Fantasy Fox: Top 30 tight ends for standard-scoring leagues
The Fantasy Fox offers his updated listing of the top 30 tight ends heading into the final week of the preseason, citing standard-scoring leagues only.
After the Round 1/2 pursuit of the Saints' Jimmy Graham (middle -- 86 catches, 1,215 yards, 16 TDs last year), fantasy owners might wait until the latter rounds for high-ceiling sleepers like the Chiefs' Travis Kelce (left) and Chargers' Ladarius Green (right).
John Rieger/Derick E. Hingle/Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports
By Jay ClemonsFOX Sports South
Here's my updated listing of the top 30 tight ends heading into the final week of the preseason, citing standard-scoring leagues only:
1. Of his five NFL seasons, Jimmy Graham (86 catches, 1,215 yards, 16 TDs last year) currently enjoys the greatest fantasy separation between himself ... and the No. 2-ranked tight end (standard scoring or PPR).
Speaking of which ... we're not concerned with Graham's middling production in his final five games (including two playoff outings) -- totaling only 16 catches, 35 targets, 221 yards and two touchdowns.
For Weeks 2 and 3 alone, Graham notched 19 receptions, 31 targets, 313 yards and three TDs.
2. Let's address the Rob Gronkowski situation in two ways:
a) I'm pleasantly surprised, er, shocked that Gronkowski has been so active during training camp, especially since there was so much runaround about his status this time last summer -- coming off arm surgery.
In a weird way, it's like Gronk's lower-body injuries heal at an accelerated rate, compared to the upper-body ailments. That aside, it's exciting that he's currently a good bet for 11-plus games.
b) Before he tore an ACL against the Browns in Week 14, Gronkowski had racked up either double-digit targets, 100 yards and/or one touchdown in five of six complete games.
In fact, he had scored in four consecutive outings, prior to the devastating injury against Cleveland.
3. The Broncos' passing offense will fall short of last year's record-setting pace, given a tougher 2014 schedule that includes outings against the Jets, Patriots, Bengals, Colts, six outings against the AFC West and four games against the NFC West -- the NFL's most stout defensive division.
By extension, Julius Thomas (65 catches, 788 yards) isn't a good bet to replicate his 12 TDs. Last season, Thomas posted eight games of four or less catches and 11 outings of 50 receiving yards or less.
4. For September and October, Jordan Cameron (80 catches, 917 yards, seven TDs last season) and Greg Olsen (73 catches, 816 yards, six TDs) should be reasonable bets for 7-10 targets every Sunday -- given the Browns and Panthers' lack of name-brand receiving talent.
In Cameron's case, he averaged eight catches, 11.5 targets, 79 yards and two touchdowns in Brian Hoyer's two full games as a starter last year (before going down with a knee injury).
5. Check out this disparity involving Jason Witten (73 catches, 851 yards, eight TDs last year): In 2013, Witten tallied seven games of eight-plus targets (including four double-digit outings) ... and collected three or less receptions seven times.
6. Dennis Pitta is a risky choice for the top 10. He only has one multi-touchdown effort and one 100-yard game in his career (separate outings).
On the flip side, Pitta collected double-digit targets twice in his four-game cameo with the Ravens last year; and new O-coordinator Gary Kubiak has a substantial track record as a tight-end-friendly play-caller.
7. We're taking a leap of faith on Ladarius Green (four TDs in his final six games last year) eclipsing Antonio Gates on the Chargers' depth chart. The kid's a physical freak (6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and entering his prime as an NFL pass-catcher.
8. Ordinarily, we'd take Travis Kelce's preseason success with a grain of salt. But since the Chiefs are lacking in vertical playmakers -- after tailback Jamaal Charles and receiver Dwayne Bowe -- Kelce (10 catches, 13 targets, 185 yards, two TDs in three August games) has a chance to be one of fantasy's most underrated gems by season's end.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Association), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.