Throughout the week, the Yahoo! fantasy team will review each of the four major positions, with an eye toward 2014 drafts. Taking a Q&A approach, we're looking at trends, sleepers, rookies, free agents, potential busts and breakouts, priming the pump for plenty of offseason debate. Today we discuss tight ends, a position where, outside the tier of one, Jimmy Graham, volatility is always the norm.
When gamers step into a virtual or physical draft room next summer, they will again be confronted with the question: Should I secure the best tight end in fantasy, Graham, late in Round 1 or early Round 2? For that tortured soul, what would your advice be?
Brandon – TAKE HIM TO THE BANK. He's young (27), he's durable (15+ games three straight seasons), and he's consistent. This past year, only Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon scored more fantasy points (through Week 16) among skill position players that don't line up in the backfield (and not by much). In early Round 2, a 1,000-plus yard, 10+ TD tight end? Hell yes!
Brad – PASS. Graham is deserving of a top-12 selection. Because of Gronk's injury woes, he was in a tier all to himself. His 13.6 points per game in standard leagues paralleled what Demariyus Thomas, the third-best wideout in per game average, accomplished. Still, the drop-off from Graham to Vernon Davis, Julius Thomas or, when healthy, Gronk, isn't dramatic enough to warrant circumventing top-shelf talent at other positions.
Andy – Sure, DO IT. Graham is a perfectly reasonable pick in the 10-12 range, paired with a second-tier RB. Jimmy is one of the few players at his position who routinely scores like an elite WR.
Scott – I'm ON BOARD, absolutely. It's all about marginal value - the difference between a player and his peers at the position (or if you prefer, the baseline player at his position). Graham should offer a major advantage in this manner.
Dalton – I'd consider Graham with the No.1 overall pick. He gives you such a huge advantage at the TE position, especially with Rob Gronkowski a huge question mark. With running back becoming such a crap shoot and WR/QB remaining as deep as always, Graham is the most obvious difference maker. Graham left a game early this year and has scored 15 touchdowns. No running back has scored more than 12 times.
Several notable tight ends will enter unrestricted free agency this offseason, what old faces could thrive in new places in 2014?
Brandon – JERMICHAEL FINLEY. He's expected to be cleared for a return after he heals up from spinal fusion surgery. If he makes a full recovery, which it sounds like he has a reasonable chance to do, he's got the proven fantasy upside that only a handful of tight ends can trump.
Brad – DENNIS PITTA. When at full-strength we know what he's capable of. He's big, physical and sure-handed in the red-zone. More than likely he'll remain in Baltimore, but if he ventures off course and hooks up with a more consistent passer, he could threaten the position's top-five.
Andy – I'm interested to see where GARRETT GRAHAM lands, because we've seen occasional flashes from him over the past two seasons. I'd be shocked if Pitta leaves Baltimore, so I can't say him.
Scott – I've been a DENNIS PITTA apologist for years, perhaps because Matt Pitta sat in front of me in home room all those years. I loved Pitta for a breakout in 2013, and I still think it's coming, somewhere.
Dalton – Jermichael Finley is the main option here if he can return to full health, but his durability was a question before he suffered two serious injuries this season. So I'll say the key is where GREG OLSEN lands. He has the talent to be a top-five fantasy tight end if he lands in the right situation.
After the elite tier falls off the board, what underrated tight end do you think will be the biggest bargain buy in 2014 drafts?
Brandon – LADARIUS GREEN. His impressive three-week run from Week 11-13 got my attention, which is easy to do when you're 6-foot-6 and possess his kind of athleticism. I'll be watching intently next summer for signs of a changing of the guard at tight end in San Diego, as Green (23) is a decade younger than Bolts starter Antonio Gates (33). Green could be next season's Jordan Cameron.
Brad – DELANIE WALKER. The ex-Niner flourished with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, netting a 47-32-292-3 line from Week 10 on, the sixth-best output among plus-sized targets. If Fitz is retained as the starer, a strong likelihood with rumors swirling Jake Locker's days in Tennessee aren't long, the tight end could easily crank out a top-10 line.
