Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Breaking Down Tight End Options

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13:   Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers is tackled by Gerald McRath #51 of the Tennessee Titans during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With apologies to everyone who didn't draft Jimmy Graham, we need to discuss whom you're playing at tight end this week.

Rob Gronkowsi could pay dividends later in the year, but somebody has to perform in the interim. That leaves Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten as essentially the only tight ends owners should start on weekly bases.

This produces a messy middle to sort out, as a handful of sturdy veterans and enticing youngsters are dueling for our attention.

As you try to kick off the season with a 1-0 record, here's a look at how to approach some popular choices at tight end.


Greg Olsen (vs. Seattle Seahawks)

Greg Olsen represents one of this year's ultimate panic picks.

Once Gonzalez and Witten fell off the board, the remaining gamers without tight ends were left with slim pickings. Somebody likely grabbed Vernon Davis next in hopes of his syncing better with Colin Kapernick.

After that, who was left?

One of the best of the rest, Greg Olsen gave drafters a shoulder to cry on as a fallback option. He registered 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns last year, so the move could pay off if he continues to coalesce well with Cam Newton.

The problem is that Olsen does not represent a choice far superior to the rest, so he's not a tight end to use through thick and thin. Therefore, when he faces the Seahawks this Sunday, his owners might want to search elsewhere for starters.

Olsen managed just two catches for 37 yards last year against one of the league's best defenses. There's no reason to anticipate a brighter outcome this Sunday.

Verdict: Sit


Zach Sudfeld (at Buffalo Bills)

You drafted Zach Sudfeld out of hope that he booms while Gronkowski recovers, so you might as well play the rookie with Gronkowski sitting on the sideline.

The undrafted free agent exists as a complete unknown, so there's no guarantee that he explodes for 100 yards and two scores. Maybe he fails to catch two passes. You're taking a risk, but the gamble is worth it.

How do you think managers felt after benching Julius Thomas during his first start?

Zudfeld is starting, Tom Brady is throwing him the ball, and Bill Belichick is running the show. The New England Patriots also face the Buffalo Bills, whose passing defense last year only fared better than the all-time bad New Orleans Saints.

The stars are aligned perfectly for Sudfeld's NFL debut to commence without a hitch. Give him a chance to earn a permanent spot in your starting lineup.

Verdict: Start


Brent Celek (at Washington Redskins)

Maybe you waited a while at tight end or are searching for a last-second replacement for Gronkowski. Brent Celek is not the prettiest option, but you can do plenty worse.

Celek's 10 plays spanning 20 or more yards tied for sixth at the position, and Washington proved plenty susceptible against the pass last year, surrendering 4,720 yards through the air. Perhaps a breakaway is in the cards, and one substantial play is really all you need from a tight end.

He is also two years removed from a 811-yard, five-touchdown campaign, nearly identical to the season that generated top-10 value for Olsen. With a healthy Vick, Celek is an intriguing choice.

At the worst, picking a guy for Monday night secures a shred of hope that the week is salvageable. Celek can close the gap on this 45-point deficit, right? Right?

Probably not, but how about six catches, 70 yards and maybe a touchdown if you're lucky? That's a solid day's work from your tight end.

Verdict: Start


Other Tight Ends to Start

  • Jordan Cameron (vs. Miami Dolphins)
  • Brandon Myers (at Dallas Cowboys)
  • Coby Fleener (vs. Oakland Raiders)


Other Tight Ends to Sit

  • Jermichael Finley (at San Francisco 49ers)
  • Martellus Bennett (vs. Cincinnati Bengals)