2014 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 25 Tight Ends

Zach Wilkens provides his 2014 fantasy football tiered rankings for NFL tight ends (TE), including PPR and non-PPR leagues. These TE rankings are your draft guide.

Zach - RotoBaller
Zach - RotoBaller

While we already published our Top 25 Tight End Rankings in two separate tiers, we wanted to make things a bit easier for you, our dear RotoBaller reader, to digest. So we consolidated all the different tiers into one massive article. You can consider this the only tight end rankings guide you need in order to help you formulate your fantasy football draft strategy. This 4,000 word monster has it all: rookie tight ends (not that you’ll need to draft any), sleepers and breakouts, overvalued players and potential busts, etc. So, first things first, bookmark this baby…done? Okay, now sit back, relax, get a cup a nice iced coffee and a hungry man breakfast, lock yourself away for the next hour in a “meeting”, and sink your teeth into all of this goodness all at once. Enjoy!

 

Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings - Top 25

These rankings are tiered, and within each tier you can interchange players to your liking. Separate tiers signify where I think there are clear distinctions in value. For example, Tier 1 recognizes the elite at the position, the true star tight ends. Tier 2 has guys I would consider great, but with potential concerns, and so it goes down the list. I’d love to read your comments and disagreements below! Hit me up on twitter @LopsidedTrades anytime.

 

Tier 1 Tight Ends

1. Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints – 6’7″ 265 lbs

86 Rec – 1,215 Yards – 16 TD

Coaching Change: None

Jeffrey Beall - Own workSorry, no surprises at the top. If you could build the perfect pass-catching tight end, he would probably be identical to Jimmy Graham. He is a great red zone target but he is also a fantastic option for Brees anywhere on the field. The crazy part is that he dealt with a foot issue in the middle of the season which limited him to being a decoy and strictly a goal line threat for a couple of games. If he can avoid that, he could get even better. He should be going in the first round of every draft. If you get him any later that, its a huge steal.

 

2. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots – 6’6″ 265 lbs

39 Rec – 592 Yards – 4 TD

Coaching Change: None

Gronk is basically Jimmy Graham with more injury risk and a worse offense. In some ways that helps make Gronk a bigger part of the offense and it showed when he was on the field last year. Of the seven games he played, Gronk recorded five top-5 fantasy weeks at TE. You should expect more of the same in 2014. While the injuries will be enough to scare some off, the idea that you are almost guaranteed a top-5 week at the TE position when he plays is enough to make the risk worth it. He offers something you simply can’t find anywhere else outside of the top 15 picks or so. Rob Gronkowski should be off the board by the late second round.

 

Tier 2 Tight Ends

3. Julius Thomas – Denver Broncos – 6’5″ 250 lbs

65 Rec – 788 Yards – 12 TD

Coaching Change: None

RotoBaller-Fantasy-Football-Advice-Julius-ThomasOrange Julius had one heck of a breakout season and was a major factor in Peyton’s breaking of the TD record. There were a few red flags that keep me from ranking him over Gronkowski though. While Gronk was averaging over 80 yards per game, Thomas was sitting at just over 50. His value was extremely touchdown dependent and that is backed up by the fact that he had ten games with under 50 yards last season. When you bank on a touchdown every game for your value you are playing a dangerous game. With that said, I think there is a great chance that the Broncos rely on Thomas a lot more in all passing situations this season. He should take a decent portion of the targets that were going to Eric DeckerEmmanuel Sanders can’t replace all of that. If he can do that he should have very similar or even better numbers than last season. While I do see him as a step down from the first two guys, he can still give you elite production this season.

 

4. Jordan Cameron - Cleveland Browns - 6’5″ 249 lbs

80 Rec – 917 Yards – 7 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Mike Pettine, OC – Kyle Shanahan

Erik Drost - Flickr: Jordon CameronCameron was another guy that enjoyed a big breakout season last year. He slowed down considerably after a monster start to the year, and that will likely keep many people from valuing him as high as I do. There are two things I see as major positives for Cameron’s value: He was excellent in the two games before Josh Gordon blew away the fantasy world. He has proven that he has enough size and talent to succeed with little else in the receiving game. Secondly, at this point it looks like Brian Hoyer will be the starting quarterback to begin the season. They appeared to have a great connection in the two games Hoyer started last year. Even if Hoyer doesn’t start and Johnny Manziel is the QB, who else will he throw to? Miles Austin is always injured, Nate Burleson will be 33 and Andrew Hawkins is tiny, certainly not an ideal touchdown threat. I think Cameron has a great under-appreciated shot at double digit touchdowns this season.

