By Staff Writer John Belaska
Tight ends have never been more valuable in fantasy football than they are now. Due to the evolution of the passing game, the tight end position is no longer something you can afford to wait on in the draft. They are a must-have and a huge difference maker when it comes game day.
In the past, having a top tight end was just a nice shiny toy on your roster. You would be overwhelmed if your tight end could reach 700 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Now that is the bench mark. We are no wanting guys who can put up close to 1000 yards and can find the end zone on a regular basis. The waiver wire used to be the way to start tight ends. Each week, a new one would be placed in the lineup and you just had to hope for the best. That does not work today. Only a few do good and the rest put up goose eggs. Drafting a top tight end is an absolute need.
10. Cameron Jordan
Cameron Jordan had a break out 2013 campaign. More than likely Johnny Manziel will be the one throwing the football in Cleveland at some point during the season. This may end up hurt Jordan a bit. Normally young quarterbacks use the tight ends as often as possible. However, due to Manziel’s playing style it is much harder to see him targeting Jordan as much as Brian Hoyer did. Manziel’s tendency to run around in the pocket takes too much time away for the quick routes that tight ends typically run.
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9. Heath Miller
Heath Miller is always a great option in fantasy football. He is always a top ten tight end, but is always overlooked on draft day. He is not the most jaw dropping pick, but he is always a performer. He is a perfect tight end for the more conservative fantasy football owners.
8. Charles Clay
Charles Clay was a huge surprise in 2013. He is one of the only tight ends worthy of a starting spot on a fantasy team that plays the H-Back position. The H-Back is a tight end who will line up on the outside, on the line, and sometimes even in the full back spot. This means Clay has tons of ways to make an impact on the game. Tannehill is still young enough to need the tight end to get him out of some difficult spots. Tannehill is also developing very well in the pocket. These two factors just make Charles Clay look even better.
7. Jordan Reed
Prior to an injury in the second half of the season, Jordan Reed was looking like an up and coming star. This was happening even with Robert Griffin underperforming. Now that RG3 will be back at full strength the sky is the limit for this young tight end. It is suggested that you draft another tight end if you go for Reed because there is not enough of a track record to say he is a locked in stud. However, the potential is so great for him that he definitely warrants a spot as a top ten tight end.
6. Greg Olsen
Greg Olsen is a lot like Heath Miller. He is a model of consistency at the tight end position. This season, Cam Newton’s options in the passing game are very limited. The only player he has worked with and has a good report with is Olsen. This will definitely mean the Panthers’ tight end will put up some good number, especially at the beginning of the season.
Julius Thomas was a super star in 2013. This is more than likely because Peyton Manning had the most amazing season any quarterback has ever had. Peyton’s number definitely helped Thomas’. Obviously, one should not expect Peyton to have a repeat season. Therefore, Thomas’ numbers will likely go down. The good news is that the Broncos’ quarterback has a lot of trust in this young pass catcher so he is definitely still a top tight end.
Rob Gronkowski is the hardest tight end to judge. When he plays, he is the absolute best tight end in the game. Yes, even better than Jimmy Graham. However, his history with injury is a huge knock on him. Both 2012 and 2013 were cut short due to injuries. Therefore, one would have to expect him to miss time in 2014 when they are making their projections. However, if he stay healthy for a full season, watch out!
3. Jason Witten
Jason Witten is another very consistent tight end. His numbers are usually better than Miller’s or Olsen’s. He demands a bit higher price tag in the draft than those two do, but he is definitely a difference maker. There is not a single receiver on the Cowboys’ roster that Romo can trust more to never put up a bad game.
2. Vernon Davis
Never mind this hold out business, Vernon Davis is the man. Last season, he was taking the bulk of the overage and he still managed to be the second best tight end in the NFL. This season the 49ers have a healthy Crabtree and added Stevie Johnson. Defenses will no longer be able to load up coverage on Davis. Expect an even better season in 2014.
1. Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham is the only tight end in the NFL that warrants a pick in the first three rounds of a fantasy draft. He is constantly putting up number that put wide receivers to shame. The difference in value between Graham and the second or third best tight ends is huge. If you are considering drafting him, you are making a wise decision.