CBSSports.com Player Ratings
Position: Quarterbacks · Running Backs · Wide Receivers · Tight Ends · Kickers · Defense/STs
Range: 1-15 · 16-30
An injured wrist sabotaged Jimmy Graham's third NFL season, but it shouldn't keep him from being an underperformer in 2013. It really didn't keep him from being a disappointment in 2012 either: Despite the injury, Graham still played 15 games and totaled 986 yards on 85 catches with nine touchdowns. Those numbers could have been higher had he played in good health for the final seven weeks of the season. Still, his numbers were good enough to lead all tight ends in Fantasy points last year. Graham's huge size, very good speed and excellent hands with the eyes of an All-Pro quarterback on him at all times make him an elite player for Fantasy purposes. The added bonus of playing in a contract year should further motivate Graham to post nice numbers. We are not at all opposed to taking him with a pick between 15th and 25th overall in standard leagues and 14th and 20th overall in PPR formats.
Rob Gronkowski will begin the 2013 season on the Patriots' active roster following a tumultuous 10 months. Gronk broke his forearm twice in 2012, which required four surgeries to correct, and also had a lower back procedure that cost him all of training camp and all of the preseason. But the Patriots obviously believe Gronkowski can contribute in the early part of the season despite the surgeries or else they would have kept him on the reserve PUP list. The feeling is that Gronk will miss at least three games to begin the year but that once he's fine the Patriots will give him back his regular workload. When healthy, Gronkowski is one of two amazing tight ends in Fantasy. Some quick math: With 38 touchdown receptions in 43 career games, Gronkowski is scoring at an 88 percent clip. With 187 career catches he's averaging a touchdown every 4.9 catches. And Gronkowski has five-plus catches in 21 games. As of this writing, on Aug. 31, Gronk remains a virtual bargain with a pick beginning at the 45th overall pick in drafts. Anything past then is real nice considering his awesome potential. Just don't expect him until Week 3 (vs. Tampa Bay) the earliest.
The Cowboys might have drafted Jason Witten's successor this season with rookie Gavin Escobar, but don't expect Witten to slow down. He should post quality stats again this season. Witten had a career-high 110 catches in 2012, and he also added 1,039 yards and three touchdowns. This is the fourth time since 2007 he's had at least 94 catches and 1,000 receiving yards. The problem for Witten is his lack of touchdowns since he's scored more than five times just once since 2008. But that hasn't kept Witten from being an elite Fantasy option since he's been a Top 5 tight end four times since 2007 (he was No. 5 last year with 115 points in a standard league). Witten also has Tony Romo's eye since he led the team and all tight ends with 147 targets, and we expect Romo to continue looking in Witten's direction a lot. He's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues with his value slightly higher in PPR formats.
Retirement wasn't in Tony Gonzalez's plans when he agreed to return to the Falcons for his 17th season. Though he's an old man by NFL standards he's coming off a season where he posted his best stats yet with the Falcons, scoring eight touchdowns and catching 93 passes for an even 930 yards. In spite of his age, no one would really be surprised if Gonzalez put up similar numbers in 2013 given his role in the offense and lack of tight coverage thanks to playing with Roddy White and Julio Jones. Gonzalez had fewer targets than those two receivers but still had 139 passes go his way. This all should not change. Gonzalez is worth a pick in Round 6 in standard leagues but might slip a few rounds in long-term formats since he said in early April this will be his last season.
Vernon Davis is expected to take on a bigger role in 2013 than he had in 2012 because of Michael Crabtree (Achilles) going down. For Fantasy owners, that means seeing the Davis from the playoffs show up all year compared to the guy who disappeared once Colin Kaepernick was the starter. Davis finished the regular season last year with 41 catches for 548 yards and five touchdowns. They were easily his worst stats since 2008, the year before his breakout season. Davis struggled to develop a rapport with Kaepernick until the postseason, when Davis took off. In his final two postseason games he had 11 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons and Ravens. We hope he can build on that performance, and Davis is too talented to overlook as anything but a No. 1 Fantasy tight end, especially with the injury to Crabtree. Plan on drafting Davis with a pick in Round 6 or 7.
Jermichael Finley is sure to be considered a No. 1 Fantasy tight end even though he hasn't done much to prove he deserves it. He scored two touchdowns last year and has 17 over his 64-game career. The 667 yards he had last season were good enough for third-best even though he caught a career-high 61 balls. That's not bad considering he caught three passes or less in half of his regular-season games. And according to Stats, Inc. Finley was charged with seven drops though there was a point where it seemed like he had a bad play every week. He finished tied as the 17th best tight end in standard Fantasy play with the Jaguars' Marcedes Lewis. Obviously, there's potential for him to shine in the NFL, and it might come with another team, but with Finley in a contract year for the second time in three seasons, he's truly at a crossroads in his career. At best, he's a consideration to begin your year as your starting tight end but we'd take him and another high-upside tight end with mid- to late-round picks.