 

Tier 3 Tight Ends

5. Vernon Davis - San Francisco 49ers – 6’3″ 250 lbs

52 Rec – 813 Yards – 13 TD

Coaching Change: None

Obviously Davis enjoyed a great season last year, and seems to have done so under the radar with a great deal of attention going to Julius Thomas despite Davis besting him in yards and touchdowns. Yet here I am acknowledging this fact and still not giving Davis as much respect as he may deserve. Why? He was another guy that was very touchdown dependent, with a staggering 25% of his receptions going for touchdowns (higher if you count the postseason). That number is simply unsustainable. I have no doubt that Davis is extremely talented but he can’t keep that up. If we look at the players with fewer than 65 receptions and double-digit TD over the past five years, only one player improved the next season and that was Gronkowski.  Respect to Vernon, but he is not Gronkowski. Many more of the players had 3 or fewer TD the next season. In 2010 Antonio Gates had 10 TD with 50 Receptions and followed it up with a solid 7 TD season. That is a realistic expectation for Davis. It makes him a good option, but not someone winning you games every week.

 

6. Jason Witten - Dallas Cowboys – 6’6″ 251 lbs

73 Rec – 851 Yards – 8 TD

Coaching Change: Passing Game Coordinator – Scott Linehan

Witten is getting a little older (he’ll be 32 this year) but he continues to perform at a high level and act as a safety-blanket for Tony Romo. The addition of Scott Linehan running the passing game should improve the Cowboys offense as a whole and Witten should be a part of that. Witten saw his receptions dip to their lowest numbers since 2006, but I expect a slight increase again in 2014. There isn’t really a possibility of him having a huge season like the players ranked above him but he is one of the safest bets, having played in 175 of 176 games in his career.

 

7. Greg Olsen - Carolina Panthers – 6’5″ 253 lbs

73 Rec – 816 Yards – 6 TD

Coaching Change: None

I see Olsen as a lesser version of Witten and it shows in their 2013 stats. The big difference here is that the Panthers have significantly worse receiving options outside of Greg Olsen. That should give him a great shot to at least match his career high of 8 TD. I’m tempted to rank him ahead of Witten because of this but I am holding off on the basis of talent and much better overall offense going to Witten and the Cowboys. That said, with Olsen consistently going a round or later in drafts, he should provide the much better value.

 

Tier 4 Tight Ends

8. Jordan Reed - Washington Redskins – 6’2″ 237 lbs

45 Rec – 499 Yards – 3 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Jay Gruden, OC – Sean McVay

Jordan Reed is extremely promising and it looked like it was all coming together in the middle of last season. Unfortunately he suffered a concussion in week 11 and the symptoms lingered which is always a scary sign. He was placed on injured reserve ending his rookie campaign. He appears to be fully healthy and should remain a top option for RGIII despite the addition of DeSean Jackson. There is always the fear another concussion could put his season or even his career at risk but his potential is too much to pass up at this point. The Redskins offense should be improved under Jay Gruden and Reed will have every opportunity to thrive.

 

9. Zach Ertz - Philadelphia Eagles – 6’5″ 250 lbs

36 Rec – 469 Yards – 4 TD

Coaching Change: None

Let me start by saying out of all the receivers outside of the top five, Ertz has the best shot of jumping into the upper echelon. He has excellent size with great hands. The only problem that keeps him low on the list is that he didn’t show much in his rookie year. Part of that was his teammate Brent Celek being a much better blocker which kept Ertz off the field in many situations. There are a few reasons to remain optimistic though. Rookie tight ends almost never have big seasons, not even Jimmy Graham. If you look at the top five, only Gronkowski was a fantasy threat in year 1. The Eagles also lost their top receiver in DeSean Jackson and also lost Jason Avant. While a lot of those yards will go to Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews, the opportunity has presented itself to Ertz and there is a great chance he will run with it. One very promising indicator is that Ertz has the ability to score plenty of touchdowns: Over the final 9 games (including the playoffs) he scored 5 touchdowns. That would put him at a pace of 8-9. With the expected yardage increase, Ertz would definitely be relevant on a weekly basis.

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for a new, awesome, highly customizable and free option for year-round commissioner & dynasty leagues, something more capable than Yahoo, better looking than CBS, and built from the ground up with fantasy football in mind, play free fantasy football with our friends at Fleaflicker.

