Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski proved the fantasy football value of a strong tight end in 2011, with both putting up numbers that would make some wide receivers jealous.
What's more, for a position seemingly shallow in terms of talent (with "only" 32 starters really), there are a lot of quality tight ends playing this year, all benefiting from the game turning into aerial assaults.
There are five TEs going in later rounds that could factor into you winning your league, while also allowing you to double-down on the other positions in early draft rounds.
These aren't exactly "sleepers," a word that's lost all of its aura as fantasy football has become more popular with mainstream audiences. They are just players who could have a big year and give you enough points from the TE position to win it all.
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas likely celebrated in great fashion, knowing they no longer had Tim Tebow attempting to throw to them. Manning likes to spread the ball around though, especially to his tight ends. Enter Jacob Tamme.
Tamme had the luxury of playing with Peyton for four years in Indy, behind some other guy named Dallas Clark. In 2010, despite not being the starter, Tamme still came away with 631 YDs and four TDs, both more than serviceable numbers from a TE.
Expect Peyton to look to Tamme early and often, especially in two-minute drills. It wouldn't be surprising to see Tamme used similarly to how Clark was used.
Tamme is typically available in the ninth round.
Familiarity is said to breed contempt, but don't expect that to be the case when it comes to Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck.
Fleener saw his numbers rise steadily over four years at Stanford, finishing his senior year with 667 YDs and 10 TDs.
He's already showing great stuff in the preseason, in all facets of the game. Luck seems to like going with what he knows and he knows Fleener.
Considering the Colts are in rebuilding mode, Chuck Pagano will likely want to keep Luck comfortable. Going to a reliable teammate is a great way to start.
Fleener is typically available in the 13th round.
Tony Moeaki showed promise in his 2010 rookie campaign, finishing the season with 556 YDs and three TDs. His trip to the IR in 2011 curtailed the possibility of improving on those numbers. Well, maybe not curtailed, but definitely delayed.
Moeaki is looking for an improved 2012 and he'll likely have one as the Chiefs No. 1 TE option. With Jonathan Baldwin and Dwayne Bowe on the outside and Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis on the inside, the Chiefs actually look to have a decent offense.
As TE, Moeaki will see his share of passes thrown his way. Assuming he doubles his 2010 reception total of 47, it's possible he finishes the year with 1,000 YDs and six TDs. Who wouldn't want that from their TE?
Moeaki will likely be yours for a 15th round (or later) asking price.
You might already be aware of this, but Matthew Stafford is a pretty good QB. Calvin Johnson is quite possibly the best WR out there. And Kevin Smith is, well, Kevin Smith.
The Lions look to have a rather prolific passing offense with Megatron, Titus Young, Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew catching everything. It's Pettigrew who bears watching here though.
In 2011, Pettigrew finished the year with 777 YDs and five TDs. And that was with Megatron leading all receivers in the league with nearly 1,700 YDs and 16 TDs. The point? Stafford likes to throw.
Stafford is gaining entry into the top-five fantasy QB conversation and Pettigrew is one of the players who will benefit most from his rise to stardom. The nearest player in competition with him is Tony Scheffler, but it's Pettigrew who will be the TE star in Detroit.
The inconsistent running game does raise a few question marks, but at the very least you can expect Pettigrew to see quite a few passes thrown his way.
Pettigrew is going in the ninth round.
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera knows a thing or two about TEs. He spent the better part of four years watching one of the league's best in Antonio Gates while at San Diego. Now, Rivera has the privilege of watching Cam Newton astound the league with his skills and he wants a TE to match.
In 2012, Olsen looks poised for a big, big year. Greg Olsen had a career year in 2009, with 612 YDs and eight TDs. With Newton driving defenders crazy and a three-headed RBBC of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert, teams will have nightmares defending the Panthers offense.
Olsen stands to benefit from this, as all the attention paid behind the offensive line will free him up for screen passes with the potential for YAC. Olsen's the main TE in Carolina, thanks to the ever-mercurial Jeremy Shockey.
Shockey took about half of the stats last year from Olsen. While Olsen finished 2011 with 540 YDs and five TDs, Shockey had 455 YDs and four TDs. Combine the two and you're looking at a player with 995 YDs and 9 TDs.
Obviously, it's never that simple, and it's possible Olsen wilts under the pressure. Chances are though, he'll have a career year in 2012 and is a player who could shore up your TE position.
Olsen will likely be around in the 13th round.