Tight end is one of the more interesting, yet frustrating, positions in Fantasy football. The elite players at the position far and away outclass the typical starting TE. However, if you’re able to find a sleeper that turns into an elite starter then you singlehandedly may have earned yourself a playoff spot. Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas come to mind for 2013. With trade talk heating up, we debate whether to buy, sell or hold on to the elite tight ends.
POINT – Chris Mitchell
When you can get elite production from a thin position like tight end, you have to consider yourself ahead of the game. When you’re ahead of the game you do not change!! Keep your elite tight end and smile all the way to your Fantasy league title. When your elite tight end is 20-plus points better than all of the second-tier tight ends and equally as good as your opponents’ elite wide receivers, you definitely keep your elite tight end.
Let’s look at the elite tight ends in the game compared to some of their lesser counterparts in standard leagues.
Jimmy Graham – 93 Pts. (Fantasy points)
Julius Thomas – 78 Pts.
Vernon Davis – 74 Pts.
Jordan Cameron – 73 Pts.
Antonio Gates – 53 Pts.
Jason Witten – 50 Pts.
Charles Clay – 46 Pts.
Scott Chandler – 41 Pts.
Garrett Graham – 32 Pts.
In PPR leagues the separation is even more pronounced. Garrett Graham and Charles Clay are hot names that can no longer be found on the waiver wire, yet they are 30-40 points behind Thomas, Davis and Jordan Cameron. Let’s not even waste our time trying to compare them to Jimmy Graham, who is in a world all on his own.
Ok, ok, ok, let’s talk about Jimmy Graham. Graham is the best Fantasy player in standard leagues not named Jamaal Charles or LeSean McCoy, and I expect Graham to outscore McCoy the rest of the way. No wide receiver in Fantasy sports can match him. There are only three tight ends that are even somewhat close, and this is after he was completely shut out against New England. He had zero points scored in one game and he is still a Goliath, not only among boys but also amongst little girls. Fantasy owners should be willing to trade their first born to get Jimmy Graham. He is THAT Fantasy yummy.
Now, let’s compare the scoring of the four best TEs to some of the best wide receivers.
Jimmy Graham – 93 Pts.
Julius Thomas – 78 Pts.
Vernon Davis – 74 Pts.
Jordan Cameron – 73 Pts.
DeSean Jackson – 87 Pts.
Wes Welker – 80 Pts.
Dez Bryant – 78 Pts.
Brandon Marshall – 76 Pts.
When you are getting comparable production, or in Jimmy Graham’s case better scoring, from a thinner position TE, why would you even consider trading them? Brandon C. Williams and I do two Fantasy podcasts every week, and on both shows we have a segment called “The Waiver Wire Darlings.” Every single week it is filled with wide receivers that had big weeks. Keenan Allen and Terrence Williams were recent “Darlings.” Victor Cruz was a waiver wire darling that became a stud keeper a few years back. You can find productive WR3 caliber production every single week on the waiver wire. Charles Clay and Garret Graham is what you find at tight end on the waiver wire, and they haven’t been on the wire since Week 3 or 4 in most leagues. Keenan Allen was still available in most leagues as late as Monday after Week 5. Kenbrell Thompkins is a guy that owners gave up on, who I think will be a WR3 caliber WR when your Fantasy playoffs come around. Jordan Cameron, Vernon Davis or Julius Thomas caliber talent will not be available.
Position scarcity is a phrase used much more commonly in Fantasy baseball because there are three or four positions with scarce production in any given year, while in football there is really only one, tight end. When trading an elite offensive shortstop, second baseman or catcher owners demand a much better offensive player in return to compensate for the loss of a stud. In Fantasy football, tight end production isn’t scarce it is outright absent. The elite of the elite tight ends should demand only the best of the best in return. If you can get Jamaal Charles, then ok, go for it. Disregard my argument here. I give you permission. Anything less and your selling Peter to pay Paul; you aren’t getting better.
