A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.
Player with 5 Votes
Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
Sigmund Bloom: Sure, he can't do much after the catch anymore, but he can do enough before the catch to get 93 of them last year, including eight that resulted in touchdowns. Gonzalez was the #3 fantasy tight end last year, so even if you project a healthy drop off in his final season (really, he means it this time…), his eighth-round ADP as TE8 is just uncalled for. Jared Cook - Perhaps the Rams overpaid for Cook in free agency, giving him 19 million dollars guaranteed, but the good news for fantasy is that they'll want to see what they have in him. Cook should be the #1 "big" target in the revamped passing game, and have an opportunity to be featured as a receiver that few tight ends around the league have in any given year. Even if he is a tease and a fantasy bust again, you only have to pay a 10th or 11th round pick for his very considerable upside.
Stephen Holloway: Tony Gonzalez ventured where no tight end had gone before in 2012, when at the age of 36, he caught 93 passes for 930 yards and 8 TDs. He had his most productive season since 2008, four years removed. Steven Jackson's involvement in the passing game could reduce Gonzalez's targets, but it would not be surprising for Gonzalez to have another season with over 70 receptions, which he has already accomplished 13 times in his career. Gonzalez is a great red zone target, averaging seven touchdowns per year over the last four in Atlanta.
Jeff Tefertiller: Tony Gonzalez is underrated due to his longevity. This should be his last season as a NFL player and expect the savvy veteran to easily outplay his TE8 ADP. With the superstars on the Falcons offense, Gonzalez has plenty of room to roam the middle of the field.
Matt Waldman: He was the top PPR tight end last year, but in our ageist subculture of fantasy football Gonzalez is barely ranked in the top-12. I suppose the wheels have to fall off sometime, but what's going to change? He already came to the Falcons old, slow, and past his prime and continues to outplay his competition with great hands, guile, and the short-game skills of a great old forward in the lane posting up and dominating a greater athlete. You don't want him? Thanks for handing me your money.
Jason Wood: We all get it, Tony Gonzalez is old. He's 37 years old to be exact, making him one of the NFL's elder statesmen. Who cares? At 36 years old – equally ancient in NFL parlance – he caught 93 receptions for 930 yards and 8 touchdowns, ranking as the 3rd best fantasy tight end. So why doesn't he deserve consideration in the early rounds this year? He's so valuable, mind you; that the Falcons management and QB Matt Ryan begged Gonzalez to reconsider retirement for one more push at the Super Bowl. Grab him now before fantasy owners wake up to reality.
Players with 4 Votes
Martellus Bennett, Bears
Heath Cummings: Bennett had a bit of a break out year with the Giants and now is moving to an offense where the tight end is likely to be more heavily utilized. Teams will focus all of their efforts on stopping Brandon Marshall and anything that's left over will go to Matt Forte. This is a great opportunity for the sixth year tight end to finally break into TE1 territory.
Andrew Garda: The Bears brought Bennett in specifically to be a dynamic threat for Jay Cutler and he has the ability to do so, now that he has shown he can get his head straight. Coming off a solid season in New York, Bennett has a lot to prove and the Bears will look to him a bunch to move the chains.
Will Grant: The Bears have retooled their entire offense, including their offensive line. Last season, Jay Cutler was looking for anyone besides Brandon Marshall to catch the ball. It never happened. With Bennett now able to take some of the pressure off of Marshall, look for Cutler to hook up with Bennett a lot. Bennett could post TE1 fantasy numbers and he's currently going in the 13th round of most fantasy drafts.
Mark Wimer: Martellus Bennett is vastly under-rated right now as the 17th tight end drafted (ADP) - he had a solid campaign in New York last year on a team that wasn't in synch offensively (89 targets for 55/625/5), and is now poised to be one of Jay Cutlers' favorite targets in Chicago. With offensive-minded head coach Marc Trestman now running the Bears, Bennett could see a huge bump in the number of targets he sees, which should translate into top-five fantasy tight end production. He may be the biggest value pick in the league right now.
