2014 Fantasy Football: Early Tight End Rankings
Top 15 Fantasy Tight Ends
In recent fantasy football seasons, the tight end position has gone through a major transition.
During the 2013 season, there were shockingly 11 tight ends that hauled in six touchdowns or more. In 2012, there were only nine tight ends that accomplished the feat.
In 2013, the top three tight ends combined for 41 touchdowns (Jimmy Graham -16, Vernon Davis-13, Julius Thomas-12). In 2012, the top three tight ends combined for just 29 touchdowns (Rob Gronkowski-11, Jimmy Graham-9, Kyle Rudolph-9).
The tight end position has quickly become one of the deepest positions in all of fantasy. Obviously Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis are elite options, but there are players worth drafting well past the top-five big names.
One obvious omission from the list is TE Tony Gonzalez. The future Hall of Famer said several times throughout the season that this would be his last go-around. So to be accurate, I left him off the list. It is a possibility that Gonzo could come back for one more season, but as of right now, it seems highly unlikely.
So for those of you looking for an inside edge on next year’s rankings, here are my early top-15 wide receiver rankings for the 2014 season.
15. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens – A preseason hip injury devastated the tight end’s fantasy value in drafts this summer. He was slated to miss most of the 2013 season and quickly became a fixture on the waiver wire. There was a ton of attention surrounding his return towards the end of the season, but Pitta only had one strong outing. In four games, Pitta recorded over 50 yards once and caught just one touchdown. He can still be a weekly starter, but only in leagues with over 10 owners.
14. Timothy Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Timothy Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Wright finished as the 15th ranked tight end in fantasy last season and the youngster quietly had a breakout season. After the team’s Week 5 bye, Wright averaged 6.3 fantasy points per game and hauled in all five of his touchdowns. Wright ended up posting low-end starter numbers towards the end of the year and will be one of the best sleepers at the position heading into 2014.
13. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins – Clay was another relative unknown before the season started, but ended up posting starter-quality numbers down the stretch. He finished the season with 69 receptions, six touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. The tight end even received 103 targets from QB Ryan Tannehill and quickly became one of his most trusted receiving options. Clay should be good for another 6-plus touchdowns in 2014.
12. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – Ertz showed glimpses of being a star fantasy option in his rookie season. The 2013 second round pick caught four touchdowns in the team’s final six games, including the playoffs. He slowly started to form a rapport with QB Nick Foles and the PAC-12 duo will be stronger next season with an entire off-season to work together. Don’t expect the tight end to put up top-10 numbers next season, but he should do enough to easily crack the top-15.
11. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers – Gates was the number one tight end off the board a couple years ago in every format, but the eight-time Pro Bowler has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. The tight end hobbled his way through all 16 games this past season, but he missed 10 games in the previous three seasons. He has also started to lose time to fellow tight end, Ladarius Green. However, Gates still finished as the ninth-ranked tight end in fantasy last year. His All-Pro days are obviously behind him, but he can still be a serviceable option in leagues with over 10 owners.
10. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts – Fleener quickly became the main tight end after Dwayne Allen went down for the year after suffering a season-ending hip injury. Fleener is another tight end that showed brief glimpses of his potential last year and the third-year player will be even better in 2014. The tight end has an uncanny chemistry with QB Andrew Luck and the duo should finish the 2014 season with around 700 yards and 5-7 touchdowns.
9. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears – The constant change at the quarterback position tended to leave Bennett as the forgotten man in Chicago, as he hauled in just one touchdown in his final nine contests. Chicago has two of the best wideouts in football in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, which will at times leave few balls to go Bennett’s way. However, the Fast Food Panda still can be a reliable threat in the red-zone, so don't be surprised to see him haul in between 6-8 touchdowns in 2014.
8. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins - When the season started, the rookie tight end was listed as the third tight end in Washington. However, he quickly eclipsed Fred Davis as the best receiving option and the first-year tight end took over the starting job after just three weeks. He is a very reliable route-runner and quickly formed a rapport with QB Robert Griffin III. Reed’s best game was an 134-yard outing against the Chicago Bears, that included a game-winning three-yard touchdown. The tight end was eventually forced to shut it down for the year due to concussion issues, but he showed enough to be drafted as a number one tight end next season.
7. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers – Olsen is one of the safest options at the tight end position after the big names come off the board. Olsen has now hauled in at least five touchdowns in six straight seasons and has posted back-to-back 800-yard campaigns in Carolina. He has become a favorite option for QB Cam Newton to look for in the middle of the field and will always be towards the top of the team’s stat leaders. Olsen should have no problem posting another 800 yards and five-plus touchdowns in 2014.
6. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots – Even though Gronkowski was rumored to miss a number of games to start the 2013 season due to back/forearm issues, he was still the second tight end off the board last summer. He only played in five games, though, and ended the year after a gruesome knee injury in which he tore his ACL and MCL.
The tight end still put up huge numbers when he was on the field. He caught four touchdowns in five games and hauled in a staggering 592 yards. Gronkowski’s fantasy value will be greatly dependent upon his ability to return 100%, but if he can return to form, he will once again be an elite fantasy tight end. The vast concern about the All-Pro's long list of injuries will keep him out of the top-five in 2014, though.
5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys - Witten is consistently one of the most underrated tight ends in fantasy. Witten’s 851 receiving yards was his lowest total since 2006, but the tight end still caught eight touchdowns, which was his touchdown total from the previous two seasons combined. Witten will always be a top-five tight end and fantasy fans can expect him to be drafted as such next summer.
4. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns – Cameron averaged 74.5 receiving yards over the first seven games of the 2013 season and hauled in six touchdowns. He disappeared over the second half of the season, as he averaged 45.8 receiving yards in his final seven games with just one touchdown. Cameron wasn't the same after his midseason concussion, though, and it severely hindered his numbers down the stretch. He still showed that he can be one of the most dangerous tight ends in fantasy and he truly has 10-touchdwon potential. Don't feel bad about wasting a mid-ronud pick on Cameron this summer, because he won't disappoint.
3. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos – A popular sleeper this off-season, Thomas quickly produced for fantasy owners by hauling in 110 yards and two touchdowns in the opening game of the year. He ended up with a staggering 12 touchdown receptions in 2013 and was the third-ranked tight end in all of fantasy. With superstar QB Peyton Manning likely to return following a Super Bowl loss, look for Thomas to easily haul in another 10-plus touchdowns in 2014.
2. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers – Davis tied a career-high this past season with 13 touchdown receptions. QB Colin Kaepernick may have had an up-and-down 2013 campaign, but Davis posted strong numbers each week. He only missed one game in the past six seasons (ironically this past season), despite showing up on the injury report several times in recent seasons.
Davis will see extra room to work next year with a healthy Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin running routes downfield, so fantasy fans can expect another elite fantasy season from VD.
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints – As expected, Graham dominated the tight end position this past fantasy season. He hauled in 16 touchdowns and 1,200 yards, despite being plagued all year with a painful plantar fascia injury in his foot. He will continue to be the top fantasy option at the position in 2014 and be the only one worth drafting inside of the top-25 picks.