This is a list of the top Tight End targets for NFL games based on potential production and price. The players are split into three tiers based on likelihood of success. Remember that these rankings take potential production and price into account, so some guys may be higher up on the list despite having a lower projected score if the price point is favorable. Here are some options to consider:

Cream of the Crop

Rob Gronkowski ($7000) – Any TE list that does not start with Gronk is just flat out wrong. By the numbers, he is far and away the best option in the league. When you roster Gronk, the question you really have to ask is not whether he is a good but, but whether paying up at TE for him and the cheaper player you need to roster in order to get him has more upside then the $7000 player you can get at another position linked with the cheaper option at TE. Gronk has produced like a high end RB1 or WR1, yet is a discount to the guys at those positions on a weekly basis. Add that fact in with the overall scarcity of safety and upside at the position and it is easy to see why every daily fantasy player ends up with some Gronk on their rosters at some point in the season. He led all TEs in targets last year at 8.7 per game and was towards the top end for red zone targets among all pass catchers, which includes receivers on that list. If you can afford to go get him, then go get him. It’s as simple as that regardless of the match up.

Martellus Bennett ($4300)USATSI_8771052_168381090_lowresBennett is the guy I would go to second if I can’t fit Gronk in. Gronk also plays on Thursday, which makes Bennett the top option for Sunday game. He was third in the league for TE targets in 2014 with 8.1. He matches up against a team that did not give up huge games to TEs in 2014 as they were only 20th on the list of fantasy points allowed to the position. One of the biggest games they did give up though was to Bennett who had 9 catches for 135 yards the first time these two matched up. The Bears are the underdogs so they are likely to be trailing late and looking to throw the ball. Brandon Marshall is gone so that frees up some targets. The Rookie they drafted, Kevin White, is going to miss a few months of the season. Alshon Jefferey has not practiced since the stock market was 10% higher almost a month before opening day, so despite the speculation, he may not play or be near 100%. That leaves Bennett as the top option and one true remaining pass catcher. Sure Forte will get some work out of the backfield, but when Cutler needs a play on a third down or in the red zone, who else does he trust more? With Eddie Royal and Marquiss Wilson as the other options, you got to think Bennett sees an uptick in Targets from already lofty levels for a TE. At only $4300 too, it is very tough not to use him in most of your rosters.

Greg Olsen ($5300)USATSI_8310440_168381090_lowresOlsen was the fourth most targeted TE last year in the NFL but his total targets were 15% ahead of the guy in fifth place. This year he will even be relied upon more as last year’s first round pick Kelvin Benjamin is out with an ACL. More importantly than the few extra looks for Olsen is the amount of red zone looks that open up with no Benjamin. Benjamin was a freak athlete at 6’5″ so the jump ball in the end zone was a frequently used play. Without him, the ball may get spread around more and Olsen is the most reliable target Cam has down there. The one concern is that Carolina may actually still have a lead against a young mistake prone Jaguars team. Therefore I can see a more conservative game plan which does not include a ton of passing. Olsen will still get his fair share, but to expect a huge upside is likely unwise.

Middle of the Pack

Delanie Walker ($3400) – Walker is a very sneaky play week on week at the position. He was the fifth most targeted TE last year at over 7 per game and had multiple weeks where he saw 10+ targets. He faces a Tampa Bay team that was 8th in fantasy points allowed to the position and he has a rookie quarterback who will use him as an outlet. The Titans receivers are nothing special and most of them are more speed oriented guys than big physical red zone threats. That should put Walker in a position for a good number of targets and some ever important red zone looks in this offense for 2015. They are the underdog here too, so that bodes well for his chances to pick up some garbage points late. At $3400, his price is almost too good to pass up.

Richard Rodgers ($2500) – This is a very sneaky play. Rodgers is the Green Bay TE. That means he catches passes for Aaron rodgers. Rodgers is gonna be throwing the ball a lot in the first half. Rodgers at $2500 is just way too cheap. If he catches 4 passes for 40 yards or one TD catch, he makes value. With Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, you are definitely worth a tournament add at only $2500. I think he will be popular, because you really can’t make a great Aaron Rodgers roster without him.

