Here’s my updated listing of the top 30 tight ends heading into preseason action, citing standard- scoring leagues only:
1. Jimmy Graham, Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
3. Jordan Cameron, Browns
4. Julius Thomas, Broncos
5. Jordan Reed, Redskins
6. Vernon Davis, 49ers
7. Greg Olsen, Panthers
8. Jason Witten, Cowboys
9. Dennis Pitta, Ravens
10. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
11. Martellus Bennett, Bears
12. Ladarius Green, Chargers
13. Charles Clay, Dolphins
14. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
15. Coby Fleener, Colts
16. Zach Ertz, Eagles
17. Eric Ebron, Lions
18. Jared Cook, Rams
19. Delanie Walker, Titans
20. Garrett Graham, Texans
21. Dwayne Allen, Colts
22. Antonio Gates, Chargers
23. Heath Miller, Steelers
24. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
25. Austin Seferian-Jenkins/Brandon Myers, Bucs
26. Jace Amaro, Jets
27. Zach Miller, Seahawks
28. Mychal Rivera, Raiders
29. Brent Celek, Eagles
30. Andrew Quarless, Packers
30b. Owen Daniels, Ravens
30c. John Carlson, Cardinals
1. Of his five NFL seasons, Jimmy Graham (86 catches, 1,215 yards, 16 TDs last year) is enjoying 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 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 14-16 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 Patriots and Colts and four games against NFC West foes.
By extension, Julius Thomas (65 catches, 788 yards) isn’t a good bet to replicate his 12 touchdowns. 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’ galling 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. Jason Witten (73 catches, 851 yards, eight TDs last year) could garner a top-six spot with PPR rankings … IF Tony Romo (back surgery) looks productive during the preseason.
Check out this disparity: In 2013, the Cowboys tight end 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) surpassing 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.
Jay Clemons, the 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Assoication), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @FOX_JayClemons.