Dynasty Ranks: Tight Ends

Rotoworld

Our final installment of dynasty rankings will cover the tight end position.

Click it here for quarterback, running back, and wide receiver rankings.

As the league has evolved over the past few years, tight ends have been converted from extensions of the offensive line into oversized wide receivers. Like fullbacks, tight ends with little to no receiving skills are having trouble finding regular snaps. Instead, teams are sacrificing extra protection for their quarterbacks in exchange for another set of hands in the passing game.

The transition continues each year. Back in 2008, 19.7 percent of league-wide targets were directed at a player listed as a tight end. This past season, the mark was up to 21.5 percent. That may not seem like a huge boost, but had that 1.8 percent increase not occurred, a total of 308 targets would’ve been lost by tight ends during the 2012 season.

In fantasy circles, the increase in usage of tight ends as pass catchers has added depth to the position, but there are still a handful of superstars who stand above the rest. Of course, at the rate the league is going, it might not be long until our top tier grows even larger.

Note: Non-PPR scoring is assumed. Each player age listed is as of September 1, 2013, which will be near Week 1 of the upcoming season. The draft year and round is also shown for each player.

Tier 1


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

1

Rob Gronkowski

NE

24.3

2010-2

2

Jimmy Graham

NO

26.7

2010-3

A broken (and re-broken) arm held Gronkowski to only 11 games during the 2012 season, but durability concerns are not enough to keep the most-dominant tight end in football out of our top spot. Also an elite blocker, the 23-year-old Gronkowski has an absurd 37 career touchdowns in 42 regular season games. Averaging more than one touchdown-per-game over the last two seasons, the massive 6’6/265 “Gronk” will be force-fed the ball in the red zone as long as he’s in the league.

Despite the fact that Graham was the top-scoring fantasy tight end, 2012 was actually a bit of a disappointing season. His catches, yards, and touchdowns all took a dive. Of course, coach and offensive guru Sean Payton was out of action. The boss returns in 2013 and Graham will, again, be Drew Brees’ favorite target. The 26-year-old is in the prime of his career.

Tier 2


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

3

Aaron Hernandez

NE

23.8

2010-4

4

Jason Witten

DAL

31.3

2003-3

Basically a wide receiver, Hernandez usually lines up in the slot, especially when Rob Gronkowski is healthy. Hernandez missed six games due to injury this past season, but finished fifth among all tight ends in fantasy points-per-game. A half year younger than Gronkowski and locked up through 2018, Hernandez will continue on as a target monster in New England.

Although he’s allergic to the endzone, Witten is a pass-catching machine, setting the all-time tight end record with 110 receptions this past season. That comes after not missing a single game while putting up 64-plus receptions each of the past nine years. Witten’s age (30) and bizarre touchdown deficiencies (three scores in 2012) are all that keep him from the top-tier conversation.

Tier 3


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

5

Vernon Davis

SF

29.5

2006-1

6

Kyle Rudolph

MIN

23.8

2011-2

7

Greg Olsen

CAR

28.4

2007-1

8

Jared Cook

FA

26.4

2009-3

9

Jermaine Gresham

CIN

25.2

2010-1

10

Dennis Pitta

BLT

28.1

2010-4

11

Martellus Bennett

FA

26.4

2008-2

12

Jermichael Finley

GB

26.4

2008-3

13

Owen Daniels

HST

30.8

2006-4

Davis’ 2012 season was the definition of a roller coaster, but the good news is that he and Colin Kaepernick finished the year up strong. There’s reason to believe that he’ll join Michael Crabtree as the young quarterback’s go-to targets going forward. Davis’ upside keeps him in our top-five, but note that he’s the second-oldest player among our top-12 tight ends…Like Davis, Rudolph had a volatile 2012 season, but he makes for a strong cornerstone dynasty tight end because of his skills, age (23), and heavy involvement in the Vikings’ offense. His resume is short, but the upside is massive.

Fresh of a season in which he played almost every offensive snap, Olsen will enter 2012 as one of Cam Newton’s top-two targets. With Carolina struggling to find competent long-term receiving options, it’s fair to expect a heavy dose of targets for Olsen over the next few years…Cook is a free agent, but some team is going to pay him big money to operate as a major contributor in the passing game. Poorly-utilized by the Titans, Cook is one of the most-athletic tight ends in the league. Expect big receiving numbers from the 25-year-old starting in 2013.

