The least glamorous position in fantasy football and often a total crapshoot, but not nearly as random as the DST and kicker positions. There are a few definite studs near the top, but also some excellent depth and late-round sleepers. The question, as always, is how early to begin the run of tight ends. Last year I reached on Jason Witten in the fifth round and regretted it; however, if I'd reached on Dallas Clark it would have been a great move. Or I could have waited until the last round and got TD machine Vernon Davis.
1. Dallas Clark, IND
I don't think he'll match the 10 TDs from last season, but I do think he'll notch 100 catches and 1,000 yards again. He's basically a premier slot receiver who just happens to have the letters "TE" next to his name. He's Peyton Manning's favorite target, and an easy fifth or sixth round pick.
2. Antonio Gates, SD
To me, Gates and Clark are miles ahead of the rest of the league's tight ends in terms of dependability. Gates has scored at least 8 TDs in six straight seasons, and despite being "injury-prone," he's not missed a game in two seasons. With Vincent Jackson's suspension and holdout looming, it's hard not to move Gates up ahead of Clark.
3. Tony Gonzalez, ATL
I debated Vernon Davis and Brent Celek and even Witten, but ultimately Gonzalez is the safest option as the third TE off the board. But once the first two are gone, I'd wait another two or three rounds. TEs 3-8 are interchangable to me.
4. Brent Celek, PHI
Will play the role of the primary possession receiver for the Eagles, and might be a needed safety-net for Kevin Kolb in his first season as a starter. Also a great red-zone guy.
5. Vernon Davis, SF
I love his talent, but I'm positive that he won't match the 13 TDs from a year ago, especially with Crabtree joining the team in more of a full-time role. But I'd expect another solid year of 70 catches, 800 yards, and 6-8 TDs.
6. Jason Witten, DAL
A bust last year as he scored only 2 TDs, but you can't ignore a guy who's averaged 90 catches and 1,040 yards a season since 2007. He's still only 28 years old, and plays on an elite offense with a quarterback who doubles as his best friend. But Wade Phillips uses Witten in a blocking role a little too often for fantasy owners to be happy, especially near the end zone.
7. Owen Daniels, HOU
You could easily argue that Daniels is a top 3 tight end; heck, he was on pace for 10 TDs and 1,000 yards through 8 games last year. But his third ACL rupture causes concern, as does a potential contract dispute. Still, he's the number two target on a pass-heavy offense. If you draft him, you'll probably want some TE insurance.
8. Jermichael Finley, GB
I'm not as high on him as a lot of other folks, which is odd because I can usually spot sleepers within the NFC North. He's a freakish athlete, a huge man with blazing speed, but he takes a backseat to Donald Lee as well as two top receivers, and I see James Jones as the breakout star in Green Bay this season, not Finley. Still, 60 catches, 600 yards and 5-6 TDs are to be expected in Rodgers' high-powered offense.
9. Chris Cooley, WAS
Call me crazy, but I think the Cooley-McNabb combo is a match made in heaven. At least in fantasy heaven. McNabb loves checking down to tight ends, and Cooley loves to catch the ball. He'll essentially be the slot receiver and might have a Dallas Clark-like year with 100 catches. But I'm not totally sold on the idea, hence the lowish ranking. But he's my top TE sleeper.
10. Zach Miller, OAK
My other top TE sleeper is Miller, another slot receiver with the "TE" label. He's a top three NFL tight end in terms of speed, and the only proven pass-catcher on the Raiders. If he caught 66 balls for 800 yards and 3 TDs, what might he do with Jason Campbell?
11. Visanthe Shiancoe, MIN
As long as Favre is the quarterback, VS should score at least 6 times and have 500+ yards.
12. Dustin Keller, NYJ
I'm not a huge fan of Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, or Marc Sanchez, and that means the athletic tight end should benefit. He's not in there for blocking purposes at all. Not a terrible pick.
13. John Carlson, SEA
14. Greg Olsen, CHI
15. Kevin Boss, NYG
16. Heath Miller, PIT
A group of semi-talented white guys who are trappen in less-than-ideal situations.
17. Kellen Winslow, TB
Probably the safest receiving option on an awful offense.
18. Tony Scheffler, DET
If you want a homer pick you can take Scheffler and hope he delivers on what Linehan says he will.
19. Fred Davis, WAS
20. Martellus Bennett, DAL
Should be pretty productive despite being second on their depth charts. But at this point the tight ends are done being drafted and we're just being nitpicky.
21. Benjamin Watson, CLE
22. Todd Heap, BAL
23. Jeremy Shockey, NO
24. Anthony Fasano, MIA
25. Bo Scaife, TEN
26. Jermaine Gresham, CIN
27. Brandon Pettigrew, DET
28. Marcedes Lewis, JAX
29. Shawn Nelson, BUF
30. Ed Dickson, BAL
That's all I got on tight ends. Not too exciting. My advice would be that it's okay to reach in the fifth round for Clark or Gates or even Gonzalez if you really want him, but not if a guy like Anquan Boldin or Phillip Rivers is still on the board. Don't be an idiot; only make the reach if you don't like your other options. And of course, don't take Todd Heap in the third round. Just ask Mike Bartels about that.
Also, to see the infamous video of Vernon Davis that I am obsessed with, click here.