Jared Cook ($2900) – This is probably not the tight end most expected to see in this spot from this game, but at $2900 he should be the one you look hard at. Seattle was middle of the road in fantasy points allowed to the TE position with about 12 per game. Cook was the 8th most targeted TE last year and in fact he averaged almost 8 targets per game over the last five weeks of the season. The Rams will likely be trailing and with Todd Gurley definitely out, Tre Mason likely out, and Bennie Cunningham as the only real healthy RB, the passing game will have to be featured. The WRs will have trouble against that stellar secondary, so targeting Cook against the linebackers is probably the lesser evil. Foles will be pressured all day too with a weak Rams offensive line, so an outlet like Cook will be a hot read for him. My only concern is they may need to keep him in to help slow down the pass rush, but even if that is the case, at $2900 he does not need to do much to pay off his value.

Jimmy Graham ($5600)USATSI_8771575_168381090_lowres If you are inclined to start Graham this week, do not crucify me for leaving off the cream of the crop list until you hear the case against it. For starters he is the second most expensive tight end and coming off a pretty serious shoulder injury that we saw limited his ability to catch passes that were not thrown low into his chest. He is also on a new team that attempted 33% less passes than the one he was the top pass catching option on the last few years. In fact the whole offensive philosophy in Seattle is much different then the pass happy spread em out one he flourished in down in New Orleans. He faces a Rams team that has a putrid offense, but one of the stingier defenses in the league. This is especially true at TE where they allowed the 6th fewest fantasy points to the position last year. I still think he will see some passes thrown his way, but it’s not a good spot, he is likely to see less volume than we are sued to him getting, and his team will likely be running the clock late to secure a victory in a game they are favored. We will have spots to use him this year, but opening weekend against the Rams does not seem to be the best of them.

Mychal Rivera ($2700) – This is a really cheap price for a guy who had a pretty solid second half of last season. Rivera was sixth for TEs last season with over 6 targets per game. Many people are shocked to see that stat. He had some games with 7-9 catches and finished with double digit fantasy points on about five separate occasions. At only $2700, that is some really good upside. The Bengals were 18th in fantasy points allowed, so middle of the pack and the Raiders are expected to be trailing here so garbage points may be available. There is a lot to like for a guy who had opportunity and is very cheap for the opening game.

Travis Kelce ($4800) – Kelce was a decent producer of fantasy value in limited field time last season. He was in the top 15 for TE targets despite being on the field for less than 60% of the snaps. With Anthony Fasano out of his way now, Kelce should be a near every down player.  While I agree that is great news, I left him off the top run because he does have some drawbacks here. Houston has a solid defense, one that allowed the second least amount of points to TEs last year. Kelce’s team is also favored, so they will likely be featuring run more often in the second half which will limit his chances. The last concern is that he picked up an ankle injury Monday in practice. While Chief’s coach Andy Reid is not worried, Kelce did sit out last preseason game, so at best, he is going to play at less than 100%. He has explosive upside when right and in the right spot, but this does not look like the best case scenario for him.

Larry Donnell ($3200) – this is a very unpopular pick, but that only makes me like it more. Donnell flashed some upside with a three touchdown game last year, but then dropped way too many balls after that with much higher ownership. He plays in a high paced offense that does get a lot of plays off and he faces the worst statistical defense against the TE position in 2015. The Vegas line on this game is high, so they expect a lot of points and that usually comes via the pass. At $3200, Donnell has great upside for a tournament, although he is not a safe play for cash as he has been benched and disappeared quite often.

Jordan Cameron ($3800) – Cameron definitely gets an upgrade on the guy throwing him passes now that he is out of Cleveland, but almost anyone is an upgrade from that situation. Despite the handicap though, Cameron was a useful player for the Browns the last few seasons. He has a really soft matchup against a Redskins team that allowed the fifth most points to TEs, although his team is likely to have a lead and be running more often late in the game. His price is real cheap and he should get some looks, but there are other options above him at around the same price point that just have more upside.

Jason Witten ($4000) – Witten is not the threat he once was, but he was still top 12 in the league in targets last year with an offense that was pretty run heavy. The RB situation is a mess so they may look to pass it more early. They also play a Giants team that pushes the pace and ran the fourth most plays in the league last year, so they should see a few more possessions in this one. Vegas expects a shoot out, so I think both teams will be slinging it more than usual in this one. The Giants allowed the 12th most points to TEs last year and have some early injury concerns at their LB spots, so Witten could have a nice day. He does not have huge upside though, so at best he makes a fringe cash game play because of the safety of a few points those targets provide at a cheap price.

