Week 1 Fantasy Rankings: Tight Ends
The sophistication of modern NFL defenses has been offset by no-contact rules that handcuff defensive backs. The result is rising point totals that are approaching those of the offensive heydays of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
But another reason scores have risen is that there are plethora of talented pass-catching tight ends. Linebackers quite often simply can’t defend the explosive threats at that position. That means secondaries lose the use of a strong safety to help on wideouts because they must cover the tight end.
And still they thrive. New England, for instance, boasts two tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who are capable of exceeding 1,000 yards in receptions. It is a given that fantasy owners will stick Gronkowski and fellow stud Jimmy Graham of New Orleans in their lineups every week. But who are the best plays in Week 1 among those less lucky many who don’t boast a Gronkowski or Graham on their rosters? Here are three:
1. Fred Davis (Washington): Davis is a rising star at that position and his matchup against the Saints could prove ideal. Quarterback Robert Griffin III is playing in his first NFL game and will need Davis as an outlet as the game will be going quite fast for the rookie. The Redskins will be busy trying to keep up with the high-scoring Saints, so Griffin will be slinging.
2. Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit): Pettigrew is growing as a threat every season and he is likely to torch a weak St. Louis defense for plenty of yards and perhaps a touchdown. He caught five TDs last year; that number will rise in 2012. Bet on it.
3. Vernon Davis (San Francisco): The Niners will be busy Sunday trying to keep the ball away from the explosive Packers. Their best bet in the air is Davis, who is out to prove that his down 2011 was a fluke.
Here are three tight ends to stay away from this week:
1. Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati): Gresham is an emerging stud at this position, but a knee injury and a matchup against a still-effective Baltimore defense spells trouble. Gresham will play, but he is unlikely to be effective.
2. Jason Witten (Dallas): It was inevitable that this borderline Hall of Famer would start to slip at some point and this could be the year. He has been listed as doubtful for the team’s opener at the Giants anyway because of a lacerated spleen. Keep him benched.
3. Jermichael Finley (Green Bay): Finley is probable with a quad injury, but two major reasons result in a “keep away” sign flashing here. One is that the Packers are playing against the premier defense in the NFL in San Francisco. Two is that he will be sharing time with D.J. Williams. Here’s hoping you have another tight end to play this week.
Here are the NFL Lines for Week 1 games with my NFL picks in bold:
at New York Giants (-4) Dallas
at Chicago (9.5) Indianapolis
Philadelphia (-8) at Cleveland
at New York Jets (-3) Buffalo
at New Orleans (-9-5) Washington
New England (-6.5) at Tennessee
at Minnesota (-4-5) Jacksonville
at Houston (-10.5) Miami
at Detroit (-8.5) St. Louis
Atlanta (-2.5) at Kansas City
at Green Bay (-5.5) San Francisco
Carolina (-2.5) at Tampa Bay
Seattle (-2.5) at Arizona
at Denver (-1) Pittsburgh
at Baltimore (-6) Cincinnati
San Diego (-1) at Oakland
Betting Advice: Critical injuries test the depth of any NFL team. Some have enough experience and talent to overcome injuries. Others do not. Study the depth of teams at particular positions in which players will be sidelined or curtailed before betting for or against those teams. Injuries are a critical component to most matchups. The more knowledge you have about a team’s depth, the wiser your pick will be.
Martin Gitlin spent 17 years as a newspaper sports writer covering the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns. During that time, he worked the MLB World Series and NFL playoffs. Since then he has become a fulltime freelance sports writer and educational book writer.