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Ray’s 2014 Fantasy Football Tiered TE Rankings


If you plan on putting any stock into these tiered rankings I’ll be releasing for 2014, I must warn you that they’re not for the faint of heart. There will be players that you’ll likely think I’ve ranked way too high. There will be players that you’ll likely think I’m way too low on.

Some of my reasoning for the way I’ve ranked my players for 2014 comes from statistics and information that I’ve picked up across various corners of the internet as I’ve put these rankings together. Some of it comes from my own personal musings.

Either way, I tried to remain as independent of groupthink as I could in order to give you the most authentic rankings possible.

For a primer on tiered rankings and how I use them, click these words.


Tier #1 – Standing On Top of the World (For a Little While)

Jimmy Graham
Julius Thomas


THOUGHTS: For what I believe may be the first time in the long and illustrious history of fantasy football (at least since we started using ADP data), a tight end is being drafted in the first round. For the same reason I wouldn’t draft a QB in the first round (you only start one in most cases), I wouldn’t take a TE there either. Even if they’re eligible to put into your flex position, if applicable. The reason for that is because I’m looking to put a WR in my flex spot whenever I can for reasons I’ll delve into further in tomorrow’s WR Tier piece. Having said that, I don’t think I could ever pull the trigger on executing this strategy when applicable but it wouldn’t strike me as an awful idea to corner the TE market by taking the two players that have the most potential to put up elite numbers at the position.

The only way Jimmy could be more valuable is if he had won his grievance and gotten franchise tagged as a WR. We could be talking about him being the most valuable player to own in fantasy football as a freak athlete with both WR & TE eligibility. The Orange Julius should benefit from Eric Decker’s departure and a defense that is good enough to give the offense a few all-important extra possessions.

I share the same belief with those who think that people are going to be overreacting to Graham’s monstrous season last year in the same way that people overreacted to the famed QB Explosion of 2011. In order for Graham to return first round value, he would  have to have basically the exact same season that he had last year. And too much would have to break right for that to happen for me to take the plunge in Round One. However, as I’ve written about before, I have no problem rostering the Orange Julius if I’m satisfied enough with my roster to take him in the third or fourth round if he falls there.


Tier #2 – What’s a Cusp and Why Are You On It?

Rob Gronkowski
Jordan Cameron
Greg Olsen
Dennis Pitta
Kyle Rudolph
Jordan Reed


THOUGHTS: You can make the argument that the TE position is the most difficult to handle in all of fantasy football this year. A popular strategy I’ve seen people utilize this season is drafting two players from this tier in leagues where you can play a TE in the flex. If you feel that you’re pretty good at identifying later-round gems at the RB and WR positions and could afford to sacrifice depth there to take these TEs at their current prices, I could get behind the strategy of taking two of them. The argument has been made that most of these guys could be interchangeable. They all have tremendous upside but, barring injury to the Tier One players, it’s tough to argue that any of them have a top overall positional finish in their range of probable outcomes.

Gronk is the player from this tier people feel is most likely to finish as the TE1 if it isn’t Jimmy or Julius, but I agree with the assessment that the probability of him re-injuring himself in 2014 is extremely high. Plus there’s the off chance that the seven known surgeries he underwent last year have taken a drastic toll on his body. News of Josh Gordon’s suspension being upheld makes Cameron the top option in Cleveland and he showed a strong rapport with Brian Hoyer last season, but will the Browns become too run heavy for him to return value? Olsen has been referred to as the most boring 100-target TE candidate in all of fantasy football and is in a great situation to put up numbers on a Carolina team lacking a strong WR1 option, but will the downgraded offensive line cause him to have to stay in to block more? Can Pitta parlay his strong rapport with Joe Flacco and the TE-friendly nature of Gary Kubiak’s offense into enough production to be an every week plug and play option? Is the addition of Norval Eugene Turner enough to push Rudy into the tier of the elite at the position? And while Washington’s new offense could put Reed in a position to fulfill his Aaron Hernandez-like potential, will the offensive struggles we’ve seen from the team so far and his own concussion issues be too much for him to overcome?