LaDarius Green ($3500) – At least for the early part of the season, Green is a guy who will be in play. Antonio Gates is suspended and all the talk is Green will be playing his role. Gates saw a lot of red zone looks and a few targets each game in a pass happy offense. If he truely is sliding into the same number of targets, then a price tag of $3500 is reasonable. Detroit was middle of the league in TE fantasy points allowed and with Suh out of town, the pass rush should be weakened which would theoretically improve anyone who benefits from a QB having more time in the pocket.

Owen Daniels ($3400) – He is Peyton Manning’s new TE and saw a lot of volume in some preseason drives. He is cheap and is a good pass catcher. Daniels problem has always been staying healthy and Manning has a way of making stars out of anyone who runs enough routes for him. I think Denver relies more on the run this year, so I wouldn’t expect hi to near Julius Thomas numbers when healthy, but he should be a guy who sees a few balls and some red zone looks at a cheap price.

Rest of the Field

  • There are sixty plus players listed at TE and many of them see little if any action weekly. The guys mentioned in this section are not top plays but they all are guys who merit mentioning. TE is a very TD dependent scoring position so many of these guys will give you 4-8 fantasy points most weeks unless they get into the endzone. Many of them will find the endzone 4 or 5 times a year, but it’s tough to predict when that will be, so use them with caution and mostly as cheap options in a tournament.

Tyler Eifert ($3500) – I do think Eifert will have a bigger role and a better season now that he is a full time starter and Gresham is gone, but they have a lot of mouths to feed in Cincy and will likely be ahead on Sunday. Playing with a lead means more running and less opportunity, so the talent and the seasonal outlook are there, but this is not the game to use him.

Charles Clay ($3700) – Clay is an interesting case. He is a good pass catcher, but a weaker blocker. I have no idea what the identity of the Buffalo Bills offense is going to be, nor the usage rate for any of these guys. Rex has never been a guy who likes his offense to play up tempo or sling it around though, so I expect more of a ball control style. He is cheap and has good hands, while also playing on a team likely to be trailing. Just think I would rather have some clarity before I took this plunge.

Dwayne Allen ($3400) and Coby Fleener ($3400) – Both of these guys are great TE options, but as long as both play on the same team, neither is a great TE option for fantasy. If and when one is hurt, the other guy becomes a plug and play as we saw last year. Between them they had 98 catches for 1300+ yards and 17 touchdowns. Luck likes to spread the ball around and these two split opportunities. The Colts do have both on the field at times, but trying to figure out whose turn it is has been tough. Both guys can be good cash game plays if you pick the right one, but why risk that when you can pick a guy who gets all the plays and targets for another team at the same price?

Kyle Rudolph ($3500) – He is back healthy and looks to be a part of that offense this year. He has some upside and faces a weakened San Francisco D. The Vikings will likely feature the run heavily though, so he is touchdown or bust most likely.

Josh Hill ($3400) – Most thought he would be THE MAN to replace Jimmy Graham, but it looks more like a committee early on with Watson. As such neither guy really excites me, but it’s one to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

Heath Miller ($3300) – Pittsburgh is thirsting for playmakers early on so while I do not envision a huge upside, he might be forced to catch 4 or 5 balls since they do not really have the personnel to go three-wide sets early or pound the rock without Lev Bell.

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins ($3400) – Many expect a big year from Jenkins, but that would require a lot of ifs. If he steps forward and has a better year, if Winston adjusts well to the NFL, and if Tampa Bay winds up throwing a lot with Evans and V Jax drawing the attention. All three could happen but if one of them doesn’t he will likely not be a huge upside guy.

Jermaine Gresham ($2800) – He looks healthy enough to start the season and Carson Palmer is a good quarterback when he is healthy. If both can avoid injury, I can see the upside, especially at only $2800.

Continue Reading the Rankings Series

NFL Quarterback Rankings: Week 1

NFL Running Back Rankings: Week 1

NFL Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1

NFL Defensive Rankings: Week 1

Take home $2 MILLION in the NFL Millionaire Maker Week 1!