So far in this series I’ve looked over the ADP/Reality ratio of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Today I’m going to take a look back at tight ends and how we thought they’d finish versus how they actually finished. For a while now tight ends have been changing their roles in fantasy football by becoming much more involved in producing actual fantasy football points. There were always stud tight ends, but now there are stud tight ends that can put up top five wide receiver points. When that starts happening, you have to take notice.
In 2011 Rob Gronkowski put up 240 fantasy points with Jimmy Graham coming in second with 195. If they had been wide receivers that year, they would have ranked second and fifth. The tight ends that followed would have finished in the 20’s and below. That kind of outpacing of the field gives your team a big leg up if it can be recreated, so in 2012, we hoped and dreamed that it could. And it couldn’t.
Jimmy Graham – ADP 1 (Finish 1) – As I talked about in the intro, Graham was the second best fantasy tight end in 2011 and would have finished as the fifth best wide receiver with his 195 fantasy points. In 2012 he was the number one tight end and would have finished as the 19th best wide receiver with 152 fantasy points. If you owned the #1 tight end in 2012, you weren’t as happy as you thought you’d be, because it took a late first round or early second round pick to get him.
His 2012 led all tight ends, but was marred by an injured wrist and 15 drops. He had surgery in the offseason to correct the problem and should be back to near normal by the start of the season. If he can lead the league while playing injured, he should be worth your early pick this season.
Rob Gronkowski – ADP 2 (Finish 2) – The best fantasy tight end of 2012 probably still has to go to Gronkowski due to his insane production while healthy. He just missed being the number one fantasy tight end after missing five full games. That is no easy feat. He averaged a touchdown in all of his 11 games. In fact, he has 31 touchdowns in his last 29 games, which is beyond crazy. He is tied with Randy Moss for the record of receiving touchdowns in the first 43 games played, both had 38 touchdowns over that span. So I think we can say with confidence that Gronk is in elite company and he is a tight end!
His injury kept him from having another huge season, so if he can get over his setbacks and be ready to go for game one, there is no reason he can’t have another season for the record books.
Antonio Gates -- ADP 3 (Finish 12) – The hype machine was hitting all cylinders for Gates last preseason which drove his ADP up and ended up disappointing those who drafted him.
Philip Rivers has declined and Gates has lost a step. Those two factors don’t bode well going into 2013. He’s still the starter and will get his work, but the huge upside of the past is gone. His name recognition most likely will help him go earlier than he should in drafts.
Aaron Hernandez – ADP 4 (Finish 16) – Hernandez finished as the third best fantasy tight end in 2011 while missing two games and finished as the 16th best in 2012 while missing seven games. In his last 6 games after coming back from his injury, Hernandez was the third best fantasy tight end in the league.
Over his last two seasons he’s averaging 5.7 receptions per game, 61 yards and .5 TDs. If he can put together a full season, that’s 91 receptions, 976 yards and 8 TDs. And I think his ceiling is higher than that. He’s risky with his injury history, but he’s the last tight end I would take early this season.
Vernon Davis – ADP 5 (Finish 15) – How does someone who can absolutely dominate one game, fall of the face of the earth in the next? Over the last six games of last season Davis caught a total of 6 passes for 61 yards and wasn’t even injured. And then in his three postseason games he had 12 receptions for 254 yards and three touchdowns. This means that at the very least, we know that Colin Kaepernick knows he is alive and is able to throw the ball to him, but we don’t know if he’s capable of doing it in the regular season.
Delanie Walker is gone, but Anquan Boldin has been added to the roster and he’s really just a slow tight end. So I’m not going to bet the farm on Davis, but we know what he can do.
Jermichael Finley – ADP 6 (Finish 19) – Mr. Finley has plenty of talent, but so far has lacked the ability to bring it all together. He had 86 targets last season and only scored two touchdowns, that number is low and should change next season. His upside is still too good as the starting tight end for the high flying Packers to completely give up on him now.
Jason Witten – ADP 7 (Finish 5) – Witten started last season with his spleen leaking from his side, but still managed to put up good fantasy numbers. He actually destroyed Tony Gonzalez’s record for tight end receptions by 8, finishing with 110. Of course his main downfall was lack of touchdowns. He finished with a paltry three. So his value was great in PPR leagues and just good in non-PPR leagues.
This season I think we can expect him to remain a consistent PPR player with some upside for a few more touchdowns. When you look at his past touchdown numbers they vary wildly. For his career he’s scored 1, 6, 6, 1, 7, 4, 2, 9, 5, and 3 touchdowns. He’s never hit double digits, but six or seven compared to three makes for quite a difference at the end of the year in fantasy leagues.