Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

2014 Draft Prep: Tight end tiers and strategies

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Quarterback tiers | Running back tiers | Wide receiver tiers

Some Fantasy owners want a difference-maker at tight end -- and are willing to step up on Draft Day to get one. Some want a player with breakout potential or a long track record of success. Some want a bargain. Some want to gamble on a sleeper when the draft is half-over. And some see the position as a necessary evil and will take whatever's left at the end of a draft.

Which owner are you? If you know already, then you probably know when you'll draft a tight end and maybe even who it will be. But if you don't know which kind of owner you are, you won't be lost for much longer.

This year, the tight end tiers pretty much dictate your possible strategies.

Early birds

If you want a difference-making stud, it'll mean spending a Top 40 pick, if not Top 30. But you should get what you pay for.

Jimmy Graham is the king of tight ends right now, especially since he's officially been classified as such (appeal pending). Last year he overcame a bad (for him) 2012 to finish with 10 or more Fantasy points 12 times in 16 games. Keep in mind that eight Fantasy points for a starting tight end is considered good. In fact if we lower the bar to eight-plus Fantasy points then he's accomplished the feat 22 times in his last 31 games. He's a unique breed of player at the position and one that can make a weekly difference for your Fantasy team. That's why he's at the top of the food chain -- and why he'll cost a first-round pick. Maybe he'll slide to early Round 2 in smaller standard leagues but when owners are looking for a sure thing in Round 1, Graham is it.

Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski will be the next two tight ends taken in every draft, though the order will vary depending on Gronk's health. After taking forever to come back from a nightmare forearm injury last year (and a back problem, too), Gronk played in almost seven games before tearing his ACL. That happened in December, meaning he'd have slightly less than nine months of recovery time and rehab if he were to play in Week 1. He's risky not only to be effective right away, but to stay healthy for 16 games. That's why a lot of people would rather get Thomas, who broke out for the Broncos a year ago and could be in store for even more stats now that he has a year of great experience with Peyton Manning under his belt.

Thomas will get nabbed anywhere between the end of Round 2 and the end of Round 3. Gronk's a wild card who could go ahead of Thomas or a full round after him. But by the end of Round 4 these guys will be ancient history.

Remember, the point of taking one of these guys is to have a stable rock on your roster. If you draft one of them, you won't need to draft a backup since you'll never sit your superstud. And while you might come up light at another spot (like No. 2 running back or No. 2 receiver) on Draft Day, all it will take is some suave roster maneuvering to improve. There's more reward than risk, a rarity in Fantasy.

In the middle

The next group of tight ends have the potential to dominate but is more likely to be closer to seven or eight points a week rather than over 10. But they shouldn't require a pick any higher than late Round 5.

Vernon Davis is on the fence between these tiers, not quite a lock to have another big year statistically but not quite a lock for "just" eight points per week. The biggest factor is his status -- if Davis isn't in training camp anytime soon then his entire season is at risk since most players who miss camp struggle. He also has to keep up his torrid touchdown streak with Kaepernick: 15 touchdowns in 18 total games last season. We always expect a regression in touchdowns after a big year, particularly when a quarterback's favorite target returns to take red-zone looks away (in this case it's Michael Crabtree). But there's no denying Davis' abilities or role as the predominant game-wrecker in the Niners offense, which is expected to become more pass-heavy this year after averaging 26.0 attempts per game last year. But he must improve on his receiving yardage after averaging just 50.2 yards per game over 18 games. That number dipped a smidge to 43.9 yards per game in eight with Crabtree on the field, and the Niners bulked up at receiver this offseason. So consider Davis appropriately -- a sixth-round pick is fair.

The tight ends who will follow Davis off of most draft boards in some order are Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten, Greg Olsen and Dennis Pitta. You can almost count on these four being selected within a 20-pick span of each other to make up a tight end run of sorts. We've seen these runs begin in late Round 6 through late Round 7 as owners want to get a safe player with a track record of success. Cameron and Olsen stand to be the top receiving threats for their team, Pitta should be in line for a solid year now that he's healthy and in a tight-end-friendly offense and you can set your watch to Witten's stats as he's been Top 8 or better at the position in each of the last seven years.

