Running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks are typically among the top players drafted in fantasy football leagues, but there’s one more position that could prove to be very important. Having a good tight end can be a key in winning your league, especially since the position often lacks depth.
Because there are usually only a handful of tight ends that stand out from the rest of the players at the position, it’s important to know who might surprise and who to avoid drafting. Using the average draft position and consensus expert rankings, according to FantasyPros, below are five overrated and five underrated tight ends for 2014 fantasy football.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Two years ago, Gronkowski was a legitimate first-round pick in fantasy football drafts. However, a lot has changed since 2012. Injuries have limited the tight end to just 18 games in the last two seasons, and after undergoing several surgeries, the 25-year-old still isn’t completely healthy at the start of Week One. He has the potential to be a top player at his position, but an average draft position of third is too risky when a player like Vernon Davis is available.
Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns
Cameron could find it difficult to make the Pro Bowl in a second straight season. Expectations for the tight end are high, as the consensus expert rank has him listed as the No.4 tight end. With Josh Gordon out for the entire season, defenses will be able to key in on stopping Cleveland’s biggest weapon. Whether it’s Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel at the helm, Cameron might have to catch passes from one of the worst starters in the league.
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
With an average draft position of ninth, fans are drafting Rudolph on potential. The tight end might become a reliable fantasy starter, but he could turn out to be a fantasy bust. In his three seasons with the Vikings, Rudolph has never reached 500 receiving yards. He missed eight games last year because of injuries, but he wasn’t a strong fantasy performer when he was healthy, recording just 313 yards and three touchdowns. He had more than 51 yards receiving just once in 2013, and hasn’t proven that he’s a top 10 tight end.
Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens
Pitta’s average draft position of eighth does not reflect what he’s done in his four-year NFL career. While he showed promise with 669 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012, he wasn’t an elite tight end. He only played four games last year, and wasn’t anything special in his time on the field, recording 169 yards and a score. He’s being drafted ahead of tight ends like Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates, who are safer bets.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh tight end isn’t considered among the top players at his position, but he’s still being used as a starter in many leagues. Based on his performance in recent years, Miller should only be in a fantasy football lineup if an owner’s starter is on his bye week. Miller had his best season as an NFL player in 2012, but those numbers appear to be an outlier. In 2010, 2011 and 2013, he failed to surpass 631 yards or catch more than two touchdown passes. As Miller enters his 10th season, his statistics might only get worse.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
It’s difficult for the No.1 player at a position to be considered underrated, but Graham is as close as it gets in the NFL. While he’s universally considered the best tight end, he doesn’t always get the respect he deserves because he is a tight end. When drafting, Graham should be treated like a top wide receiver. He’s as consistent as any player in football, averaging 1,169 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns over the last three seasons. He should be highly considered as a late first-round pick.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Because he’s been around for long, Witten is often times overlooked in fantasy football drafts. He probably won’t be the best tight end this season, but he’s almost guaranteed to finish in the top five or six. While his average draft position is fifth, some experts have him ranked as low as 13th. As long as Tony Romo is healthy, he’ll seek out Witten and make him a valuable commodity.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
Clay had a breakout season in 2013, easily surpassing both his reception total and receiving yards from his first two years combined. Some owners may be skeptical that he can have a repeat performance in 2014, but there’s little reason to believe that he won’t have another strong season. Despite finishing as a top eight tight end last year, his average draft position is just 14th. Ryan Tannehill should continue to progress, which will mean only good things for Clay.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
For years, Gates was one of the top tight ends in football. While he’s no longer in the upper echelon at his position, he’s still likely to be a more than serviceable fantasy football contributor who will have a few big performances in 2014. His average draft position of 13th is too low, considering the production he’s had in recent years. The emergence of Ladarius Green last season has made some fantasy owners wary of Gates, but the veteran still caught 77 passes for 872 yards last year. Green disappeared down the stretch of 2013 and he has a lot more to prove before Gates is no longer worthy of being a fantasy starter.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz has a chance to have a breakout season in 2014. He was highly touted out of Stanford, and caught 36 passes for 469 yards as a rookie. The best tight ends in the past decade have taken major leaps in their second seasons, including Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Ertz won’t equal their production, especially since tight end Brent Celek figures to be a part of the offense, but he could take the next step and perform much better than his No.12 average draft position would indicate.