PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 27: (L-R) Rob Gronkowski #87 and Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots react after Gronkowski caught a 24-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
It's now July 30 and fantasy drafts are happening already or being planned for. So here is a bit more insight from yours truly, this time for the tight end position. Just like with receivers, the tight end spot has become more valuable because of the passing nature of the NFL now. So here are the ones to keep an eye on for better or for worse:
Rob Gronkowski--He will be the number one pick among tight ends across the board, but the ankle injury he suffered in the AFC Championship game may still hobble Gronk a bit. Still, you can't argue with the numbers, which are sick for a tight end--90 catches, 1327 yards and 17 touchdowns. That's just crazy.
Aaron Hernandez--The other half of the best tight end combo in football, Hernandez had 79 receptions for 910 yards and 7 TDs. Combined with Gronk, that's 169 catches for 2237 yards and 24 touchdowns. Wow. That's amazing production from that position, and it should continue in 2012. Of course, Hernandez will be drafted a few spots below Gronkowski and is more like a third rounder in fantasy terms.
Jimmy Graham--in the mold of Antonio Gates, Jimmy is a basketball player who kicks a-- as a tight end in the NFL. Brees is re-signed and the Saints may suffer emotionally after losing their coach and some defensive players to suspension. But the Brees to Graham combo is money and will continue to make fantasy owners happy.
Antonio Gates--man, I hate this guy. Every time he plays against me he scores 3 touchdowns. But when I own him, he does nothing. Due to all his injuries and the lack of a solid running game in San Diego, Gates has become streaky despite his incredible skills. Mikey's Gut Feeling (MGF) says let someone else draft him.
Vernon Davis--Finally started to realize his potential with Jim Harbaugh igniting the Niners. They still won't score a ton of points, which makes Davis risky as a fantasy TE, but he's the safety valve for Alex Smith and he should have similar stats to 2011--67 catches, 792 yards, 6 TDs.
Jason Witten--The Cowboys were mediocre last season and the Romo to his BFF combo was off as well. But he's too talented to keep down for too long. Draft him if you don't mind Cowboys or Eagles on your fantasy squad.Brandon Pettigrew--The Lions will score lots of points and Calvin can't score them all, can he? The MGF likes Pettigrew to catch plenty of touchdowns.
Jermichael Finley--another injury risk, and incredibly streaky. I think I've given Jermichael enough opportunities, and let's face it--Aaron Rodgers has too many other weapons. That said, you can do worse. Just don't waste a high draft pick on him.
Martellus Bennett--The Giants and Eli Manning value the tight end position, and Martellus was buried behind Witten on the Dallas depth chart. I look forward to seeing him produce, and the MGF says he will give you maybe 50/700/5 type production.
Coby Fleener--this is the dude the Giants passed up in the draft to select RB David Wilson. The Colts wound up snagging Fleener to unite him with his QB in Stanford, Andrew Luck. He may make a good late round flyer, but Fleener has to prove himself a bit to earn fantasy love.
Jacob Tamme--He should be the top dog in Denver, and his former Indy QB Peyton Manning will be looking for him the way he used to look for Dallas Clark. The MGF loves the sleeper possibility here, and I don't think I'm alone.
Jermaine Gresham--he also battles injury but he's the best tight end the Bengals have had in a long time. With a rejuvenated offense that should keep improving, Gresham should give you solid numbers at the TE position. If he stays healthy, and that's sort of a big IF.