Revised Fantasy Tight End Rankings

The first week of the preseason is in the books and the regular season is just around the corner. Many fans are brimming with excitement over their franchise’s incoming draft class and the vast potential of teams around the league. It truly seems to be the dawn of a new era in the NFL; an era which is dominated by youth. Collegiate athletes come far more prepared for the pressures of the NFL than ever before. With an overwhelming abundance of first and second-year players pushing for playing time, more and more veterans are seeing a decreased role in their respective offenses.

Unfortunately for some of those veterans, the tight end position is not immune to this youthful revolution. In recent years, the NFL has seen an influx of talent at the tight end position that was previously unheard of. So much so, that many teams are using two tight end sets as their base offense or at the very least they are utilizing multiple tight ends regularly throughout games.

This is happening with such frequency that the entire makeup of the position has changed. The modern-day tight end is a freakish athlete capable of blocking like an offensive tackle and running like a wide receiver. Not to mention many of these individuals have the height and box-out ability of an NBA power forward.

It is true that there are still a few elder-statesmen who have adapted to the recent changes in positional philosophy though. In fact, some of the names on this list are the same guys that were there seven years ago. However, as you will soon find out, those players are few and far between. With that being said, here is a list of the top 10 fantasy football tight ends for the 2013 season.

 

10. Brandon Pettigrew DET

It seems like every season, Brandon Pettigrew is pegged as a trendy breakout candidate for fantasy football. Though he has yet to become a truly “elite” tight end for the Lions, he is still one of the more talented players in their insanely pass-happy offense.

Head coach Jim Schwartz has indicated that Detroit would like to use a more balanced offensive attack this season, but with Matthew Stafford slinging the ball, that seems unlikely. Stafford is finally living up to his billing as a No. 1 overall draft pick the past few seasons for Detroit.

Stafford’s red zone efficiency was only average in 2012 but he should improve this year with better consistency from his offensive line. As a result, fantasy owners should expect Stafford’s touchdown production to resemble his 2011 season. This bodes well for his favorite targets, namely Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew.

2012 stats- 59 receptions 567 yards 3 touchdowns

Previous ranking- Unranked

 

9. Kyle Rudolph MIN

Rudolph is a very talented tight end who would simply benefit from consistency at the quarterback position. The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder hoping he would be the long-term answer at the league’s most valuable position, but so far the jury is still out.

Lucky for Viking fans, this year should serve as a fairly accurate indicator for where Ponder is in his development. His offensive line is solid in every phase and he has the benefit of being able to lean on the league’s reigning MVP for offensive production.

In order for the Viking to maintain an effective play-action passing game, it is often necessary for their tight ends to chip-block before releasing into a passing routes. Kyle Rudolph may already be one of the very best in the league at this particular facet of the game. He represents the new generation of tight ends and is well on his way to becoming a fantasy superstar.

2012 stats- 53 receptions 493 yards 9 touchdowns

Previous ranking- Unranked

 

8. Dwayne Allen IND

Following the 2012 NFL Draft, Colts fans had good reason to be excited about their tight end group. Though legendary Colts tight end Dallas Clark left via free agency along with Peyton Manning, Indy’s management had the presence of mind to anticipate these departures and draft accordingly.

Interestingly enough though, Coby Fleener was expected to be the Colts’ featured tight end following the 2012 draft class. When Dwayne Allen established himself as the more complete tight end on the roster though, it caused people league-wide to do a double-take. His in-line blocking ability is far superior to Fleener at this point in their career making him a more complete option. Plus, Allen has deceptive speed and short area quickness.

With Andrew Luck firmly entrenched as the Indianapolis franchise quarterback, Dwayne Allen has the potential to become an absolute fantasy stud for years to come. He has good hands and runs solid routes making him a viable red zone option for the new-look Colts. Allen should perform as a No. 1 fantasy tight end with tremendous upside. His value is increased in Dynasty and PPR leagues as well.

2012 stats- 45 receptions 541 yards 3 touchdowns

Previous ranking- No. 9

 

7. Tyler Eifert CIN

Understandably, people are skeptical about a rookie tight end being ranked this high for fantasy football before even making his regular season debut. However, Tyler Eifert is no ordinary rookie.

At Notre Dame, he consistently played through double-teams and delivered on the biggest stages college football had to offer. Like Kyle Rudolph–another former golden-domer–Eifert displays the abilities associated with the new generation of tight end. He is willing and capable of run-blocking but is better known for splitting wide and out-muscling cornerbacks and safeties alike.

