Here is a revised and expanded look at the 2014 Lester’s Legends tight end rankings.
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Graham has averaged 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past three seasons. Last year, Graham racked up an amazing 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.
With Darren Sproles being dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles, Graham will take on even more meaning for the potent Saints offense. Graham is further ahead of his peers than anybody in any other position.
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Gronk has 42 touchdowns in 50 career games, but he has managed to play just 18 games over the past two seasons. When he’s healthy, he’s as good as anybody in the league.
He’s coming off a knee injury, which is something to monitor. There are healthy doses of risks and rewards associated with Gronk.
3. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Orange Julius exploded onto the scene with 788 yards and 12 touchdowns in 14 games. With Eric Decker moving on to the New York Jets, Thomas figures to be more of a focal point in the offense.
Having Peyton Manning’s confidence, particularly in the red zone, puts him a notch ahead of Vernon Davis in my book.
4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Davis finished with 850 yards and 13 touchdowns in his most impressive season since 2009. Michael Crabtree, who was limited to five games because of an Achilles injury, figures to eat into some of Davis’ production.
Still, Davis has a combination of size and speed that is difficult to match. He’s too fast for most linebackers and too strong for most defensive backs.
5. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Cameron emerged last year with 917 yards and seven touchdowns after catching 26 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown in his first two seasons. No longer in Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner’s system, Cameron will likely regress.
Still, he’s too good of a talent not to peg him in the top half of the fantasy tight end landscape.
6. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Olsen finished with 816 yards, giving him an average of 829.5 yards over the past two seasons. Olsen caught six touchdowns in his sixth straight season with at least five scores. With a shortage of reliable options for Cam Newton in the passing game, Olsen should play a huge role for Carolina in 2014.
7. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta appeared poised for a breakout season before a hip injury limited him to four game last year. Despite being sapped of his explosiveness, Pitta caught 20 passes for 169 yards and a score.
In 2012, Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven scores. Don’t let the Owen Daniels signing scare you off. Pitta is primed to deliver.
8. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten reached 850 receiving yards for the seventh straight season. He’s topped 750 yards for 10 straight years. Witten is as consistent as they come. He had his fewest receptions (73) since 2006, but he finished with eight touchdowns.
9. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Rudolph (foot) was limited to eight games last year and subjected to five games with Christian Ponder at the helm. With Matt Cassel at quarterback and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner in the mix, look for much better things from Rudolph.
10. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed caught 45 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns, which extrapolates to 80 receptions, 887 yards and five scores in a full season. Unfortunately, Reed was limited to nine games because of concussions. Reed could finish much higher, but risk of further concussions hurts his value.
11. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz caught 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns last year as a rookie. All four of his touchdowns came in the second half of the season. Look for a step forward in Ertz’s second year, particularly with DeSean Jackson’s 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns up for grabs.
12. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
Bennett caught 65 passes last year for 759 yards and five touchdowns, giving him averages of 60 receptions for 692.5 yards and five scores over the past two seasons.
13. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
Green caught 17 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns in his first season of extended use. The 6’6″, 240-pound physical marvel is a big-time breakout candidate.
14. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Clay caught 69 passes last year for 759 yards and six touchdowns as one of last year’s biggest surprises. His status as a TE2 is an indication of how deep the position has become.
15. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Walker caught 60 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns in his first year as the primary tight end option. He’s a quality second tight end option.
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