We're sailing in uncharted waters in 2012 where the tight end position is concerned in fantasy football.
The record-setting season put up by Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots and the gaudy stats posted by Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints a season ago has caused what was once unthinkable to happen, with one and sometimes both players being selected in the first round of fantasy drafts.
However, if just the thought of taking a tight end with your first pick is enough to buckle your knees, you can still find fantastic value at the position later in drafts, including this threesome of pass-catchers that includes a mortal lock first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
If there's one player at any position whose average draft position has left me shaking my head with disbelief, it's easily tight end Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons, who according to MyFantasyLeague.com is currently being selected as the 11th tight end off fantasy draft boards in the 10th round.
Granted, Gonzalez is 36 years old, but this draft slot flies in the face of "Gonzo's" statistical production from a year ago. In 2011 Gonzalez reeled in 80 passes for 875 yards and seven touchdowns, which was enough to place him fourth at his position in fantasy points.
That production, coupled with Gonzalez's remarkable durability (he's missed only two games in 15 seasons) combines to make his relatively low ADP all the more puzzling, and Gonzalez is an absolutely ridiculous value at his present sticker price.
Fred Davis, Washington Redskins
Fifth-year tight end Fred Davis of the Washington Redskins appeared to be well on the way to joining the elite fantasy options at his position last year, reeling in 59 passes for 796 yards through the season's first 12 games.
However, Davis' breakout 2011 campaign came to a very unceremonious end, as the 26-year-old was sidelined for the last four games of the season after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
The threat of another, even longer suspension in certainly a consideration this year, and that concern is reflected in Davis' ADP. He currently being drafted in the seventh round as the ninth player at his position chosen.
With that said, Davis' statistical output a year ago was enough to place him fifth among tight ends in fantasy points per game, and as the underneath outlet for rookie quarterback Robert Griffin this season with the Redskins, Davis has a very good shot at at least backing those numbers up in 2012.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
If there's a trendy "sleeper" pick among fantasy pundits at the tight end position, it's likely second-year pro Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings, who had a relatively quiet rookie season last year with 26 receptions for 249 yards and three scores.
The former Notre Dame standout has drawn raves from those in attendance at Vikings' training camp this year, with starting quarterback Christian Ponder among those who has been singing Rudolph's praises, according to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"He gets open," Ponder said, simply. "And if he's barely open, I'm going to give him the ball. He has such great mismatches and he has such a catching radius it's unbelievable."
Even with all the positive reports swirling around Rudolph, his fantasy price tag is still very reasonable. Rudolph is presently being selected as the 17th tight end in the 13th round of fantasy drafts this season, making him an excellent "flyer" type, especially for fantasy owners who waited a while before drafting their starter at tight end.
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