Here is a post-draft update to my initial 2012 fantasy football tight end rankings.
1. Jimmy Graham, Saints – Given his inexperience, you could make a strong argument that he has more upside than any tight end in the league.
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots – He’s a Beast but is he a Beast that can stay healthy?
3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots – Doesn’t have the upside of the players ahead of him but managed 910 yards and seven touchdowns in just 14 games last season. It doesn’t hurt that he also got some looks in the running game as the season wound down.
4. Antonio Gates, Chargers – The bad news is that he has missed nine games in the last two seasons. The good news is that he averaged 13.8 points per game in 2010 when Vincent Jackson missed most of the season and Jackson left for Tampa Bay.
5. Jason Witten, Cowboys – With Laurent Robinson having a solid season as the team’s third wide receiver, Witten had just 117 targets, his lowest total since the 2006 season. It is nice that Robinson isn’t in Dallas anymore. Not so nice is Witten’s production over the Cowboys final six games (272 receiving yards and no touchdowns).
6. Jermichael Finley, Packers – Is he a tease or the dominant player he appeared to be in 2010 and one who deserves more targets in 2012?
7. Vernon Davis, 49ers – Are you getting the Davis who dominated in two playoff games last season (292 yards and four touchdowns) or the one who averaged six targets a game in the regular season (792 yards and six touchdowns). Head coach Jim Harbaugh will decide.
8. Brent Celek, Eagles – Persona non grata in 2010 and for the first six games of 2011, Celek reemerged as a weapon for the Eagles over the final 10 games of last season, catching 53 passes for 738 yards and five touchdowns. A lot of that was in the screen game in order to help the team’s pass blocking and left tackle Jason Peters may miss most of 2012.
9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons – The Falcons figure to have a solid offense once again but I am not sold that the 36-year Gonzalez can repeat his 875 yard, seven touchdown performance from a year ago. Gonzo is going to need to increase his touchdown count to repeat as a top 5 tight end.
10. Dustin Keller, Jets – On the bright side, the Jets have no proven starting wide receiver opposite Santonio Holmes and Keller has started the season on fire in each of the last two years. Over the four games of the last two seasons, he has totaled 515 yards and seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, he has not been able to sustain those hot starts and has scored just three touchdowns over the final 12 games over the last two seasons. The talent is there and he is in a contract year so maybe 2012 will be the first time Keller puts it together for an entire season.
11. Fred Davis, Redskins – If you watched any Redskins games last year, it was readily apparent that Davis has major upside. Look no further than his 8.1 points per game last season, 5th best amongst tight ends. With better wide receivers in Washington this season, a rookie quarterback and his 2011 suspension, Davis carries some risk and that is why he isn’t higher on the list. However, it won’t be a surprise if he is in the top five by season’s end.
12. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions – Pettigrew had the 2nd most targets amongst tight ends last season with 126 but was the 11th ranked fantasy player at his position so you could make the argument that he has a lot of upside. And you would be wrong. He catches a lot of passes (83 last year) but not for a lot of yards (10.0 career yards per reception). In Detroit’s offense, he gets few looks down the field and is mostly a check down option in the passing game.