Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011 Tight End Rankings

Ranking   Player                  Bye Week                    
1             Antonio Gates       6
2             Jason Witten         5
3             Dallas Clark          11
4             Jermichael Finley   8
5             Vernon Davis         7
6             Zach Miller (FA)     ?
7             Owen Daniels        11
8             Mercedes Lewis     9
9             Kellen Winslow      8
10           Greg Olsen            9
11           Chris Cooley          5
12           Rob Gronkowski     7
13           Tony Gonzalez       8
14           Jimmy Graham       11
15           Tony Moeaki          6

       A key thing to note is that once the top 5 tight ends are gone, the rest of the tight ends basically become KICKERS.  There was hardly a difference between the 6th and 15th tight ends last year. In fact, there was just a 14 point difference! This is less than the difference between the 1st and 10th kickers and I expect this year to behave just about the same.   
        As a result, if you miss out on the elite tight ends, do not panic.  You can wait patiently for a remaining tight end that you may like and take him late in the draft. You will be no worse off with the 12th tight end compared to the 7th.

1. Best of the best: Antonio Gates
       For the usual weak tight end class, Antonio Gates is by far the most proven and in a class of his own.  He is on a high scoring offense and a consistent red zone threat who has 7 stellar seasons under his belt.
       According to ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry, this is shown in the points per game difference between top scorer and next 10 at respective position.  Last year, Gates averaged 13.4 points a game while the 2-11 TE's averaged just 7.1 points per game. This equates for a 6.3 point difference, which is the highest at any respective position (other than QB and Vick).
       So what this means is that Gates was much better than the next 10 guys at his position.  Hypothetically, having Gates should give you the biggest advantage over an opponent. Therefore, one should really target Gates.  He tends to go in the early 4th round and should go no later than the 5th. If you do miss on Gates, there are still 4 other elite options who are just below him, but still have the ability to match him.

2-5: Elite: Jason Witten, Dallas Clark, Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis
       Player I want most: Jermichael Finley. Finley is going much later than Gates and has sky high potential. In a potent Green Bay offense, he will be a top option of Rodgers who missed his TE last season due to an injury.  We only have seen glimpses of Finley due to these injury concerns and is no doubt a risk, but he has big number capabilities.
       These are the only 5 elite options at tight end.  If you want one of them, you will have to jump a little early on them. But it is worth the risk as after here, there is virtually no potential for an elite tight end.

6-15: All of the others:
       Player I want the most: Owen Daniels. He is looking for a comeback year with the Texans and should be utilized in their potent offense. He and Zach Miller, who is currently unsigned, are the closest to elite you can get here. But they are still far from it.
       In terms of potential, Jimmy Graham of New Orleans has the most Gates like talent as he is a former college basketball player. Despite his raw athleticism and good hands, he is on the team that spreads the ball the most. Thus, it will be tough for him to find consistent success (much like all other New Orleans receivers).
       Of the others, I do like Rob Gronkowski after his success from last year and the fact that he has Tom Brady throwing him the ball. Still, there are plenty of options for Brady to throw and it will make consistency tough for him.

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