 

Tier 5 Tight Ends

10. Kyle Rudolph - Minnesota Vikings – 6’6″ 259 lbs

30 Rec – 313 Yards – 3 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Mike Zimmer, OC – Norv Turner

So far in Rudolph’s career he has been a touchdown or nothing player and I tend to shy away from those types. In fact, he has recorded more than 70 yards in a game just once (last year vs Carolina). You simply cannot become a great fantasy option that way. Yet there is plenty of optimism to go around and it starts with the nice contract extension the Vikings gave him, showing they are committed to Rudolph as their primary tight end. Norv Turner is the new offensive coordinator and he loves using his tight ends. In recent times it’s a small sample size because he had Antonio Gates for so long, but he took Jordan Cameron to another level last year as well. Rudolph is not Cameron and will not be that good, but there is no reason he can’t enjoy his finest and most consistent season yet.

 

11. Martellus Bennett - Chicago Bears – 6’6″ 265 lbs

65 Rec – 759 Yards – 5 TD

Coaching change: None

Listed at the same size as Gronkowski, that is unfortunately about where the similarities end. Bennett enjoyed a nice season last year as TE10, but unfortunately his production went down as the season went on. He had three TD in the first two games but finished with just five. He had at least 5 fantasy points in six of the first seven games but would only hit that mark three more times the rest of the way. The problem with Bennett is that there is no reason to think he can do any better than last year. Ideally Jay Cutler stays healthy all season which should increase his yardage a bit, but his touchdowns were split between both QBs (3 with Cutler, 2 with McCown) and this offense runs through the two wide receivers and Forte. Should any of those guys get injured, I would expect Bennett to see an increase in targets. Otherwise, he’s just another guy to have if you wait on tight ends.

 

12. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers – 6’4″ 255 lbs

77 Rec – 872 Yards – 4 TD

Coaching Change: OC – Frank Reich

Although Gates is now 34 and saw his touchdowns dip to their lowest total since he was a rookie, Gates still put up solid numbers by years end. He’s no longer an every week fantasy starter and fellow tight end Ladarius Green has forced his way into the picture, Gates could prove to be a nice value as people pass on him due to age. Despite some injury problems in recent years, Gates has only seen a modest decline in skill to this point. Another positive for Gates: Outside of Keenan Allen the Chargers have nothing but question marks at wide receiver. Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd are both coming off major injuries and Vincent Brown is nothing special. Even if Ladarius Green starts to become the player many expect him to be, Gates could still continue to do his thing. I imagine even if his yardage goes down he should score a few more touchdowns this year as well.

 

rotoballer-fantasy-football-advice-charles-clay13. Charles Clay - Miami Dolphins – 6’3″ 250 lbs.

69 Rec – 756 Yards – 6 TD / 7 Rush – 15 Yards – 1 TD

Coaching Change: OC – Bill Lazor

Clay began last preseason in relative obscurity as a fullback / tight end hybrid stuck behind Dustin Keller on the depth chart. In mid-August, Keller suffered a season-ending injury and Clay was thrust into the starting role. He ended up being a really nice cheap option at the position, scoring 5+ points eight different times with  seven total touchdowns. Given his previous fullback experience, he was also used as a goal-line rusher, though he only managed to score once. He proved to be a very apt pass catcher and was also second among tight ends in missed tackles (16). Clay will continue to be a big part of the Dolphins offense under new OC Bill Lazor coming over from Philadelphia. The Eagles used their tight ends pretty heavily in the passing game, which bodes well. Charles Clay represents really great value in the later parts of the draft if you miss out on a top tight end.

 

Tier 6 Tight Ends

14. Dennis Pitta - Baltimore Ravens – 6’4″ 245 lbs.

20 Rec – 169 Yards – 1 TD

Coaching Change: OC – Gary Kubiak

I am notably low on Pitta. Simply put, I have never been wowed by his ability as a receiver. Although he is from the same draft class as Rob Gronkowski (25) and Jimmy Graham (27), Pitta is fairly old at 29, and many seem to forget this. At his age, he isn’t likely to develop into something more than a somewhat decent receiver. As a result, his upside is limited compared to those around him in the rankings. New OC Gary Kubiak was fond of his receivers in Houston, and we should expect the same here. That raises the ceiling for Pitta, but considering his best season saw him notch 669 yards and 7 TD, I wouldn’t expect anything more than 800 yards and 6-8 TD in a best-case scenario. Pitta is likely one of the safer picks later on in the draft, but he’s not someone I want to pay a high price for.

