Fantasy Football Draft Day: Tight Ends Are Worth Waiting On

By Dustin Manko
Jimmy Graham
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

As draft day approaches, we are all scouring the blogs, looking at the matchups and planning our strategies. Get it right, and your team is set up to take a big lead in the standings early; get it wrong, and you could be out of fantasy playoff contention by midseason. With that in mind, we focus today on the tight end position.

As I reviewed last season’s final point totals (standard Yahoo! scoring system), one number jumped out and shocked me: 68. This was where Jimmy Graham finished in term of overall points scored. That’s less than Cecil Shorts, Shonn Greene and Ahmad Bradshaw. Graham finished more or less tied for points with Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson, for crying out loud.

This isn’t to knock on Graham. He is without a doubt the best tight end until Rob Gronkowski gets over yet another surgery. Even with a healthy Gronkowski, it’s a 1A/1B situation with those two.

What this is to say is draft day is all about value. There is no reason to pick any player at fifth overall when that same player will be available at 55. While some owners will most likely jump out and grab Graham somewhere in the first or second round, resist that urge.

The reason for this is cost replacement value. I’ve seen more than a few mocks where Graham goes in the top 20. By comparison, most mocks I’ve seen to date have Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Vernon Davis going in/around rounds 6-7. That’s a 40-50 player gap for almost the same production.

Sure, there will be a slight production gap between Graham, Gronkowski (assuming he plays nine-plus games) and the rest of the tight ends out there, but is that gap worth missing out on a possible a second RB2/WR2, or even a flex? I don’t think it is. I would much rather hold off on drafting a tight end in favor of that extra back, wideout or bye week backup.

I think you will be better off exercising patience at the position. Use that high draft spot to shore up your backfield, or grab that high-ceiling wideout. If Graham or Gronkowski are still available around the end of Round 5, that’s when I would pull the trigger.

Here are my top tight ends as of right now, and where I would draft them:

Round 5 (late) – Graham
Round 6 – Gronkowski, Gonzalez, Davis, Witten

Bonus Sleeper/Killer Picks

Sleeper — I like Brandon Myers of the New York Giants right now, but don’t burn a high pick on him. Remember what Eli Manning did last season with Martellus Bennett, and Myers had a solid year with a vastly inferior Carson Palmer of the Oakland Raiders. Manning loves getting the tight end involved, and Myers could jump the gate early. If you can grab him around late round nine, I would.

Killer — Never again am I drafting Antonio Gates. Even with the new San Diego Chargers‘ offensive changes, I just don’t see him being worth a pick. All he is just a name now. The Gates you are thinking of is long gone. He’s a step slower, and I won’t believe he’s going to play a full season again until I see it. You’re better off grabbing Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams) or Heath Miller (Pittsburgh Steelers).

I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.

Dustin Manko is a contributing writer at Rant Follow him on Twitter @DustinManko, ”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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