With so many tight ends making an impact in their respective NFL offenses, the crop of fantasy options at the position is deeper than what most fantasy leagues require as starters.
That makes getting value in a trade for an elite tight end exceedingly difficult, as owners can usually stream options with favorable matchups from the waiver wire to rival elite guys’ production in a spot-start.
However, in deeper leagues, tight ends that are expected to perform well in a given week may not be available on the waiver wire.
There will also be tight ends that separate themselves from the rest of the position in the long haul.
Jimmy Graham did so last season, leading all tight ends in receptions with 99.
He ranked third in the NFL among all pass-catchers in that metric.
Below are the tight ends that I would like on my own roster for the rest of the season.
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: Graham, like many tight ends for their quarterbacks nowadays, is like another wide receiver for Drew Brees. He ranks sixth in the NFL in targets (23).
He also, with Dennis Pitta of the Baltimore Ravens, leads all tight ends with 13 receptions through the first two weeks of the season. Graham has already found the end zone twice this season.
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Aaron Hernandez’s injury has firmly positioned Gronkowski as Tom Brady’s No. 1 TE for the time being. Gronk has caught 80 percent of his 15 targets and, like Graham, has scored two touchdowns.
3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: The acquisition of the new talent at wide receiver in San Francisco has provided Davis with more room to roam in the middle of the field. He only has 12 targets through two games, but the playmaker has scored three touchdowns on eight receptions.
4. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: Gates was my No. 2 tight end entering the season. That prediction would have gotten off to a great start had he not been a late scratch against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, conceding three touchdowns to Dante Rosario in his absence.
He’s still a priority target for quarterback Philip Rivers, getting eight looks from the Chargers’ quarterback in Week 1.
5. Martellus Bennett, New York Giants: We have the benefit of seeing what Bennett can do in three games this season. Each time he has suited up for the Giants in a regular season game, No. 85 has gone home with a touchdown to his credit.
In a largely touchdown-dependent position, Bennett’s early-season consistency warrants must-start status for fantasy owners without one of the aforementioned tight ends.
6. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta ranks fifth in the NFL (and leads all tight ends) with 24 targets from quarterback Joe Flacco. He had 15 chances to come down with a ball in Week 2.
7. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles: The tight end on the other side of Pitta’s Week 2 matchup has seen 19 balls thrown his way in 2012. He leads the Eagles in targets.
8. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: I expect Pettigrew to have a monster game in Week 3 against the Titans. He’s second to Calvin Johnson on his team in targets with 14 through two weeks.
9. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons: The veteran is still relied upon by Matt Ryan. He has as many targets this year as Julio Jones (14).
10. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers: It’s frustrating to own Jermichael Finley if you watch the Packers play football. He leads the team in targets (so the opportunity is there) but ranks behind three of the team’s receivers in total fantasy points this season.
The reason why? Drops.
11. Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills: Chandler is the de facto No. 2 receiver for the Buffalo Bills. He’s second on the team in targets (11) and has a pair of touchdowns to his credit.
12. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts: Fleener looks like the third fiddle so far in the Colts’ passing game with 14 targets. He hasn’t scored a touchdown on the season yet—that honor went to fellow rookie Dwayne Allen on his only career reception (and target) to date.
13. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings: Rudolph is another example of a guy who’s second on his team in targets. He trails just Percy Harvin and is one of two Vikings to catch a touchdown this season.
The entrance of Jerome Simpson to the lineup in Week 4 might create more space for Rudolph to operate, but he could also lose targets from Christian Ponder.
14. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans: Cook is tied for second on his team with just 12 targets. Kind of surprising since the Titans have been playing from behind all season.
15. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: Witten leads the Cowboys in targets (15) but hasn’t yet produced much with them. He’s got six catches and 68 yards through two games.
16. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots: Here he is, post-injury. I know you’ve been looking for him.
17. Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos: Tamme is tied for third on the Broncos with just nine targets on the season from Peyton Manning.
18. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans: Daniels has three more targets thus far than teammate Andre Johnson. But Johnson leads Daniels in receptions (11 to 10), yards (140 to 134) and touchdowns (one to zero).
19. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals: Through two weeks, Gresham has been surpassed by receiver Andrew Hawkins in terms of production for the Bengals despite getting one more look from Andy Dalton.
But this is the A.J. Green show. Green has 10 more targets than second place Gresham.
20. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers: Olsen had a nice Week 3 game while Carolina was getting blown out at home by the Giants. He had seven grabs for 98 yards, which is more productive than his first two games (seven for 69) combined.