 

15. Ladarius Green - San Diego Chargers – 6’6″ 240 lbs.

17 Rec – 376 Yards – 3 TD

Coaching Change: OC – Frank Reich

What’s not to like about Green late in a draft? He’s got the height, he is super athletic and he had the highest yards-per-catch of any player with at least 10 receptions. Not too bad. However, I am not ready to give him the title of superstar in the making. His success last year was a very small sample size, less than half the receptions of fellow up-and-comers Reed and Ertz. More importantly, Antonio Gates should continue to have an important role in this offense. There is no doubt Green will be involved, but with one of the all-time best at the position, Green will likely have to wait one more year before letting loose completely. And that’s fine– he will only be 24 this year. Tons of upside but be aware he has a bigger roadblock than most to unlock it all.

 

rotoballer-fantasy-football-advice-tyler-eifert16. Tyler Eifert - Cincinnati Bengals – 6’6″ 250 lbs.

39 Rec – 445 Yards – 2 TD

Coaching Change: OC – Hue Jackson

Eifert was pretty highly regarded as a rookie drafted in the first round. Once again, we were reminded that first-round tight ends simply don’t perform that well. Will we see an improvement in year two? That remains unclear. I am not exactly optimistic. New OC Hue Jackson didn’t really have an exceptional TE in two years with Oakland, though he didn’t have much talent to work with. HC Marvin Lewis has never had an exceptional season from a TE in his decade there. Jermaine Gresham has been the best, and while a 700-yard 5-TD season is solid, its not exactly promising for Eifert’s sophomore campaign. There are a number of decent targets in this offense beyond A.J. Green (Gio, Marvin JonesMohamed Sanu, Gresham is still around). Eifert is a decent pick in deeper leagues, but I can’t find a compelling reason to be high on him this year.

 

Tier 7 Tight Ends

17. Heath Miller - Pittsburgh Steelers – 6’5″ 256 lbs.

58 Rec – 593 Yards – 1 TD

Coaching Change: None

Heath Miller is one of the most consistent players, averaging about 630 yards and 4 TD over the past 7 seasons, rarely going much higher and never much lower than that. He did have a very good 800-yard 8-TD season in 2012, but that looks like an anomaly. After regressing last year and managing just 1 TD, it’s safe to say Miller remains squarely in the middle of those two seasons. That makes him a viable fantasy option, but not a guy you’d like to rely on every single week. If you can get him late in a draft as a backup or TE2 he should be one of the safest picks.

 

18. Garrett Graham - Houston Texans - 6’3″ 243 lbs.

49 Rec – 545 Yards – 5 TD

Coaching Change: HC/OC – Bill O’Brien

 A lot of people were intrigued by Graham when Owen Daniels got hurt last year, and rightly so, considering he had three touchdowns in the first five games while Daniels was still healthy. Somehow, Graham managed to play worse once he had the spotlight at the position, and he looked completely mediocre. On the bright side, the offense should be significantly better this year, and Bill O’Brien was the coordinator in New England when they developed the dominant double tight end threat of Gronk and Hernandez. So even though the Texans drafted a tight end in the third round, Graham should still get his looks and will likely be the top of the depth chart at the position. Unfortunately with Ryan Fitzpatrick, the third or fourth best option is that enticing.

 

19. Dwayne Allen - Indianapolis Colts – 6’3″ 265 lbs.

1 Rec – 20 Yards – 1 TD

Coaching Change: None

Its easy to forget about Allen after he missed almost the entirety of 2013, but if you are in a deeper league, you should keep Allen in mind. In their rookie seasons, Allen easily outplayed Coby Fleener. Without Allen last year, many expected Fleener to become a very good fantasy tight end. It never really came to fruition, and as a result Fleener was unable to run away with the job. Allen should be the top guy, but with Reggie Wayne returning and Hakeem Nicks added into the mix, Allen might not get enough looks to be a big factor in standard leagues.

20. Delanie Walker - Tennessee Titans – 6’0″ 248 lbs.

60 Rec – 571 Yards – 6 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Ken Whisenhunt, OC – Jason Michael

Last year, Walker had a solid PPR season at tight end in his first go with the Titans. Unfortunately, that also went with one of the lowest YPC and YAC for any tight end. Those low averages prevented him from really having a notable season. Now Ken Whisenhunt steps in as coach, and with the expected emergence of Justin Hunter and the addition of Dexter McCluster, it is unclear just how involved Walker will be. My guess is that Walker doesn’t get very close to 60 receptions again this year, and if that is the case, Walker isn’t that interesting outside of two-TE leagues.

