Fantasy Football 2013: TE “Tiers, Not Fears”

Rudolph The Red-Zone Reindeer
Photo Credit: Joe Biewla


Unlike all the other editions of “Tiers, Not Fears,” this position does not feature at least one starter from every NFL club. The reason is simple: most leagues require you to start just one TE. 


The position is deep as it is every year, and there are potential breakout candidates sitting among the top 15. Honestly, it’s the easiest position to draft. You really won’t be “wrong” to take Jimmy Graham early in the second round, and there will be plenty of quality fantasy TEs available later in the draft for a great price. If you are somehow capable of screwing up drafting at the TE position, you probably aren’t meant to play this game. 

Alas, we certainly can’t avoid the position altogether, so here’s a half-assed (yet informative) take on the easiest position to plan for in fantasy football. 


More after the jump:


The One Man Gang

Few players are ever good enough to deserve their own tier and become blessed with the title of being a “One Man Gang.” It is an homage to the man considered universally to be the greatest wrestler of all time: the One Man Gang. Graham earns his own tier by having the upside of an elite WR1. I really don’t think he’s an overbuy at his current ADP (20.61 according to In fact, I think that’s a perfectly fair price. You are paying for his ceiling, sure. But that’s the case with all the players being drafted around Graham. 

1. Jimmy Graham, NO


The Gruesome Twosome

There’s nothing gruesome about their potential in fantasy, but like Frank and Charlie, these two are stuck together (at least in this tier). I also happen to think these guys are worth the price. Gronkowski failed to sneak into the first tier for two reasons. First, we don’t know when he’s coming back (could be Week Three, but who really knows). Second, he will need to get in football shape and the Patriots may bring him along slowly, meaning he may not be his old dominant self for a few weeks. Regardless, I don’t doubt that when he gets going, he will produce at an elite pace. The level of uncertainty just puts him a step below Graham. The 49ers have no choice but to make Vernon Davis their no. 1 option in the passing game, and he will put up huge numbers as a result. VD has always been a beast talent-wise, and his growing rapport with Colin Kaepernick might lead to his best season yet.

2. Rob Gronkowski, NE

3. Vernon Davis, Was


The “Reason To Wait” Ruffians

While the players above are worth the pretty pennies it will cost to obtain them, I can’t argue with those of you who just don’t feel comfortable taking a TE too early. The players in this tier aren’t necessarily “cheap” (minus one notable exception), but you can’t feel too bad about taking them between rounds five and eight. Witten led all TEs with 150 targets last year and has been a consistently solid TE for years. He doesn’t score as much as you like (has topped seven TDs twice in his career), but he still gets the job done week-in and week-out. His skills are definitely declining, but Gonzalez keeps putting up numbers since he’s still a favorite target (especially in the end zone) for Matt Ryan. Speaking of dudes who put in work in the red zone, Kyle Rudolph should continue to improve. Why? Have you seen the Vikings WR corps? Who else is Christian Ponder gonna throw to?  


Jermichael Finley has never had that true breakout season, but there is some hope that this will be the year. All reports have been positive on him (from his focus, to his possibly working in the slot more this season) and he is entering a contract year. He’s not the first look in Aaron Rodgers’ offense, but he could still be a deadly weapon. It’s amazing how cheap Fred Davis is in fantasy drafts/auctions. He’s got plenty of upside and should be very involved in the offense considering how weak Washington’s receiving corp looks. Davis also got the Don Brown blessing, so feel safe taking the plunge. Gates is in a decline, but he work hard this offseason to get into incredible shape. He should be a favorite target of Philip Rivers, especially now that the Chargers are going to a shorter passing game. Maybe he slaps together a comeback campaign.

4. Jason Witten, Dal

5. Tony Gonzalez, Atl

6. Kyle Rudolph, Min

7. Jermichael Finley, GB

8. Fred Davis, Wsh

9. Antonio Gates, SD


The “Why Not?” Warriors

If you can’t get your hands on one of the players above, why not take a shot with one of these curiosity-piquing TEs? Okay, so Olsen won’t come cheap. In fact, I think he’s pretty overrated from a fantasy perspective as he has little TD upside with Cam “Let Me Just Run It In” Newton. If the Browns make good use of him, Jordan Cameron could go off. Cook has long had breakout potential, and everyone seems to be buying in now that he’s in St. Louis. The Rams regime is saying great things about Cook and what he brings to the table. Then the preseason happened, and the world watched him turn into a forgotten man in the offense (he had one target in the first two games). Cook has Vernon Davis-like athletic ability, but how well he performs is strictly tied to how often he gets the the rock thrown his way.

10. Greg Olsen, Car

11. Jordan Cameron, Cle

12. Jared Cook, StL


The “Platoon, Ponder, or Play” Pirates

This tier is made up of players you should platoon or draft-n-stash. The arrival of Bruce Arians in Arizona means big things for their passing game. Arians has even noted publicly that Housler can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, so it’s possible the Cards will take advantage of the TE’s skill-set and put him in a position to put up numbers. Of course, he's dealing with an ankle sprain right now, so it's possible that fantasy owners have to wait a while before Housler makes a huge impact. The Texans don’t have a plethora of options in the passing game, so Owen Daniels may very well see 100 targets again. One things Daniels has never seen: 850 yards or seven TDs in a season. Bennett’s fantasy value this year depends largely on how often Jay Cutler looks his way. Kellen Davis came into the 2012 season as a sleeper at TE, and Cutler barely noticed he was there. Bennett is more talented than Davis, but he might be just as inconsistent. The Giants have talked about getting Myers red-zone looks as a “jump ball” option, but they have generally underused their TEs. Therefore, Myers’ ceiling isn’t very high. Lewis has always been a talented, yet underutilized weapon. The Jaguars have talked about getting Lewis the ball more this year, but who knows if that will actually happen (especially with Jacksonville’s current QB situation). Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz are rookie TEs with explosive ability and  could be very involved in their respective offenses. However, each of them has to contend with multiple TEs on their teams vying for playing time. There is some upside to Jeff Cumberland… if you ask Jeff Cumberland. “I feel like I can be one of the elite, premiere tight ends. I’m big, I’m strong, I’m fast. I mean, I have all the tools to be one of the top guys in the league.” While Kellen Winslow may get on the field in some passing situations, Cumberland stands to be the top TE in NY. That may not sound like much, but with two shaky, safety-valve needy QBs on their roster, Cumberland may prove to be a useful fantasy option. 

13. Rob Housler, Ari

14. Owen Daniels, Hou

15. Martellus Bennett, Chi

16. Brandon Myers, NYG

17. Marcedes Lewis, Jac

18. Travis Kelce, KC

19. Jeff Cumberland, NYJ

20. Zach Ertz, Phi


The “Monitor” Militia
If you have to wind up with one of these dudes, you are either in a league too deep or just really hate your life. To be fair, these guys do have some value as possible bye-week fill-ins, and should be on the outer regions of your fantasy radar.

21. Heath Miller, Pit

22. Dwayne Allen, Ind

23. Scott Chandler, Buf

24. Jermaine Gresham, Cin

25. David Ausberry, Oak

26. Ed Dickson, Bal

27. Brandon Pettigrew, Det

28. Julius Thomas, Den

29. Tyler Eifert, Cin 


*Last updated 8/27/13.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.