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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Fantasy Football: Top 20 Tight Ends for 2015

With my wide receiver rankings released over the weekend, let's move on to fantasy football's thinnest position -- tight end.

Spoiler alert: Rob Gronkowski is first.

Not only is he the top guy at his position, but Gronkowski may go in the first round of some drafts this year. It's probably deserved, considering how much of an advantage he gives you over every other tight end in the league. Gronkowski outscored Antonio Gates, 2014's No. 2 tight end, by 30 points.

The only thing that's held him back in his career have been injuries. As of now, there are no injury blips on the radar.

We did learn on Monday of a new hiccup -- Tom Brady is suspended for four games. It may be reduced if he appeals, but even if that happens, it's unlikely to be less than two-game ban. Obviously, this affects every New England skill-position player.

Is it enough to knock Gronkowski off the tight end throne?

If Brady really misses four games, that's a tough one, but I still think he still warrants the No. 1 spot. Remember: Gronk was hobbled early on last year. He didn't have over 45 yards in a game until Week 5, and he still finished with a sparkling line of 82-1,124-12.

Even if Jimmy Garoppolo is completely unready and plays terribly, Gronkowski will still put up decent numbers in those first four games. The Steelers, Jaguars and Cowboys -- three of the Patriots first four opponents -- were all among the bottom third of the league in defensive passing yards allowed per game.

After Gronkowski and No. 2 tight end Jimmy Graham, no one else should be taken in the first four rounds.

Like I said in the receiver rankings, it's dangerous to do any sort of rankings this early. There is still a lot of offseason left. There will be injuries, training camp, preseason games (and suspensions!) -- all of which can affect a player's value. Things will certainly change in the coming months.

These rankings are for standard scoring leagues, not PPR leagues.

1. Rob Gronkowski -- I already covered him pretty well. So let's watch him destroy Sergio Brown of the Colts last year. It's just another reason why he should be your favorite player.

2. Jimmy Graham -- Will be interesting to see in Seattle. Russell Wilson's first elite pass-game weapon. The trade officially starts the transformation of the Seahawks from Marshawn Lynch's offense to Russell Wilson's after they tried and failed to do it on their last play of 2014.

3. Travis Kelce -- The talent is extremely enticing. In his second year, Kelce posted 67-862-5, finishing eighth at the position. Ability to shed tacklers after the catch is, dare I say, a little Gronk-ish. Addition of Jeremy Maclin should force defenses to actually gameplan for a receiver this season.

4. Greg Olsen -- Has quietly been one of the most consistently productive tight ends in football over the last three seasons. Three straight top-10 finishes, two of which were inside the top five. Set career marks in yardage (by nearly 200) and catches in '14.

5. Martellus Bennett -- Similar to Olsen, been a top-12 tight end for three consecutive years, including fifth last season. Departure of Brandon Marshall frees up more targets. Four touchdowns in first three weeks, finished with six. Ended the year 11th in the NFL, first among tight ends, in receptions (90). Caught 70 percent of targets.

6. Antonio Gates -- Just keeps producing. No. 2 tight end in '14. With 12 scores, tied Julius Thomas and Gronkowski for most touchdowns by a tight end. He will eventually disappear, but I'm not betting on it being this season.

7. Julius Thomas -- Tough guy to rank. Going from an elite quarterback to possibly the worst in the league. Initially wanted to put lower due to his extreme dependency on touchdowns in Denver. Never had more than 65 grabs or 800 yards in a season. Only caught 43 balls for 489 in '14 (13 games) but had 12 touchdowns. Assuming he will be Blake Bortles's top red-zone weapon.

8. Jason Witten -- Last season continued his decline from his monster 2012. Finished with 64-703-5. Expecting about the same line this season. Could be a nice value pick if others target possible breakout guys lower on the list.

9. Zach Ertz -- Epitome of a post-hype sleeper. Better than you think last year, amassing 58 catches for 702 yards. Jeremy Maclin and Lesean McCoy free up 180 targets. May be unleashed in '15.

10. Dwayne Allen -- Mediocre 12-game season (29-395) propped up by touchdowns (eight). Coby Fleener was considerably more productive. Touchdowns are too random to rely on, especially with all the mouths to feed in Indy. Two-TE scheme diminishes both. Don’t like him in ‘14.

11. Jordan Cameron -- Two years removed from 80-917-7 season with the Browns. Was having a disappointing '14 before concussions shut him down, although his quarterback situation was lacking. Move to Miami is a nice boost. Ryan Tannehill helped Charles Clay to a No. 6 tight end finish in '13. If he play 16 games, will be a top eight guy.

12. Jordan Reed -- Cut from the same cloth as Kyle Rudolph. Has shown signs when healthy, just rarely healthy. Had 50-465 line in 10 games a year ago, which translates to 80-744 over 16 games.

13. Josh Hill -- Complete wild card but appears to have a golden opportunity. Has never been asked to do much receiving. Has never done much receiving. Used primarily as a blocker in '14. Will be a popular breakout pick with Jimmy Graham out of town.

14. Kyle Rudolph -- Perennial underachiever. Best line (53-493-9) came in '12, the only time he's played all 16 games. Only started 16 games total over the last two seasons. Quarterback situation is more stable now. Much like Cameron, will be a big-time value if he plays close to 16 games.

15. Eric Ebron -- Typical rough rookie year for a tight end. Should see field more this year, but the true breakout may come next season. Will be a popular breakout pick. Good write up on him here, suggesting he will be the Lions third option in the passing game.

16. Coby Fleener -- Quietly had a nice '14, finishing with 51-774-8. Statistically, quite a bit better year than teammate Dwayne Allen, going by per-game averages. Did benefit from Allen missing four games. Received at least seven targets in six of final eight games. I think Allen is above him on the depth chart, though.

17. Delanie Walker -- Was the 11th-ranked tight end in '14. Had 30- and 20-point weeks. Scared off by rookie quarterback and just an all-around unstable offense. Perfect for streaming when anticipating a blowout.

18. Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson inhale too much of the targets in Tampa Bay. If Jameis Winston is a hit, then ASJ could be a top-ten guy in '16.

19. Owen Daniels -- Age 33 but should see the field plenty. Peyton Manning and Gary Kubiak working in his favor.

20. Charles Clay -- Sammy Watkins and Lesean McCoy will be the focal points of Buffalo's offense. Bleak outlook.


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