Getting late, getting great?

The remaining tight ends that will get drafted as starters are players who could develop into top-tier tight ends ... or fall on their faces and frustrate you. The risk involved with these guys varies but the reward stands to be juicier than those of the previous tier.

Zach Ertz, Kyle Rudolph and Jordan Reed are young, prominent members of their offenses. All three are in systems that should pass a good amount (Rudolph and Reed's offenses should pass more than Ertz's though). And two of the three (Ertz and Rudolph) have the potential to finish as high as second on the team in targets (Reed should finish third behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson). They're all mismatch nightmares like Graham, too. But each have their flaws: Rudolph doesn't have blazing speed and will need those targets along with touchdowns to string together a big year. He's also battled injuries, as has Reed (multiple concussions last season, which is scary). Ertz is healthy by comparison and is a size-speed monster but the Eagles offense has many receiving threats and there could be some games where Ertz just isn't a big part of the game plan.

A lot of Fantasy owners like the idea of skipping over the second-tier tight ends and focusing on this trio because they carry as much if not more upside and can be had as soon as Round 8. That means you can shop for other positions before getting to a tight end.

Wait ... how many tight ends is that?!

So far we've successfully sorted through 11 tight ends. If you play in a league with 10 owners or less, assume that everyone will get a nice starter, making the position relatively deep. Nice!

But if we're in a league with 12 teams or more (and tight ends are mandatory) then there's a wee bit more pressure on owners to come up with a valid starter.

If you're in the position of being last to draft a starting tight end, shoot for the moon. Find a list of tight ends that have the potential to shatter expectations. And this year, that list should begin with a rookie.

Eric Ebron was drafted in Round 1 by the Lions, a total luxury pick given the state of their defense. They'll have to justify the selection by using him in the offense more than just a couple of times per game. But the excitement is in the details: Ebron is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, runs very well and will play the "Jimmy Graham role" in the Lions offense. He also won't see anything better than single coverage since the Lions also have Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and their running backs for defenses to worry about. Now if that doesn't make your mouth water a little bit, I don't know what will. Just know that it's been a long time since a rookie tight end made a big splash in Fantasy Football (Gronk and Aaron Hernandez cracked the Top 12 as rookies in 2010).

Another young tight end with big size, good speed and an offense with a flair for the aerial attack is Ladarius Green. Chargers coach Mike McCoy lamented this offseason about how little he wound up using Green and all signs point to him being more involved in the Bolts' offense. One theory is that he'll actually play more as a receiver and less as a true tight end, thus putting him and veteran Antonio Gates on the field at the same time. Gates isn't a terrible Fantasy play, either, but it feels like he's at the end of his career and might finish, at best, 10th at the position. Green's the one with the upside.

But it's one last veteran who carries some supreme value and potential this summer -- Heath Miller with the Steelers. A long-time dependable target of Ben Roethlisberger, Miller should see a ton of targets as Big Ben works with a receiving corps that's undergone some turnover. He's caught at least 50 passes each of the last three years and will help make up for the losses of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery around the goal line.

Not moonshots: Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Charles Clay, Dwayne Allen. No doubt, these are good NFL tight ends. They just don't have solid track records for helping Fantasy owners. If you're in a pinch on Draft Day, these guys are good to roll with to begin the season, Bennett especially given his September track record. Just don't hesitate to punt on any of them for someone on waivers since there is a lot of inconsistency expected from this foursome.

Do you need more than one tight end?

Naturally, if you're in a league that requires two tight ends, you'll draft at least two. But most leagues demand one starting tight end, so most owners draft one and deal with the bye weeks later on. And most leagues that have a starting flex spot will allow a tight end to fill it if need be.

