In recent years we've seen tight ends go higher and higher in most fantasy football drafts. With guys like R. Gronkowski and J. Graham becoming go-to guys for their respective teams, the tight end position is getting more and more involved in the passing game as the years go by.
The Patriots seem to have started a trend in terms of two tight end sets with Gronkowski and A. Hernandez. In 2013, there could be a few teams such as the Colts (Allen/Fleener), Bengals (Eifert/Gresham) and the Cowboys (Witten/Escobar) who will attempt to use the same formula. Whether it works just as well as it has for the Patriots remains to be seen. But if this trend continues, fantasy football owners could be seeing more value in later rounds when it comes to selecting a tight end.
On that note, lets take a look at this year's top-10 tight ends that have been going in all fantasy football drafts thus far. Like I had written in my Top 10 Running Backs in the 2013 Fantasy Football Draft, I pull these Fantasy Football Rankings from various drafting sites to give the best averages possible. I am also continuing with the PPR format.
Once done reading, also make sure to check out Phil Clark's 2013 Fantasy Football QB Rankings.
1. Jimmy Graham - Saints
Maybe Graham didn't come close to his statline from 2011 (99/1310/11), but his 85 catches in 2012 still tied with M. Crabtree and E. Decker for 13th place amongst ALL receivers. Unlike the situation in New England, Graham doesn't have another tight end to contend with for receptions. So while Drew Brees is still under center, Graham will continue to be the No. 1 overall fantasy tight end in ALL league formats.
2. Rob Gronkowski - Patriots
Can Gronkowski be the No. 1 tight end in 2013? He's shown he can be in the past. Would I take him this high right now? Hell no. Doctors operated on Gronk's forearm on Monday, saying they are "confident" the infection in his surgically-repaired arm has subsided. The bad news is Gronkowski is now expected to undergo minor back surgery, which will take around 10 weeks to recover from. The window between full health and Week One is going to be a bit too close for my taste. If Gronkowski dropped in the draft, I would take a shot in the hopes he'll be a value pick. But for now, No. 2 seems a bit too high.
3. Aaron Hernandez - Patriots
Like Gronkowski, Hernandez is currently on the shelf after undergoing shoulder surgery back in early April. But the chances of him being fully ready for Week One is much greater than Gronk's at the moment. The biggest problem with Hernandez is health. He has yet to play all sixteen games during his career, missing six last year due to a high-ankle sprain. Still, Hernandez is someone who could easily eclipse 1000 yards in a season if all the cards fall the right way in 2013.
4. Jason Witten - Cowboys
Having owned Witten several times in past leagues, I can say he is the safest of the top 5 players on this list. Coming off a 2012 season in which he notched a career-high 110 receptions, expect Tony Romo to look his way a lot again in 2013. As I previously stated, the Cowboys could try and incorporate more Gavin Escobar in the offense, but I would be surprised if this wound up being a full-on time share.
5. Tony Gonzalez - Falcons
Owners in dynasty and keeper leagues were overjoyed when they heard that the Falcons were able to talk Gonzo into playing for at least one more season. One of the positives I love about Gonzo is his play didn't slowly drop from the beginning of the 2012 season to the end. Yes he had a few duds, but notching five-or-more receptions in three-of-the-last four games last year is pretty darn good for someone who just turned 37. He might not be able to bring in another 1000-yard season due to so many other weapons in Atlanta's offense, but 70-80 receptions are easily doable.
6. Vernon Davis - 49ers
Once Colin Kaepernick became the starter over Alex Smith last year, Davis' fantasy numbers crumbled. But there is hope. In Super Bowl 47 against the Ravens, Davis caught six passes for 104 yards. Despite the loss, this will hopefully be a sign of things to come for 2012. Although, it doesn't help that the team brought in Anquan Boldin. This ranking also might be a bit too high for me.
7. Kyle Rudolph - Vikings
The Vikings made some noise in regards to their passing offense by trading Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, signing long-time Packers receiver Greg Jennings and also using a first-round pick on Cordarrelle Patterson. But none of these moves, including Rudolph's use in the offense, will mean much if Christian Ponder doesn't take that next step and improve as a quarterback. Rudolph has all the talent in the world to be a top tight end, as we saw when he racked up three scores between Weeks Two and Three of last season. But if Ponder doesn't cut it, that talent will go to waste.
8. Dennis Pitta - Ravens
Pitta disappointed at times last year. His zero-catch performance against the Browns in Week Four was a disaster. But now that Anquan Boldin is gone, Joe Flacco is going to need Pitta more than ever to pick up some of that slack. The Ravens could wind up making a training camp trade if they feel Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones can't provide enough stability in the passing game. Although it's doubtful, which means Pitta could easily break his 2012 career highs of 61 catches and 669 yards.
9. Owen Daniels - Texans
Daniels isn't flashy like the guys above, but his career-high six touchdown catches from 2012 still shows us he's an integral part of the passing game. His play could slip now that DeAndre Hopkins is on the team, but I feel comfortable getting Daniels as a later value pick and using him as my TE1.
10. Jared Cook - Rams
The best thing that could have happened to Cook's fantasy value was getting the hell out of Tennessee. And with the Rams giving Cook $19 million in guaranteed money, Jeff Fisher is going to use Cook a lot in 2013. Cook may not destroy his career-high 759 receiving yards, but I would bet he will surpass his career-high 49 receptions. Look for Cook to be Sam Bradford's favorite target this year