The top tight ends to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season in keeper/dynasty leagues.
1. Jimmy Graham (NO) Age: 27
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Jimmy Graham's 2014 projected stats.|
Graham is almost a tight end in name only. So much so, in fact, he asked an arbitrator to declare him a wide receiver for franchise-tag purposes. Graham lined up in the slot on 67 percent of his snaps last season, led the league in receiving touchdowns and averaged more fantasy points per game, 13.6, than all but four wide receivers. He was one of seven players – and the only tight end – to top 100 receiving yards in six games, and he was the only player in the league with two receiving touchdowns in five games. Graham is a freak athlete who thrives on mismatches. At 6-7, 265, he is too big for defensive backs, and his 4.56 speed is too fast for linebackers. Add a 38.5-inch vertical and gigantic hands that thumb to pinkie measure 10-5/8 inches (nearly the length of an 11-inch NFL football tip to tip) and it's easy to see why he's such a force. He's nearly unstoppable at the goal line, scoring a position-leading six touchdowns inside the 10-yard line last season and 17 in the last three years, tied with wide receiver Wes Welker for the most in the NFL. Drew Brees' accuracy is a bonus, as is playing in one of the league's most prolific passing attacks, which ensures a high volume of targets. After 143 last season (25 more than the next closest tight end), he has 427 targets the last three years, sixth in the NFL. The only knock on Graham is that he doesn't like contact, and a physical defense can slow him. Perhaps, but that strategy hasn't worked too often. In the last three years over 47 games, he's only had six games with less than 50 yards and no touchdowns.
2. Vernon Davis (SF) Age: 30
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Vernon Davis's 2014 projected stats.|
Davis rebounded from his head-scratching underuse in 2012 to tie his career high in touchdowns last season and total his most receiving yards in four years. The increased production was in part a result of the absence to Michael Crabtree, who missed 11 games to injury and was limited when he returned. Davis' 84 targets accounted for 23.6 percent of the team's, third most among tight ends. A career-high 21.4 percent of his targets (18) came beyond 20 yards, as he led the position with 16.3 yards per reception and 10.1 yards per target, finishing second to Jimmy Graham (13) with 10 catches of 25-plus yards. He also saw a career-high 19 red-zone targets (10 inside the 10-yard line) where he scored eight touchdowns (second to Graham's 11). But the Crabtree situation was a double-edged sword as Davis also became the No. 1 focus of defenses. He was held to less than 35 receiving yards in six games, totaling 12 catches for 94 yards and three scores. Add a missed Week 3 due to a hamstring injury and Davis delivered next to nothing for nearly half the season. Even if Davis loses a few touchdown opportunities this year, perhaps a healthy Crabtree will attract enough defensive attention to allow Davis more consistent weekly production. A more robust passing game from Colin Kaepernick will help too -- the 49ers were last in attempts in 2013, and Kaepernick's 58.4 completion percentage ranked 31st. The eight-year veteran has probably lost a step since posting a 4.38 40 at the NFL Combine, but Davis is still plenty fast to blow by linebackers. And at 6-3, 250, he's still a matchup problem for most defensive backs. One of the league's most athletic players and one of its most durable tight ends, Davis is still a plus option.
3. Jordan Cameron (CLE) Age: 25
|Receiving Stats||Rushing Stats|
|2014 Projections||View Jordan Cameron's 2014 projected stats.|
Cameron added his name to the short list of elite receiving tight ends last season, ranking second in yards and catches. He is a prototypical tight end at 6-5, 249, with 4.53 speed, great leaping ability (37.5 inches) and long arms (33.5 inches). He excels at making athletic plays downfield on receiver routes out of the slot and is a menace in the red zone (19 targets; five scores on 11 targets inside the 10). He was hurt last year, though, by Cleveland's quarterback carousel that ranked 31st in completion percentage (55.7) and 29th in yards per attempt (6.42). After scoring five touchdowns and averaging 90 yards per game in the first four games, he scored just once more the rest of the season and averaged 50 yards per game. He was also hurt by an offense that made just 36 red-zone drives, fewest in the league. The concern this year is also the potential season-long loss of dynamic wideout Josh Gordon, who led the league in receiving last year. Although Cameron had two of his three biggest games in Weeks 1 and 2 last season when Gordon was suspended, that was before teams started giving extra defensive attention to the tight end. Losing Gordon would mean more targets for Cameron as the No. 1 receiver, but it would also guarantee double teams and extra safety help. With Gordon exploiting the deep field, Cameron was often free work underneath last season. That's not going to be the case this season, unless free-agent acquisition Miles Austin stays healthy and returns to the 15.7-YPC playmaker he exhibited in 2009 and 2010 as a 1,000-yard receiver.
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