Faceoff: Who is the #3 TE?
Clayton Gray: If Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are gone, who are you taking at tight end and how early would you select him? Why?
Jeff Haseley: Aaron Hernandez. Considering the Patriots had 2,237 yards receiving to their tight ends last year and the next closest (New Orleans) had just 1,350 yards, the clear favorite for tight end production is New England. There is no guarantee that Rob Gronkowski will approach the same numbers he did last year. In fact, I would not be surprised if Aaron Hernandez bridged the gap in terms of overall production. Some argue that the addition of Brandon Lloyd will alter numbers for the tight ends. That could be possible, to an extent, but New England will continue to use their strengths and exploit their opponents weaknesses. Essentially, Hernandez's role will be that of a wide receiver, so he could actually see quite an increase in production this year. Arguably, more than Lloyd. In any event, Hernandez is my TE3 for 2012.
Ryan Hester: I agree with Jeff on selecting Aaron Hernandez -- for all the reasons he laid out. Hernandez is current going off the board at #53 (5.5 in a 12-team league). I would take him as early as #41 (4.5) if a situation presented itself that I wasn't crazy about any other players going in the mid-fourth.
A young guy still learning the game, Hernandez has a long way to go before his production drops off. Many folks are wondering which potent Patriots' target will have the biggest piece of the statistical pie taken by Brandon Lloyd, and I believe it will be Wes Welker -- not Hernandez. He's also going to get some extra touches via the running game both on reverses and on straight hand-offs out of the backfield. That statistical boost won't be provided by any other TEs.
Sigmund Bloom: Antonio Gates, and there's a good gap to #4. Gates is healthy again. His foot is 100% by his own pronouncement, and both teammates and onlookers agree. We should trust Gates evaluation of his foot because he was able to return to form after taking a few weeks off during the season last year. He won't foolishly push his body when it can't handle the wear and tear. Philip Rivers doesn't have Vincent Jackson anymore, so he'll lean on Gates even more this year. Gates won't quite approach Graham/Gronk levels, but he'll be the closest thing you can get to them at TE, and he's available 3-4 rounds later.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm on board with Hernandez too. I wanted to say Witten but his recent injury has me concerned. There is lots of upside for Hernandez and he is being used all over the field as both a receiver and a tailback too, which he demonstrated quite a bit last season with Belichick moving him around. I like Hernandez and his cheaper ADP over Gronkowski from a value standpoint.
Maurile Tremblay: I agree with Bloom. For the first time in years, Gates is practicing without taking every other day off. He is lighter, quicker, faster, healthier, and happier than he's been in quite some time. He has been burning cornerbacks in training camp, and has made numerous head-turning grabs. It's also worth noting that the Chargers really like Eddie Royal in the slot, and his presence should prevent teams from constantly using bracket coverage on Gates. With Vincent Jackson gone, Gates will be Rivers' go-to receiver in tough third-down situations, and around the goal line. He is really primed to have a come-back year.
Mark Wimer: I'm going with Vernon Davis. Alex Smith finally turned around his career in San Francisco last year, and he's gained confidence. The team keeps his duties within his capabilities - and finding Vernon Davis for short-and-mid range passes and touchdowns are within Smith's capabilities. With more legitimate wide receivers now on the team in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, coverage on Davis is likely to loosen up - he won't challenge Graham or Gronkowski for #1 this year (especially in the PPR format), but I think that Davis has a great shot at being almost as valuable in fantasy terms.