Post-Draft 2011 TE Rankings

In the table below you’ll find my initial TE rankings for the 2011 season. For each player, I’ll list their strength of schedule (SOS), their 2010 points per game output adjusted for the 2011 SOS (i.e. if their 2010 performance was adjusted for their 2011 SOS) and their straight two-year average (schedule bias not removed). Keep in mind these aren’t actual projections, just additional info and the likely order that I’d draft these players given what we know now. Things will change as some of these free agents find homes for the season. Keep in mind these are rankings for standard (non-PPR) leagues.

— I’ve seen a few fantasy experts lump Antonio Gates in with the next three or four TEs, but Gates is in a tier all by himself. When he’s healthy, no TE is better. His 13.8 unadjusted PPG in 2010 was 4.2 points better than the next guy (Jason Witten). I suspect that Value Based Drafting (VBD) will tell us to draft Gates in the third round, but he’s been going in the fourth and is a tremendous value there. The only issue is his durability. He missed six games last season, but played 15+ in seven of his eight seasons.

— Jason Witten, Jermichael Finley and Dallas Clark make up the next tier. Witten is more dependable, but Finley has more upside. He averaged 5.3-75-0.25 in the four full games before he injured his knee in 2010. Those are TE2 numbers. I’d be careful with Clark. He’s 31 and has had injury issues in the past, including last year’s wrist problems. Still, in the 5th round he’s a nice weapon at TE.

— I’d put Davis, Graham, Daniels, Gronkowski, Z. Miller and Lewis in the next tier. Davis has a much tougher projected schedule, but the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh should offset that.

— Graham was dynamite down the stretch for the Saints, and with Jeremy Shockey gone, he should get plenty of targets in 2011. He posted 26-307-5 over the final eight games of the season, which are TE5 numbers (and don’t take into account the uptick in targets he should see with Shockey gone).

— Daniels got off to a slow start in 2010, but came on at the end of the year after missing five games in the middle of the season. He averaged 5.5-68-0.5 in the last four games, which was enough to convince the Texans to re-sign him to a four-year deal.

— Gronkowski was terrific for the Patriots in his rookie season and there are those that believe that he’s elite. He’s a threat to finish in the Top 5, but just when you think you can predict the Patriots’ offense, they go another direction. Still, I am probably higher on him than most, and given his 8th-round ADP, he should be a nice value on draft day.

— Zach Miller was my sleeper pick last season and he got off to a strong start with 33 catches in his first seven games before a foot injury hobbled him midseason. He didn’t seem to get healthy until the final four weeks, when he caught 22 more passes. He’s a free agent this summer but should re-up with the Raiders for the 2011 season.

— After Marcedes Lewis, who should be good once again as long as David Garrard is under center, there isn’t much difference between the #11 TE and the #21 TE, as Chris Cooley and Jared Cook could easily swap spots by season’s end. For that reason, I’d try to grab one of the Top 10 guys. Lewis is going the latest (in the 9th), so if you find yourself without a TE after he’s gone, it may pay to continue to load up on talent at RB and WR (or work your QBBC) and wait to grab a pair of TEs later on in the draft.

— We’re already hearing that Josh McDaniels is tweaking his offense to feature the TE more, which makes sense since the Rams drafted the talented Lance Kendricks to give Sam Bradford a target over the middle. Along with Cook, Kendricks is shaping up to be a nice sleeper at the TE position.

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