Predicting the Top 10 Fantasy Tight Ends for 2013

Craig RondinoneCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2013

Predicting the Top 10 Fantasy Tight Ends for 2013

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    Time to don my fantasy prediction cap again! Now we will focus on which tight ends will be the best in fantasy football in 2013.  

    Keep in mind that this list is missing two perennial top 10 tight ends. I am assuming that Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, who would have been rated somewhere in the top six coming off another 1,000-yard season, will likely retire.

    Another veteran that would have qualified is Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller, who finds the end zone more than most players at the position. But Miller suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2012 season and is very questionable for the start of the 2013 season. 

    But even without those two top tight ends being included, this top 10 has as much star power as any Quentin Tarantino flick. The tight end position is as deep and talented as it has ever been.

    It used to be almost impossible for fantasy owners to find tight ends who could have 800 yards and/or six touchdowns. Now thanks to the prevalence of higher-quality quarterbacks and high-powered offenses, 1,000-yard and 10-TD tight ends are more available than ever!     

    Here are my predictions for the top 10 fantasy tight ends for 2013!

10. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

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    Fleener’s rookie campaign was not as memorable as his fellow rookie and former Stanford teammate Andrew Luck’s was, that’s for sure.

    Fleener was ranked near the bottom among tight ends thanks to only having 26 receptions for 281 yards and two touchdowns in a dozen games.

    Rookie tight ends generally have a difficult adjustment to the NFL anyway, and things were tougher for Fleener because he was limited due to injuries and also had to battle another talented tight end, Dwayne Allen, for targets and catches. 

    It is way too soon to forget about Fleener. He has superb skills and sticky hands, which should translate into some solid seasons with Luck tossing to him. Instead of settling for ho-hum tight ends like Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham or Detroit’s Brandon Pettigrew, opt for Fleener and you could be rewarded with a super sophomore season.

9. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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    Cam Newton’s second-favorite option in Carolina’s passing attack had a career year in 2012. Olsen set new personal bests with 69 receptions for 843 yards, vaulting himself into the next level of tight ends after being a middle-of-the-road fantasy guy for most of his pro life.

    It is fair to have doubts that Olsen will have another 800-yard year in 2013. He never had more than 612 yards in a season until last year. But he will only be 28 years old when the season starts and he has become a focal point of the Panthers offense, so it is hard to see him slipping.   

    Olsen is durable (has not missed a game since 2007), consistent (at least five TD each of the past five years) and only getting better. If Newton keeps climbing on the improvement ladder, Olsen’s fantasy worth will certainly climb as well.

8. Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders

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    Fantasy owners were probably more familiar with Michael Myers from the infamous Halloween movies than they were with this Myers, who was little more than a blocking tight end for the Raiders during his first three seasons. 58 receptions, no touchdowns, no fantasy value.   

    But Myers exploded onto the fantasy scene in 2012 with 79 receptions for 806 yards and four touchdowns, making him one of the breakout stars at the position.

    His humongous frame was difficult to cover when quarterback Carson Palmer would throw his way, which happened a lot since Myers was targeted 106 times.  

    Defenses might be a little wiser to Myers’ game now that they have had a year of tape to study. Myers’ other issue could be the quarterback throwing to him. If Palmer continues playing and starting, Myers should be fine, but if read-option backup Terrelle Pryor gets more snaps in 2013 that may cut down Myers’ receiving stats a bit. 

7. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

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    Daniels is the beneficiary of a play-action offense where he gets to break free in the secondary thanks to a combination of fakes to the awesome Arian Foster and the double coverage wide receiver Andre Johnson garners. 

    Daniels has more hops than most tight ends and has the ability to break longer plays because of it. 2012 was one of the best years he has had as he snagged 62 passes for 716 yards and a career-high six touchdowns. 

    Daniels has two things going against him. His body is one. He has only played two full seasons in seven years. He is the Michael Vick of tight ends in that regard. 

    Daniels’ other problem is he does not find the end zone enough. Twenty-six touchdowns in seven seasons?  You could probably find 40 better scoring options at tight end if you were searching for one in a touchdown league. 

    Daniels is solid but not spectacular. He is not going to hurt your fantasy team—unless he gets injured and you do not have a backup—but he will not have a 150-yard, three-TD game that will win you your league, either.    

6. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

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    Hernandez gets lost in the Rob Gronkowski hoopla when tight end talk heats up because he is not even the best tight end on his own team. But while he gets overshadowed and undervalued his stats speak volumes to fantasy owners. 

    Hernandez had 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011. He only had 51 catches for 483 yards and five touchdowns last year, but before you call him Brent Celek Jr. remember that he only dressed for 10 games.