Andy – JORDAN REED. It's a shame his season ended early, but we saw enough from Reed to know he can play. I'm expecting a post-injury discount in 2014.
Scott – I like how the Dolphins learned to use CHARLES CLAY as the season went along. I'm also on board with the Reed sympathizers here.
Dalton – JORDAN REED. He will likely be mostly forgotten after not playing since Week 11 after suffering a concussion, but Reed looked like a potential top-five fantasy tight end before the injury. And this was with Robert Griffin struggling mightily.
Tim Wright, Zac Ertz, Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed were useful at times in their inaugural campaigns. What TE prospect are you keeping an eye on in May's NFL draft?
Brandon – AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS. Admittedly, I'm a Washington Huskies fan, so I've seen much more of ASJ than the other likely TE draftees. But ASJ has big-time skills. He's built like an athletic offensive tackle with baby soft hands and solid wheels (could be even better if he trims up for the combine). I'm sure there's some offensive coordinators out there already dreaming up red zone plays with ASJ in mind.
Brad – JACE AMARO. If the Texas Tech junior bolts for the pros, he will be a highly coveted pick. He's a Vernon Davis-type, an excellent blend of power, speed and athleticism who excels out of the slot. His 98-1240-7 contribution for the Red Raiders this season certainly opened eyes. Catch him in the Holiday Bowl against Arizona State.
Andy – CJ FIEDOROWICZ, because ... well, OK, mostly because he's a Hawkeye. Fine. So I'm loyal. But the kid can pluck it, and the NFL is littered with Iowa tight ends (Clark, Chandler, Myers, Moeaki).
Scott – AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS. Always fear the Mackey Award Winner. Always fear the hyphenated name.
Dalton – I won't pretend I'm knowledgeable when it comes to collegiate tight ends, but I'd keep my eye on Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Eric Ebron.
List your top 14 tight ends for '14.
Brandon – 1) Jimmy Graham, 2) Julius Thomas, 3) Vernon Davis, 4) Jordan Cameron, 5) Jason Witten, 6) Greg Olsen 7) Jordan Reed, 8) Charles Clay 9) Martellus Bennett, 10) Ladarius Green 11) Delanie Walker 12) Kyle Rudolph 13) Zac Ertz 14) Tim Wright
Brad – 1) Jimmy Graham, 2) Julius Thomas, 3) Vernon Davis, 4) Jordan Cameron, 5) Jason Witten, 6) Charles Clay, 7) Delanie Walker, 8) Jordan Reed, 9) Martellus Bennett, 10) Rob Gronkowski, 11) Greg Olsen, 12) Owen Daniels, 13) Tim Wright, 14) Coby Fleener
Andy – 1) Graham, 2) Vernon, 3) Orange Julius, 4) Cameron, 5) Witten, 6) Reed, 7) Olsen, 8) Unicorn, 9) Clay, 10) Fleener, 12) Rudolph, 13) Daniels, 14) Ertz. For obvious reasons, I have no idea what to do with Gronk. He could rank anywhere from 3 to 30.
Scott – 1) Jimmy Graham, 2) Vernon Davis, 3) Julius Thomas, 4) Rob Gronkowski, 5) Jordan Cameron, 6) Jason Witten, 7) Greg Olsen, 8) Charles Clay, 9) Jordan Reed, 10) Tim Wright, 11) Antonio Gates, 12) Kyle Rudolph, 13) Heath Miller, 14) Delanie Walker
Dalton – 1) Jimmy Graham 2) Rob Gronkowski 3) Vernon Davis 4) Julius Thomas 5) Jason Witten 6) Jordan Cameron 7) Greg Olsen 8) Antonio Gates 9) Jordan Reed 10) Owen Daniels 11) Tim Wright 12) Coby Fleener 13) Charles Clay 14) Heath Miller