When I tier my rankings, I always try to account for what I feel is a player’s absolute ceiling. While it’s tough to argue that any of these guys could be 2014’s top TE, it’s not out of the question to see one of them achieving that goal. It seems absurd to consider that fantasy’s TE1 could be anyone other than Jimmy Graham, but we have to consider that he could fall out of that top spot for one reason or another. Each of these TEs has a decent amount of risk attached to them but enough upside to finish as the TE1 in fantasy football, which is why taking two of them could represent this year’s ultimate boom or bust draft strategy.


Tier #3 – Juuuuust a Bit Outside

Zach Ertz
Charles Clay
Martellus Bennett


THOUGHTS: If you’re thinking about employing a double mid-round TE strategy and are caught at the end of the TE run with only one of those second tier guys, any of these three would make a viable substitute.

A lot of people seem to feel that Ertz is poised for a breakout season but the Eagles project as a team that won’t stick to one game plan for too long at a time, which makes players like Ertz and Jordan Matthews difficult to project this early in the process. And Brent Celek is like that Gor-Don chick from the Sprint Framily commercials in that he just won’t go away.  Clay saw 103 targets last year and was arguably Ryan Tannehill’s most efficient target, but how long will it take for the team to grasp the nuances of the new offense Bill Lazor is installing? And while Bennett had more success last season with Jay Cutler than he did with Josh McCown, can he emerge as anything more than the fourth option in #TeamTrestman’s passing game (which caps his upside)?

I understand if the risk attached to these players is too much to get you to take a chance on them over the established veterans you’ll find in the next tier. But these guys are good enough athletes in favorable enough situations to be league winners if they can fulfill their potential. I honestly can’t say the same about the next tier of players.


Tier #4 – It’s a Trap! 

Jason Witten
Vernon Davis


THOUGHTS: Not the guys you expected to see here I’m sure. If these guys fulfill their potential, they can be nice picks. But I don’t think they’re in favorable enough situations to be league winning picks if they hit big, which is what separates them from the Tier Three players.

An aging Witten may benefit from Scott Linehan’s pass happy nature, but I’ve expressed concern about a Dallas run defense that may be bad enough to keep the offense off the field for long stretches at a time while opponents chew up the clock on the ground. He also caught a TD on an unsustainable 11% (roughly) of his 73 receptions in 2013, which won’t happen again. While we’re on the subject of scoring TDs at an unsustainable rate, let’s talk about VD (the player, I mean) and his 13 TD receptions on only 52 catches last season. For the mathematically deficient, that represents a TD reception on an otherworldly 25% of his catches. Even though the 49ers are rumored to be opening up the offense as it relates to the passing game (likely at least partially out of necessity), an unsustainable TD rate, coupled with the fact that Davis has never had as many competent receiving threats around him as he will in 2014, will keep me from pulling the trigger too early on him which, in turn, will likely keep me from owning any shares of him.

There’s always a certain amount of risk involved in passing on players that have been consistently fantasy relevant, especially when their healthy ceiling is pretty high. But as favorable as the situation may seem, sometimes you have to realize when there are enough red flags surrounding a player to warrant considerable caution as it relates to drafting them.


Tier #5 – Darkwing Duck Horse TE1 Types

Ladarius Green
Delanie Walker
Garrett Graham
Travis Kelce
Tyler Eifert


THOUGHTS: The key word with the players associated with this tier is “upside.” Only the ballsiest of individuals would dare take one of these guys as their TE1. If you’re more of the risk-averse persuasion and only have one TE by the point in your draft where all the players listed in previous tiers will be off the board, you can make an argument for any of these guys to be your backup and a potential flex option in juicy enough match-ups.

The question of whether Green or Gates will be the Charger TE to own in fantasy is one that no one seems to know how to answer, and we may not get a clear idea of who that player is until we see San Diego play a few games that count. Green offers tantalizing upside as a lottery ticket TE2 but Gates won’t disappear quietly. But if the Charger beat writers are correct and Green can at least double his stat line from 2013 with more time on the field, he offers league-winning upside. Delanie has publicly stated his desire to catch 80 passes this season and he can probably do it, but the Titans have a lot of mouths to feed and seem like they could try and lean on the run game more than we may think with the offensive line upgrades and changes at the RB position. Bill O’Brien was New England’s offensive coordinator in 2011 when Aaron Hernandez put up his best season statistically, and now he apparently plans on using Graham in that same H-back type role. I don’t think Anthony Fasano will be able to keep Kelce, whose athletic measurables are on par with that of Gronk, off the field for long unless Andy Reid is stubborn enough to stick with the vet. And Eifert is still sharing the field with Jermaine Gresham, whose offseason sports hernia surgery doesn’t bode well for his chances to stay on the field all year. In which case Eifert could see a ton of value in Cincy’s up-tempo offense.


