Depending on who you ask and your league size, tight end is “incredibly deep” or “very shallow.” One thing is for certain, deciding on your strategy regarding tight ends is a key component of your draft day gameplan. The Points per game are especially valuable for the tight end position, notice the great disparity between tier 1 (Graham/Gronk) vs the majority of the pack 5-8 PPG. Notice that there is not much of a difference between TE5 and TE15. These point per game projections provided by fantasypros.com that we have customized for our settings (in this case a standard league), help quantify the importance of drafting a tight end early, or being the last to draft a tight end. These rankings were compiled mainly for 10-to-14 team standard leagues:
In a 12-to-14 team league I would recommend going ahead of ADP to grab a top tiered TE stud (Graham, Gronk, Witten or Gonzo). However if you are unable to grab one of these players, or are unwilling to pay above their ADP, it is strongly advisable to wait until the final round before you select your defense and kickers to select a tight end. The worst strategy fantasy owners are making this year, is reaching to fill their lineup in round 8 and grabbing a tight end of the same caliber going in round 14. Tiers below are listed for standard 12-team leagues, rounds are where I would select the players.
Tier 1: Graham (late round 1/early round 2)
Tier 2: Gronkowski, Witten, Tony Gonzalez (rounds 3-5)
Tier 3: Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph (Rounds 8-10)
Tier 4: Everyone else (Rounds 12+)
Overvalued: All of tier 3 and Antonio Gates.
Vernon Davis has been over-drafted on name value alone for years now. Every fantasy draft has a guy who reaches for him. He disappeared in the regular season with Kaepernick, and is touchdown-dependent. Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph each had a majority of their games with 4 targets or less. Antonio Gates is not good, is an injury risk and plays in the West Coast. Do not draft the “name brand.” Owen Daniels actually is undervalued at his ADP, but overall there is not much of a difference between TE’s drafted in the mid-rounds vs late rounds.Stash some WR/RBs instead of reaching for Vernon or Rudolph.
Undervalued: Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Zach Sudfeld, Rob Housler, Jordan Cameron
Given positional scarcity, Graham belong in the same tier as the top-WR’s. The marginal PPG difference between Graham and a replacement level TE, is comparable to that of a top tiered WR or 2nd/3rd tiered RB vs replacement. Graham is a great pick in the early 2nd round to solidify a position with a lot of question marks. Jason Witten is a stud, who is a safe solid play at 8-9 ppg (non-PPR) and expect for him to add some touchdowns to his totals from last year. For those unaware, Zach Sudfeld is an emerging UDFA who has emerged as the Patriot’s top tight end during Gronk’s absence. He is worth a late-round flyer and could emerge as a top-10 tight end this season. Jordan Cameron and Rob Housler are two tight ends who have shown potential and could be break-out bargains if their teams have improved quarterback play in 2013.