Fantasy Football Player Analysis: Tight end

by Cory J. Bonini on July 23, 2012 @ 17:58:57 PDT

 

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KFFL's player analysis will be updated and expanded on regularly through the offseason. Be sure to sound off in the comments section below!

1) Jimmy Graham | New Orleans Saints | 6-foot-7, 265 pounds | 3rd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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8999119112911315

Fantasy analysis: Graham's 2011 numbers speak for themselves. He finished the year with 99 receptions, 1,310 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. The Saints' offense is about as pass-happy as they come, and Graham is a centerpiece. He should only benefit from the losses of Robert Meachem and Sean Payton. Drew Brees will rely on those he is most comfortable with; Graham's 149 targets last year ranked No. 1 among tight ends and sixth overall when wide receivers were factored in. The third-year line extension has awesome size, leaping ability and wingspan. He is about as athletic and dynamic as anyone the position has ever seen. New Orleans still doesn't have a running game to speak of. Graham goes in the early third round, on average, in standard scoring, and he comes off the board as a late second-rounder in PPR systems. We feel he is more likely to come close to replicating his 2011 stats, if not improving his touchdown figures, than his primary draft competition (Rob Gronkowski) is.

2) Rob Gronkowski | New England Patriots | 6-foot-6, 265 pounds | 3rd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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657593710371113

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Fantasy analysis: The 2011 season saw Gronkowski atop the fantasy leaderboard among tight ends. He snatched 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and scored an incredible 17 touchdowns. While extremely productive, Gronk's scoring came in bunches. That isn't necessarily a negative, though. He posted seven multi-touchdown games last year. Gronkowski was remarkably consistent catching the ball, having logged at least four catches in every game but one. He is recovered from a late-season ankle injury and received a contract extension in the offseason. The addition of Brandon Lloyd is the only notable change in the passing game for the Patriots, but Josh McDaniels returns as offensive coordinator. His history of using the position is terrible. In fairness, he hasn't worked with anyone like Gronkowski before. Gronk's biggest enemy will be history. Replicating such a strong season will be nearly impossible. That doesn't mean he can't come close. However, we believe Jimmy Graham is the safer choice as the top fantasy tight end for 2012. Gronkowski is typically drafted in the early third round. It is important not to be overzealous when selecting him on draft day, so keep that figure in mind.

3) Antonio Gates | San Diego Chargers | 6-foot-4, 260 pounds | 10th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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617169679646

Fantasy analysis: Look for a rebound from the former collegiate rebounder. Gates has shed weight to take some stress of his currently healthy foot and to extend his career. He is finally healthy heading into training camp and reportedly looks like his former self. He enjoyed a strong statistical season in 2011, even in what was a down year by his standards. Gates caught a 64-778-7 line in 13 games, including several playing on a busted wheel. Vincent Jackson is gone, and the Bolts will likely rely heavily on the run. This also means more Gates action. The offense is set up to perform much like it did early in the 2000s, when Gates was the cream of the fantasy crop. The vet is a risky pick at 32 years old with his recent history of foot injuries. As long as he is on the field, Gates remains a top-notch fantasy tight end, though. He normally comes off the board in the early sixth round.

4) Jermaine Gresham | Cincinnati Bengals | 6-foot-5, 260 pounds | 3rd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
334333443413

Fantasy analysis: Gresham is our favorite to break out at the position in 2012. The third-year tight end has excellent size and hands. He is two full years removed from a knee reconstruction and has the benefit of a full offseason to learn this complex West Coast system with blossoming quarterback Andy Dalton. Gresham is starting to regain some of his athleticism and should become more of a downfield target. The Bengals desperately need someone to step up to take some pressure off A.J. Green, or at least serve as an outlet for Dalton should Green be taken out of a play. Gresham is that guy. He is a dangerous red zone weapon; nine of his 10 career scores have come inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Only 20 of his career 175 targets have gone for more than 15 yards, although that number jumped from four to 14 last season - his first year in Jay Gruden's offense. Gresham is a fantastic sleeper candidate if you miss out on one of the elite options at the position. Understand that we are very high on him, especially compared to his ADP of the ninth round.

