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Top 15 tight ends for 2013

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Editor's note: Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg and Nathan Zegura will share a snapshot of their rankings in January to give owners something to ponder. Teams listed indicate franchise the player was with in 2012.

Top 30 running backs | Top 15 quarterbacks | Top 30 wide receivers

Top 15 tight ends for 2013
Jamey Eisenberg
Dave Richard
Nathan Zegura
1. Rob Gronkowski, NE 1. Rob Gronkowski, NE 1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
2. Jimmy Graham, NO 2. Jimmy Graham, NO 2. Jimmy Graham, NO
3. Aaron Hernandez, NE 3. Aaron Hernandez, NE 3. Aaron Hernandez, NE
4. Jason Witten, DAL 4. Jason Witten, DAL 4. Jason Witten, DAL
5. Dennis Pitta, BAL 5. Dennis Pitta, BAL 5. Dennis Pitta, BAL
6. Owen Daniels, HOU 6. Antonio Gates, SD 6. Greg Olsen, CAR
7. Kyle Rudolph, MIN 7. Greg Olsen, CAR 7. Owen Daniels, HOU
8. Antonio Gates, SD 8. Vernon Davis, SF 8. Antonio Gates, SD
9. Greg Olsen, CAR 9. Kyle Rudolph, MIN 9. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
10. Vernon Davis, SF 10. Owen Daniels, HOU 10. Jermaine Gresham, CIN
11. Jermaine Gresham, CIN 11. Jermaine Gresham, CIN 11. Jermichael Finley, GB
12. Jermichael Finley, GB 12. Jermichael Finley, GB 12. Brandon Pettigrew, DET
13. Brandon Pettigrew, DET 13. Martellus Bennett, NYG 13. Dwayne Allen, IND
14. Brandon Myers, OAK 14. Dwayne Allen, IND 14. Vernon Davis, SF
15. Martellus Bennett, NYG 15. Brandon Pettigrew, DET 15. Brent Celek, PHI
After Gronkowski, Graham and Hernandez there is a lot of uncertainty at the position, so plan to get one of these guys early if possible. I can see Gronkowski being drafted toward the end of Round 1, Graham going in the middle of Round 2 and Hernandez being selected early in Round 3. ... The majority of owners are going to have to pick from the group of Witten through Gresham. Tony Gonzalez would be No. 4 if he returns, but we expect him to retire. ... Witten, Daniels, Olsen and Gresham are the safest of those tight ends because you know what you're getting. For the most part they are consistent producers and have Top 10 potential, but the upside is limited. Witten could be the No. 1 tight end if he scored more touchdowns, but he had just three in 2012 and eight the past two years. By comparison, Gronkowski has 28 receiving touchdowns the past two seasons. ... Pitta and Rudolph could each be Top 5 tight ends. They both played well in breakout campaigns in 2012 and both are worth targeting if you chose to pass on the Top 3 and draft a tight end later with a mid-round pick. ... Gates and Davis are wild cards because if they play to their potential they could also be Top 5 tight ends, but Gates struggled in 2012 despite being relatively healthy and Davis was non-existent for most of the season. Still, based on their talent level, they remain Top 10 options on Draft Day. Finley also falls into this category. ... Heath Miller would be considered a Top 15 tight end if he makes a full recovery from his torn ACL suffered in Week 16. -- Jamey Eisenberg
You already know what those first four tight ends are all about so let's jump into why Pitta is fifth. The Ravens have realized he needs to get his work to help Joe Flacco and to help the offense move downfield. He'll be fine. ... I'm not ready to call it quits on Antonio Gates, not with Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt reshaping the Chargers offense. He might be more of a red-zone target and less of a big-play threat but he still will play a lot and haunt defenses if left in single coverage routinely. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him have one more good year. ... Keeping Vernon Davis in the Top 10 is a leap of faith that the Niners will get him back involved on a regular basis -- the good news is that you can wait a while longer to draft him, minimizing your risk in case he's back to role-player status in 2013. ... Here's the bottom line: If you don't want to mess around with tight ends this season, be prepared to take one with one of your first five picks. Otherwise, you might as well wait until the later rounds to take at least one tight end and play waiver wire roulette with them until you have a starter you're comfortable with. -- Dave Richard
The tight end position went from "stacked" to scary in just one year. ... Outside of the Top 4 tight ends, there are not many safe bets at the position (if Tony Gonzalez returns he would be right back in the Top 5 and be the fifth reliable option). ... Pitta has 11 touchdowns in his last 22 games and has emerged as a valuable weapon for Joe Flacco, which should only continue in 2013. ... Olsen and Daniels are both currently the second options in their respective passing games, which gives them nice upside. ... Gates could benefit from the new regime in San Diego, but I am definitely concerned he is on his last legs. ... Rudolph and Jermaine Gresham could both make nice leaps in 2013, but they have to become more consistently involved in non-scoring situations so that they can become reliable yardage producers even on the weeks when they do not score. ... Finley and Vernon Davis both have Top 5 potential, but their ability to disappear at times has been very disconcerting. ... Pettigrew is better in PPR formats. ... Dwayne Allen was far and away the better rookie tight end in Indianapolis and could really take a massive leap in his second year if his target level can increase to 6-8 per game. ... Jared Cook, Dustin Keller, Heath Miller (injury recovery), Lance Kendricks, Fred Davis and Martellus Bennett all have the potential to be solid contributors as well and their offseason movement/development is something to keep an eye on. ... If you want a steady tight end in 2013, you will have to take one early and given the depth at quarterback and wide receiver, it looks like a good idea to jump on a top tight end and wait at those other loaded positions. -- Nathan Zegura

