UPDATED: September 6, 2010
The tight end position is almost as obnoxious as that of the lonesome kicker. Every team needs at least one and there are only a few premium TEs to grab. After that it's all about hope and upside. For that reason, many fantasy owners will blow an early draft pick going after one of the elite tight ends which is generally a mistake.
As an example Jason Witten and Greg Olson were nabbed early in most drafts last season and both saw kickers out-perform them in fantasy points. Of course this amplifies an even more intriguing point, that even the top TEs don't score much more than the best kickers. So with that in mind why grab a TE before than the 7th round, or at the very earliest after you have a QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs and at least one flex player?
If one of the elite or semi-elite TEs slip 2-3 rounds past their standard ADP (average draft position) then snap them up. In most drafts Dallas Clark is going in the 4th round, with Vernon Davis, Jermichael Finley, Antonio Gates and Jason Witten all going in the 5th round.
Meanwhile Tony Gonzalez is going around the 9th round. Vinsanthe Shiancoe, who scored identical numbers to Gonzalez, is going in the 13th round.
Just some food for thought; save that early pick for a player who will give you more production than even the top TEs.
( ) = previous ranking
Tier One - The Elite
RANK PLAYER TEAM BYE ONE LINER 1 (2) Antonio Gates SDG 10 With Jackson out he's more important than ever 2 (1) Dallas Clark IND 7 He continues to flourish with Peyton at QB 3 (4) Jermichael Finley GB 10 Freakish skills but will be overhyped this year 4 (3) Vernon Davis SF 9 Solid chemistry with Alex Smith helps 5 Brent Celek PHI 8 Should be a favorite target for Kevin Kolb 6 Jason Witten DAL 4 Off year, should rebound nicely in 2010
Tier Two - The Safe Mid-Round Options
RANK PLAYER TEAM BYE ONE LINER 7 Tony Gonzalez ATL 8 A healthy Matt Ryan should boost his stats 8 Kellen Winslow TB 4 4th in targets in '09 with QB carousel 9 Owen Daniels HOU 7 Says he's ready to start Week 1 10 (13) Zach Miller OAK 10 Raiders best TD threat thru the air. 11 John Carlson SEA 5 Needs O-line help and a healthy Hasselbeck 12 Chris Cooley WAS 9 Solid pick. Shanahan should boost value 13 Greg Olsen CHI 8 Top 5 skills, poor supporting cast 14 Vinsanthe Shiancoe MIN 4 If Favre retires his value drops big time
Tier Three - All About Upside
RANK PLAYER TEAM BYE ONE LINER 15 Dustin Keller NYJ 7 Ranking based more on promise and hope 16 Jermaine Gresham CIN 6 At this point I value upside over veteran mediocrity 17 Rob Gronkowski NE 5 Like Gresham above, he's all about rookie upside 18 (17) Jared Cook TEN 9 Best TE in Tennessee (sleeper alert) 19 Heath Miller PIT 5 Big Ben suspension hurts 20 (22) Ben Watson CLE 8 Has looked reliable this preseason 21 Tony Scheffler DET 7 Value picks up in Detroit with Stafford at QB 22 Kevin Boss NYG 8 Poor yardage but always a redzone threat 23 (21) Jeremy Shockey NOS 10 Saints offense means he's always a threat 24 Tony Moaki KCC 4 Another rookie with upside
Tier Four - Desperate Measures
RANK PLAYER TEAM BYE ONE LINER 25 Anthony Hernandez NE 5 A decent #2 TE option 26 Fred Davis WAS 9 Moves up several spots if Cooley gets moved 27 Michael Hoomanawanui STL 9 Looking great in preseason 28 Todd Heap NYG 8 Stick a fork in him 29 Marcedes Lewis JAX 9 Without a better QB, he's hit or miss 30 Anthony Fasano MIA 5 Always capable of surprising