Jared Cook, Rams
James Brimacombe: The Rams offense is growing and shaping up, as they have another year with coach Jeff Fisher under their belt. Cook was signed in the off-season to be a weapon for this offense, and a much needed one for quarterback Sam Bradford who is coming up on a make-or-break type of year.
Bob Magaw: Jared Cook is one of the fastest, most athletic and physically gifted tight ends in the game, after the 49ers Vernon Davis. At 6'5” and nearly 250 pounds, he clocked a freakishly blistering mid-4.4 40 time at his Combine. Inexplicably underused by the Titans, the Rams signed the consensus top free agent at his position to a $35 million contract ($16 million guaranteed) to make him an integral part of their new post-Steven Jackson offense. Fellow speed merchants Chris Givens and coveted rookie Tavon Austin should make double teams problematic for defenses. QB Sam Bradford formerly featured tight end Jermaine Gresham in Oklahoma's wide open, spread passing attack, which St. Louis increasingly resembles. Cook has top 5-10 upside.
Jeff Pasquino: Jared Cook moves from Tennessee to St. Louis, where he will become the move tight end for the Rams. Head Coach Jeff Fisher will use Cook early and often in the passing game, as he has surrounded quarterback Sam Bradford with more weapons this year. Cook should see far more targets and open spaces with the Rams, which makes him a valuable tight end to grab with huge upside.
Jason Wood:I've never been particularly keen on Jared Cook, as he's been the classic athlete that doesn't quite deliver on the field. The Titans grew weary of his services and let him walk in free agency, but the Rams were waiting at the front of the line to sign him to a MONSTER contract (5 years, $35mm with $19mm guaranteed). I don't care whether you think Cook was in a bad situation in Tennessee or not, with that kind of financial commitment, it's clear that Jeff Fisher a) believes in Cook and b) will ensure he's a key part of the Rams game plan. I prefer to draft high upside players with my TE2 slot, and Cook fits that bill. He could easily be a top 5 fantasy TE yet you can have him in the mid- to late part of your draft.
Jermichael Finley, Packers
Adam Harstad: Last season, Finley had two touchdowns while James Jones had 14. This year, I expect both of those numbers to regress towards each other, which means if Finley can get his usual 700 yards again, he should be a great value TE for those who wait on the position.
Jeff Haseley: The departure of Greg Jennings to Minnesota opens the door for Jermichael Finley to be more involved in the Packers high production offense. He may not be a 65-70 catch tight end, but his touchdown numbers should increase upwards of 5-6 in 2013, which should put him in the Top 10. He is focused and performing well in OTAs, which should carry over to training camp, preseason and the regular season.
Ryan Hester: Finley has always been a perplexing player because his production rarely matches the potential his skills display. In a way, his elite athleticism works against him in terms of the opinions people form about him. That athleticism, however, is still present – whether Finley's statistics suggest so or not. The skills that he possesses and the offense of which he is a part are enough to tell me that he's worthy of being selected as a TE1 in fantasy leagues. I can easily imagine a scenario in which Finley finishes in the top seven at his position.
Stephen Holloway: Jermichael Finley has come full circle from being the prince of hype to being undervalued. Last year was his least productive injury free season and he still ranked as TE17 while only scoring 2 TDs. He has scored 8 TDs and 5 TDs in his most productive years. He has to share the targets with the other talented receiving options in Green Bay, but each one of them gets their opportunities since Aaron Rodgers excels at finding the open target. Look for Finley's receptions and TDs to rise slightly in 2013 and his yards per reception to climb closer to his 12.6 ypc career average.
Greg Olsen, Panthers
James Brimacombe: Every year Olsen seems to be pegged as a value pick, and in 2013 I see no reason not to do the same. The Panthers still only have one legit receiving threat ahead of Olsen, in Steve Smith. Olsen put up a 69/843/5 stat line in 2012 and ended up being ranked as the 6th best tight end in the league. He is a solid option if you miss out on the top three to five tight ends on the board.
