The number of elite tight ends has fallen dramatically, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get great value in later rounds.
If you really want to make a splash in the tight end market, make sure you move early and grab one of the Big Three. However, if you want to wait and try to maximize your value, there are no less than nine fantastic options that can be gotten for the cheap.
Here are your top twelve Tight Ends for 2011, along with some guys on the fringe that are definitely worth keeping an eye on – especially if you already have good feeling about one of them.
Fantasy Football TE Rankings: The Wild Cards
- Brent Celek – expect him to get lots of play early before cooling off late as Vick gets a little more comfortable and his weapons get more explosive.
- Todd Heap – his name makes me keep him on here…but he was washed up three years ago.
- Tony Gonzalez – see Heap, Todd.
- Marcedes Lewis – the Jaguars are a mess this year, but he could be a solid pickup late in the season if they start figuring things out.
- Owen Daniels – this guy is a real threat, especially if Arian Foster will miss an extended amount of time. Look for opponents to be double-teaming Andre Johnson and leaving the middle of the field wide open.
- Chris Cooley – probably one of the most reliable tight ends you can grab…never flashy, but good for five catches and fifty yards nearly every game.
- Jimmy Graham – he’s a the most oft-cited sleeper this year, and with good reason considering he’s the #1 tight end for the Saints, a team that loves to use their tight end.
Fantasy Football TE Rankings: The Top 12
#12 Tony Moeaki
The great thing about tight ends is that you aren’t necessarily handicapped by having terrible quarterback play. Whereas AJ Green might only catch 50 passes this year, below-average quarterbacks often target their tight ends more. They are always open and usually end up being the first safety valve a QB sees.
Moeaki came into the league with a bang last season, and while he hit a little bit of a rookie wall, expect him to make a leap this year. He was second on the Chiefs in targets AND receptions, and on a team with an explosive running game coupled with pretty decent skill players on the outside, he should get plenty of opportunities in year #2.
#11 Brandon Pettigrew
If the Lions truly break out this season, Pettigrew will be a huge reason for it. The former high draft pick had a stellar season last year with Joe Shmoe throwing him the ball. Expect him to catch more than the 71 balls he caught last year easily, and if his TDs go up at all (from four…not too hard), you have yourself a top eight fantasy tight end.
#10 Greg Olsen
He might catch half of all of Cam Newton’s passes this year…especially if Steve Smith continues to be a no-show. Add to that the fact that Olsen is actually uber-talented, and I think he has a big year in 2011.
#9 Kellen Winslow
He’s a soldier…and he plays with a young QB. Should be another great year for the ex-Hurricane.
#8 Rob Gronkowski and #7 Aaron Hernandez
I’m not sure this has ever happened before, but the Patriots have two legitimate top eight guys at the tight end position.
With the weapons on the outside aging, the Patriots have reinvented their offense into a staggeringly difficult to defend unit that controls the middle of the field. Wes Welker, Gronkowski, and Hernandez are constantly stretching defenses horizontally, rather than vertically.
Last season, Gronkowski had more TDs while Hernandez had more catches and yards. I think Hernandez has a slightly better year because he’s more talented, and Brady may end up looking to him slightly more in the red zone this season.
Either way, if you grab one of these guys, be happy…maybe even hope that his teammate gets hurt, because then you will have a bonafide stalwart at the TE position.
#6 Zach Miller
He’s really good and Tarvaris is really bad. I think he puts up crazy numbers for a lousy team…you know, kind of like he has been doing for the past five seasons.
#5 Jermichael Finley
He had nearly 700 yards and 5 TDs two years ago…the year before Aaron Rodgers became one of the best QBs in the league. If he stays healthy, the Packers could put up amazing numbers, with Finley being a key benefactor.
#4 Vernon Davis
Another one of those guys that’s really good and will actually benefit from poor QB play. Admittedly, there might be a bit of risk in this pick, as we have seen how poor Davis plays when he’s not motivated (before Singletary arrived). However, if he is motivated, he’s capable of 80 catches and 1000 yards…a simply unbelievable output from a tight end.
#3 Jason Witten
We are into our big three and with good reason. Witten has broken the 80 catch mark for three consecutive years, and he is not projected to slow down any time soon. He is durable, having not missed a game since 2004, and incredibly reliable. Even last year, when he played with a backup QB for ten games, he finished with 94 catches and over 1,000 yards. Grab Witten and be happy. You will have done well.
#2 Dallas Clark
Look for Clark to come back ready to play after his injury-shortened 2010 campaign. While he may not catch 100 balls for 1100 yards like he did in 2009, don’t be surprised if he posts some HUGE weeks, especially early on as Manning looks like he may start out slowly.
Really, Witten and Clark are pretty interchangeable, but I give Clark the slight edge because he doesn’t wear receiver gloves. Seriously, how awesome is that? In a league full of divas and wimps, Clark remains a man among boys.
#1 Antonio Gates
As good as it gets…as long as he’s healthy.