 

21. Jared Cook - St. Louis Rams – 6’5″ 254 lbs

51 Rec – 671 Yards – 5 TD

Coaching Change: None

Cook was a popular preseason breakout candidate last year. After a monster Week 1 (141 Yards, 2 TD), his value went through the roof. Disappointingly, he never came close to that number again (Week 1 accounted for over 25% of his point total on the year), and owners ended up clinging on too long hoping for more. There is some potential for a post-hype decent year from Cook, but I am not a big fan of Bradford or the Rams offense, so I’ll pass.

 

Tier 8 Tight Ends

rotoballer-fantasy-football-advice-coby-fleener22. Coby Fleener - Indianapolis Colts – 6’6″ 251 lbs

52 Rec – 608 Yards – 4 TD

Coaching Change: None

I discussed Fleener at some length in the Dwayne Allen ranking. To put it simply, if 2013′s numbers were the best he could do with Allen and Wayne both hurt and the running game looking awful, I don’t really want any part of Fleener. He should be a reasonably decent option in two-TE leagues. Outside of that he seems overvalued.

 

23. Eric Ebron - Detroit Lions – 6’4″ 250 lbs (Drafted via North Carolina)

2013 College Stats: 62 Rec – 973 Yards – 3 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Jim Caldwell, OC – Joe Lombardi

In the wake of the athletic tight end outburst in the NFL, Ebron became the first player at the position drafted in the top 10 since Vernon Davis in 2006. Ebron is big, fast and very athletic. He went to the perfect landing spot, where he and Stafford should be a nice combination for the next several years. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see big numbers in Year One. Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria are both competent receiving tight ends, as well. They have the best wide receiver in the game and two above-average pass-catching running backs. As much as I think Ebron will be a success in the NFL, his path to catches is unclear. I also think the loss of Scott Linehan as OC is significant. In Jim Caldwell’s only full season as a coordinator with the Ravens, both Joe Flacco and Ray Rice took big steps backward. Despite that, this team is built to throw and Stafford should continue to put up big numbers. I’m fine with taking Ebron at the end of a draft as a flier pick– just know that he is much more likely to break out next year.

 

24. Tim Wright – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6’4″ 220 lbs 

54 Rec – 571 Yards – 5 TD

Coaching Change: HC – Lovie Smith, OC – Jeff Tedford

Wright is something of a WR/TE hybrid, which should make sense considering he is 20 lbs. lighter than anyone else in the top 25. This gives him some decent upside, as he is a big athletic guy who could end up being the WR3 in that system. It’s funny to think this guy only got a chance because of his ties to Greg Schiano at Rutgers, but he might be pretty valuable to the team. Josh McCown showed last year he loves his tall targets, and he has plenty of them here. If Wright sticks at tight end, he will probably lose out to Seferian-Jenkins, but as a hybrid player he should offer more value.

 

25. Travis Kelce - Kansas City Chiefs – 6’5″ 260 lbs

0 Rec – 0 Yards – 0 TD (Spent season on IR)

Coaching Change: None

You may not know who Kelce is just yet, but you will soon. He missed all of last year with knee surgery, but he was a highly regarded third-round pick going into last year. I had some serious concerns about how close to 100% he would be after serious surgery, but he answered any fears with a fantastic run-and-catch in the first preseason game, and he looked fast! I was wowed. Of course, I know not to overreact to one preseason game, but it alleviated my main concerns with Kelce’s health. If any TE going undrafted can really surprise us this year, its Kelce. Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe have not meshed well, which leaves a ton of opportunity in that offense. Kelce is a great sleeper in the position for deeper leagues, and if he continues to shine, you should seriously consider him.

 

RotoBaller Fantasy Football NFL Waiver Wire Pickups iPhone App

RotoBaller has all of your 2014 Fantasy Football needs taken care of:


Related RotoBaller Articles:

Article by Zach - RotoBaller

I am a fantasy baseball and football fanatic. I've been playing for 8 years now and I like to think I learn more every year. I grew up a Yankees fan but came to appreciate the sport as a whole. Follow my Twitter for more sports updates @LopsidedTrades
Zach - RotoBaller tagged this post with: Read 92 articles by

Leave a Reply

NFL Waiver Wire Pickups & Rankings