Tier #6 – So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance

Dwayne Allen
Coby Fleener
Heath Miller
Antonio Gates


THOUGHTS: If you’re even too risk averse to consider one of the Tier Five TEs as your backup or your potential league winning lottery-pick TE2, these guys offer some upside too. At the very worst, they can offer you a spot start or two throughout the year.

Allen and Fleener look to be in an ideal fantasy situation but each have their positives and negatives and will likely cancel each other out until one of them steps up as the primary TE option in Indy. Regardless of how many extra snaps Green gets in San Diego, Gates won’t go away quietly and may finally be over the foot issues that have plagues him in the recent past. Which could help him have a few big fantasy weeks of his own. And even though he may actually, legitimately be 100 years old, Heathcliff still represents the best red zone receiving threat the Steelers have at this moment and has the potential to do some damage in the no-huddle offense.


 Tier #7 – The Watch List

-Eric Ebron
Jared Cook
Marcedes Lewis
Tim Wright
-Jace Amaro


THOUGHTS: While I’m not looking to draft any of these players, they’ll be among the first ones on my waiver-wire speed dial.

If you’re in a keeper league of any kind, I would value Ebron closer to the players in Tier Five or Tier Six and would definitely try and draft him. But as highly regarded of a prospect as he is, he’s still a rookie TE whose redraft value is suppressed by a veteran in Brandon Pettigrew and a 6’7’’ red zone beast in Joseph Fauria who he has to compete with for targets. He may put up some nice point totals this season but guessing which weeks they’re going to happen, especially in the early going, is anyone’s guess. If someone else in your league drafts him and proceeds to drop him after a slow start, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick him up. If Cook can ever put together a long enough string of games with decent fantasy production to shed his inconsistency label, he could make for a nice, high-upside TE2 or streaming option. Can Lewis, one of fantasy’s forgotten TEs who scored all four of his TDs in the final five games last season, help the Jags make more noise on offense this season than they’re accustomed to? If Timmy can catch on quickly in New England, he has the potential to do some major damage as the Move TE in the Patriot offense. And can Amaro beat out an underwhelming crew of pass-catchers like Jeremy Kerley & David Nelson to become the number two option in the Jets’ receiving game behind Eric Decker as a rookie? If he can, look for him to be a popular pickup near the end of the season.


Tier #8 – Pay No Attention to That Man behind the Curtain/A Final Tier for Insanely Deep Leagues

 -Brandon Pettigrew
Adrien Robinson
-Joesph Fauria
Owen Daniels
Mychal Rivera
-Richard Rodgers
Ryan Griffin
Brandon Bostick
-Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Andrew Quarless
Gavin Escobar
-Brent Celek
Levine Toilolo
John Carlson
Luke Willson
Larry Donnell
Demetrius Harris
David Ausberry
Vance McDonald
Chris Gragg
Taylor Thompson
Tony Moeaki
Brandon Williams


THOUGHTS: I’ve got nothing. However, these guys should not be forgotten about in case a situation arises where they can have some sort of fantasy relevance.




THOUGHTS: The players that I feel offer the best combination of price (ADP) and league-winning upside. These are the guys I’ve either targeted already or will continue to target through the remainder of the drafting season.

-Dennis Pitta
-Kyle Rudolph
-Jordan Reed
-Charles Clay
-Ladarius Green
-Travis Kelce
-Tyler Eifert


Any omissions from this set of rankings was, in fact, intentional.


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About the Author

Ray Marzarella
Fantasy football writer for Rotowriters and Fantasy Team Advice. Lifelong NY Giants fan and season ticket holder. Suffering from fantasy football addiction since 2004. I also dabble in professional wrestling, being a struggling musician, photobombing, and being an overall swell dude.