Introduction • QB • RB • WR • TE
Deep sleeper TEs
Read the introduction to this series
if you haven't yet.
- Not among the ADP Top-200, Kyle Rudolph definitely should be. He played little behind Shiancoe most of his rookie year, but is expected to make a big jump in 2012 now that Shiancoe is gone. Very talented, there's good upside in this former second rounder. Second year quarterback Christian Ponder
doesn't have a lot of help from the wide receivers other than Percy Harvin
is suspended three games to begin the season), and Adrian Peterson
and the running game will probably be muted somewhat due to his ACL injury last year, so Rudolph has an opportunity to carve out a meaningful role.
- The Minnesota Vikings let Visanthe Shiancoe
depart knowing the team had Kyle Rudolph waiting in the wings. He was impressive as a rookie last season and is primed for a breakout. Even after Minnesota signed John Carlson
to compete at the position, ESPN 1500 Twin Cities reported that the Vikings "expect a breakthrough season" this year from Rudolph. Rudolph is one of just a couple tight ends who could go undrafted but produce fantasy-starter numbers for the entire season.
- Kyle Rudolph didn't light the world on fire as a rookie (26 receptions for 249 yards and 3 TDs), but he shouldn't be a forgotten man. It's not unusual for tight ends to take a season or two before emerging as a dominant force, and Rudolph's rookie productivity screens well against the rookie seasons of most of the league's current star tight ends. He's strong, fast and has good hands. And he's a good enough blocker to stay on the field in all downs and distances. Don't be surprised if Rudolph flirts with 50 receptions and a half dozen TDs this year -- which makes him a viable TE2, at worst.
- Dallas Clark is heading to a potentially explosive offense in Tampa Bay. A proven fantasy weapon, he should get plenty of open looks in 2012 thanks to a multiple of skilled weapons throughout the offense. He certainly could finish as a top-ten tight end.
- Three years ago, Clark was a 100-catch, 1100-yard, 10-touchdown tight end, but injuries limited him the past two seasons. The Buccaneers were confident enough to sign Clark and trade Kellen Winslow
in May, so they must believe Clark can contribute at a high level because I don't think second-year prospects Luke Stocker
or Zach Pianalto will ever have Clark's talent and combined I don't think they are capable of matching the veteran's production if featured in the offense. Considering that quarterback Josh Freeman
finally has a receiver capable of stretching the field and catching the football in Vincent Jackson
, I think Clark will have a lot of room to operate underneath. Tampa Bay isn't likely to have a top-tier aerial attack, but even if Freeman posts top-15 fantasy numbers at his position, Clark has a shot to be a top-12 fantasy tight end. That's a steal where he's currently drafted, if drafted at all.
- Torrey Smith
is going to have defenses playing deeper and deeper in 2012, with their only other concern being Ray Rice
. Anquan Boldin
used to be the possession receiver to fill in the middle, but he aged a lot last year and had serious trouble separating from defenders. That leaves Dickson, who may not be amongst the tight end leaders in yards or TDs, but will accumulate a ton of catches.
- Ed Dickson is the lead tight end in the Ravens' two-tight-end sets (Dennis Pitta
is the junior partner at tight end). Dickson saw a big leap in production during his second NFL season, finishing with 97 targets for 54/528/5. If he can continue to improve, Dickson could surprise a lot of fantasy owners this year.
- The success of Marcedes Lewis hinges on the play of second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert
, but also the offensive mind of Head Coach Mike Mularkey. If the Jaguars passing game reaches the next level with the additions of rookie Justin Blackmon
, Laurent Robinson
and Lee Evans
, Lewis could be a big contributor, especially in the red zone. One down year from Lewis has lowered his ADP to TE22. As the primary receiving tight end on the team, he represents great value on a team that is poised to improve their passing numbers.
- Fantasy owners are fickle. A year ago Lewis was coming off a 700-yard, 10 TD season (TE4) and was drafted as a potential fantasy TE1. But last year he wasn't able to escape the black hole of Blaine Gabbert
's ineffectiveness and fell back to Earth. The truth lies somewhere in between, and Lewis' value will be unlocked this year for three reasons. One, new head coach Mike Mularky loves using the tight end. Two, if Gabbert struggles the new coaching regime won't hesitate to replace him with Chad Henne
, Three, the additions of Justin Blackmon
and Laurent Robinson
will open up the middle of the field for Lewis.