It’s also worth noting that the elite tight ends are reliable weekly producers, which is something you can’t say for even the elite wide receivers this year. They always get their catches (Graham vs. NE being the shocking exception), they are always the biggest mismatch on the field, and they are always the best red zone option for their offenses. This all amounts to reliable weekly targets, reliable weekly catch totals, and reliable touchdown totals. They are going to continue to be Fantasy studs in 2013. Consistency is even more valuable than high total scoring. I would MUCH rather have fifteen points every single week from Jordan Cameron than thirty two points one week and three the next from the likes of DeSean Jackson or Torrey Smith, who for whatever reason can’t get in the end zone.
If you have one of the elite TEs, pat yourself on the back and demand the sun AND the moon in return. If someone is willing to give you that, then light up a stogie and buy your ticket to the Fantasy championship. Anything short of that, stand pat with the knowledge that you drafted well and feel comfortable knowing that you’re the favorite each and every week because of who you have at tight end.
COUNTERPOINT – Brandon C. Williams
So you missed out on Jimmy Graham’s potentially better-than-2011 career-year of a start. You’re feeling silly now because you followed the “Antonio Gates is washed up” crowd, and chances are pretty good that you chose Jared Cook over Jordan Cameron. Stop crying yourself to sleep every Sunday night after watching the NFL Network highlights show…there, there, dry your eyes, because I’m here to tell you it’s OK. My tonic isn’t a one-shot dose of happiness; nah, we’re going to work through this tight end sadness the old fashioned way: one week, one good matchup at a time.
There’s no reason to break up a happy home (or Fantasy roster) in order to feel like one of the cool kids that owns Graham, Gates, Cameron or even still holding on to the hopes that Rob Gronkowski will actually make an on-field headline this season. Even in a 12 or 14-team league, there is always going to be the one tight end that comes out of the dregs of waiver wire hell to emerge — even for one Sunday — as a savior that proves to be the difference between winning and losing.
Let’s take this past Sunday for example: Tim Wright of the Buccaneers was your typical waiver wire wallflower, who suddenly was thrust into a position of possible production due to injuries and a matchup against an Eagles team whose defense is just a tad better than the French Army’s in 1940. Owned only in leagues in which family and friends participated in (which is to say almost none), Wright was targeted nine times, pulling in seven receptions to go along with 91 yards.
(Note: If you listened to the end of last week’s RotoExperts Tailgate Show, both Bobby McMann and I slated Wright as a sleeper. Moral of the story: start listening to the show beginning at 11:30 am Eastern/10:30 am Central/8:30 am Pacific). Wright is owned in just more than five percent of Yahoo leagues and gets a favorable matchup against a Falcons defense that allows 274.8 yards per game in the air. Face it: Doug Martin probably isn’t returning to form soon, so who else, besides Vincent Jackson, is Mike Glennon going to throw to?
Need another hit of BranSanity to ease your mind? Done.
Yes, the Jaguars are the worst team in the league (another note: folks, stop saying that a top college team could beat the Jaguars. Alabama wouldn’t stay within 10 points of them, and you can rest assured scoring machines like Oregon and Baylor wouldn’t fare better). Over the last two weeks, we’ve noticed that Jacksonville can move the ball downfield with Chad Henne, especially with the return of Justin Blackmon to the roster.
Another reason: TE Clay Harbor. The former Eagle is owned in less than one percent of Fantasy leagues, yet has caught five of his eight targets for 58 yards as he entrenches himself into the starting lineup. Jacksonville hosts a San Diego team that ranks just above Atlanta in passing yards allowed. Blackmon and Cecil Shorts will get the bulk of the targets, but Harbor presents a reliable target if Henne needs him.
In short, do your homework. The numbers are in your favor. If neither Wright nor Harbor latch on as weekly bets, you now know the formula to enhance your TE numbers. There is light where there was dark. Keep in mind that 10 seasons ago, Gates was laboring around the waiver wires. The tools are there. Use them wisely, my child.