Fantasy football drafters who play their cards right will find a solid tight end waiting for them in the waning rounds.
You could pay the price for luxury and grab Jimmy Graham in the second round, but you're missing out on a more productive wide receiver or more valuable running back. While the position is not top-heavy and drops off considerably after the Saints' star, there's plenty of talent to take later.
Unless you can take a chance on Rob Gronkowski at a reasonable buying rate, your best course of actions lies in waiting out everyone else. Using ESPN's scoring as the barometer, Heath Miller, who finished as the fourth-highest scorer in 2012, outproduced No. 14-ranked Martellus Bennett by 29 points, which amounts to 1.7 per game.
Your sixth tight end might not make the top 10 on someone else's big board this season, so find one or two guys you like in the later rounds and hope to strike gold.
Jordan Cameron (ESPN: 16, Yahoo!: 12, FantasyPros ADP: 107)
Any seats left on the Jordan Cameron bandwagon?
If your leaguemates are hip to preseason happenings, Cameron's sleeper status likely shattered when he scored two touchdowns during the Cleveland Browns' second preseason affair. But if everyone else is playing by the rankings' rules, Cameron is still a potential steal.
The 6'5", 245-pound brute extends a growing line of massive tight ends built like basketball stars. He has certainly placed his hops in display, which could make his fantasy owners and Brandon Weeden very happy in red-zone situations. Just think how giddy Weeden would be if he drafted Cameron in his league.
Speaking of tight ends shaped like forwards, Antonio Gates can vouch for Norv Turner's helpfulness in utilizing the tight end spot. Embracing the offensive guru's new schemes in Cleveland would amount to ample targets for Cameron.
When the top players pass you by, wait a while but not too long for Cameron.
Zach Sudfeld (ESPN: 21, Yahoo!: 17, FantasyPros ADP: 161)
If someone is starting for the New England Patriots, I'm buying.
Until Rob Gronkowski returns, Zach Sudfeld is the top tight end in New England's offense, which has relied heavily on the tight end. The Patriots utilize two tight end sets, and Tom Brady finds them often, which should continue with a lack of wide receiver depth.
Even when Gronkowski comes back, Sudfeld will likely form a tandem with Gronk, engineering a new dynamic duo at the position. At 6'7" and 225 pounds, the rookie could become a pivotal factor in New England's high-octane offense.
It's surprising Sudfeld's value has not torpedoed to the point of him becoming overrated. ESPN's Matthew Berry has drooled over the big man, which usually means everyone else follows along.
Zach Sudfeld is legit. Wrote @ him in Love Hate & yesterday afternoon's 10 of 10. Going in drafted, should be taken top 12 among TE.— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) August 17, 2013
With that being said, it's easy to see someone jumping too high for Sudfeld and grabbing him once he or she sees Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph picked. That's overpaying for an unknown commodity, but I'm more than happy to purchase a ticket for "Studfeld" in the later rounds.
Fred Davis (ESPN: 15, Yahoo!: 10, FantasyPros ADP: 143)
After going for one of those two bright young sleepers with star potential, a prudent fantasy manager would team him up with him a sturdy safety net.
Which tight end will you target in your fantasy football drafts?
Fred Davis won't cost much after logging seven games without a touchdown before suffering a season-ending Achilles tear. Yahoo!'s ranking inflated due to Brad Evans regarding him highly at No. 6, but few people are likely to share the same stream of thought.
Davis will likely fall to the waning rounds as drafters forget that he caught 59 passes for 796 yards in 2011. He also only contributed three touchdowns that season, but scores vary often, and Davis is a big target who should receive more red-zone opportunities.
While hardly a game-changer, the experienced tight end is a boring pick that justifies risking another selection on a more attractive upside play. If the touchdowns come, Davis will become starter material.