As a tool for fantasy drafts, players can be grouped together in tiers of similar projected fantasy production. Tiers can help a drafter decide how to choose between players at different positions; if a given player is the last one left in a higher tier, an owner may choose to select him over another player at a position with several players of comparable value left on the board.
To create our tiers, we are using Gene Wang’s top 30 TEs. Scoring figures are for standard settings and are courtesy of Fantasy Pros.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
The only tight end who is a legitimate option in the first round of almost all fantasy drafts, Graham towered above all others at his position last season, and he is a very good bet to do the same this year.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Thomas went undrafted in most leagues last year, then slapped up a 12-touchdown season, then saw big-bodied Eric Decker depart in free agency. Davis snared 13 TDs, although he appears to have gained some competition for targets. All eyes will be on Gronkowski’s return from a torn ACL and MCL; if he looks like the dominating Gronk of old, he’ll shoot up draft boards.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
The last group of players from whom we can have reasonable expectations of a big season. Cameron owners will be hoping that his teammate Josh Gordon gets a year-long suspension. Reed owners will be hoping he doesn’t get any more concussions. Witten, Olsen and Pitta should all be pass-catching mainstays in their respective offenses, but their touchdown totals seem like major variables.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Ideally, these players will be taken as TE2s, but any of them could make their owners look like draft-day savants. Clay, Bennett and Walker should be consistent, if not explosive, point-producers. Gates and Ertz are going in opposite career directions, it just remains to be seen how fast Gates falls and Ertz rises. Rudolph gets to work in Norv Turner’s tight end-friendly offense, and just signed a large contract extension, so the Vikings clearly expect big things from him.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
There are some intriguing fliers here, none more so than Green, who possesses all-world athleticism and just needs for San Diego to let him loose. Ebron is a similar specimen, but rookies at his position usually struggle to make a big impact. Eifert has plenty of talent, but will likely be constrained by the Bengals’ preference to run the ball.
Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles
Levine Toilolo, Atlanta Falcons
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
Luke Willson, Seattle Seahawks
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
Fodder for very deep leagues. Miller stands out in this group as someone who could regain his previous status as a reliable contributor. Rodgers was a third-round pick by a Packers team that happens to have a vacancy at his position. Toilolo inherits Tony Gonzalez’s spot, but almost certainly not Gonzo’s role. Allen could leapfrog Fleener as Indy’s top tight end.