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Tight End Crapshoot

This year, I decided to forego the draft strategy of picking a tight end in the first seven rounds. My thought process was rather simple. I didn’t trust Dallas Clark without Peyton Manning; nor did I trust Antonio Gates to stay healthy. So far, so good! Tony Gonzalez is getting up there in age which is true, but he’s still getting the job done. I didn’t expect Alex Smith to be successful so that downgraded Vernon Davis. Jermichael Finley is one of (too) many weapons for Green Bay so I figured he’d be inconsistent (technically true) and that basically left me with Jason Witten and the upside choice of Jimmy Graham.

Although most of my logic was spot-on or close enough to the truth, the flaw I failed to see was that every tight end has some caveat. I should’ve known better. No tight end is usually a team’s top option, so if you draft a player from the second or third tiers, there is upside attached to some, but they too have limitations.

Top 20 Tight Ends as of 11/12
(#) = Pre-season average draft ranking

1. Jimmy Graham (6)
2. Rob Gronkowski (10)
3. Jason Witten (3)
4. Tony Gonzalez (8)
5. Fred Davis (NR)
6. Jermichael Finley (2)
7. Owen Daniels (7)
8. Aaron Hernandez (13)
9. Greg Olsen (17)
10. Heath Miller (NR)
11. Brandon Pettigrew (14)
12. Dustin Keller (19)
13. Jake Ballard (NR)
14. Vernon Davis (5)
15. Kellen Winslow (11)
16. Scott Chandler (NR)
17. Benjamin Watson (NR)
18. Antonio Gates (1)
19. Jermaine Gresham (NR)
20. Brent Celek (16)

It’s also worth noting that Dallas Clark (4), Marcedes Lewis (9), Zach Miller (12), Visanthe Shiancoe (15), Jared Cook (18) and Chris Cooley (20) didn’t crack the Top 20 despite being selected as the Top 20 TEs.

So as a quick breakdown, five of the pre-season Top 10 tight ends are still in the Top 10. Yikes. The best value is Fred Davis and since Cooley is out for the year, he should get a ton of looks. If it weren’t for Jimmy Graham running away as the season’s best TE, it’d be easier to validate my strategy of skipping the top tight ends but in hindsight; I made a mistake.

The position is terribly inconsistent from week to week, which means I’m playing the matchups constantly. I’m wasting a roster spot on a backup tight end because of it. I also find it’s difficult to trade for someone like Graham, Witten and Gronk because the asking price is so high. Is anyone really willing to trade their RB2 in an injury-plagued season? Nope! In one of my PPR leagues, Graham is the No. 10 flex (RB/WR/TE) player. Gronk isn’t that far behind at No. 14 and they both rank ahead of guys like A.J. Green, Dwayne Bowe, Michael Turner and Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald to name a few.

The moral of story is that even if you draft a stud tight end, don’t sleep on picking a backup. If you’re lucky enough to end up with the top TE in any given season, you could turn around and trade the backup for a real quality backup RB or WR which are hard to come by late in the year, especially after the bye weeks. You really don’t want to leave any starter-caliber players on your bench so trade them away to improve your own starting lineup.

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About The Author

Matt De Lima is the guy behind the guy behind the guy. Born and raised near Los Angeles, CA during simpler times where the Rams and Raiders both played there. Back when Eddie Murphy was funny and people still listened to Whitney Houston's music. A graduate of Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!), he's played fantasy sports for the last 10 years and began writing down his opinions in 2010. You remember that fantasy football league you were in last season, there was that one team that somehow had Aaron Rodgers, Chris Johnson, and Andre Johnson? Matt was that guy. You should listen to him. Follow his exclusive content @

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