Top 10 Bounce Back Tight Ends for 2014
Some players will blame it on an injury, some on bad luck, but us team owners really know what happened. They just plain out sucked in 2013. In front of you is a quick list of 10 tight ends we believe have great opportunities to bounce back to their productive ways in 2014.
2014 Bounce Back Busts – Tight Ends
1. Rob Gronkowski (10) New England Patriots : For the second year in a row Gronk will enter the season with questions about his health. Last year, Gronkowski was coming off back surgery and problems with his forearm, and he missed the first 6 games of the 2013 season. He looked like the Gronkowski of old upon his return until a torn ACL in Week 14 ended his year, and now he’s making yet another injury comeback. All signs point toward Gronkowski being ready for Week 1, but we won’t know his status until training camp. Still, based on his talent level, Gronkowski is worth drafting as your No. 1 tight end. He had 39 receptions for 592 yards and 4 touchdowns in 7 games last year. If you project that over 16 games, Gronkowski would have finished with 89 catches for 1,353 yards and 9 touchdowns. Those stats would have placed Gronkowski No. 2 at tight in Fantasy points behind Jimmy Graham in a standard league. Of course, Gronkowski has now played just 18 games over the past two seasons, so he’s become an injury risk. But he’s still worth the gamble with a late 3rd round or 4th round pick at the latest because when he plays, he dominates.
2. Dennis Pitta (11) Baltimore Ravens : The Ravens signed tight end Dennis Pitta to a contract extension in late February and are glad to have him back after he missed much of last year with a fractured and dislocated right hip that sidelined him for 12 games. He caught 20 passes for 169 yards in the four games he did play in, proving that at a five-catch-per-game rate, he’s still a prime target for quarterback Joe Flacco. He’ll be a regular option for new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak to lean on, Kubiak is known for involving tight ends heavily in his offense. Pitta’s solid 2012 (7 regular-season touchdowns, 669 yards on 61 catches) is proof that he’s got the potential to be as good or better than those numbers indicate. There’s Top 10 Fantasy tight end potential here as a 7th or 8th round selection.
3. Greg Olsen (12) Carolina Panthers : For three straight years in Carolina Greg Olsen’s reception totals have gone up from 45 to 69 to 73. This year might be the biggest of all as Olsen projects to be the Panthers’ most reliable receiver considering their lack of talent and depth at the wide receiver position especially with Steve Smith moving on to Baltimore. Olsen is also the most experienced receiving outlet Cam Newton has left after the Panthers purged their receiving corps this off season. Olsen’s receiving average is modest (11.2 yards per catch in 2013) and his speed isn’t great, but the mere fact that he’s a regular for Newton to aim for in an offense that should be more tight end-oriented given the receiving personnel makes Olsen a pretty good Fantasy option. He’s finished as a Top 10 tight end each of the last two years and can be had at a good value in Rounds 7 and 8 this year.
4. Kyle Rudolph (10) Minnesota Vikings : Jay Novacek. Antonio Gates. Jordan Cameron. All tight ends who have done exceptionally well while under the tutelage of play caller Norv Turner. That’s who will call the shots for the Vikings now, and will likely lean on tight end Kyle Rudolph a bunch. Rudolph couldn’t finish last season because of a fractured foot but he thinks he’ll be fine for the start of training camp. Rudolph hasn’t been the best tight end for Fantasy but did have nine touchdowns in 2012 and was on-pace for a career-high in receiving yards last year when he got hurt. So long as Rudolph is healthy heading into the season we can’t help but like him as a sleeper tight end worth a middle- to late-round pick in drafts.
5. Heath Miller (12) Pittsburgh Steelers : You might get the sense that Heath Miller is slowing down after posting under 600 yards with one score last season. But maybe Miller’s numbers underwhelmed because he was coming back from a torn ACL and saw 22 fewer targets than he did in his magical 2012 campaign. While Miller probably won’t suddenly become a flashy down-field receiving threat a la Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas, we do think Miller could see an uptick in work because of the lack of depth in the Steelers’ receiving corps. The loss of Jerricho Cotchery and his 10 touchdowns from last season should open up Miller for some better numbers in 2014.