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Player News
Wes Welker expected to be suspended for Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post.

Mike Klis initially reported that there was a chance Welker's suspension wouldn't kick in until after Week 1, but issued an update later. While the NFL has yet to officially announce the suspension, the Broncos have been informed of the move. The team is expected to send out a press release confirming the information Tuesday.


Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Update: Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post. The team is expected to send out a press release shortly.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


Russell Wilson ready to shine Week 1?
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson begins his post-Super Bowl year with a strong matchup against the Packers Week 1. 

Wilson performed well during the preseason, completing 78.6 percent of his passes. He threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wilson also managed three rushing touchdowns to cap off a strong preseason.

His ability to put up solid Fantasy numbers should be tested Week 1. The Packers did not boast a great defense against the pass last season. The team allowed quarterbacks to score 20.65 Fantasy points, which was the seventh worst clip in the league. Green Bay has been proactive in resolving the issue, drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, but it’s unclear how much better the team’s defensive backs will perform. 

The bigger question will be whether the Seahawks open up the offense for Wilson this season. With Marshawn Lynch out for much of the preseason, Wilson showed the ability to carry the team with his arm. Now that Lynch is back, the team could opt to get back to conservative play-calling with the franchise quarterback. Wilson has all the makings of a strong matchup here, but could get the short end of the stick if the Seahawks pound Lynch.


Matt Forte should live up to billing in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Bears running back Matt Forte was ranked as a top five Fantasy running back going into the season, and he falls in the top five in both weekly running back rankings from CBSSports.com experts. After setting career highs in rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, receptions and receiving yardage in 2013, will Forte get this season started off on the right foot in Week 1 against the Bills?

While Buffalo put together a strong defense last season, the team's particular strength was against the pass. Rushers were able to gain 4.4 yards per carry against the Bills, leaving them 23rd in the league in the category. While the Bills did a good job defending against pass-catching backs last season, they now have to play without linebackers Kiko Alonso (season-ending injury) and Nigel Bradham (suspended for Week 1) as well as safety Jairus Byrd (signed with New Orleans).

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense was just average defending passes against running backs in Detroit last season. Forte has been excellent against Schwartz, who was the head coach of the Lions from 2009 through 2013. He has rushed for 1,005 yards and averaged 4.74 yards per carry while catching 38 passes for 360 yards in 12 career games against the Lions. Ten of those contests came with Schwartz at the helm, and Forte should be able to continue giving the Bills defensive coordinator nightmares this Sunday.


 
 
 
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