2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Pre-Free Agency Tight End Rankings

Scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, there was no chance that Saints would have allowed tight end (or wide receiver?) Jimmy Graham to see free agency.

And he didn't.

Hopefully the two sides will reach a long-term agreement by July 15th, the deadline to do so, but the Saints designated Graham with the franchise tag (list of franchised players).

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, but he had 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. In fact, that was the case in both of our early mock drafts so far: pick 1.08 in my one-man mock and pick 1.10 in our latest mock draft.

Gronk: Expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season

As Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà 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 a total of 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 2014 regular season, Gronkowski would even 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 finished with 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. Thomas missed two regular-season games, but if you count his three playoff games, he had a total of 83/976/12 over 17 games this season.

With Eric Decker not expected to re-sign with the Broncos in free agency, 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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Before NFL free agency officially begins on Tuesday, here are my updated 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. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
13. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
14. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
15. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
16. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
17. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
18. Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
19. Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
20. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans
21. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
22. Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
24. Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
25. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

More early 2014 Fantasy Football rankings:

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