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

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
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

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
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

Rec Rec Yds Rec TD
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
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
Lo Hi Lo Hi Lo Hi
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.

Fantasy football tight ends No. 6-12 await your eyeballs.

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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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