Target Practice, Week 14: Gronkowski, Graham and ridiculous tight end stats

Roto Arcade

Rob Gronkowski, as of this writing, leads all receivers in year-to-date standard fantasy scoring — not just his position, but all tight ends and wide receivers. Jimmy Graham ranks fourth. This sort of thing basically never happens, even in the all-time seasons for NFL tight ends.

Ditka would not have led all receivers in fantasy scoring in '61 (Tommy McDonald was No. 1), Winslow wouldn't have led in '80 or '81 (John Jefferson, Alfred Jenkins), Christensen wouldn't have led in '83 (Mike Quick) and Shannon Sharpe wasn't really close in '96 (Michael Jackson).

Even in the two greatest pre-Gronk touchdown seasons at this position — Vernon Davis in '09, Antonio Gates in '04 — the elite tight ends would not have ranked among the top-5 wide receivers. This year is really unlike any other in terms of TE fantasy scoring ... and the story doesn't even end with the guys atop the leader board.

At the moment, there are seven tight ends averaging better than 8.0 standard fantasy points per week, and 15 averaging at least 6.0. Here's the full list:

Rob Gronkowski, 15.3
Jimmy Graham, 12.2
Antonio Gates, 9.6
Tony Gonzalez, 9.5
Jason Witten, 8.2
Aaron Hernandez, 8.2
Fred Davis, 8.1
Jermichael Finley, 7.4
Jermaine Gresham, 6.8
Dustin Keller, 6.6
Vernon Davis, 6.5
Jake Ballard, 6.4
Greg Olsen, 6.3
Owen Daniels, 6.3
Scott Chandler, 6.0

Back in 2001, Tony Gonzalez led the position in fantasy scoring at 8.0 PPG, and Marcus Pollard was second at 7.6. No other tight end even reached 6.0. In 2006, two tight ends reached the 8.0 PPG plateau (Gates, Gonzo) and seven others topped 6.0. Today, we have a pair of tight ends scoring like top-tier WRs. Even the players we think of as fantasy duds, like Hernandez and Finley, would have challenged for top-scoring honors a decade ago.

So yeah, things have changed. It's way too early for this discussion, but let's introduce it anyway: What the heck are we going to do with Gronk and Graham in 2012 drafts? If you think they can approach their 2011 productivity, then don't you have to consider them in the back half of Round 1?

And let's just say you're in a PPR league that allows you to play a tight end at flex: Would you consider going TE-TE at the turn?

I kinda hate that I just wrote that, but it doesn't even crack the list of the top-five most ridiculous things I've suggested to you. After this week's position-by-position target notes, feel free to offer your take on tight end value in comments...

Wide Receivers

No, Devin Aromashodu didn't lead the position this week, but he did see another significant workload. He's been targeted 25 times over the past two weeks, delivering 10 catches for 137 yards. He's not exactly the most dynamic receiver in the game (or on his team's roster), but he might just be one of the better WR options available on your league's waiver wire. Minnesota is about to face New Orleans, a defense that ranks 30th against the pass (268.0 YPG, 20 TDs). Percy Harvin is an obvious start, Aromashodu more of a dice roll. But again, you have to like the recent usage. ... Andre Johnson (hamstring) is hardly a sure thing this week, so consider Kevin Walter a good-not-great fantasy option in Week 15, vs. the Panthers. Walter is coming off a double-digit target game, and his last catch was the biggest in franchise history.

Nate Washington is dealing with a medley of injuries (ankle, back), yet he still delivered a season-best yardage total in Week 14. Expect him to miss some practice time this week; let's just hope he can play on Sunday, in a terrific match-up at Indianapolis. ... AJ Green might just be my top-ranked receiver in Week 15. Cincinnati is facing the Rams, a lousy team with lousy corners, coming off a short week. Do not bench the rookie. ... Jeremy Maclin aggravated his injured hamstring on Sunday — "It tightened up," said Andy Reid — so he's no sure thing for the Jets match-up in Week 15. Look to avoid, if possible. ... James Jones was the featured Green Bay receiver in this week's pick-up segment...

...but Randall Cobb and Donald Driver are certainly on the radar as well. Aaron Rodgers has thrown multiple touchdown passes in every game this season (which is ridiculous), so clearly the offense can support several viable fantasy receivers, beyond Jordy and Jermichael.

Running Backs

If you're looking for Felix Jones propaganda, you can either play the video above, or you can hit this link. He's a must-start in Week 15 vs. Tampa Bay. The Bucs defense has allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season, recently overtaking Carolina for that non-honor. ... Jonathan Stewart may have led his position in targets last week, but he didn't quite fill the stat sheet (29 rushing yards, 27 receiving, no TDs). He has a brutal match-up against Houston in Week 15. The Texans may have clinched a playoff spot, but they can't afford to lose, not with homefield advantage still undecided. Houston has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season — an impressive rank when you consider the backs that they've faced: MJD twice, a healthy McFadden, Rice, Sproles, Turner, Mendenhall, Cedric, et al.

Speaking of Darren McFadden, here's more bad news: There's still no obvious reason to hope for a return this week. He's dealing with a Lisfranc injury, and the next positive report will be the first.

Tight Ends

One of the more impressive and under-reported details in Gronkowski's season is that he's only third at his position in year-to-date targets, behind both Graham and Gonzalez. Gronk has 71 catches on 100 chances, which is crazy-good, and 15 touchdowns (which is unprecedented). ... Greg Olsen delivered yet another low catch total, but this week he managed to find the end zone on a 44-yarder, so he wasn't a fantasy disaster. He's not an ideal starter against Houston this week. ... If you're looking at waiver options at this spot, consider Anthony Fasano in Week 15. He'll face Buffalo, a defense that allows the most fantasy points to TEs. Also note that Fasano will face the league's most generous pass defense in Week 16 (New England). ... Dynasty league owners should consider a Kyle Rudolph pick-up, while there's still time. He's made some highlight-quality catches this season, despite limited opportunities. (Here's one example, and here's another). Visanthe Shiancoe will be a free agent in 2012, and Rudolph was a second-rounder.


Photo via US Presswire

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