    Take those stats and prorate them over 16 games and Hernandez would have had 81 receptions for 768 yards and eight TD.   

    Tom Brady will still be his quarterback, Bill Belichick will still be his head coach and the Patriots will still be one of the top passing teams in the NFL in 2013, so Hernandez will be a fantasy factor. But until he becomes the top tight end on his own team he cannot be slotted any higher. 

5. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens

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    Pitta was an unsung hero for the Ravens during their ride to the Super Bowl, and he was also an unsung hero for millions of fantasy teams across the country this past season.

    His 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven scores were a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners who selected him in the late rounds or picked him up off waivers in their leagues.  

    Pitta has to be more consistent and find ways to contribute on a more regular basis, though. For as good as he was last year he had eight games where he had fewer than 50 yards and did not score, so those weeks were virtually worthless for fantasy owners. 

    Pitta is emerging as a fantasy force and will probably be a hot commodity come August and September when drafts and auctions are happening. Do not overpay for his services since the jury is still out on what level Pitta can rise to, but he does have an upside that could translate into 800 yards and nine touchdowns in the near future.

4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    There are not many tight ends, or NFL players for that matter, as physically gifted as Davis. He has the speed of a receiver, the open-field ability of a running back and the strength of an offensive lineman.

    These attributes make him virtually uncoverable downfield unless defenses pit two or three men against him. The problem is because he gets so much attention from opponents that there are times San Francisco employs him as a decoy and never throws his way. This seems to happen a couple games per season. 

    Davis’ numbers dropped off the table in 2012. After averaging close to 880 yards and eight TDs per year between 2009 and 2011, he only managed 548 yards and five touchdowns last season. Once Colin Kaepernick took over as QB many thought Davis’ numbers would improve, yet early on the pair had no chemistry together.   

    While there are times Davis disappears for games if not week, having Kaepernick throw to him is an upgrade over having Alex Smith throw to him, and Davis and Kaepernick definitely clicked during the playoffs so that bodes well for next season. Expect Davis to bounce back and be more like he was during 2009-2011.    

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    It seems like decades ago when fantasy owners were scared that Witten was over the hill. That actually happened during the first couple weeks of the 2012 season, though, when Witten was dropping passes like his hands were glazed donuts.  

    All Witten did was set the new single-season reception record for tight ends with 110 catches. He also had 1,039 yards and made fantasy owners in points-per-reception leagues look smarter than

    While Father Time will eventually catch up to Witten because of all the miles he has logged running routes over the years, he is showing no signs of slowing down. Even if he finished 2013 with “only” 85 catches for 900 yards, would fantasy owners complain? 

    One thing is for sure—if Tony Romo is Dallas’ quarterback, Witten will be involved in the offense. Draft Witten and enjoy his dependable numbers. Just do not bank on many touchdowns. Witten has never had a double-digit TD season during his illustrious career and only has eight over the past two years, so that is why he cannot be ranked in the top two.  

2. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    Graham’s 2012 numbers were slightly disappointing to fantasy owners looking for a repeat of what he did in 2011 when he amassed 1,310 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns, but he still put up 982 yards and nine TD in 15 contests, which was very impressive considering the circumstances.

    Graham continually battled nagging wrist and fingers injuries that caused him to drop an inordinate amount of passes. Instead of bashing him for the drops and finishing with under 1,000 yards, fantasy owners should be singing Graham’s praises for his gutsy effort.

    Graham was still one of the top tight ends to have in fantasy, if not the best depending on your league’s scoring system. And since he is only 26 and still learning how to play the position, Graham should be a perennial 1,000-yard, 10-TD guy for years to come. 

    Graham is entering his contract year, so you know he will be looking to replicate his 2011 numbers so he can add a couple more million onto his next contract. And with Sean Payton returning to run the team and Drew Brees winging passes to him, Graham should be in for a monster 2013. 

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    While fantasy owners who own Gronkowski in keeper and dynasty leagues would love it if he stopped breaking his arm (and stop horsing around while his arm is in a cast) they cannot deny he is the top tight end in fantasy football.  

    When Gronkowski is healthy, he is the most productive tight end in the NFL. He has racked up 2,663 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns in his first three season, he had the best fantasy season ever for a tight end in 2011 when he had 1,327 yards and 17 scores and he will only be 24 when the 2013 season commences.  

    The only knock against Gronk is that his take-no-prisoners style has resulted in a couple late-season and playoff injuries. Hopefully that is not a trend throughout his career.

    Otherwise, between Gronkowski entering his prime and Tom Brady throwing him the ball, there is no doubt who the first tight end taken in drafts should be next year.  This numero uno is a no-brainer.