Top 20 TE’s-Ryan’s 2015 Fantasy Football Series
1. Jimmy Graham I debated heavily on wether to put Graham or Gronk at the top spot because of Brady’s suspension. I will give Graham the slight edge because of Brady’s slap on the wrist. Since I am giving you the ranking over the whole season, I have to put Graham here. Gronk is coming in to this season a little more relaxed off a super bowl victory, while Graham has found himself on a new team and wants to prove himself. Plus Graham looks like the only weapon the Seahawks will have in the passing game. While the Patriots have Gronk and Edelman. Getting back to Graham, this guy is basically a WR playing the TE position. Him and Gronk are nearly identical as far as height and weight, Graham comes in at a whopping 6″7 265 lbs. He’s tougher than people give him credit for, he’s only missed 2 games in his 5-year career. Graham has been the model of consistency over the past 3 seasons: 2012: 85 receptions 2013: 86 receptions 2014: 85 receptions. He is a red-zone target machine, posting 51 TD’s so far in his young career. I know the Seahawks run the ball way more than the Saints do, but I just can’t see him not having an amazing year with Russell Wilson.
2. Rob Gronkowski Every single ranking or preview in the world will tell you Gronk is the No. 1 TE going into 2015, but I still think it’s a toss-up between these two. 2014 was a reminder of just how good Gronk can be when he stays healthy. At 26 years old, Gronk doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. He finished with 82 rec. 1,124 yards 12 TD’s. He and Greg Olsen were the only two tight ends to have over 1,000 yards. At 6’6 265 lbs., Gronk is bigger than most defensive players in the league. As I stated above, if you don’t think Garoppolo will be that bad, Gronk should be just fine starting Week 1. Just like Graham, Gronk is heading in to his 6th season in the NFL. Rob didn’t miss a single game his first 2 seasons, but ended up having an injury riddled seasons the next years. He only played 18 games in 2012 and 2013 combined. He suffered some nasty injuries, and remarkably bounced back, from an ugly ACL/MCL tear in 2013. If you can look to the future when Brady comes back, Gronk could be the guy you want. Especially if he gets decent play from Garoppolo.You can’t go wrong spending your mid to late first round pick on Gronk.
3. Greg Olsen The Panthers love having Olsen, they think he is a new-age version of Jeremy Shockey. As I stated earlier, Olsen and Gronk were the only tight ends to catch for over 1,000 yards in 2014. Last season was a career year for Olsen, who finished with 84 rec. 1,008 yards 6 TD’s. I don’t see why Olsen can’t have another season like that. He and Benjamin are the only ones to throw to. I wish I could say his touchdowns might spike just a little, but he’s scored between 5 and 8 touchdowns for 7 straight years. So we can expect somewhere around the same red zone numbers. And the Panthers offense only added a mediocre WR, so I don’t see a reason to think his numbers will decline either. Olsen had a whopping 123 targets, which is a ton for a tight end, and didn’t cough up the ball one time. If you miss out on one of the top two TE’s, Olsen is a nice consolation prize.
4. Julius Thomas Two of my top four tight ends have changed teams, more importantly changed quarterbacks. Everyone seems to think Graham and Thomas will see a decline because of the change. I disagree of course, as you can see where I have Graham ranked. Just because Thomas left Manning, people think he is the next Decker to the Jets situation? No. Thomas is a monster at 6’5 260 lbs. basically the same build as Gronk and Graham. A tight end is a little different compared to wideouts when changing teams. They aren’t depending on the QB to throw the deep ball as much. Thomas is a great catch and run player who has a monster vertical. Bortles will get Thomas the ball just like Manning did. Just listen to this stat. Julius has 24 TD’s his past 27 NFL games (2013-2014). No tight end in the league has anything close to that. One knock on Thomas is he broke his hand in the first preseason game, which will minimize his time to get acquainted with his new quarterback. If he plays all 16 games, I don’t see why he can’t get in double digit touchdown territory.
5. Travis Kelce The masses seem to love Kelce to have a monster season. Alex Smith seems to throw to everyone but the wide receivers, so that’s a big possibility. Alex Smith, a short-yardage specialist, delivered 71 on-target throws to Kelce out of 80 attempts. Smith’s conservative approach is a double-edged sword for Kelce’s fantasy owners though. As anybody not named Jamaal Charles on the team won’t be racking up tons of yards. Kelce finished 7th in points among TE’s in 2014 with 67 rec. 862 yards 5 TD’s. Travis found himself splitting time early on with Anthony Fasano, but took over the full-time job when Fasano had knee contusion in Week 10. The Chiefs released Fasano, who went to split time with Delanie Walker in Tennessee. Kelce probably won’t stack up tons of yards, but Smith’s accuracy could help him secure 70 receptions. With the Charles claiming he is healthy going into 2015, and the addition of Maclin, Kelce might find himself in the red zone more often than 2014.