Before you daydream about dominating in a two-tight end formation, remember that a good week for a tight end is eight Fantasy points. Running backs and receivers can hit eight points with more frequency than most tight ends, plus there are more decent running backs and receivers to pick from than tight ends. So taking multiple tight ends isn't a must.

Unless ...

-- One of the tight ends from the top two tiers happens to fall in your drafts and right into your lap. In that rare instance, go for it. Value's value.

-- You aim to take one of the big three tight ends early on and swipe one of the risk-reward tight ends in Round 9 or later once you have your remaining roster spots settled.

Just keep in mind that the best plan of all could be to draft one tight end and wait for a breakout that we're not even thinking about (Jace Amaro? Timothy Wright?) to come available on waivers. Then you'll drop some mope for him and enjoy the benefits of having two tight ends. Won't cost you anything on Draft Day to do that!

Tiers

Frankly, I'm listing the tiers for those who were too lazy to read the article. Because if you did read everything above you'll know exactly who will go where. By now, everyone should know what kind of a tight end drafter they are. I don't mind aiming for one at the right price in the first three or four rounds, but if I whiff I'm aiming for one in Round 9 or later. I like Ertz a lot as a sleeper.

And it's worth mentioning that the whole point of tiers in the first place is to have a sense of when a group of players with a similar expectation is either readily available or getting thin.

Elite Tier Second Tier Third Tier Shoot for the moon Fifth Tier
1,000+ yards, 9+ TDs 850+ yards, 6+ TDs 700+ yards, 6+ TDs    
Jimmy Graham Vernon Davis Zach Ertz Eric Ebron Martellus Bennett
Julius Thomas Jordan Cameron Kyle Rudolph Ladarius Green Delanie Walker
Rob Gronkowski Jason Witten Jordan Reed Antonio Gates Charles Clay
  Greg Olsen   Heath Miller Dwayne Allen
  Dennis Pitta      

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Cardinals pushing for more consistency out of WR Michael Floyd
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:11 am ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians knows wide receiver Michael Floyd is capable of big things in his offense. He also feels Floyd was the victim of the quarterback injuries last year, reports Fox Sports 910.

"I think some frustration went into his play at times," Arians said. "But he still needs to hit a consistency level. He's a thousand-yard player every year. He should have had a thousand, easily, last year."

Floyd finished with 47 catches for 841 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. He is entering the final year of his contract in 2015.


Bears defensive end Jared Allen played through herniated disc in 2014
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:03 am ET) Bears defensive end Jared Allen still thinks he can get the job done next season. Allen claims he was slowed last season while dealing with a nagging back issue, which was diagnosed as a herniated disc, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"I just don't know how to miss games," Allen says. "It killed me that I had to miss one."

Allen totaled 55 tackles with 5 1/2 sacks in 15 games last season.


QB Sam Bradford's college coach talked him out of retiring last year
(3/29/2015) After suffering his second season-ending injury in nine months last year, quarterback Sam Bradford contemplated retiring but his former quarterbacks coach from Oklahoma talked him out of it, according to Philly.com.

Bradford, who was aquired by the Eagles in a trade in March, missed the entire 2014 season with the Rams after tearing his left ACL during a preseason game.

Josh Heupel, a former college coach, talked with Bradford after the injury and persuaded him to stay in the NFL.

"When a player goes through a big letdown, it's natural to be down," said Heupel. "I just tried to reach out to him and say, 'Hey, I still see this in you as a person and a player. I think the best is yet to come for you. You've got to get yourself healthy and get yourself back on the field and get yourself in the right environment ...'"

Heupel, who coached Bradford during his 2008 Heisman Trophy-winning season, is currently the offensive coordinator at Utah State.


Seahawks re-sign Demarcus Dobbs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) The Seahawks re-signed defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs to a one-year contract on Sunday.

Dobbs' agent, Wesley Spencer confirmed the news on Twitter.

Dobbs joined the Seahawks in November after being waived by San Francisco. He had six tackles in four games with the Seahawks. 