Gresham hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since the Bengals picked him in the first round of the 2010 draft. A lot of that has had to do with blocking, though, which isn’t much of a factor in fantasy. Still only 24-years-old, Gresham has continued to put up relatively strong receiving numbers, and appears to be in Cincinnati’s long-term plans…Pitta’s 2012 breakout season was a bit of a surprise because he had spent the first two seasons of his career buried behind Ed Dickson. The promotion led to Pitta quickly taking over as Joe Flacco’s No. 3 option in the passing game. With Anquan Boldin closing in on his mid-30s, Pitta is in position to be one of Flacco’s top targets over the long-term.

One of the league’s most-underrated all-around tight ends, Bennett is an elite blocker and a plus pass-catcher. He’s currently a free agent, but figures to end up somewhere that allows him a full complement of snaps, including heavy involvement in the passing game. Only 25, his arrow is pointing up…Finley is one of the most athletically-gifted players at the position, but inconsistent play has put his future with the Packers in question. Entering a contract year, the 25-year-old will surely garner a ton of attention on the open market, but he doesn’t figure to land in an offense as attractive as the one in Green Bay…Daniels is over the age-30 hump, but remains one of the league’s most-utilized receiving tight ends. Signed for another two seasons and with Houston struggling to find a competent No. 2 wide receiver behind Andre Johnson, Daniels won’t have trouble finding targets over the next few years.

Tier 4


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

14

Dwayne Allen

IND

23.5

2012-3

15

Heath Miller

PIT

30.8

2005-1

16

Antonio Gates

SD

33.2

2003-U

17

Tony Gonzalez

FA

37.5

1997-1

18

Dustin Keller

FA

28.9

2008-1

19

Fred Davis

FA

27.6

2008-2

20

Brandon Pettigrew

DET

28.5

2009-1

Following the 2012 draft, Allen’s fantasy football ceiling was in question because of the team’s decision to also draft Coby Fleener. Although Fleener’s potential emergence remains a concern, Allen is simply too good to keep off the field. An elite blocker and good pass-catcher during his rookie season, Allen has carved out a role as a long-term every-down tight end in the emerging Andrew Luck offense…Miller was a strong TE1 option during the 2012 season, but he’s now 30-years-old and may miss a chunk of the upcoming season due to a torn ACL. One of Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite targets, Miller is worth stashing on your bench until his return. Assuming his knee heals as expected, he’ll have a few more years of production left in the tank.

Gates made it through the 2012 season healthy, but he’s closing in on 33 and the Chargers are no longer the offensive juggernaut they were a few years back. He’ll continue to see a ton of Philip Rivers’ targets, but Gates’ days as a slam dunk impact TE1 are over...Gonzalez is currently without a contract and contemplating retirement. If he decides to return, however, he’ll sign a one-year deal with the Falcons, making him a top-five fantasy tight end in redraft formats. He’s worth taking a chance on after the first 15 or so tight ends are off the board, but know that you’re getting no more than one year out of him.

Keller is expected to move on from the Jets this offseason, but he’s going to get plenty of attention from teams in need of a pass-catching tight end. He isn’t much of a blocker, but can hold his own to the point that an every-down role is possible. A decent receiver and still in his prime at 28, Keller makes for a decent dynasty TE2…Like Keller, Davis is a free agent who is expected to find a new home. Durability is a question mark, especially since he’s coming off a torn Achilles, but he’s only 27 and a very good pass-catcher…Pettigrew hasn’t quite lived up to expectations since Detroit selected him in the first round of the 2009 draft. He remains involved in the Lions’ passing game, but would be well off the fantasy radar if they didn’t throw the ball so often. Now 28 and having ranked in the top-10 among tight ends in drops each of his first four years in the league, Pettigrew’s arrow is point the wrong direction.

