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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
QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


Kenbrell Thompkins comes out of nowhere
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 am ET) After making only modest contributions since coming over from the Patriots in Week 6, Raiders wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins suddenly emerged as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target Week 16 against Buffalo, catching five passes for 90 yards. He hadn't caught even one pass since Week 13, and his previous high in yardage was 47.

Of course, you should know how this goes by now. Fellow wide receivers James Jones and Andre Holmes have both had their stretches of Fantasy relevance this season, as has tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders have a multitude of viable receiving targets, but their roles aren't so clear, which makes the task of picking the most impactful from week to week next to impossible.

In other words, you'd need to play in an especially deep league to take a flier on Thompkins for the season's final week.


Latavius Murray trustworthy up to a point
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 am ET) If his 23 carries Week 14 against San Francisco didn't convince you, Latavius Murray's 23 carries Week 16 against Buffalo should make the message loud and clear: He is the Raiders' top running back, and they're putting more faith in him than they ever did Darren McFadden.

Granted, it hasn't translated to much production yet, but the 49ers and Bills are two of the toughest defenses against the run. Unfortunately, Denver, the Raiders' Week 17 opponent, is ranked even higher at both.

Can you trust Murray to get his carries? He's gotten them two of the last three weeks, so most likely, yes. And with 20-plus chances, there's always the chance he breaks a long one. But the matchup will make it difficult.

You'd like to start him given his ever-increasing role, but you shouldn't force him into your lineup if you have two (or maybe three) respectable running backs already.


One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


 
 
 
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