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Gronkowski was drafted at No. 100 overall in Round 9, Graham was drafted at No. 79 overall in Round 7 and Hernandez was drafted at No. 130 overall in Round 10. What does this mean for Fantasy owners? It shows you might be able to wait on a tight end in your draft and still get amazing production.
Now, we're not here to suggest you're going to find three tight ends as good as Gronkowski, Graham and Hernandez with late-round picks this year. That's impossible given how all three played last season, especially Gronkowski and Graham. But there are several tight ends ready to take the next step with their stats, and they could turn into tremendous value on Draft Day.
Three tight ends I target in every draft who have the potential to break out are Fred Davis, Brandon Pettigrew and Jermaine Gresham. Davis is being drafted at No. 89 overall in Round 8, Pettigrew is going at No. 96 overall in Round 9 and Gresham is at No. 108 overall in Round 10.
Of this trio, Gresham is the one I tend to look at the most because he has the highest ceiling. The prediction here is he will be the next breakout tight end.
Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said he wants Gresham to play like Gronkowski. Those are lofty expectations, but Gresham certainly has the talent. When last season ended, Gruden watched film on Gronkowski with the hope to learn something on how to use Gresham and improve his game.
"This is all new to him," Gruden said to the Bengals official team website. "He's got to be able to see coverages as he's running downfield and get more comfortable in the offense because he's got a chance to be a great one. He's got all the tools. Gronkowski is a great, great, great football player as far as instinctive route running. How to set up receivers. Knowing if it's a safety or corner or a linebacker, getting into the holes. It's just not about being 6-5 and running fast. It's setting up guys, sticking them, getting them on their toes. Crossing face, reading coverages. Jermaine has unique abilities. He's a very good run blocker. He's a very good pass catcher. And he can run. He's got all the tools to be one of the great tight ends in football. He just has to get used to different looks and get a better feel for the passing game. And he's shown flashes."
Gresham has impressed everyone who watched him this offseason, including CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist Pete Prisco. In his camp tour of the Bengals, Prisco wrote to "look for a big year" from Gresham in 2012, and we agree.
Gresham told Prisco: "I need to excel in things so I can be in the top level tier (with) those guys at some point. I'm just not good enough right now. I need to pick up my level of game. I need to perfect everything in the craft of the tight end position. You want to be the best. I believe I can be that guy. It's more pride than anything. You just have to keep up with your peers."
We consider Gresham the No. 2 option in the passing game for the Bengals behind A.J. Green, and he has done a nice job scoring touchdowns in his first two years with 10. But we need Gresham to score 10 touchdowns this year if he's going to make the next step in his career.
He has been solid yet unspectacular in the other areas of his game with an average of 54 catches for 534 yards the first two years. But Gresham has 70-catch potential with the chance to approach 800 yards. Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton will rely on Gresham since the Bengals are lacking experience opposite Green.
Jerome Simpson is gone now, having signed in Minnesota, and the Bengals are looking for a No. 2 receiver out of Armon Binns, Brandon Tate, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Sanu has plenty of potential, but Gresham will be No. 2 in targets for Dalton – or at least he should.
We're not expecting Gresham to approach the Gronkowski, Graham or Hernandez tier. But if you miss on those three guys along with Antonio Gates, it might be in your best interest to wait for someone like Gresham. The door is open for him to succeed, and we just hope he decides to walk through it.