6. Martellus Bennett This guy was considered a bust after his first 4 seasons in the NFL. The Cowboys spent a 2nd round pick on him, and he never accumulated more than 283 yards in a single season (2008-2011). Martellus now has solidified himself among as one of the best fantasy TE’s in the league. He hasn’t missed a game in 3 years, and has 16 TD’s over that time span. Bennett had a career season in 2014, with 90 rec. 916 yards 6 TD’s. Which was good enough for 5th most fantasy points among tight ends. Bennett as a person is a bad guy, he’s just not a good teammate. He is looking for a new contract, even though he’s currently under a deal. He planned out sitting out until his new deal gets done, but he has since reported to training camp and played in the first preseason game. With Marshall leaving, first round pick Kevin White getting hurt, Bennett could have even more opportunity to improve upon his career year. But we would be satisfied if he just repeated those numbers again in 2015.
7. Delanie Walker Delanie has established himself a pretty nice career for a 6th round pick. Walker burst on to the fantasy scene last season where he caught 63 passes for 890 yards 4 TD’s. He broke the franchise single-season record for yardage by a tight end. The Titans drafted Mariota hoping he could actually get the offense down the field and put up points. A lot of pressure rest on Mariota and the Titans offense to start winning ball games. Walker isn’t a big guy like the tight ends listed above him, but he has speed that can separate him from linebackers and safeties. He used to return kick for the 49ers so you know he has some wheels for a tight end. Here are a couple knocks on Walker. He did have problems with drops last season, and to some he would be considered injury-prone. Walker suffered from concussion symptoms the past 2 seasons and recently had surgery on his thumb. Not something you want to hear about someone who already suffers from bad drops. Hopefully Walker can put up another solid season in 2015. But with an unproven QB and injury history, I am on the fence about him.
8. Jason Witten At this point Witten is more of a big name than a fantasy machine. We know he is a sure fire Hall of Famer, but he won’t be finishing among the top tight ends this season. The Cowboys will probably pass more now that the run game looks to take a step back with Murray’s departure. Even thought he didn’t blow the doors off in 2014 (64 rec. 703 yards 5 TD’s) it was still good enough to finish in the Top 10 in fantasy points among tight ends. Right now Witten has an ADP of 11.1, which is about where he should be. Witten is a great guy and as tough as they come. He hasn’t missed an NFL game to injury. In fact, he’s played every single game since the Cowboys started him his rookie season in 2003. His numbers did take a dip last season, partially because the Cowboys just weren’t needing to throw the ball late in games. Witten is 33, but I wouldn’t look to much at his age considering the guy works harder than anyone on the team. The guy stays in tip top shape year round, just another reason why he avoids injury. And guys like Steve Smith Sr. and Antonio Gates had amazing years in 2014, who are even older than Witten. Romo loves throwing him the ball and they are great friends. Look for Witten to have a solid year with the Cowboys.
9. Jordan Cameron Cameron said his transition from Cleveland to Miami has been going as planned thanks to his new team running nearly the same style offense as his old one. Jordan had 80 receptions for 917 yards and seven TD’s in 2013 before a concussion held him to 10 games last season. He also said the Dolphins offense plays to his strengths. Not many people have Cameron ranked this low. In fact, not a single ranking or preview column has him in the Top 10. Cameron has replaced Charles Clay in a Miami offense that looks to repeat another solid offensive performance. Clay has moved on to Buffalo, but put up 58 rec. 605 yards 3 TD’s in this offense in 2014. Clay was targeted 84 times which is a good sign they will involve the tight end in the offense again this season. Cameron will do much better than those stats, and Tannehill has another year under his belt to improve upon them. Cameron is one of the biggest sleepers at the tight end position this season.
10. Antonio Gates What a huge disappointment that Gates received a 4-game suspension from the league. Claiming in his 12 years he’s never known to take an illegal substance. I don’t care what he says, he’s full of crap just like everyone else who fails a PED test. But he’s is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. I know you aren’t supposed to rank players strictly based on last years performance. But you aren’t supposed to ignore them either. Just look at how well Gates played last season. He had 70 rec. 821 yards and a monstrous 12 TD’s. With Antonio out for four games, San Diego will turn to Ladarius Green at TE, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game regardless. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. The Chargers offense looks to keep things rolling with Rivers getting a new deal himself. I know he can only play a max of 12 games, but I fully expect Gates to be as productive as he was last year when he comes back.
11. Owen Daniels After losing Julius Thomas this offseason, the Broncos were scrambling to find a replacement. Owen Daniels and the Broncos have reached an agreement on a three-year deal worth $12 million. When you play tight end on Peyton Manning’s team, you are expected to put up points. Daniels will try and do just that when the former first round pick takes the field for Denver this season. Daniels already knows Gary Kubiak’s offense so their won’t be a learning curve involved. Manning’s declining arm strength could also help Daniels value, knowing he could check down more than he did last season.
