Fantasy Football Rankings: Way-too-early 2014 TE Rankings
Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, there is virtually no chance that Saints tight end (or wide receiver?) Jimmy Graham sees free agency.
If the two sides can't reach a long-term deal, the team's general manager has indicated that they will use their franchise tag on Graham.
Considering there is a significant difference between the amount a receiver and tight end would earn under the tag, Graham and his agent will certainly argue that he should be tagged as a receiver if it comes to that. Either way, Graham will be a Saint in 2014.
Graham arguably had the best season of his career even though he fell short of his previous career highs in both receptions and yards. Graham finished the season with 86 catches for 1,215 yards and a career-best 16 touchdowns.
Not only did Graham lead all tight ends in all three categories, but he had nearly 300 yards more than the tight end with the second-most receiving yards (Jordan Cameron, 917). In addition, he led all players, regardless of position, in touchdowns; Denver's Demaryius Thomas was second with 14.
Over the past three seasons combined, Graham has a total of 270 receptions for 3,507 yards and 36 touchdowns; that equates to an average stat line of 90/1,169/12.
A lock for a monster season at a position with only a few studs, Graham is worthy of consideration in Round 1 of fantasy football drafts and he was pick 1.08 in my early one-man mock draft.
Gronk: Expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season
As Yogi Berra would say, it's deja vu all over again.
While the injuries are different, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is coming off a season-ending injury that required surgery for the second year in a row.
One year after five forearm and back surgeries, Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL in early December, but early indications are that he will be ready for the season opener.
Missing games to start and end last season, Gronk played in only seven games, but he averaged 84.6 yards per game and 15.2 yards per reception, both of which were career highs.
More than anything, Gronkowski is a dominant force in the red zone as he has a total of 43 touchdowns in 50 career games.
Provided he's ready for the start of the regular season, Gronkowski would be in the discussion to be the first tight end off the board in re-draft leagues later this year. For now, he's a distant second after Graham.
Orange Julius: Biggest fantasy bargain at TE in 2013
Among tight ends, there was no bigger fantasy bargain than Denver's Julius Thomas, who had an average draft position (ADP) of TE23 and 209th overall in 2013 based on consensus ADP data from FantasyPros.
Despite ranking ninth at the position in targets (89), only two tight ends had more fantasy points than Orange Julius last year: Graham and San Francisco's Vernon Davis.
Of course, Thomas won't be nearly as cheap (or cheap at all) in 2014 after last year's breakout season.
Along with Graham and Davis, he was one of three tight ends with double-digit touchdowns and he finished with 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas missed two regular-season games, but if you count his two playoff games, he had a total of 79/949/12 over 16 games this season.
With Eric Decker scheduled to hit free agency next month, there is the potential for more targets for Thomas and the team's other pass-catchers in 2014.
Things looking up for Rudolph
While injury cut his season short after Week 9, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was a bit of a disappointment in the first half of the season when he did play.
In eight games, Rudolph finished with only 30 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns. In half of his eight games, Rudolph had two fantasy points or less.
A number of things could help Rudolph in 2014.
First of all, the team hired Norv Turner as its offensive coordinator and Turner's offenses have long helped tight ends prosper. In addition, it's certainly possible that the team upgrades itself at quarterback by selecting one early in the 2014 NFL Draft (as I currently project in my mock draft).
Over the past two seasons, Rudolph has scored 12 touchdowns in 24 games and could possibly set career highs across the board in 2014.
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Here are my initial 2014 fantasy football tight end rankings:
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
3. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
4. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
6. Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
7. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
8. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
9. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
10. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
11. Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
12. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
13. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
14. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
15. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
16. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
17. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
18. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
19. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
20. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
21. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
22. Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
24. Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
25. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
Also, check out my early one-man fantasy football mock draft.