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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fantasy Football: Tight End Rankings

By: Steve Zoladek
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1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Despite his team's lack of their brilliant play caller, Sean Payton, and a wrist injury that bothered him all season, Jimmy Graham still put together a productive season of 85 receptions, 982 yards, and 9 TDs.  Having an offseason to recover from his brutal season, Graham should be back to 2011 form.  He is Brees' favorite red-zone target, using their unstoppable red-zone fade.  Only Jason Witten was targeted more amongst tight ends last season. He'll have 90 catches and 10 TDs. Book it.

2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Gronkowski is a touchdown machine when he's on the field. He has as many TDs (38) as games started, which is remarkable.  However, he can't seem to stay on the field; a problem that existed in his college days, as well.  He's had multiple back and arm surgeries, and he has glass ankles.  With the loss of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, and the incarceration of Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady needs the Gronk now more than ever.  If he stays healthy for the entire season, he'll catch fifteen TDs and be the highest scoring tight end. But can he stay healthy?

3. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Projection: 4th Round

Vernon Davis, undeniably, was a bust last season.  After scoring four touchdowns in his first three games, Davis was only able to cross the goal line one more time for the rest of the season.  He only went over the century mark one time in the entire regular season.  He caught only 41 passes for for 548 yards and 7 TDs. And yet, I have him ranked fifth.  In the playoffs, Davis exploded for a two game total of 11 catches for 210 yards and one touchdown.  Davis became the best receiver on his team with the loss of Michael Crabtree to injury and Manningham still recovering from last season's injury.  Kaepernick has no choice but to throw to Davis this season if he wants to be successful.  There have even been rumors that Davis could see some sets on the outside in a WR role.  Remember, Davis had a 4.38 40 yard dash at the NFL combine.  He has the speed to beat anyone deep. That's why I love him this year.

4. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Projection: 3rd-4th Round

Jason Witten showed how much of a man he was last year by defying the odds and playing in week one, despite lacerating his spleen just four weeks prior.  Witten then ripped off one of the best seasons of his career with 110 receptions for 1,039 yards and 3 TDs.  He can read a defense like few others, and always finds a way to get open for when Tony Romo inevitably holds onto the ball too long and scrambles.  He was the most targeted tight end in football last year, with a whopping 150 passes thrown his way.  Another strong year for Witten is on the way.

5. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Projection: 4th-5th Round

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in!  After early season reports that he was 95 percent sure that he was retiring at season's end, Gonzalez returned after coming so close to appearing in his first Super Bowl.  Despite being 36 years old, Gonzalez had his best season since being brought to Atlanta, when people thought he was going to be washed up.  He accumulated 930 yards and eight touchdowns on 93 receptions.  Although he will be 37 this season, the Falcons coaching staff will have high expectations for him to repeat his '12 campaign and he will deliver.

6. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Projection:  7th Round

7. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Projection:  7th-8th Round

8. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
Projection:  8th Round

9. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Projection:  8th Round

10. Brandon Myers, New York Giants
Projection: 9th-10th Round

11. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Projection:  10th Round

12. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
Projection: 10th round

13. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
Projection: 10th-11th Round

14. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Projection: 12th Round

15. Jake Ballard, New England Patriots
Projection: 13th-14th Round

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