We keep waiting for the year when tight ends break out en masse.
We're still waiting.
Jimmy Graham still did his thing, as did Rob Gronkowski when he was healthy. Julius Thomas emerged, Vernon Davis re-established himself and Tony Gonzalez went out with a bang. But outside of those guys, the only tight end to average over 8.0 Fantasy points per game was Jordan Cameron at 8.5, helped in big part by a strong start to the season. Mainstays like Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen all failed to hit that average. In total, eight tight ends averaged eight Fantasy points per game, but it includes Dwayne Allen (eight points in his only game) and Owen Daniels (who played five games).
Know this: Last year, the tight ends that finished in the Top 12 averaged 7.01 Fantasy points per week. This year, that average has been 7.7 points. So basically, if your tight end had eight Fantasy points it was on par with the average of the Top 12. So unlike the double-digit numbers we might judge running backs and receivers by, we're calling eight points by a tight end a successful stat line.
You can count on three drafting strategies next year: Go with a stud tight end with an early-round pick (Graham is going to be a sure-fire first-round pick), settle for a borderline stud a little later (Round 4, maybe 5 for someone like Vernon Davis) or wait forever and take a stab at one late just to fill out a roster. There will be a couple of sleepers as there are every year, and there will be familiar names that will show up on draft boards. But it seems rather clear that having a consistent Fantasy tight end can help your team pile on points week after week.
Consistent: Greg Olsen
Olsen was fine half the time, and believe it or not, that made him seventh best in consistency among his position. But of the five tight ends with at least eight games with eight-plus Fantasy points, Olsen was the only one that had single digits (eight or nine points) four times. He had seven games with five points or less; last year he had 11 such games, so this is actually an improvement. Olsen might have finished as a Top 12 option each of the last two years but he's still someone you settle for in drafts.
Consistent: Jordan Cameron
Anyone who owned Cameron would argue that he wasn't very consistent at all. After starting the season with four straight solid games, he came through with eight or more points just three other times in his remaining 11 games. But the sad reality is that Cameron was still among the Top 12 in not just Fantasy points for tight ends, but also consistency among tight ends. It also helped that Cameron had 10-plus points in five of the seven big games he had, tied for fifth best at the position. The preseason notion that Cameron would step up and have a big year was accurate -- he had massive career-highs across the board. We just wish it could have come with more weekly stability.
Consistent: Jermichael Finley
The first thought everyone will have about Finley is whether or not he'll even play in 2014. Finley had spinal fusion surgery after a major neck injury cut his season short. He's a free agent and wants to sign somewhere this offseason, but it's not going to be a rich, long-term deal. The one thing Finley has on his side is a nice 2013 campaign where he exceeded the 10-point mark three times in effectively five games. He seems like he was on his way to a great year before the injury -- here's hoping he heads back in that direction if and when he finds a team to play for in 2014.
Inconsistent: Jason Witten
We've all come to know and love Witten as a staple of Fantasy Football. Well, he's become one of the most inconsistent staples of Fantasy Football. While he had six games with 10-plus Fantasy points last year, those were his only games with at least eight. He had one game with seven, one with six and eight with five or fewer points. Brutal! This isn't a new development either -- last year he had seven games with five or fewer points, another two with six points and just five with 10-plus points. Witten also had just six 10-point games and seven with eight points in 2011. Witten's production is a commentary on tight ends in general: He's horribly inconsistent but still productive enough to find himself as a Top 12 tight end year after year because there aren't enough solid tight ends to compete with him.
Inconsistent: Antonio Gates
Gates had 10-plus points in three of his first four games to start 2013. In the 12 games after, he had over eight Fantasy points twice and eight games with five points or less. In fact, Gates has 10 games with eight-plus Fantasy points over the last two years and 16 in the last three! The issue is pushed further when you see that the Chargers have another tight end in Ladarius Green, who is more explosive than Gates heading into 2014. That doesn't mean Gates won't get a bunch of targets or touchdowns -- the two could play together at the same time -- but it's clear the big man we've called a cinch for Fantasy purposes is slowing down. Owed $5 million next year when he's 34 and catching passes at an average well under 11.5 yards per grab over the last two years, Gates can't be considered the stud he once was.
Inconsistent: Jared Cook
It shocked me that Cook finished the 2013 season as a Top 12 tight end. It did not shock me that Cook finished 25th in consistency. He had a mammoth game in Week 1 and another sizable game in Week 12. Between those games he was consistent -- consistently awful. He had 31 Fantasy points total from Week 2 through Week 10 (nine games). How duped were we after all the glowing reports during training camp and then that huge Week 1? We all thought Cook was on his way to breaking out. Instead, he made the Titans look like geniuses -- they're the ones that didn't franchise him last offseason and let the Rams overpay for him. Meanwhile, the tight end the Titans did get -- Delanie Walker -- had just as many eight-plus-point games as Cook and finished one Fantasy point shy of tying him for 11th overall at the position. No one should have plans to draft Cook in 2014.
|1||Dwayne Allen||1||8.0||1||100.0%||13||Garrett Graham||13||5.8||5||38.5%|
|2||Jimmy Graham||16||13.2||12||75.0%||14||Jason Witten||16||7.9||6||37.5%|
|3||Julius Thomas||14||10.3||10||71.4%||14||Charles Clay||16||7.1||6||37.5%|
|3||Rob Gronkowski||7||11.4||5||71.4%||14||Coby Fleener||16||5.1||6||37.5%|
|5||Vernon Davis||15||10.4||10||66.7%||14||Brent Celek||16||4.7||6||37.5%|
|6||Jermichael Finley||5||9.2||3||60.0%||14||Kyle Rudolph||8||5.6||3||37.5%|
|7||Tony Gonzalez||16||8.1||9||56.3%||19||Jordan Reed||9||7.2||3||33.3%|
|8||Greg Olsen||16||6.9||8||50.0%||19||Anthony Fasano||9||3.7||3||33.3%|
|9||Jordan Cameron||15||8.5||7||46.7%||21||Antonio Gates||16||6.4||5||31.3%|
|10||Timothy Wright||14||5.7||6||42.9%||21||Martellus Bennett||16||6.0||5||31.3%|
|11||Marcedes Lewis||10||5.4||4||40.0%||23||Delanie Walker||15||5.8||4||26.7%|
|11||Owen Daniels||5||8.2||2||40.0%||23||Jeff Cumberland||15||3.9||4||26.7%|