5) Vernon Davis | San Francisco 49ers | 6-foot-3, 250 pounds | 7th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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5060808908911

Fantasy analysis: The veteran tight end has speed to burn and heart to match. He has been the focal point of the Niners' passing game the past three seasons and should see more open room if Randy Moss is everything offseason reports have made him out to be. Davis never topped 12.4 yards per reception until he exploded for 16.3 per catch in 2010. His 2011 average was 11.8, which tends to make us believe the '10 figure was an anomaly. The 49ers' offense should be improved and more rounded in its second year under Jim Harbaugh's tutelage. Davis hasn't missed a game in four years and has averaged a stat line of 67-890-9. He comes off the board in the seventh round, on average, which is a good value considering his upside.

6) Jason Witten | Dallas Cowboys | 6-foot-6, 261 pounds | 10th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8999988108868

Fantasy analysis: Witten's value is at its highest in PPR leagues, as he is usually one of the most targeted players at his position in the NFL. Tony Romo has full confidence in Witten and relies on him heavily. Dallas doesn't have anyone that appears to be ready to step up as the No. 3 wideout, which means Witten likely will have more of a role as a checkdown that usual. He has three 1,000-yard seasons in the past five years, missing out on going five-for-five by 58 yards in 2011 and 48 in 2008. Witten's biggest downside from a fantasy perspective is his lack of prowess in finding the end zone. He never has caught more than nine touchdowns in a season (2010), and he has just 41 in his nine pro campaigns. Witten is safe (hasn't missed a game since 2003) and still has a little bit of upside at age 30. He is drafted in the early seventh round, on average, in both PPR and standard scoring formats.

7) Jermichael Finley | Green Bay Packers | 6-foot-5, 247 pounds | 5th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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05-505001

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers

Fantasy analysis: Finley is ultra athletic and talented, but he has a capped ceiling in Green Bay's spread-the-ball passing attack. He probably will struggle to catch more than 60 passes in a season in this offense. Finley caught a career-high eight touchdowns last year, all of which came in the red zone. He has Aaron Rodgers throwing to him and may benefit from Green Bay's questionable running back corps, if they choose to use him as an extension of the ground game. He is an all-or-nothing fantasy play most weeks, logging no more than three receptions in 10 games and scoring 37.5 percent of his total touchdown volume in one game last year. Finley is being drafted in the late seventh round, on average. We have seen him go as early as the mid-fifth, which is simply too early for his limited statistical capability in this offense.

8) Fred Davis | Washington Redskins | 6-foot-4, 247 pounds | 5th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Fantasy analysis: The 'Skins have a rookie quarterback in Robert Griffin III, and his athletic ability, coupled with inexperience, could lead to a huge year for Davis. The veteran tight end has encountered some off-the-field slipups in the last few years, but he has vowed to clean up his act. Davis is extremely athletic in his own right and has the ability to stretch the field. In 12 games last year, he caught 59 balls for 796 yards and scored three times while dealing with a middling quarterback situation. Expect improvements across the board if he can stay on the field for a full slate of games. Davis should be a featured target in an offense looking for playmakers. Fantasy owners are opting for him in the late seventh round, which is a very sound time to take a shot on him.

9) Dustin Keller | New York Jets | 6-foot-2, 250 pounds | 5th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Fantasy analysis: Keller, who is in a contract year, is coming off a career season. He caught 65 balls for 815 yards and scored five times, giving him 10 in the past two years. The Jets' passing game has few weapons to work with, which is a factor in our love for him this season. Keller worked out in California during the offseason with Mark Sanchez. However, we remain nervous about the possibility of Tim Tebow taking over at quarterback in 2012. Durability, upside, production and situational aspects all play into our belief that he will have a breakout season. Draft Keller once the marquee names are off the board as a midrange No. 1 fantasy tight end. He goes in the 11th round, on average.

10) Tony Gonzalez | Atlanta Falcons | 6-foot-5, 247 pounds | 16th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Fantasy analysis: Gonzo isn't getting any younger, if we're putting it nicely, although he remains a fantasy force to be reckoned with. The position's elderly statesman enjoyed a renaissance season in 2011, snaring 80 balls for 875 yards and seven touchdown receptions. The Falcons' passing attack will open up under OC Dirk Koetter, and the vertical game of Julio Jones should only create more space for Gonzalez to work with. He is a solid PPR choice if you want a fairly safe, low-cost option. Gonzo typically goes in the late 10th round.

