As we proceed with the Fantasy Football Preview for 2012 we now will look at tight ends. Tight Ends are typically an afterthought in many fantasy football leagues. In most leagues teams do not have a specific slot for starting a tight end. Instead the tight end is considered a wide receiver. In leagues like that only the highest performing tight ends have any value. In the Pabst and Blatz Fantasy Football League we do have a slot for a starting tight end. We also allow tight ends to be started in the wide receiver category. Needless to say tight ends have quite a bit more value in a league like ours than in a typical league. Still last year anyone that was lucky enough to have Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez was happy in any league format. As with the previous previews and predictions it is important to take a look at how the players scored the year before. Now in the Pabst and Blatz Fantasy Football League tight ends score 1 point for every 25 yards receiving and 6 points for any touchdown scored. They can also get 1 point for every 25 yards rushing and every 50 yards passing, 2 points for a conversion, and 3 points for a passing touchdown. Those things rarely happen so they were not included in this analysis. Below is how the tight ends in the NFL scored last year in our scoring system:
Rob Gronkowski had an unbelievable season last year. And I mean unbelievable.
Like I am looking at the stats right now and I still don’t believe that they are not the result of a season on Madden or Super Tecmo Bowl (The greatest sports game ever! I will get into this in another post). The really silly thing is the year Aaron Hernandez had being on the same team as Gronkowski. Combined the Patriot tight ends had over 2200 yards and 24 touchdowns for 173 fantasy points. Flat out unbelievable. Imagine if that was one player. What is almost equally unbelievable was the season that Jimmy Graham had. Two tight ends over 1300 yards and double digit touchdowns. These elite tight ends might need serious early round, like 1st round, consideration. Last years biggest disappointment was Jermichael Finley. Many thought that he would be the dominate tight end of the 2011 season, but he was plagued by drops all season. It was evident that as the season progressed Aaron Rodgers possessed less and less confidence in Finley. Old man river Tony Gonzalez had a great season which I personally thought surprising. Antonio Gates almost made it through a season, he played in 13 games, which was equally surprising. Let’s look at some projections for the 2012 season. Here are some of my own devising:
Now I know what you are all thinking…..How does Aaron Hernandez project out ahead of Rob Gronkowski. The thought is that if last years numbers were more evenly split and if teams focus on Gronkowski then Hernandez will benefit though in the end they will have similar numbers. Call me crazy. Anywho here we see that there are 5 tiers of tight ends. Tier 1 is made up of last year’s elites. All three, Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Graham could easily repeat the success as last year. Well with the exception of Gronkowski who should not be able to totally repeat the previous year, who could. These three tight ends should garner early round consideration, maybe even 1st round. I would say that the high end for these player should be the 2nd round. The tier 2 player should get consideration in the 4th to 6th rounds. The tier 3 players should be available in the later middle rounds like rounds 9 through 11. After the top three tiers there is really no reason to draft a tight end the players in the 4th and 5th tiers should be available in free agency and can be picked up as needed or as they become fantasy relevant.
The cream of the crop are the same as last year. The two Patriot tight ends could have interchangeable stats next year. Either one could have a special year or they could simply split last year’s stats and each have a fine year. Jimmy Graham is exciting mostly because unlike Gronkowski he doesn’t have a Hernandez to steal his looks. Of course the downside to that is that defenses will be able to key on him in a way that they cannot afford to key on Hernandez and Gronkowski. Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis are in the 2nd tier and should have solid season with the potential of something special developing.
Watch out: Antonio Gates is always a crap shoot as to whether he will make it through a season uninjured. If he does he could have a special year. Expect him to play in a maximum of 14 games. Tony Gonzalez is really getting up there in age. With Julio Jones, Roddy White and the running game all competing for yards he may be the one left out. Brent Celek plays on a team with Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy both of whom will be doing the majority of the scoring in the redzone which will take away from Celek’s value.
Keep an eye on: The most intriguing and potentially exciting tight ends are Brandon Pettigrew and Jermaine Gresham. Both of these young tight ends could have an exceptional year in 2012. Pettigrew is on a pass first team and could get more redzone looks this year. Gresham is the safety blanket for a 2nd year quarterback and should also get more redzone looks.
Rookies: I don’t see any rookie tight ends at this point that are worth considering taking more than a late round flyer on. Stay with established starters.
Handcuffs: Are you kidding? Well if you are lucky enough to pull it off go ahead and handcuff Hernandez and Gronkowski.
#1 Rob Gronkowski The Gronkster should have another monster year this year but I cannot see him even coming close to 17 touchdowns but he very well should top 1000 yards and possibly double digit touchdowns.
#2 Jimmy Graham Graham had a season that was nearly identical to Gronkowski’s last year, aside from the touchdowns. I think he has the best chance of repeating his success from the previous season. The downside is that he could be looking at a lot of defense keying on him.
#5 Antonio Gates The man. Well at least he was before injuries got the best of him. Still Phillip Rivers loves to throw the ball and if Gates can stay of the injured list he should get a large amount of looks.
#6 Vernon Davis If the Niners were smart they would throw the ball to Davis alot. Last year they were not as smart as they have been in the past. I hope the figure it out this year. In the picture Davis is doing his best Gladiator impersonation “Are you not entertained?!”
#7 Brandon Pettigrew If Matt Stafford stays healthy Pettigrew will have a great year. Matt Stafford rarely stays healthy. Last year was the exception.
#10 Jermaine Gresham Gresham is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Mostly because he had a good year in 2011 and Andy Dalton and the rest of the offense should be better. Still there is always the concern of the sophomore slump for Dalton which would affect Gresham’s value.