It's never too early in the season to start talking about fantasy football and rankings. That's why I've decided to jump on the tight end bandwagon and rank them, they're people too right?
Despite most of them being ignored during the early rounds of the draft tight ends can have a large impact on your team.
I'm one of the guys who always waits on tight ends and I subscribe to the same thought process as I do with quarterbacks, theres plenty to go around. I've considered many times grabbing an elite guy such as Jimmy Graham early in my drafts but I've always convinced myself that I'd be better served grabbing a second running back or my first wide receiver.
2014 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
What Jimmy Graham has done over the past few seasons is nothing short of remarkable and to be honest he's the only guy I'll legitimately consider taking before a second running back or my first wide receiver. The only place I won't bite on him is in the first round of any draft I'm in, possibly with the exception of a full point PPR league.
Here are the guys I believe are the top 10 tight ends to start off the 2014 season. This list assumes that Tony G. remains retired. All stats are each tight ends 2013 production. Let's see how these tight ends stack up:
1. Jimmy Graham - 1,215 Yards - 16 Touchdowns
Did you ever really think he wouldn't be ranked first? Jimmy Graham continues to dominate the position and last year was only surpassed by 3 wide receivers in standard scoring. That's absolutely remarkable. I'm not worried about his franchise tag situation in New Orleans and have no doubt he'll be back on the field with Drew Brees in no time. In fact, not only did only 3 receivers have more points than him but so did just 5 running backs - that means he was the 9th highest scoring flex option of 2013. Talk about a stud. If he's there in the second round of your draft you've gotta consider him well worth the price.
2. Julius Thomas - 778 Yards - 12 Touchdowns
Isn't it impressive the impact that Peyton Manning can make? Julius Thomas burst onto the fantasy scene thanks to some help from Manning and he never really looked back. Based on where you acquired Thomas last season he was an absolute steal and an incredible value (most people were able to snag him off the waiver wire). Looking forward I see his production holding steady during the upcoming season. He falls into the second tier of tight ends and is a great value starting in round 5. If you can get him there, take him.
3. Vernon Davis - 850 Yards - 13 Touchdowns
Vernon Davis continues to perform despite everyone believing that he "doesn't work well" with Colin Kaepernick. Davis put up 13 touchdowns in 2013 and seemed to have a nice connection with Colin. As 2014 rolls around I expect their offense to keep firing on all cylinders with the return of Boldin, a healthy Crabtree, Frank Gore and a plethora of other running back talent. They could look to add a WR in the draft which may cut into Davis's potential production but for now I'm not worried. I think he should be the third tight end off the board, going in round 6.
4. Rob Gronkowski - 592 Yards - 4 Touchdowns
He's had problems staying healthy and staying on the field - not ideal traits you're looking for from the 4th tight end off the board. The thing is, you can't discount his potential and what he's done when healthy. He's always been a favorite target of Tom Brady and assuming he comes back healthy and stays healthy, I don't see that changing this year. I think he's worthy of a sixth round draft pick but he likely won't end up on my team. Assuming there's still uncertainty around his health come draft day the reward might not be worth the risk in my eyes but I can't disagree with the argument for taking him.
5. Jordan Cameron - 917 Yards - 7 Touchdowns
Cameron was touted as a fantasy football tight end sleeper in 2013 and he sure lived up to those expectations, at least for the first half of the year. He provided a great return for being a late round investment and I expect another great season out of him. Outside of Josh Gordon the offense doesn't have any major threats, leaving the passes to go to these two guys. I expect him to continue to get a lot of looks and make the most of his opportunities. I have him as a top 5 tight end because I believe in his talent. We'll see if I'm right.
6. Dennis Pitta - 169 Yards - 1 Touchdown
Dennis Pitta is another guy coming off a serious injury in 2013. Like I've mentioned in my article "Breakout Fantasy Football Quarterbacks", I'm expecting the Ravens offense to have a big year this season with the addition of Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator and the expectation that Ray Rice (or another running back) can't perform nearly as poorly as they did last year. I think he catches a ton of balls and they look for him in the red zone. He's worth looking for in round 7 in upcoming drafts.
7. Jordan Reed - 499 Yards - 3 Touchdowns
Concussions have sadly been a large part of Jordan Reed's career and he's paid dearly for it. All indications at this point show he'll be ready to return to the field in 2014 and I expect big things, if he can stay healthy. Concussions are always a concern but with RG III having more time to heal from surgery and a new coach in town I expect to see a ton of balls thrown his way. Last year when he was healthy he was showing flashes of brilliance and I'd like to believe it will continue. He's worth a pick in rounds 7-8 in drafts this fall.
8. Greg Olsen - 816 Yards - 6 Touchdowns
Greg Olsen was similar to many of the tight ends at this part of the spectrum, he was a serviceable option but you could never really be sure of what you were getting. He had his big moments and also disappeared. Cam Newton will continue to look his way this upcoming season and I'm hopeful they add another receiving threat to help open up the field even more. To be honest I just can't get excited about Greg Olsen, he's not a sexy pick and I don't think he'll win or lose you your season, he just has a decent floor. Look for him after round 8.
9. Jason Witten - 851 Yards - 8 Touchdowns
Jason Witten continues to perform admirably in the Dallas offense scoring 8 touchdowns and gaining 851 yards. He continues to have a connection with Tony Romo and the addition of a new offensive coordinator could lead to increased production this season. I believe Tony Romo will thrive, Dez Bryant will have a record season and that additional passes go Jason Witten's way. I like Jason Witten as a round 9 draft pick and is someone who could move up the board as the offseason progresses.
10. Martellus Bennett - 759 Yards - 5 Touchdowns
Although I have him starting at 10 in my ranks, he's a guy I believe could move up the ranks in future versions. The Chicago offense continues to look potent with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett. However this strength is also a weakness as there are only so many passes to go around. We all know Jay Cutler loves to force throws to Marshall and Jeffrey has emerged over the last season, which could limit Bennett's upside. I believe he'd be a solid pick in round 10 or later and there could be plenty of room for future growth.
Fantasy Tight End Rankings Are Truly Preference
The reality is that the tight end position in fantasy is just as murky as it's always been. Although rankings always come down to personal preference I'd say that after the 4th ranked tight end the other guys really aren't all that different. They each present their own variations of risk and reward, and ultimately it depends on the value you see in them.
These rankings are prior to free agency, the NFL draft and additional offseason changes so these rankings will remain fluid. Over the coming weeks players will move up and down the list, although the tight end rankings likely won't change as much as other positions. Lets face it, I don't foresee anyone dethroning Jimmy as the top fantasy tight end this upcoming season.
Think my rankings are crazy or you simply just wish to share you thoughts? Jump into the comments below and share some feedback, I'd love to hear what you have to say.
The main photo above is an original copy that comes courtesy of Flickr. The other photos are originals courtesy of NFL.com.
For the record, I never actually played football. I have no doubt that I would get crushed running across the middle for a pass, every single time.