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Staff TE Rankings and Reactions for 2013

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Will Gronkowski be healthy enough to challenge Graham? Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Will Gronkowski be healthy enough to challenge Graham? Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

When it comes to fantasy football tight ends, it’s basically Jimmy Graham/Rob Gronkowki and everyone else, right? That would be the case if this were February, but a Rob Gronkowski DDT and several arm surgeries has left us with quite a muddled mess when ranking the tight end position.

As far as Gronkowski goes, there are basically two camps here: one that thinks he’ll be fine and still considers him a Top Two tight end, and one that has taken out their stethoscopes and envisions him missing part (or all) of the 2013 season. Me? I never graduated from (or even applied to) medical school so I’ll stay out of the injury conjecture business – especially when you consider the fact that Gronk still finished as the second-best tight end last year despite missing five games (and was a touchdown short of finishing as the best fantasy tight end).

After what is most people’s consensus Top Two (more on that below), we have a bit of a jumbled mess. There is a very well-established tier of Tony Gonzalez/Jason Witten/Aaron Hernandez at three through five, and then we get into a plethora of options – anyone of whom could be considered a “correct” choice at number six. Going back to last year’s standard league year-end rankings, only 23 fantasy points separated the sixth-best fantasy tight end (Greg Olsen) from the 14th-best fantasy tight end (Scott Chandler). By my calculations, that’s only 1.44 fantasy points per game! You can make that up by picking the right defense or kicker from week to week.

How did the Football.com Staff rank this year’s fantasy football tight ends? Let’s take a look at our rankings and some of the outliers below:

Rank First Last Tm Jake Nick Zach Jeff Charles Staff AVG
1 Jimmy  Graham NO 1 1 1 1 1 1.0
2 Jason  Witten DAL 2 3 5 4 3 3.4
3 Tony  Gonzalez ATL 3 5 2 5 2 3.4
4 Rob  Gronkowski NE 5 2 4 2 5 3.6
5 Aaron  Hernandez NE 4 4 3 3 4 3.6
6 Dennis  Pitta BAL 6 6 6 7 6 6.2
7 Vernon  Davis SF 7 7 10 10 7 8.2
8 Kyle  Rudolph MIN 8 10 9 6 8 8.2
9 Greg  Olsen CAR 9 8 7 8 9 8.2
10 Owen  Daniels HOU 10 9 12 11 11 10.6
11 Brandon  Myers NYG 11 13 15 17 10 13.2
12 Martellus  Bennett CHI 12 14 8 12 12 11.6
13 Jermichael  Finley GB 13 17 11 15 15 14.2
14 Antonio  Gates SD 14 12 16 14 14 14.0
15 Brandon  Pettigrew DET 15 15 18 13 17 15.6
16 Jared  Cook STL 16 11 NR 9 16 15.4
17 Jermaine  Gresham CIN 17 16 NR 18 18 18.8
18 Fred  Davis WAS 18 19 NR NR 19 21.2
19 Jordan Cameron CLE 19 20 17 20 13 17.8
20 Heath  Miller PIT 20 18 14 NR NR 20.4

With Gronkowski’s uncertainty and Graham’s aforementioned top finish last season, it’s no surprise that Jimmy Graham is the unanimous number one among the staff. There is a general consensus of a Top Five as well with some order of Gronk, Witten, Gonzalez, and Hernandez rounding out each staff members list from two through five. After that, the muddy picture I finger-painted above becomes all that more muddled.

With quasi-tight end Anquan Boldin’s departure from Baltimore, Dennis Pitta seems to have solidified himself as the sixth tight end on most of our boards while some order of Vernon Davis, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, and Owen Daniels generally fills out six through 10. Brandon Myers, Martellus Bennett, and Jared Cook got some love inside our Top 10, but I think Charles, Zach, and Jeff are just channeling their inner fantasy hipsters there.

Some of the more notable “fallers” in our 2013 rankings are old standbys Jermichael Finley and Antonio Gates (it’s weird seeing his name without “Questionable – Plantar Fasciitis” listed next to it) as it seems most of us have become completely fed up with being burned by those players year-in and year-out. Last season’s fourth-ranked tight end, Heath Miller, is coming of an ACL/MCL/PCL tear and took quite a fall in our rankings due to his uncertainty coming into the 2013 season.

