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The Top 10 Fantasy TEs for 2013

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2013

The Top 10 Fantasy TEs for 2013

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    Folks, I've got two words for you regarding the tight end position that will totally change your fantasy football season: Tim Tebow

    I kid, I kid.

    But if you do miss out on one of the top five options at the position, you may need to start thinking outside the box. This is the season to take a chance on a young player or guy who has switched teams and could have a bigger role in his new city, because there aren't many can't-miss tight ends this year.

    You don't need to go crazy and reach for a Tebow. But if you don't snag one of the elite tight ends, you will need to take a chance.

    With my top 10 tight ends, however, you can at least be educated before you take the leap. 

     

    (Note: All fantasy rankings from last season are from ESPN standard-scoring leagues.)

Honorable Mentions

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    Brandon Myers, New York Giants

    Myers was a top-10 tight end last year with the Oakland Raiders, and Eli Manning traditionally incorporates the tight end in the passing game. There is some nice upside here, though Myers doesn't have the pure talent of New York's tight end last season, Martellus Bennett. 

     

    Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

    Finley has all of the talent in the world to dominate for fantasy owners, and he's in a contract year. It's just that he never seems to cash in on that talent. But with, well, cash at stake, he has a reason to put it all together this season.

    He could easily be a top-three producer. He could also break your heart. Are you feeling lucky?

     

    Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears

    Bennett has the size and speed to really produce for the Chicago Bears this season. But with a poor offensive line and the erratic Jay Cutler throwing to him, it may be wise to temper your expectations. 

10. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

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    I had no intention of Antonio Gates making this list, but when you see how thinned out the position has become due to injuries or other incidents, Gates is just about the most attractive option to round out the top 10. 

    Gates has seen his fantasy production steadily decline over the past four years as injuries, age and the sudden decline of Philip Rivers have taken their toll. But he still managed to nab seven touchdown receptions last season.

    If he can actually stay healthy and Rivers can rediscover his mojo, Gates could offer fantasy owners a surprising level of production, even at age 33. He's a huge risk, but at this point, he's at least a risk with a history of success.

9. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

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    Kyle Rudolph scares me. I can't deny his nine touchdowns or 93 targets a year ago, but I can remain apprehensive given the fact that in two seasons, he's totaled a paltry 742 yards. 

    Perhaps with Percy Harvin gone, Christian Ponder will turn to Rudolph more often, though it's just as likely for Greg Jennings and/or Cordarrelle Patterson to steal those available looks. Or, Adrian Peterson will carry an even larger load, which would seem impossible for anybody other than All Day.

    I never like to gamble on players whose sole source of production is a high touchdown mark, but Rudolph should be involved in the Minnesota Vikings offense more this year.

    Whether it will be enough to make Rudolph a stud at the tight end position for owners remains to be seen. 

8. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

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    Welcome to the high-risk, high-reward player on this list. If you miss out on the top guys and don't want to play it safe, Jared Cook is your man. 

    There's a reason the St. Louis Rams made him a rich man this offseason, and Jeff Fisher has already said the team plans on utilizing the athletic Cook in a number of ways. So there is definitely a reason to take a gamble on him. 

    On the other hand, Cook has averaged 40 receptions for 547 yards and two touchdowns over the past three seasons. Not exactly the stuff of fantasy legend.

    If you think the Rams will turn their new players like Cook and rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin into multi-faceted weapons, then Cook could be primed for a major breakthrough.

    But if you're expecting more of the same, stay away. 

7. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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    Greg Olsen finally had his breakthrough season in 2012, catching 69 passes for 843 yards and five touchdowns, good enough for the sixth-most fantasy points among tight ends. 

    He was targeted 104 times last season, so he's clearly become a trusted option for Cam Newton. Just don't expect much more than a decent chunk of yardage, as Olsen has caught five touchdown passes in four of his six seasons, eclipsing that mark just once in 2009 with eight scores. 

    He's a safe pick if you miss out on the top five players. Nothing more, nothing less. 

6. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

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    When Owen Daniels stays on the field, he's quite effective. His 16-game averages come out to 60 receptions for 735 yards and four touchdowns, which is basically what he offered owners last year (62 receptions for 715 yards and six scores in 15 games).