12. Kyle Rudolph Rudolph was probably the most disappointing fantasy picks among tight ends last season, again. After his 9 TD performance in 2012, Rudolph has missed a total of 15 games over the past 2 years. We had high hopes going into 2014, but all Rudolph did was get hurt again. In the first 2 preseason games for Minnesota, Bridgwater targeted Rudolph on both offensive series. Two factors that can help Rudolph are Peterson getting the Vikings down the field so they will have more red zone chances to get Rudolph the ball. And Bridgewater has another year under his belt so he seems more polished. Now that he is finally healthy for a change, he could be in line for a big season.
13. Tyler Eifert The Bengals spent a first round pick on Eifert on 2013 because he has the size and strength to become a solid tight end. Last year, Eifert had only 3 receptions before dislocating his elbow vs. the Ravens, and missing the rest of the season. One of the main reasons why I like Eifert, is that Jermaine Gresham has moved to the Arizona Cardinals. In 2014, Dalton targeted Gresham 80 times, so you know Eifert will be involved in the Bengals offense. Gresham also ranked 9th in red zone targets (13) among tight ends. If you are looking for a tight end with tremendous upside in 2015, Eifert is your guy.
14. Coby Fleener Andrew Luck definitely likes throwing to his old college teammate. Fleener had the 6th most fantasy points among TE’s in 2014. He finished last season 51 rec. 774 yards 8 TD’s. So why do I have him so far back? For a lot of reasons. The Colts offense will nearly look completely different this season. They’ve added Andre Johnson and spent their first round pick on speedy wideout Phillip Dorsett. Fleener also has to deal with splitting snaps with Dwayne Allen. It’s gonna be really hard to repeat 8 TD’s when there are so many mouths to feed.
15. Dwayne Allen It was really hard to pin point exactly where the tight ends from Indy would end up after this season. They both had 8 TD’s last season, with Fleener getting the majority of targets and yards. Adding Frank Gore and the new WR’s to the roster didn’t help out either tight end though. So I just put both of them here to round out the Top 15. We know at least one of them will have a pretty productive season. And we know Andrew Luck is gonna throw the ball all season. Allen is still actually listed as the teams No. 1 tight end because of his blocking ability.
16. Charles Clay Clay finished 2014 with 58 rec. 605 yards 3 TD’s with the Miami Dolphins. The Bills gave Clay a huge contract this offseason at 5-years $38 million. He is staying in the division which should make him at least a little bit comfortable with his surroundings. Clay is coming off a down year because he battled a knee injury. Clay did have a solid 2013 with 70 rec. 759 yards 6 TD’s. Looking at his 2013 makes me think he could have a solid 2015 campaign. Matt Cassel will target him frequently because of his weak arm. Clay could have a big year if he can manage to stay healthy.
17. Jared Cook Hopefully Cook can put together a solid season. He’s the poster child for being an average tight end. He’s had somewhere between 523-759 yards his past 4 seasons. Never going above 5 TD’s. Cook is going in to the 3rd year of his 5-year $35 million contract. That is obviously a horrible contract. When the Rams signed him, they wanted to spread the field and pass the ball more often. But since Cook signed the deal, Bradford has done nothing but get hurt. So now they’ve turned in to a run heavy team. I think Nick Foles is better than any QB the rams have had throwing at Cook. So we will see what Cook can do this season, but don’t expect more than 700 yards 5 TD’s.
18. Zach Ertz Ertz put together a decent season last year finishing with 59 rec. 708 yards 3 TD’s. It’s kind of hard to establish exactly what Philly will do on offense this season. Ertz split time with Celek last season and looks to do the same this year. Zach did suffer a setback this preseason with a groin injury that required surgery, His expected time to be out is one month. So he should be good for the regular season. It was a positive sign to see his 15 reception game Week 15 of last year though. If Chip Kelly is the offensive genius everyone claims he’ll be, he should have no problem utilizing Ertz in the Philly offense.
19. Jordan Reed The Redskins are already experiencing injuries at the tight end position. Which gives plenty of opportunity for Reed to capitalize. The only problem is Reed can never stay healthy himself. Reed showed some flashes of what he could do last season, where he had 4 games of 7+ catches. Including a 9 rec. 123 yard game vs. the Colts and 8 rec. 92 yards vs. Arizona. Reed could be one of the biggest sleepers among tight ends if he can play all 16 games. But that is a very big “if”.
20. Heath Miller Miller surprisingly finished 11th in fantasy points among tight ends in 2014. That’s pretty crazy considering 2 out of 3 teams didn’t even own him. He finished wilth a solid 66 rec. 761 yards 3 TD’s. Miller is a better player in reality compared to fantasy but he’s still worth a look. He won’t light up the end zone (4 combined the last 2 seasons) but he can be a decent option to eat up some yards. Big Ben and the Steelers offense should have a highly productive season and Miller stands to be in the mix again.