Where did the differences lie among staff members? Let’s take a look at some of “stuck out like a sore thumb” rankings that each of us had:

Jake Ciely Outliers

Jason Witten (second): I’m splitting hairs here since most of us had Witten ranked somewhere three through five, but Jake seems to be a little higher on Tony Romo’s favorite target. He could be onto something as Witten led all tights ends in receptions, yards, and targets last year and could easily finish as this year’s best fantasy tight end if he can improve upon his ridiculously low 14 red zone targets.

Jared Cook (16th): I guess I’ll just say it now. Jake hates Jared Cook. I’m not sure if Cook stole Jake’s lunch money (or girlfriend?) when they were younger, but I’m guessing Jake is looking at Cook’s real lack of production over the past few seasons rather than his theoretical freak athletic ability and potential to post huge stats as a wide receiver masquerading as a tight end.

Jeff Brubach Outliers

Kyle Rudolph (sixth): I can’t really blame Jeff too much for his Kyle Rudolph love as the former Notre Dame product finished ninth among fantasy tight ends last season and only has to pass Pitta, Olsen, and Daniels in order to move up a few spots. I like Rudolph’s potential a lot, but he did have seven “side of a milk carton” weeks last season where he posted two or less fantasy points (two of those in the fantasy playoffs).

Jared Cook (ninth): So going by the rankings…if Jared Cook stole Jake’s girlfriend, then Jeff and Jared must be related. Jeff is going against the boss man here by a good seven spots and buying into that aforementioned potential (and reunion with Jeff Fisher) with a Top 10 ranking for Mr. Cook. I can’t say I blame the guy as I only have Cook two spots below at No. 11 in my rankings.

Zach Law Outliers

Martellus Bennett (eighth): Zach has an affinity for PBR, so I think he was really channeling his inner fantasy hipster here with Bennett at eight. To Zach’s credit, Bennett did come of out of the gate strong last year and did finish with five touchdowns, so it’s very possible he continues to improve on those numbers in Jim Trestman’s new offense in Chicago. Then again, it’s also very possible that Zach just likes his nickname.

Jared Cook (NR): It seems as if Mr. Cook is going to come out of these rankings as Mr. Polarizing, as Zach didn’t even deem him worthy to appear in his Top 20. There is a good chance Zach comes out correct here though, as he’s a Titans fan and has a lot more inside knowledge having had to watch Cook’s inconsistencies for the past several years.

Charles Murphy Outliers

Jordan Cameron (13th): Mr. Murphy is taking aim at Jake’s moniker and going all-in on Cameron taking a step in his progression this season. This is a bit of a leap for a player who has only caught 26 passes in two seasons, but Ben Watson and Alex Smith are gone and the opportunity is there for Cameron in Norv Turner’s offense. The only thing holding him back might be Brandon Wheeden.

Heath Miller (NR): Bit of a fall to go from the fourth-ranked tight end at the end of last season to not ranked, eh? I can’t say I blame Murph on this one, however, as Miller is coming off an aforementioned ACL/MCL/PCL tear and could start the season on the PUP list.

Nick Raducanu Outliers

Owen Daniels (ninth): It looks like I’m the outlier who has Daniels ranked in the single-digits, but he did finish as the eighth-ranked tight end last season, so I’m just going to assume I’m right here. He faded down the stretch and killed his owners in their fantasy playoffs, but I just don’t see the Texans having many other options to throw to with Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins as their only other legitimate threats.

Jermichael Finley (17th): Well, I guess I’m the lowest of the group on Jermichael. Finley has all the potential in the world, but his hands of stone and a bad relationship with Aaron Rodgers haven’t exactly helped his cause in Green Bay. He finished last year as the 18th-ranked fantasy tight end and only topped double-digit points in standard leagues twice all season. Like I said, Finley has a ton of talent, but there are other players with less question marks who I’d rather have on my squad.