Eifert is literally a mismatch no matter who lines up on him and the Bengals realize that. Though incumbent starter Jermaine Gresham will do his best to hold off the rookie phenom, Eifert should see a significant number of targets early and often in his career. Don’t let the rookie label scare you off this fantasy season, draft Eifert with confidence and expect him to develop an early rapport with Andy Dalton.

2012 stats- 50 receptions 685 yards 4 touchdowns

Previous ranking- No. 10

 

6. Dustin Keller MIA

People tend to forget just how talented Dustin Keller is. Drafted in the second round out of the University of Purdue, Keller became one of the few bright spots in the land of fantasy irrelevance known as the New York Jets.

Though he is not a mauler, Keller is a very capable blocker and certainly shifty enough to split out wide. This makes him the ideal “joker” tight end. A “joker” is a tight end that can line up as a traditional in-line tight end, a fullback, or a receiver based on the offensive package. Coaches frequently move these “jokers” around to create mismatches and put defenses on their heels.

The Miami Dolphins acquired their former division rival this offseason with the hopes that he can work the middle of the field with consistency. Miami also acquired speedy receiver Mike Wallace this offseason. Wallace should open things up for everyone with his other-worldly speed. Consider Keller a sneaky mid-to-late round selection in your fantasy draft this year who should outperform his draft status.

2012 stats- 28 receptions 317 yards 2 touchdowns

Previous ranking- No. 8

 

5. Vernon Davis SF

The San Francisco 49ers’ realize the necessity to get Vernon Davis more involved in their offense. Particularly with the recent loss of wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Davis is one of the few tight ends in the league faster than most receivers. Coming out of Maryland, Davis ran a 4.3 40-yard dash and soon became a top-10 draft pick.

Now, Davis is one of the few reliable targets left for the 49ers’ dynamic young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His ability to create separation downfield and win jump-balls should allow Davis to remain at the forefront of the 49ers offense, making him a solid fantasy option for the 2013 season.

2012 stats- 41 receptions 548 yards 5 touchdowns

Previous ranking- No. 7

 

4. Jermichael Finley GB

It almost seemed like Jermichael Finley was on his way out the door in Green Bay last season. Somewhere along the line, Packers’ management must have had a change of heart though as Finley now looks to be a fixture at the tight end position for franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Finley has worked tirelessly on his blocking and has shown a marked improvement in that department. However, the highlight of his game will always be his receiving ability. With the best quarterback in the game throwing him passes, coupled with the departure of pro-bowl receiver Greg Jennings, Finley should have more than enough targets to have a big impact in fantasy football this year.

2012 stats- 61 receptions 667 yards 2 touchdowns

Previous ranking- No. 6

 

3. Tony Gonzalez ATL

This future Hall of Famer never seems to lose a step. Year after year he is among the very best at his position. Most people attribute this to the perennial pro bowler’s relentless offseason workout routines which have since become a thing of legend.

When Gonzales began teetering on the verge of retirement this past offseason, the Falcons’ veteran leadership put on the full-court press making his return their top priority. Ultimately they succeeded and are gearing up for another deep playoff run.

With Matt Ryan at the helm and veteran Steven Jackson locking down the backfield, Gonzales should be able to maintain his amazing production for one more year making him far-and-away the No. 3 tight end in fantasy football this season.

2012 stats- 93 receptions 930 yards 8 touchdowns

Previous ranking- SAME

 

2. Jason Witten DAL

This is the guy that every franchise is hoping to get when they draft a tight end. Jason Witten is not only a gifted athlete, he is one of the toughest players to ever wear an NFL helmet. He is reliable and consistent in every phase of the game and shows no signs of slowing down.

Even though Dallas drafted Gavin Escobar in the second round of the 2013 draft, fantasy owners shouldn’t expect Witten’s targets to drop any. He has spent years building trust with quarterback Tony Romo and will remain his go-to receiver. Witten is perhaps the safest bet at the tight end position for the 2013 fantasy football season.

2012 stats- 110 receptions 1,039 yards 3 touchdowns

Previous ranking- SAME

 

1. Jimmy Graham NO

With Aaron Hernandez being indicted for homicide charges and Rob Gronkowski having multiple surgeries for recurring back and forearm injuries, Jimmy Graham becomes the undisputed king of the tight end position. His ability to work the seam and go up and get the ball in traffic is second to none. It also doesn’t hurt that Drew Brees is his quarterback.

This former University of Miami power forward may need to work on his blocking skills to become a more complete tight end in the NFL, but for the purposes of fantasy football, Graham is as good as it gets.

2012 stats- 85 receptions 982 yards 9 touchdowns

Previous ranking- SAME