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Fantasy Football 2014: Definitive Guide to Drafting a Tight End

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after catching a pass against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Sean ODonnellContributor IIIAugust 8, 2014

Each year, there's an ongoing debate raging between fantasy enthusiasts regarding when to draft a tight end. Some owners prefer to select one early, while others would rather wait to fill the position later in the draft.

Well, neither side is incorrect—technically speaking.

While the tight end can be a tricky position to draft, there's no right or wrong time to grab one as long as there's reasonable value compared to other available players in different positions.

Before we delve deeper into this topic, let's overview this year's tight end rankings and their average draft positions.

2014 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
RankPlayerTeamADP*
1Jimmy GrahamSaints1.09
2Julius ThomasBroncos3.07
3Vernon Davis49ers5.07
4Rob GronkowskiPatriots3.03
5Jordan CameronBrowns5.11
6Greg OlsenPanthers8.01
7Jason WittenCowboys6.09
8Dennis PittaRavens8.05
9Kyle RudolphVikings8.10
10Jordan ReedRedskins7.04
11Zach ErtzEagles10.01
12Charles ClayDolphins13,01
13Martellus BennettBears12.05
14Heath MillerSteelers13.10
15Eric EbronLions11.07
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings

*Average draft position (ADP) based on 12-team leagues and courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com.

 

Taking those rankings and average draft positions into consideration, there are different strategies you can employ when adding a tight end to your fantasy team—each comes with pros and cons.

One route is to grab one in the early rounds. The best example of this is New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.

Currently, he's being selected in the first round of fantasy drafts. That may seem a bit high; however, his 1,215 receiving yards last season ranked 15th in the league, and his 16 receiving touchdowns topped the NFL.

NBC Sports tweeted a scary notion regarding Graham:

With these numbers coming from your tight end slot, your fantasy team could put up some monster points, as his production equals that of one of the league's premier wide receivers. However, the downside is missing out on top players at other skill positions—specifically a very thin running back group.

In a snake format, going with Graham at the end of Round 1 and coming back around with a running back like Montee Ball, DeMarco Murray or Le'Veon Bell would be optimal when using this strategy.

Selecting tight ends in the middle rounds of the draft is the most common method employed by fantasy owners.

Here's one to keep in mind after he missed most of the 2013-14 season, via Jeremiah Jensen of KSL:

There's one big rule to take into consideration when using this strategy: Beware of a run of tight ends.

Generally, there's a bit of a gap between when the league's top-tier tight ends and secondary tier of players at the position come off the board. Many owners panic when a couple of tight ends are quickly selected to end this drought and hastily pick the next one on their big boards.

Don't do that.

Tim Sharp/Associated Press

Sit back, analyze average draft position of remaining tight ends compared to their ranking and let opposing owners reach for Jordan Reed in Round 5 while you scoop up T.Y. Hilton with the following pick.

If your choice is to fill your roster's depth at wide receiver and running back before selecting a tight end in the later rounds, that's fine; however, options will be severely limited.

In this situation, beware of tight ends who split time at the position, as a time share could severely damage output for the season.

Ladarius Green and Antonio Gates are two such tight ends, and NFL Fantasy Football reminded fantasy owners to keep an eye on their situation:

Players without competition at the position, such as Chicago's Martellus Bennett or Miami's Charles Clay, could become late-round steals—or savory trade bait after a huge week at the very least.

So, no matter how you prefer to draft your tight end this season, keep these simple rules in mind, obey the rankings and don't panic. You'll be well on your way to a league championship before you know it.

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