Tier 5


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

21

Rob Housler

ARZ

25.4

2011-3

22

Coby Fleener

IND

24.9

2012-2

23

Zach Miller

SEA

27.7

2007-2

24

Marcedes Lewis

JAX

29.2

2006-1

25

Jordan Cameron

CLV

25.0

2011-4

26

Tony Moeaki

KC

26.2

2010-3

27

Brandon Myers

FA

27.9

2009-6

28

Jacob Tamme

DEN

28.4

2008-4

29

Brent Celek

PHI

28.6

2007-5

30

Scott Chandler

BUF

28.1

2007-4

Housler and Cameron enter the 2013 offseason in a very similar boat. They were drafted in the middle rounds of the 2011 draft as potential impact pass-catchers at the position, and could be in position to enter the 2013 season No. 1 on their respective team’s depth chart. Housler took over as Arizona’s starter last season; his involvement in the passing game progressing throughout the year. Cameron had been buried behind Ben Watson, but the veteran is likely headed elsewhere as a free agent. It’s possible Housler and Cameron will have competition heading into the 2013 season, but they remain strong roster stashes.

Fleener was a second-round pick last season, but the strong play of Dwayne Allen has his short-term upside in doubt. A skilled pass-catcher, it’s way too early to write Fleener off, but he’ll need to make major strides in order to play anything more than a complimentary role over the next few years…Miller, Lewis, and Moeaki each find themselves in a similar situation. All three are veteran starting tight ends who are eyeing larger roles in their respective team’s passing game this season. Miller and Russell Wilson finally built some chemistry during the later stages of the 2012 season. The new coaching staff in Jacksonville is expected to make the underrated Lewis a bigger part of the passing game. Moeaki will be two years healed from a torn ACL when the 2013 season kicks off. With Andy Reid now calling the shots in Kansas City, it’s fair to expect a spike in targets and production for the 25-year-old.

Myers, Celek, and Chandler are talented pass-catching tight ends, but each has a cloudy long-term outlook as they head into the offseason. Myers is a free agent and, although he exploded onto the scene as a pass-catcher with Oakland this past season, he’s a terrible blocker. That could cost him a shot at an all-important every-down role…Celek has been a mainstay in the Eagles’ starting lineup since 2008, but his role in the new Chip Kelly offense is unclear. It’s possible he’s traded, released, or demoted. Closing in on 29, he’s unlikely to land a job that will allow him a significant number of targets…Like Celek, Chandler’s role is unclear due to a completely new offensive philosophy. At 6’6/260, he’s had a knack for finding the endzone, but he’s been too reliant on scores to remain a consistent fantasy asset.

Tamme shared tight end duties with Joel Dreessen in Denver last season, which significantly limited his receiving opportunities. With Virgil Green and Julius Thomas waiting in the wings, Tamme’s long-term prospects with the Broncos are in question. Closing in on 28, there’s not a ton to be excited about here.

Tier 6


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

31

Delanie Walker

FA

29.0

2006-6

32

Lance Kendricks

SL

25.5

2011-2

33

Ladarius Green

SD

23.2

2012-4

34

Anthony Fasano

FA

29.3

2006-2

35

Evan Rodriguez

CHI

24.9

2012-4

36

Taylor Thompson

TEN

23.8

2012-5

37

Jeff Cumberland

NYJ

26.3

2010-U

38

Joel Dreessen

DEN

31.1

2005-6

39

D.J. Williams

GB

24.9

2011-5

40

Adrien Robinson

NYG

24.9

2012-4

41

Orson Charles

CIN

22.5

2012-4

42

Michael Egnew

MIA

23.8

2012-3

Walker seems to have a cult following this offseason, with many overlooking his on-and-off troubles with dropped passes over the last three seasons. He’s a great blocker, however, and will generate plenty of attention on the open market. There’s a tiny bit of potential here, but don’t overlook his age (28)…Kendricks entered the league as one of the draft’s top-receiving tight ends in 2011, but, three years later, he hasn’t really jumped off the page. The Rams are expected to add an impact free agent at the position in the coming weeks, which would severely damper Kendricks’ stock…Headed for free agency, Fasano is a darkhorse for a job that will land him a role in his new team’s passing game. Even still, the 28-year-old’s ceiling figures to be that of a mediocre TE2.