    Injuries are always an issue, but Daniels pushed through consistent bumps, bruises and strains last year to post a solid fantasy season. Alongside Andre Johnson, he's a receiving option Matt Schaub genuinely trusts. If he can keep a clean bill of health, he should hit the 800-yard mark. 

    Look, after the top five options, tight end really thins out this year. If you can get over his injury history, Daniels is actually a safe pick. His upside is capped, but he won't break your heart, either. 

5. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons

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    Here's the number you need to know: 124. That's how many times Tony Gonzalez was targeted last year, third among all tight ends. If you have any concerns that his production will drastically wane this season, just remember that number. 

    Sure, Gonzalez is 37 years old. Sure, he's unlikely to catch 93 passes again or compile 930 receiving yards, seeing as his career averages are 77 and 891, respectively.

    But it's not so crazy to think he can replicate or even increase his eight touchdowns from a year ago, as he remains a beast in the red zone. 

    His nine weeks with at least six fantasy points mean he's still a pretty steady source of fantasy points, too. And his 65 receptions for first downs tied him for seventh among all receivers and first among tight ends, so Matt Ryan still trusts him to move the chains.

    It's not crazy to expect a drop-off. Steven Jackson will steal some touches, and Julio Jones is going to be the focal point of the Atlanta Falcons offense this year. But it's unlikely there will be much of a drop-off, meaning Gonzalez should remain one of the most productive tight ends in fantasy.

4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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    Vernon Davis had a dreadful 2012 season for his fantasy owners, finishing 15th in fantasy points among tight ends. He was particularly dreadful once Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback, catching just 12 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown in the last seven regular-season games. 

    I can practically hear your brain screaming, "DANGER, DANGER, BACK AWAY FROM THE UNDERACHIEVING TIGHT END!"

    But then the postseason happened. In three playoff games, Davis reemerged, catching 12 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown, good for 10.5 fantasy points per week. He's too talented for the San Francisco 49ers to disregard, and in the postseason he finally seemed to establish a rapport with Kaepernick. 

    I know it's a major risk taking him among the top five tight ends. But think of it like this: After the top two options and the hyper-safe Jason Witten, pretty much every other available player brings some level of risk. 

    But few can offer Davis' upside. 

3. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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    Some things are certain: death, taxes and Jason Witten as one of the NFL's most productive targets.

    In the past six seasons, Witten has never caught fewer than 79 passes, seen fewer than 117 targets or compiled fewer than 942 yards. While touchdowns haven't been as plentiful—he's averaged five a year since 2007—he's pretty much guaranteed to eclipse or at least come close to 1,000 yards receiving. 

    Oh, and he hasn't missed a game since his rookie season in 2003. And he's Tony Romo's most trusted receiver, so his targets shouldn't dry up.

    Witten may not be the sexiest pick of the tight end bunch, but if you miss out on the top two options, he's certainly the safest. 

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

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    Until Rob Gronkowski's status clears up, it's possible he could miss time to open the year. For that reason alone, he could drop even further down this list. 

    But if Gronk only misses a few weeks (or no time at all), he should be one of the first two tight ends off the board.

    Despite missing five games last year, Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns. At this point, with 38 touchdown receptions in 43 career games, you can nearly pencil him in for a touchdown a game. 

    And with Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker gone, Tom Brady will rely even more heavily on Gronk.

    The possibility that he'll miss time drops him to No. 2 on this list, but Gronk will be a beast once more if he's healthy. 

1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints

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    Among tight ends, Jimmy Graham finished last season third in receptions (85), second in yards (930), tied for fourth in touchdowns (eight), second in targets (135) and first in fantasy points. Oh, and he played through an injured wrist and several other bumps and bruises. 

    In other words, a healthy Graham should return to numbers similar to the 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns he posted in 2011, production most wide receivers would covet. 

    Graham probably shouldn't be drafted as early as he and Rob Gronkowski were a year ago—i.e. the second round—but he should definitely be the first tight end off the board with Gronk's status still up in the air. He's the most dangerous weapon the New Orleans Saints have, and he should be in line for another big year. 

     

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