C.J. Anderson enters offseason as Broncos top RB
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Broncos coach Gary Kubiak declared that C.J. Anderson was the team's starting running back entering OTAs. 

"He made a big jump as a player, and I think he's earned the right to walk in to the offseason program -- the OTAs -- and line up as our starter," Kubiak said, per DenverBroncos.com. "But he's got to continue to earn it on a daily basis. I think he's shown he has all the ability to be an excellent starter in this league, so we're really looking forward to working with him."

Anderson rushed for 849 yards and eight touchdowns last season, most coming late in the season, after Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman went down to injury. 

"All those guys are young. I think all three of those guys ... have all kind of had their little spurts of success with the club when they've had their opportunity," Kubiak said. "But they're all young. Who's going to be the bell cow, who's going to play every down, who's going to be the three-down player, they've got to sort that out. C.J. has shown the flashes of doing that."


Erin Henderson will meet with Jets
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Linebacker Erin Henderson has scheduled a meeting with the Jets. Henderson is looking to reenter the NFL after sitting out last season, following his release from the Vikings.

Henderson met with the 49ers GM and coach on Thursday and also had dinner with the team's linebacker coach, his agent told the Sacramento Bee


Jared Allen tells Bears 'I'm still good, really'
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Bears defensive end Jared Allen met with coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace at last week's NFL Owners' Meetings to tell them he's not on the decline. 

"I was less anxious and so much more eager to talk to them," Allen said, per NFL.com. "Just to say, 'Hey guys. I know the film from last year only shows 5.5 sacks. But don't believe that's all I have left. I'm good still. Really."

Allen also said he was willing to play a stand-up pass rushing spot instead of the hand-in-the-dirt stance he's used most of his career. "It requires you to refocus and rekindle your energy," he said. "You can't get stuck in your same old patterns."


Saints' Brian Dixon arrested for resisting officer
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/29/2015) Saints cornerback Brian Dixon was arrested in Miami on Sunday morning. He's been charged with resisting an officer, per the Times-Picayune.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Dixon was pulled over for riding a moped. He questioned the officer about why that wasn't permitted, which led to his arrest. 

Dixon was booked at 5:50 AM and was being held on $1,000 bond. The team is aware of the incident, and NFL security is investigating. 

Later in the morning, Dixon tweeted, "It hurts to know that I wasn't causing no trouble and was fully cooperating. :( "


Report: LB Desmond Bishop will visit 49ers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Linebacker Desmond Bishop will visit the 49ers on Monday, according to csnbayarea.com.

Bishop played in two games for the 49ers last season after beginning the year with the Cardinals. After losing both Patrick Willis and Chris Borland to retirement, the team is looking for linebackers.

Over his eight-year NFL career, the 30-year-old has 299 total tackles, nine sacks, nine passes defensed, one interception and eight forced fumbles.


Packers want to keep RB Eddie Lacy fresh this season
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is working on ways to keep running back Eddie Lacy fresh this season, reports the Journal Sentinel.

McCarthy had talks with Lacy at the end of the last two seasons talking about his number of snaps and what he expected of the running back.

"I really felt that last year's conversation was more important than this year's, the ability to make a huge jump from Year One to Two, being a three-down player, that was something we stressed from Day One, and I thought he delivered," McCarthy said at the NFL owners meetings this week.

The head coach liked the way that the team used Lacy last season, limiting his snaps early in the year before increasing them as the season wore on.

"Maybe not run attempts," McCarthy said of hitting the target he set. "But I thought we were really smart the way we used him....I thought his pass protection he made a huge jump, and his ability to play out of the backfield.

"Eddie has excellent hands, and just his understand and his feel with Aaron, he definitely made a step."

In his first two seasons in the NFL, the 24-year-old has 2,317 yards rushing and 20 touchdowns. He has also added 77 receptions for 684 yards and four touchdown catches. 


 
 
 
Rankings