Green, Rodriguez, Thompson, Robinson, Charles, and Egnew represent a large chunk of the tight end class of 2012. None of the six played significant rookie-season roles despite being selected as early as the third round (Egnew) and no later than the fifth (Thompson). In each case, there’s some reason for optimism, especially since all six project as good pass-catchers. Green is the probable heir apparent to 32-year-old Antonio Gates. Rodriguez played a lot of fullback as a rookie, but is expected to see more work as a tight end in 2013. Thompson, Robinson, and Egnew could see expanded roles with Jared Cook, Martellus Bennett, and Antony Fasano, respectively, headed to the open market. With Jermaine Gresham underperforming, Charles’ role could increase in year-two.

Cumberland is a name to watch with Dustin Keller likely moving on. He is a decent pass-catcher, holding down the fort well while Keller was out with injuries for half of 2012. He could enter the 2013 season as a starter, albeit with a low fantasy ceiling…Dreessen was third in snaps to only Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker among Denver’s offensive skill position players during the 2012 season. He’s closing in on 32, however, and doesn’t see many targets…Jermichael Finley only has one year left on his deal, which puts Williams in position to potentially replace him as the Packers’ top pass-catching tight end. With Aaron Rodgers under center in Green Bay for the long-term, Williams is obviously worth a stash.

Tier 7


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

43

James Casey

FA

28.9

2009-5

44

Virgil Green

DEN

25.0

2011-7

45

Andrew Quarless

GB

24.9

2010-5

46

Ed Dickson

BLT

26.1

2010-3

47

Hayden Smith

NYJ

28.3

2012-U

48

David Paulson

PIT

24.5

2012-7

49

Julius Thomas

DEN

25.1

2011-4

50

Garrett Graham

HST

27.0

2010-4

51

Charles Clay

MIA

24.5

2011-6

52

Jake Ballard

NE

25.7

2010-U

53

James Hanna

DAL

24.1

2012-6

54

Brandon Bostick

GB

24.3

2012-U

Casey has worked primarily as a fullback over the past few years, but is a capable move-tight end…Green’s 2012 season was derailed a bit by a four-game suspension, but he’ll look to unseat Jacob Tamme in camp…Quarless is a potential long-term replacement for Jermichael Finley, but doesn’t have near the pass-catching upside…Dickson is stuck behind Dennis Pitta, but will be an unrestricted free agent at age-26 next offseason…Smith figures to have a role as a pass-catcher for the Jets this year, but he’s already closing in on 28…Paulson may be forced into a lot of work during the 2013 season as Heath Miller recovers from a torn up knee.

Thomas remains buried in Denver, but has a high ceiling as a pass-catcher…Graham is an Owen Daniels injury from the top-tight end job in a Houston offense that utilizes the position quite often…Clay is currently atop of the Miami depth chart, but a free agent or Mike Egnew could push him back to fantasy irrelevance…Ballard is in the mix for the No. 3 job in New England next season, which puts him an injury away from a significant load of snaps in a tight-end friendly, high-scoring offense…Hanna would need an iron man Jason Witten injury in order to find significant snaps…Bostick is a project, but he’s a converted basketball player with a ton of receiving upside.

Tier 8


Rk

Player

Tm

Age

Draft-Rd

55

Dallas Clark

FA

34.2

2003-1

56

John Carlson

MIN

29.3

2008-2

57

Ben Watson

FA

32.7

2004-1

58

Luke Stocker

TB

25.1

2011-4

59

David Ausberry

OAK

25.9

2011-7

60

Clay Harbor

PHI

26.1

2010-4

61

Niles Paul

WAS

24.0

2011-5

62

Logan Paulsen

WAS

26.5

2010-U

63

Kellen Davis

CHI

27.8

2008-5

64

Tony Scheffler

DET

30.5

2006-2

65

Anthony McCoy

SEA

25.6

2010-6

66

Travis Beckum

FA

26.6

2009-3

67

Dante Rosario

FA

28.8

2007-5

68

Weslye Saunders

IND

24.6

2011-U

69

Evan Moore

PHI

28.6

2008-U

70

Daniel Fells

NE

29.9

2006-U

71

Michael Palmer

ATL

25.6

2010-U

72

Chase Coffman

ATL

26.8

2009-3

73

Kellen Winslow

FA

30.1

2004-1

74

Zach Miller

TB

28.9

2009-6

75

Todd Heap

FA

33.4

2001-1

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