Heath Cummings: In his second year with Carolina, Olsen's involvement in the offense saw a major increase and he finished as the sixth best tight end in fantasy football. Cam Newton is continuing to develop as a passer and the only person ahead of Olsen in the pecking order is Steve Smith who is finally starting to show signs of age. Olsen could be the most targeted option in Carolina in 2013 and has an opportunity to crack the top three tight ends.
Adam Harstad: A former 1st round draft pick and last year's #6 TE, Olsen returns to a good situation poised to repeat. He's Carolina's second best receiver, and should continue to be featured. He can be had two rounds later than the trendier Pitta, Rudolph, or Vernon Davis, all of whom Olsen outscored in 2012.
Jeff Tefertiller: Greg Olsen will get every opportunity to put up big numbers this season. Most big seasons by tight ends come from solid passing attacks, and Carolina's should be much improved. Olsen is the tight I am targeting if missing out on the top players at the position.
Player with 3 Votes
Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
Jeff Haseley: Matthew Stafford's touchdown pass numbers dropped sharply from 41 in 2011 to just 20 in 2012. This had a negative impact on Brandon Pettigrew's numbers, thus bumping him out of the Top 20. I fully expect the touchdown numbers to rebound, thus elevating Pettigrew's production in the process. If he returns to form, he should be able to outperform his spot as the 16th tight end selected.
Andy Hicks: Brandon Pettigrew should return to being a useful fantasy Tight End this year. The arrival of Reggie Bush will free up Pettigrew to once again become a leading target in the Lions offense. With Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles severe risks to contribute coming off bad injuries, Pettigrew should return to being behind only Calvin Johnson as Matthew Stafford's go to guy. If the Lions offense looks more like 2011 than 2012, then Pettigrew will be very good value.
Stephen Holloway: Brandon Pettigrew's production fell off for the first time in his career last season. He averaged about 1 catch per game less than in 2011, when he had career highs in catches with 83, yardage with 777 yards and scored 5 TDs. His numbers had improved for three straight years before last year's dip. However, he remained the second favored target of Matthew Stafford. Detroit selected defensive players, offensive linemen, and a punter with their picks through round five of the draft, so the Lion's only expected changes are the loss of Titus Young and the gain of Reggie Bush. Bush could siphon some of the tight end targets, but Pettigrew should continue to see his share and should be either the second or third most targeted Lion.
Player with 2 Votes
Vernon Davis, 49ers
Andy Hicks: Vernon Davis was a fantasy disappointment last year, but he had plenty of other responsibilities outside catching the ball. The injury to Michael Crabtree and the drafting of Vance McDonald in the 2nd round is a clear indication that Davis will be freed up to do more of what we saw in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl. Davis has worked well with Colin Kaepernick and outside the elite Tight Ends Davis is the best of the rest, with the upside to return to the top 3 fantasy tight ends.
Matt Waldman: The most dynamic receiver in San Francisco has always been its tight end. He's the biggest, fastest, and most reliable receiver they've for years. With Michael Crabtree out, Mario Manningham in limbo, and Quinton Patton and A.J. Jenkins green as grass, Davis has an opportunity to return to prominence as a primary option. Based on last year's playoff run, I don't see how the 49ers can outsmart themselves this time around.
Players with 1 Vote
Heath Miller, Steelers
Mark Wimer: Heath Miller is coming off a torn ACL, but according to all accounts he's progressing in his rehabilitation to the satisfaction of the Steelers (who didn't draft a tight end this year despite Miller's injury). Miller has been a top-ten fantasy tight end when given the opportunity - as he was last year in Todd Haley's offense when he finished fourth among fantasy tight ends in fantasy points with 100 targets for 71/816/8 receiving to his credit. He's the 18th tight end coming off the draft board right now, which is a very cheap price for potential top-five production at his position.
Brandon Myers, Giants
Jeff Pasquino: Brandon Myers was a PPR monster in Oakland last year, but he struggled to find the end zone until the second half of the season. Now with the Giants, Myers is likely to be the third-most popular target for Eli Manning after his top two wide receivers (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks). Myers could make himself a very popular player for the Giants by working the middle of the field, moving the chains and getting open in the Red Zone. He is a high upside TE2 with TE1 potential.