The Super Bowl is now behind us and it’s never too soon to start looking forward to next fantasy season. This is the last of a four part series in our pre-draft, pre-free agency top 10 list. In this article we’ll be going over the tight ends (PPR). They are considered the least important of the skill positions, but if you get an elite guy they can make a huge difference.
1. Rob Gronkowski
What do we really need to say? The discussion for best tight end in the league starts and ends with Gronk. Now the only discussion is if he’s the most dominant TE ever. There is no doubt that Gronk should be the first TE off the board.
2. Jimmy Graham
Graham struggled through a shoulder injury this season but still managed to be a high level TE1. He is pretty much a receiver that plays tight end. The former Miami basketball star can go up and get it in the end zone as well as anybody in the league. His numbers (85 rec, 889 yards, 10 TDs) were a bit down this season but a fully healed shoulder should have him right back to form in 2015. He’s still the clear cut TE2.
3. Martellus Bennett
Bennett was a bit inconsistent last season, nevertheless, he put together a very solid year. The big TE totaled 90 receptions for 916 yards and six TDs. He saw a spike in targets once Brandon Marshall was lost for the season. Bennett became Jay Cutler’s security blanket. There is a good chance that Marshall has caught his last pass as a Bear and Cutler will be back under center. Bennett has become a key part of the Bears passing attack and his big body in the red zone makes him a very formidable threat.
4. Travis Kelce
In what was essentially his redshirt rookie season, Kelce shined in the Chiefs’ offense. For the better part of the year he split time with Anthony Fasano, so his numbers only ended up at 67 receptions, 862 yards and five TDs. Not bad but not spectacular either. However, if you actually watched this kid play, it was clear he was the best weapon in their passing game. Kelce has star potential and we expect him to make a huge jump as the undisputed starter in 2015.
5. Greg Olsen
Olsen has become Cam Newton’s most reliable target. We do expect his targets to come down just a bit this season though (122 targets in 2014). Newton is not expected to be dealing with any ankle or lower body injuries, so he will likely run more often. Also, the Panthers are widely expected to bring in a viable WR2 to put opposite Kelvin Benjamin. With Benjamin developing and a new receiver for Newton to target, Olsen will not have to be leaned on quite as heavily.
6. Antonio Gates
Every year the predictions of Gates’ demise come rolling in. He’s too old, he’s too fat and it’s time for Ladarius Green to take over in San Diego. Then Gates comes out and is a premier fantasy TE. In 2014, Gates tallied 69 receptions, 821 yards and an impressive 12 TDs. He was among the best in the league as he had been for the 10 years previous. I was one of the many predicting Gates’ fall from grace. Not anymore, though. This time I’m riding with Gates until the wheels fall off. He’s going to slow down eventually, but right now he’s well worth the risk.
7. Charles Clay
Clay had a breakout 2013 season and was poised for a huge 2014 campaign. Unfortunately, a preseason knee injury lingered through most of the season and was further exacerbated by a hamstring that cost him two games. His numbers dropped to 58 receptions, 605 yards and three TDs. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. After missing Weeks 12 and 13, Clay finally returned healthy just in time for the fantasy playoffs. In the playoffs he caught 14 passes for 214 yards, including a six catch, 114-yard championship performance. Once November hit, the Dolphins began to feature the TE like they had in 2013. It was very successful and we expect that trend to continue in to next season. Assuming Clay returns to Miami, we expect a big year out of him and the Dolphins’ young offense.
8. Julius Thomas
We all know that Thomas is an elite talent when he’s healthy. At least he is when Peyton Manning’s throwing him the football. However, all those factors are now in question. There is a very good chance, perhaps even a probability that Thomas will not be in Denver next season. Then there’s a chance even if he is in Denver Manning may not be, and if he is he may not be healthy. If Manning is healthy, Thomas has injury concerns of his own. Not once in his career has Thomas played a full 16 season. He is young and athletic but right now is surrounded by a ton of questions. He will likely be drafted higher than I’d be willing to pick him. He’s too risky for my liking.
9. Dwayne Allen
Before getting injured, Allen caught seven TDs in nine games. He was the picture of consistency. Week in and week out he would grab 3-4 catches and a TD. Things changed after a serious ankle injury but prior he was very good. He never put up huge numbers but was solid every week. Allen is clearly Andrew Luck‘s go to guy in the red zone, and when healthy he’s proven to be the superior tight end in Indy. I personally prefer Allen over Coby Fleener. Fleener has a higher ceiling but Allen is the safer bet. Don’t be shocked if he improves on eight TD 2014 season in 2015.
10. Delanie Walker
Walker put together a very nice season in 2014. He caught 63 passes for 890 yards and four TDs. He was very up and down. He certainly wasn’t the most consistent TE. However, not too many of them are. We expect Walker to continue to put up similar numbers and round out the top 10. He’s not the sexiest pick but gets the job done.
Just Missed the Cut
He is definitely out in Cleveland, which can do wonders for a player’s fantasy value. Depending on where he lands, Cameron could ascend or descend on this list. I’ll be reserving judgment until after free agency.
Break Out Candidate
Ebron had a tough rookie season. His issue is he’s a pretty much a WR playing TE. We have seen guys like Jimmy Graham thrive in that role, though. Ebron should develop after a full season and offseason. His upside is incredible, and he has as high a ceiling as almost anybody in the league. Vernon Davis had a similar career arch coming out of college. Look for Detroit to give him every opportunity to succeed.
Because Somebody’s Going to Ask
The 49ers are a mess and Davis was awful in 2014. He will become a popular sleeper by draft time because people will believe he’s a steal. Not me. I’m staying far away from Davis in 2015.