- Miller has had only two seasons where he finished among the top ten tight ends and that was back in his third and fifth seasons, but he has always provided good athleticism and good hands at his position. His lack of production has been related more to him being underused by the Steelers as he has frequently been relegated to a blocking role. Look for the improved offensive line this year to provide him with more targets, particularly in the red zone.
- Heath Miller plays on an explosive passing attack, and he's a savvy veteran. He's disappointed with just two touchdown receptions in each of the last two years, but Miller could easily rebound into the top ten at his position with a few more scoring grabs/another 100 yards receiving. He's worth a roll of the dice late in your fantasy drafts as a tight end #2 with upside.
- Some are considering Allen to be Andrew Luck
's "other" tight end. While Allen was chosen after Coby Fleener
, his skills are equally impressive. New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is very fond of multiple tight end sets, so Allen's spot on the depth chart is less significant with the Colts as it might be on another team. Also, as talented as Luck is, there will still be some growing up for him to do. A QB's best friend is a short, high-percentage pass -- making tight ends important to his development.
- Bennett had all the physical talent to be a stud TE in Dallas. While he was trapped behind Jason Witten
on the depth chart, Bennett's real problem was himself. A lack of focus and chronic underachievement plagued him throughout his career. Now he's with a new team and a fresh prospective, and he might just be able to live up to his physical potential. Early reports from OTAs indicate that he's put on muscle in an attempt to really improve his physical game, but he's been limited in practice due to a hamstring injury. It's June now, so keep an eye on him and see if he can get healthy and focused by the time training camp rolls around.
- Carlson looked like a rising star while with Seattle, but he was unable to play during 2011 due to a troublesome shoulder injury. If Carlson's five-year, $25 million deal from the Vikings is any indication, they expect him to get back to top form for Minnesota. If Carlson jells with Christian Ponder
, he could be a huge steal late in fantasy drafts.
- Chicago likes what they saw in Kellen Davis down the stretch last year and the coaching staff is going to be using him as a key part of the passing attack going forward. Brandon Marshall
and Jay Cutler
will stretch the field, opening up the middle and shorter routes for a big tight end. Davis is a nice sleeper for 2012 and has upside beyond just this year.
- The 6'5", near-250 pound tight end is entering his second season as a pro and faces stiff competition from the veteran duo of Todd Heap
and Jeff King
. The combined age of these two players is 61 years of age. Not to knock the veterans too much, but Housler is due a larger opportunity in 2012, if only because of the better all around pass catching skill set he can provide. Housler is a leap of faith player in fantasy leagues this year to take in the first round of waivers or to seize upon if Heap or King go down (a distinct possibility).
- Tony Moeaki comes back from an injury that cost him all of 2011, but he will be the unquestioned starter for the Chiefs. Matt Cassel
loves to target the big tight end over the middle and down the seam, and Kansas City can certainly use a veteran receiver in their passing attack to help take pressure off of Dwayne Bowe
. He is a later tight end you can grab who has good upside if he proves to be fully recovered and Kansas City gets him back in the mix in the passing game.
- I think Pitta will be the top tight end target over Dickson in Baltimore. Joe Flacco
is a good friend of his, which never hurts, and Pitta really came on and made big catches for the Ravens down the stretch. Pitta had 47 catches on 68 targets, plus they moved Pitta outside as a wide receiver / split end more, which Ed Dickson
can't really do. Pitta's always been a receiver first - but even Ray Lewis complimented that he can get blocks done when called upon to do so. Add in that Baltimore is unlikely to have a FB on the field and I can see two tight ends on the field quite often too. Pitta's sure hands and his connection to Flacco is not to be taken lightly. I would not be surprised at all to see Pitta with more targets than Dickson this year.
- The Browns will need to rely on a number of players this season and their 2 Tight Ends will be key. With inexperienced QB play, a rookie RB and unproven wide receivers, the potential of one of Ben Watson and Evan Moore
to become fantasy relevant is real. I currently favor Watson due to his experience and explosiveness. I expect his numbers to be closer to his 2010 stats than his 2011 numbers.
- Kellen Winslow has the elite ability of a top-three tight end but he hasn't always shown that on the field and the Buccaneers soured on him, trading him to the Seattle Seahawks. The fact the team traded for him is reason for optimism as they see something in Winslow that appealed to them. He is capable of 70+ receptions when on his game and is worth a late round roster spot on a fantasy team.