6. Jason Witten (11) Dallas Cowboys : He’s usually one of the last top-end tight ends you settle for on Draft Day. But at the end of the season, Witten is usually right at the top. This is Witten’s 12th year in the NFL, and he’s been a Top 12 Fantasy tight end for the past 10 seasons, including a Top 6 option each of the past 4 years. The stats don’t blow you away — he had 73 catches, 851 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013 — but his consistency is hard to overlook. Tony Romo will continue to look for Witten, who was No. 5 in targets last year with 111, and you know what you’re getting with him. The top of the tight end group is pretty solidified with Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis. After that, Witten is right there and worth drafting in Round 5 in most formats. At some point he’ll slow down, and he’s 32 this season, but he remains worth drafting as a No. 1 tight end again this year.
7. Dwayne Allen (10) Indianapolis Colts : The big year we anticipated for Dwayne Allen in 2013 lasted one game after he hurt his hip. But after seeing Coby Fleener struggle for much of that same season, Allen’s return is a welcomed sight for the Colts and Fantasy owners. The burly tight end returns to an offense that is loaded with solid pass catchers, so the targets you might want a top tight end to get probably won’t be there. But Allen is expected to play quite a bit for the Colts because he’s a solid blocker and receiver. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has a solid receiving corp heading into 2014 with the addition of Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne expected to be back by the start of the regular season.
8. Jared Cook (4) St.Louis Rams : Let’s start with the good when it comes to Jared Cook. He finished 2013 as the No. 11 Fantasy tight end and he started the season with 24 Fantasy points in a standard league in Week 1 against the Cardinals. Now the bad. He finished the season with just one more game with double digits in standard Fantasy points and was extremely disappointing. Cook has plenty of potential to be a No. 1 Fantasy tight end, but you should view him as a low-end No. 2 option coming into the year. He has plenty of upside and potential to be a solid target for Sam Bradford and with a lacking receiving corp, he could be a solid target for Bradford in his second year with the Rams. Cook is no more then a back-up No.2 tight end to start the season, with the hopes of being able to produce consistency and emerge as a week to week starter.
9. Delanie Walker (9) Tennessee Titans : Walker proved last year that he can be a solid pass-catching tight end, a role he should continue to have in 2014. He posted career-highs across the board with 60 grabs for 571 yards and six touchdowns, numbers strong enough to have him finish as a Top 12 option. If you’re cool with numbers like that then Walker can be yours with a late-round pick. Quarterback Jake Locker is expected to be back in time and with another year to perfect timing routes Walker could be a solid bye-week replacement. Consistency is the factor and he and Locker have to prove themselves before being able to be trusted weekly. Kendall Wright continues to be the No.1 option for the Titans passing game.
10. Levine Toilolo (9) Atlanta Falcons : Many people think Levine Toilolo will replace Tony Gonzalez as not only the starting tight end for the Falcons but as a big stat-producer for the offense. Count Falcons head coach Mike Smith among those not expecting a major contribution from Toilolo, saying in late March that he consider him an “assist man” rather than a “scorer.” Toilolo has huge size 6’8″ and could be a dreamy red-zone target for quarterback Matt Ryan, just as he was last year (2 of his 11 catches were for touchdowns), but it’s unsure if he’ll catch a lot of passes away from the goal line. With Julio Jones and Roddy White both expected to be 100 percent at the start of the season and the Falcons expected to air it out again in 2014, Toilolo is worth taking a gamble on with a late-round pick.
Potential break out Tight Ends – Ladarius Green SD, (R) Eric Ebron Det, (R) Richard Rodgers GB
Make sure you check out 2014 Bounce Back Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Wide Receivers