It’s pretty amazing how quickly the sport of fantasy football can evolve. (Yes, I called it a sport. And yes, I am entirely aware of how nerdy that sounds…) Just a few years ago, most people considered tight ends unimportant – an afterthought. A position that you addressed just before defense and a kicker. Last year though, the NFL saw a major emergence at the tight end position. Hybrid players who had the size and the speed to really stretch the field and become very dangerous in the end zone. Of course, this increased role translated well for fantasy owners who were fortunate enough to have some of these special players on their roster. Now, a lot of the talk headed into this season of fantasy football is centered around the importance of tight ends and how well guys, like Rob Gornkowski, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez, who were outstanding last year, will do this year.

So this week for our fantasy football rankings and debate, we will look at the tight end position and list, who we believe to be, the top 10. If you missed, make sure to check out our last Coin Toss where we ranked fantasy D/ST.

Adam’s Tight End Rankings

  1. Jimmy Graham
  2. Rob Gronkowski
  3. Vernon Davis
  4. Aaron Hernandez
  5. Jermichael Finley
  6. Jason Witten
  7. Antonio Gates
  8. Brandon Pettigrew
  9. Brent Celek
  10. Greg Olsen

Brett’s Tight End Rankings

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Jimmy Graham
  3. Jason Witten
  4. Antonio Gates
  5. Vernon Davis
  6. Aaron Hernandez
  7. Jermichael Finley
  8. Tony Gonzalez
  9. Brandon Pettigrew
  10. Jermaine Gresham

Continue reading to see Adam and I duke it out on these rankings.

Brett Says:

Well, right off the bat, the first thing I notice is there aren’t a lot of huge discrepancies between who we think are the top 10 tight ends. While we don’t agree on anybody we definitely don’t disagree by much. But, there is the issue of who the #1 tight end will be. So let’s address that first.

You say Jimmy Graham, I say Rob Gronkowski. Here’s my reasoning:

Gronkowski is a beast. Not only did the guy set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end in 2011, he also had 30 red-zone targets. That’s more than anyone else in the NFL – tight ends and wide receivers. Now, while a repeat performance similar to or better than 2011 is unlikely, I still expect big things from Gronkowski this year. The team has had a smooth offseason and is returning in 2012 with almost exactly the same pieces in place. The addition of Brandon Lloyd could either help or hurt Gronkowski’s production. But I’m thinking that the addition of another threat at WR next to Wes Welker will just make it that much more difficult to find someone that can guard the “mismatch making” tight end.

The primary reason I am ranking Gronkowski over Jimmy Graham is because of the repercussions I think the ‘Bountygate’ (Still hate saying that…) punishments will have on the Saints season. Now, Drew Brees just got his contract so that is good news for Graham. But, with multiple players and head coaches suspended, I think it will have an affect on the production of the entire team and, as such, push Graham just under Gronkowski. I also think the loss of wide receiver Robert Meachem could hurt Graham’s production just a tad. That is one less threat the Saints have on the outside that can take pressure off of Graham.

While Gronkowski will be in an environment that is almost certain to produce well, the Saints entire season is kind of in question. And, to me, that makes Graham a little more of a risk than Gronkowski.

Adam Says:

Robert Meachem? A Threat? Apparently the Chargers agree with you, but I’m having trouble remembering that guy being described as much more than “not too disappointing” from those that follow the Saints. Nick Toon shouldn’t be too much of a downgrade for the Saints offense.

Okay, now that I picked on you for that, let me explain why I think Graham is the guy. First off, he is the guy. The Patriots have both Gronk and Hernandez at their disposal which could, as we saw at times last season, provide fantasy players with a need for Advil. Graham is on a team with lots of playmakers, true, but when it comes to the tight end position he is the only certified weapon of mass destruction.

Secondly, I’m not on board with those that think BountyGate will negatively impact the stat lines of the Saints offense. They already pass as much, or more, than any team in the league even when they didn’t have a real reason, too. Now, if the defense gets worse like it should as a result of suspensions, is it possible that Brees actually slings more passes for more yardage than he did last year? I think so.

With that being said, it is really splitting hairs between Gronk and Graham and who should be drafted first. I will say that I like the fact that Gronk has a later bye week, because you essentially don’t need to waste a roster spot with a backup TE until mid-season.

As far as the rest of our lists go I think our differences come from a basic disagreement in philosophy. I seem to have placed a higher value on what I would consider “upside picks” (Finley & Davis) while you seem to place a higher value on some of the traditional “old faithful” picks (Witten & Gates & Gonzalez). Considering that you penned the opening in this post referring to the evolution of the tight end position, I am surprised to see you keeping the faith in some of these old dudes.

Brett Says:

You’ve got some good points, Adam. I still stand by my selection of Gronkowski over Graham though. Maybe I should have chosen my words a little more carefully… Meachem wasn’t a huge threat while on the Saints roster and it is true that he had a somewhat disappointing season. Yet, he was a threat in the sense that the Saints were very able to spread the ball around because they had various, capable receivers (one of which being Meachem). Losing one of those receivers, I think, could result in more focus being on Graham and ultimately taking away from some of his targets.

We’ll have to agree to disagree on the repercussions stemming from BountyGate. Sure, it’s likely that the defense could be hurt more by the suspensions resulting in the offense having more time with the ball. But I don’t know that that argument always translates into definite production on offense.

Either way, as you have said, it really is splitting hairs. Both tight ends should continue to make their fantasy owners happy this season so it’s hard to go wrong (as long as you don’t spend too high of a draft pick on them).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know how much more we can take this debate. From here, let’s leave it up to the readers to decide which tight end will reign supreme in 2012.


Make sure to participate in the poll and leave us your comments below. Check back soon for our next piece in this series where we rank the top 10 fantasy wide receivers.