keller is one of the few members of this countdown to post 10-catch improvements in the last two seasons.

    2. In 2011, Keller tallied nine games of seven-plus targets, including a career-best 18 against the Eagles in Week 16 (8 catches/77 yards). For the year, Keller also crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown five times.

    3. Heading into his fifth NFL season, Keller has proven to be an annual lock for 100-plus targets and five touchdowns.

11: Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

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    2011 Stats: 59 Catches, 796 Yards, 3 TDs, 88 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. It should be noted that Fred Davis posted solid stats (59 catches, 796 yards, three TDs last year) in just 12 games last season (missed the final four due to suspension). That's a per-outing average of 4.9 catches, 66.3 yards, 0.25 TDs and 7.33 targets.

    2. In the 12 games, Davis had a 75-percent success rate of reaching the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown eight times.

    3. Davis should have no problem hitting 70 catches, 900 yards and six touchdowns if he keeps the off-field shenanigans to a minimum.

10: Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

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    2011 Stats: 62 Catches, 811 Yards, 5 TDs, 97 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. For the sake of convenience, let's ignore Brent Celek's de facto disappearance from the Eagles offense for Weeks 1-5. Instead, we'll focus on his top-10 production for Weeks 6-17—53 catches, 78 targets, 738 yards and five touchdowns.

    2. In those final 10 games, Celek crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown eight times.

    3. With Michael Vick starting at least 13 games this year, Celek would be a safe bet to match or eclipse his numbers from 2009 (76 catches, 971 yards, eight TDs). If he should pull that off, this conservative ranking will look foolish by season's end.

9: Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

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    2011 Stats: 80 Catches, 875 Yards, 7 TDs, 116 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Need more proof of how deep the tight ends are in PPR leagues? Tony Gonzalez is coming off his sixth season of 80-plus catches, and yet he could only garner a No. 9 ranking here.

    2. Gonzo crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times last season. Of equal importance, he racked up seven or more targets 11 times, including three double-digit efforts in the span of five weeks.

    3. To cap off a Hall of Fame career, I fully expect Gonzo to be in the neighborhood of 74 catches, 907 yards and six TDs in his final NFL season.

8: Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

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    2011 Stats: 55 Catches, 767 Yards, 8 TDs, 92 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Jermichael Finley is a safe bet to collect more yards and touchdowns than Tony Gonzalez and Brandon Pettigrew. He is also the likeliest of the trio to notch multiple TDs two or three times in 2012.

    2. Last season, Finley crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown seven times.

    3. Finley, who apparently slimmed down from last season, is a healthy lock for 64 catches, 867 yards and nine TDs.

7: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    2011 Stats: 79 Catches, 942 Yards, 5 TDs, 117 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Jason Witten tallied seven or more targets nine times last year; in that span, he also crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times.

    2. Even with a decline in numbers over time, Witten has registered at least 79 catches, 942 yards and 117 targets in each of the last five seasons.

    3. For the first time since 2007, fantasy owners won't hold any preseason delusions of Witten collecting 95 catches and/or nine touchdowns for a full season; as a result, he'll be a great PPR value some time in Round 6 or 7.

6: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    2011 Stats: 67 Catches, 792 Yards, 6 TDs, 95 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Vernon Davis earned this lofty ranking on the strength of two monster playoff games last year (10 catches, 292 yards, four TDs)—not necessarily the regular-season stats that preceded the explosion (67 catches, 792 yards, six TDs).

    2. For the regular season, Davis collected seven-plus targets seven times, and in that span, he also crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown seven times.

    3. Davis's top-six status also comes with the assumption that receivers Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss won't drastically cut into Vernon's red-zone opportunities, a reasonable assertion with QB Alex Smith orchestrating the San Francisco attack.

5: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions

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    2011 Stats: 83 Catches, 777 Yards, 5 TDs, 126 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. There's really no secret to what makes Brandon Pettigrew tick—he loves getting red-zone touches and keeping NFL officials at arm's length. Humor aside, Pettigrew's top-five production in targets and receptions last year was quite commendable, especially when factoring in Calvin Johnson's all-pro magic with the Lions (96 catches, 1,681 yards, 16 TDs).

    2. Pettigrew collected seven-plus targets nine times last season, including five double-digit efforts, three of which came in consecutive games during Weeks 15 through 17. For the year, he also reached the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown eight times.

    For good measure, BP is also Matthew Stafford's second favorite target.

    3. This kid was genetically engineered for PPR leagues, and fantasy owners should make every effort to land him sometime in Round 6.

4: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

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    2011 Stats: 79 Catches, 910 Yards, 7 TDs, 113 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. It seems out of whack to include two guys from the same team in a top-four listing of PPR tight ends. But who could possibly formulate an argument against Aaron Hernandez at this spot? In just 14 games last year, Hernandez (79 catches, 910 yards, seven TDs) ranked among the top eight in receptions, yards, touchdowns and targets (113).

    2. Speaking of targets, Hernandez racked up seven or more 10 times during the regular season; he also had a total of 25 for the AFC title game and the Super Bowl. In that span, he also crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown 10 times.

    3. Of equal importance, Hernandez trumped his weekly competition at tight end roughly seven times last season, tallying at least eight points on those weekends.

    Targets: 76 catches, 934 yards and nine TDs.

3: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

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    2011 Stats: 64 Catches, 778 Yards, 7 TDs, 88 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Have you seen the training camp photos of Antonio Gates this summer? He looks at least 20 pounds lighter from last season—and I don't ever recall thinking he was heavy or too bulky back then.

    2. Extrapolating Gates' 13-game numbers from last year for the full season, he would have finished with 80 catches, 957 yards, nine touchdowns and 108 targets. Even with persistent injuries in 2011, Gates was still on pace for a typical year of elite production.

    3. For the season, Gates collected seven or more targets seven times. In that span, he crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown eight times—for an overall success rate of 62 percent.

    Bottom line: With Vincent Jackson no longer part of the Chargers, I would be shocked if a slimmer, healthier and more focused Gates didn't register double-digit touchdowns in 2012.

1a: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    2011 Stats: 99 Catches, 1,310 Yards, 11 TDs, 149 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. Instead of listing Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham as 1 and 2 here, the more appropriate classification should be "1" and "1A." How else would one characterize the greatness of Graham and his Wes Welker-esque 149 targets (from 2011) in a PPR preview?

    2. Including the Saints' two playoff games last season, Graham was a perfect 18-for-18 in registering seven or more targets per game. Quite simply, that prodigious run may never be replicated in NFL circles.

    3. For the regular season, Graham crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown 14 times—tops among all NFL tight ends, including the AFC's pre-eminent talent.

1: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    2011 Stats: 90 Catches, 1,327 Yards, 18 TDs, 124 Targets

     

    3 Reasons To Support This Prophecy

    1. It's impossible to dole out a No. 2 ranking to a supreme talent like Rob Gronkowski, who's coming off an all-time season of 90 catches, 1,327 yards and 18 total TDs (one rushing).

    2. In 2011, Gronkowski racked up seven-plus targets 10 times (plus two more occasions in the AFC playoffs); in that span, he also crossed the elite PPR threshold of six catches, 75 yards and/or one touchdown 13 times—tops among all AFC tight ends. And from Weeks 9-14 (spanning six games), Gronk amazingly amassed 35 catches, 53 targets, 593 yards and 10 touchdowns!

    3. Gronkowski's red-letter day of the 2011 campaign didn't even come in the regular season. In the divisional playoff round, he dissected Denver for 10 catches, 145 yards and three touchdowns.

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