After trying to get franchise-tagged like a receiver before free agency started, Jared Cook hopes to be utilized like one with the Rams this season. Cook wasn't franchised at all and signed with St. Louis after four years with the Titans. Playing in a prominent role the last two seasons, Cook totaled just seven touchdowns and saw his average dip in 2012 from 15.5 yards per catch to 11.9 yards per catch. But Cook contended he lined up more as a receiver and felt like he was more of a wideout than a tight end. The Titans didn't buy into that, but the Rams seem to think highly of him after giving him the most guaranteed money to a tight end in NFL history. Cook is expected to help anchor a made-over receiving corps and pick up targets he just never saw in Tennessee (81 in 2011, 72 in 13 games in 2012). If you're looking for a tight end to grab late on Draft Day to begin the season with, Cook fits the bill. We have no issue with calling him a borderline low-end No. 1 Fantasy option worth a selection starting in Round 10.
Most Fantasy owners would be giddy if you told them Antonio Gates, would play 15 games in a season. After missing nine games the previous two years, Gates appeared in 15 games in 2012. But the return to health didn't help his overall production. Gates had 49 catches for 538 yards, which was his worst output since his rookie year in 2003, including the years where he missed time. He scored seven touchdowns, but three of them came in the final three weeks of the season, which was too little too late. The good news is Gates comes into this year at 100 percent, and hopefully the three-game scoring streak will carry into this season. The bad news is he'll be 33 when the season starts, and he might not be the same player following two years of foot problems. Still, he has the potential to be a top 10 Fantasy tight end, and we consider him a No. 1 option. He should be drafted with a pick as early as Round 5 in all formats.
Jordan Cameron is a deep sleeper in 2013. He played sparingly in his first two seasons but has the size and ability to be a matchup-crushing tight end for the Browns. He's also going to work with Rob Chudzinski, who has a pretty good history of utilizing tight ends in his offense, and Norv Turner's done the same. This could be the year for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Cameron, though he's still not quite worth drafting. A good training camp and preseason would change that.
Greg Olsen posted career-highs in receptions and yardage in 2012, but Fantasy owners still cast the Panthers' tight end as a mediocre Fantasy option. Perhaps that's because he had only five games with seven or more Fantasy points, making him far more inconsistent than most elite tight ends. He also had five games with three Fantasy points or less. Olsen's salary jumps in 2013 by more than $3 million but he's expected to stick with the Panthers as a short-area target for Cam Newton. The later you can draft Olsen, the better off you'll be. We wouldn't chance a pick on him until Round 9 at the earliest.
Martellus Bennett left the Giants this offseason to sign with the Bears on a four-year deal. He is coming off a career season in New York with 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns, and he should be a featured part of the offense in Chicago. Bennett, a noted blocker, finally got increased playing time with the Giants and was able to showcase his skills, and Fantasy owners realized he's a playmaker. He should be able to connect with Jay Cutler and play at a high level with the Bears, and we consider him a low-end No. 1 Fantasy option. He's worth drafting in Round 8 or 9 in the majority of leagues.
Kyle Rudolph will be among the first 10 tight ends drafted this summer, though he'll be taken long after the likes of Gronk and Jimmy Graham. In 16 games last season, Rudolph didn't catch for more than 67 yards per contest but he had eight games with at least seven Fantasy points, a positive for tight ends not named Gronk or Graham. Any sort of improved role given to him this summer will only help him out more. Rudolph is among the crop of tight ends worth a mid- to late-round pick in drafts for those owners who choose not to spend an early-round pick on a tight end named … well, you know.
With their first round pick Cincinnati selected Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, considered by many to be the best tight end available in the draft. In three seasons with the Fighting Irish, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Eifert had 11 touchdowns on 140 catches for 1,840 yards (13.1 avg.). Bengals coaches were tickled to get Eifert for their multiple tight end packages but tempered expectations on Draft Day when they stuck with veteran Jermaine Gresham as their starter, specifically calling Eifert a "backup." That stings because Eifert does have potential to be a difference maker in the stat sheets. Fantasy owners have to keep track of his progress in training camp and get an idea of how frequently the Bengals will use him in two-tight end sets before relying on him as a weekly starter. That leaves Eifert worth a late-round pick in seasonal leagues, a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues and a Top 20 pick in rookie-only drafts.
Expectations are for Owen Daniels to begin the year as a No. 1 Fantasy tight end. After proving he could be useful with a career-high six touchdowns in 2012 to go with 62 catches and 716 yards, Daniels finds himself in an offense void of elite receiving threats opposite Andre Johnson. Last year he had 128 targets, catching more than 60 percent of them, and this year he might be able to get more because of the Texans' thin receiver corps. It's enough to make Daniels a low-end No. 1 Fantasy tight end worth a middle- to late-round pick, just before the sneaky late-round tight ends start flying.
Brandon Myers picked the right season to have a breakout year. Myers was in a contract year in 2012, and he played well enough to earn a new contract from the Giants. He should be the starter in New York this year as the replacement option for Martellus Bennett. Myers is coming off a career performance in 2012. He had 79 catches for 806 yards and four touchdowns, which shattered his previous career highs. He had 105 targets, and Myers was a great waiver-wire addition for many Fantasy owners, especially in PPR leagues. That might be the case this year again since he’s unlikely to get drafted, even with the move to the Giants with Eli Manning. We expect Myers to have some positive moments this year, but consistency will be a factor. He should only be drafted with a late-round pick in most formats.