When it comes to tight ends, I’m usually a guy that waits until the later rounds to grab one, mainly because I don’t like to spend such a high pick on the position. This year? A total reversal of opinion, as I feel there are so few guys who are capable of producing at a high level. With question marks surrounding the top tight ends, this week’s column will list my top 10 tight ends. I’ll also list a pro, con and final verdict for each on whether or not they are worth a selection come draft day.
Pro – Head coach Sean Payton is back, last I checked Drew Brees is still their quarterback and Graham has totaled 20 TD the past two seasons.
Con – His targets did go down last year as Marques Colston and Darren Sproles went up, especially late in the season.
Final Verdict – This is a guy you absolutely want on your team, and I’d draft him as soon as the second round.
Pro – Double digit TD’s each of his first three seasons, Wes Welker is off to Denver and last I checked Tom Brady is still under center in New England.
Con – He is still dealing with serious arm issues and his status for opening day is in doubt.
Final Verdict – I can’t avoid him solely because of the injury due to the fact he is an absolute touchdown machine.
Pro – As Dallas was second in the league in pass attempts last season, Jason Witten was breaking reception records for a tight end and racking up over 1,000 yards in the process.
Con – Simply not a red zone target, Witten hauled in only a trio of touchdowns in 2012.
Final Verdict – Another guy I absolutely love on a year to year basis, Mr. Consistency should be drafted in the early to middle rounds as your plug and play starter from week one forward.
Pro – While we know the Falcons offense is high octane, Gonzalez caught eight TD’s and is head and shoulders Matt Ryan’s favorite red zone target.
Con – Age has to catch up to him at some point, doesn’t it? Steven Jackson’s addition at running back could also take away some of those red zone opportunities.
Final Verdict – With Jackson’s addition and Julio Jones destined for an even bigger year than he had in 2012, I just see the big games few and far between this season for the best tight end in the league’s history.
Pro – With Danario Alexander now gone for the year, this immediately boosts Antonio Gates up my rankings. He was already pretty high with a new coaching staff and the fact he is finally at full health this offseason.
Con – Only 49 catches last year in an offense that may struggle early due to the implemenation of the new, faster paced West Coast offense installed by Ken Whisenhunt.
Final Verdict – A guy who has dropped like a stone in mock drafts, you’ll get a tremendous value in the eighth or ninth round.
Pro – Arguably the Niners biggest playmaker in the playoffs, the 29 year old Davis has just hit his prime. With Michael Crabtree out for an extended period of time, he may become Kaepernick’s best friend in the receiving game.
Con – Davis had six (yes, just six) catches in the final six games of the regular season totaling 61 yards resulting in, you guessed it, zero trips to the end zone. When the 49ers offense was rolling, Davis wasn’t a big factor until the postseason as mentioned above.
Final Verdict – Going before Witten, Gonzalez and Gates in most mock drafts, it would be a mistake to draft him before the eighth or ninth round.
Pro – Christian Ponder doesn’t look anywhere but to hand off to Adrian Peterson or throw to Kyle Rudolph in the red zone. The former Notre Dame star caught nine for a score a year ago and should be primed for an even better third pro campaign.
Con – Ponder will almost never throw for a ton of yards and touchdowns are very hard to predict on a year to year basis.
Final Verdict – I am lukewarm on the Vikings passing game due to all the changes they have made, but you cannot deny Ponder’s love for this guy in scoring areas. Grab him in the 9th or 10th and go with him as your top tight end week in and week out.
Pro – The Rams just threw a bundle of money at him as Cook goes to play for the coach that drafted him in Jeff Fisher. In my mind, aside from the electrifying rookie Tavon Austin, Cook is the next best option for Sam Bradford to work with.
Con – They don’t have legit number one running back since the departure of Steven Jackson to Atlanta and Cook barely hit 500 yards last season in Tennessee.
Final Verdict – The jury is still out on Sam Bradford as well as how Cook will fit in, and I need to see it before I commit to him as my every week starter. Pass.
Pro – Did you know that Stanford’s offensive coordinator when Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener were there is now the Colts new offensive coordinator? Now you do. Pep Hamilton has promised to get Coby Fleener more involved in this offense as he looks to build on a rookie year where his impact was minimal.
Con – Fellow second year tight end Dwayne Allen is still there and there may not be enough to go around in this Indianapolis offense.
Final Verdict – A favorite sleeper of mine since he entered the league thanks to his unique skill set, expect Fleener to not only line up at TE but in the slot as well. Grab him late as part of a tandem you can interchange on a week to week basis.
Pro – One of my favorite rookies, I got a chance to see him up close and personal this week out in Flowery Branch as the Bengals and Falcons combined for practice. What was most impressive about him was his ability to separate from the guys that were covering him, and not just the linebackers dropping in coverage. Defensive backs as well, folks. He had an incredible senior season at Notre Dame and looks to carry that over into his rookie year with the Bengals.
Con – Rookie tight ends rarely make a huge impact, and Jermaine Gresham is still there and is still productive to some extent.
Final Verdict – I absolutely love everything about this kid and I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him late as a member of a TE tandem who you can interchange weekly. Late in the year you’re going to thank me.
Next week we’ll dive into kickers and defenses, and we’ll also touch on anything that catches my eye from week one preseason action.
Till next time,