The start of the new NFL year is still several months away, but it's never too early to get a jump on the 2014 Fantasy Football season. The tight end position, in my opinion, was the most inconsistent in terms of preseason value compared to week-to-week value during the regular season. Although, just because a few players failed to live up to the hype in 2013 doesn't mean they aren't worth drafting this summer. Here are 5 players who have the best chance at exceeding their numbers from this past year after a majority of their value sunk due to injuries.
1. Rob Gronkowski - Patriots
There really is nowhere for Gronk to go but up after, what turned out to be, a wasted season marred by multiple injuries. Gronk started the season on the sidelines after undergoing back surgery. He came back, played a few games, only to be sidelined for good after tearing multiple knee ligaments against the Browns in Week 14. This is a very early prediction that Gronk will bounce back in 2014, even though there is a chance he might not even be ready by Week One. If he is good to go, he could be a value pick as owners might shy away from him due to his injury history, forcing them to look elsewhere. Gronkowski put up 3 100-yard games in the 7 games he did play in.
2. Greg Olsen - Panthers
Olsen is one of those tight ends who doesn't get a lot of love during the summer, but quietly puts up strong numbers during the season. While he doesn't bring the hype like Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis, Olsen is consistent in regards to health as he has yet to miss a game 6-straight years. While the Panthers continue to ignore their receiving corps by not grooming Steve Smith's eventual replacement or upgrading Brandon LaFell's No. 2 spot, look for Olsen to match or exceed the 73 catches and 816 yards he put up in 2013. Over the last 2 seasons, Olsen has averaged 4-5 catches per game and 52 yards, with touchdowns sprinkled in. Not bad if you wait a little longer on a tight end next year. 80 catches and over 900 receiving yards are easily attainable.
3. Jordan Reed - Redskins
On an offense that failed to live up to expectations and build upon what they did in 2012, Reed was one of the few bright spots. A rookie who wasn't expected to do much in his first year, Reed racked up 45 catching in only 9 games, and ranked amongst the elite TE1s for several weeks until a concussion knocked him out in Week 11 against the Eagles. He was placed on injured reserve December 19. Reed is fully expected to be ready for training camp. And with a new coaching staff leading the way, Reed could be in for a big season if he can get through all 16 games. Keep in mind that last year's concussion was Reed's third after suffering 2 more in college.
4. Dennis Pitta - Ravens
After the Ravens opted to trade Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, Pitta was expected to take on the brunt of the receiving workload behind Torrey Smith. But like Gronkowski, Pitta was knocked out for the first 3/4 of the season after dislocating his hip. However, if his last 4 games are an indication of what's to come, Pitta could be in for a huge 2014. From Weeks 14-17, Pitta raked in 20 receptions, 163 receiving yards and a score. In his last game against the Bengals, Pitta hauled in 8 catches. As of this writing the team is still searching for a new offensive coordinator after Jim Caldwell accepted the Lions head coaching job. But whomever takes over the reigns, they should and will make Pitta a big part of the passing game. Pitta is also set to hit free agency, but he will either be re-signed or slapped with the franchise tag in the offseason. Owners have no need to worry. Pitta is not leaving Baltimore anytime soon.
5. Dwayne Allen - Colts
Yet another player hit with the injury bug, Allen is expected to take his place at the top of the depth chart after playing in only 1 game before a hip injury cut his season extremely short. He finished with 1 catch for 20 yards. Allen underwent surgery in October and is expected to be 100 percent by training camp, if not earlier. Coby Fleener's statline of 52/608/4 might look good on the surface, but he was terribly inconsistent after failing to reach the 30-yard mark in 7 games all season. It's obvious that Allen is a wildcard due to the presence of Fleener and an up-and-coming receiving corps, but he will come with value if/when he falls into the early teen rounds in fantasy football league drafts.