11) Owen Daniels | Houston Texans | 6-foot-3, 247 pounds | 7th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
324240550524

Fantasy analysis: Daniels quietly posted respectable numbers last year, even though he didn't have Matt Schaub for six games. The Houston offense is run-first without the veteran quarterback (balanced with him), but Daniels didn't make a fantasy splash in more than a few games. He failed to catch more than three passes in eight of 15 contests and was invisible in the touchdown column following a three-game scoring streak from Week 2 to Week 4. We are expecting a rebound, but temper your expectations of Daniels. He is a low-end No. 1 if you're looking to gamble, but we recommend him as a backup in deep leagues for those that play it safe. His ADP is the early 11th round.

12) Aaron Hernandez | New England Patriots | 6-foot-1, 245 pounds | 3rd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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Fantasy analysis: It is tough to imagine Hernandez having as good of a season in 2012 as he did last year (79-910-7 in 14 games). He caught five touchdowns in his first six games played and finished with two in his last three after a five-game drought. He caught at least four passes in every game but one, all while sharing the field with wide receiver Wes Welker (122 catches) and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski (90 receptions). The addition of Brandon Lloyd and Josh McDaniels' lack of history using the position as a receiving weapon has us questioning Hernandez's fantasy value as a TE1. He is being greatly overvalued by generally come off the board in the mid-sixth round. Too many other tight ends are safer and have less competition to steal looks from them to reach for Hernandez based on last year's production.

13) Greg Olsen | Carolina Panthers | 6-foot-5, 255 pounds | 6th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
8393918101868

Fantasy analysis: Olsen should have a better year with his second season in the system, including a full offseason to learn it thoroughly. Cam Newton appears to be special and should improve the nuances of his game in 2012. The Panthers have to find someone to step up to help take some pressure off Steve Smith, and Olsen is a very athletic player for the position. His ADP is the middle of the 13th round.

14) Brent Celek | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 6th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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314145455435

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles

Fantasy analysis: Celek is coming off hip and hernia surgeries. He appears to be fully recovered and reportedly looks fluid coming off the line. Philadelphia's offense as a whole enters training camp in good shape health-wise, which should allow for better continuity. Celek sees ample running room in the middle since defenses have to focus on DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin so much. The veteran tight end has a little bit of a risk factor about him and can get lost in the offense with so many weapons, but he makes for an awesome No. 2 fantasy tight end or a passable TE1. He is drafted, on average in the 10th round.

15) Ed Dickson | Baltimore Ravens | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 3rd year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

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243425535502

Fantasy analysis: Surprisingly, Dickson is flying under the radar of fantasy owners and is not drafted in the top 25 at his position. In 2011, he caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns in 16 starts. Dickson should benefit from the Ravens' suspect receiving corps. Torrey Smith had a great rookie year, but he has red flags surrounding a sophomore slump. Anquan Boldin is long in the tooth, and Jacoby Jones has underachieved in his career. Dickson could be in for a lot of work. Consider him a TE2 in leagues with rosters of 18 or more players.

16) Heath Miller | Pittsburgh Steelers | 6-foot-5, 256 pounds | 8th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
617166376346

Fantasy analysis: Miller and Ben Roethlisberger have chemistry, which is intriguing in an offense that will no longer be the Most Boring Show on Natural Turf. Pittsburgh has enough weapons and little proven in the rushing game that Miller could be lost to the defense. His fortunes are directly tied to Big Ben staying healthy, though. Miller is a sneaky No. 2 fantasy tight end that you can land on the cheap at the very end of your draft.

17) Brandon Pettigrew | Detroit Lions | 6-foot-5, 265 pounds | 4th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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405039649613

Fantasy analysis: The biggest concern with Pettigrew is that a healthy return of Jahvid Best would dramatically cut into the tight end's looks. He caught 83 balls last year, with many of them coming on plays in which he was used as an extension of the running game. The Lions have a lot of weapons and a high-flying O, but Pettigrew is mainly utilized in a checkdown role. His best value is in PPR leagues as a safe No. 2 or very risky TE1. He comes off the board in the early ninth round, on average.

18) Anthony Fasano | Miami Dolphins | 6-foot-4, 255 pounds | 7th year

2012 Projected NFL/Fantasy Football Statistics

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
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304027637613

Fantasy analysis: The veteran tight end could see a spike in production this year iif Chad Johnson isn't able to get the job done. However, recent reports suggest Fasano may not be a good fit for Miami's new West Coast offense, even though it will iincorporate the tight end more than in recent years. Fasano, who has to hold off rookie Michael Egnew, is rarely drafted, but you might want to take a flier on him in deep leagues as a second tight end if he retains the starting job. His value is greater in scoring formats that reward receptions.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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