1. Antonio Gates - Come on, do I have to explain this one? He's Gates. He's the best tight end in the league and gets the ball thrown to him by Philip Rivers in a Norv Turner offense. How could you not take him first among tight ends?
2. Jermichael Finley - Finley was a monster through four games last season and looks like a beast again this preseason. There are minor injury concerns, but he's the only guy who has potential to finish as the number one tight end against a healthy Antonio Gates. Finley is clearly the second option here.
3. Owen Daniels - In the last four games last season, after he was a full year removed from 2009's season ending ACL surgery and back near full health, Daniels lead the Texans in targets and receptions and scored 38 points fantasy points over those four games. He's a big part of the Texans offense and will see the same amount of targets this all season this year. Draft him later than some of the guys that follow him on the list and enjoy better production.
4. Dallas Clark - Clark is Clark. He is the member of the Colts offense who loses the least value if Peyton is unavailable to start the season. Every quarterback in a new offense can always find the tight end and Kerry Collins has been a quarterback who likes to go to the tight end throughout his career. Don't worry about Dallas here.
5. Vernon Davis - Davis is the most reliable player in the San Francisco offense outside of Frank Gore, and is a fantasy beast. Even though the 49ers might be bad this year, Davis and Gore will both be great fantasy players.
6. Kellen Winslow Jr. - I know you think he's an injury concern, but hes not. He hasn't missed a game in the last three full seasons. He's also been a top 10 fantasy tight end each year over that span, and finished last season as the number six fantasy tight end. I expect more of the same this year.
7. Jason Witten - I'm down on Witten this year through no fault of his own, it's not that he isn't a good fantasy option, I just think that more targets are going to go to Dez Bryant this year that would have gone to Witten when Roy Williams was the starter. Still going to be productive, just not a top five guy.
8. Jimmy Graham - Graham has looked good so far in his young career for the Saints, and the biggest question is really how many receiving targets he will get. If Sean Payton dials up his number often, he could be one of the biggest steals in the draft.
9. Rob Gronkowski - I really don't know how to rank the Patriot tight ends, but I know both will be viable fantasy contributors again this season, so I'm just going to list them back to back here. Gronkowski only gets first billing because of his touchdown totals last season.
10. Aaron Hernandez
11. Brandon Pettigrew - Pettigrew is the big tight end sleeper this season, because Stafford looks both healthy and sharp. If Stafford plays the whole year, the Lions might throw more than anyone else in the league. That would make Pettigrew a huge player in fantasy this year.
12. Marcedes Lewis - I'm way down on Lewis this year. Half of his value was tied up in his 10 touchdowns... Literally. Of his 119 fantasy points last year, 60 of them came from those 10 touchdowns. That number falls off and hes just a middling fantasy performer.
13. Todd Heap - I don't want to draft him any higher than this, but I love his fantasy potential for this season. The injury history is what scares me, but Heap should see a lot of targets with Kevin Kolb at quarterback, who showed he liked the tight end when in Philly.
14. Zach Miller - He's in Seattle now, and strangely leaving Oakland is actually going to hurt his value this year. I hate the Tarvaris Jackson effect in Seattle. Maybe next year with another quarterback he'll be top 10 again, but for now he's just a deeper league guy.
15. Dustin Keller - I don't like the Jets offense either with Mark Sanchez at the helm, but Keller is the second best option on that team in the passing game and a very athletic target. He'll be relevant in your deep leagues.
16. Tony Gonzalez - He's fallen pretty fall, but he's still the last guy you want in a sixteen team league. He'll still contribute and might have a better year than last year with Julio Jones stretching the field.
17. Greg Olsen - Olsen has all of the talent in the world, but once again his situation isn't great. He left the Bears and Mike Martz, who doesn't use the tight end, for the Panthers. The Panthers will probably go to the tight end more, but the situation is very shaky with Cam Newton at quarterback. Next year he'll be a sleeper.
18. Tony Moeaki - Moeaki was fantasy relevant last year, but that was after injuries and against a weak schedule. He'll produce again this year, but not as much.
19. Chris Cooley - Cooley is a consistent player who should produce some fantasy points with whoever plays quarterback for the Redskins. He's not the big fantasy player he once was though, and don't expect too much from the name.
20. Brent Celek - He would be much higher if not for Vick at quarterback. Vick barely threw to him at all last year and I don't expect much to change this year. He is a good tight end though, so he makes the list at 20 because of Vick's huge injury risk.
That's as far as I'm listing tight ends, because you shouldn't be playing in a deeper than 20 team league, and you shouldn't be rostering two tight ends at any point except your starter's buy week. It's not worth the roster spot for the difference between the backup you would have and waiver wire fodder.
(Note: All defenses are ranked as if you are drafting to keep them all year, whether or not that is the best fantasy play.)
1. New York Giants - The Giants are both my favorite fantasy defense overall, and have a juicy week one matchup against the Redskins offense, so I'm recommending them as the top defense here whether you are drafting them to keep all year or simply to stream. They led the league in takeaways last year, and with the kickoffs moved up, the Giants defense should stop getting put into bad field position and there should be less points scored by other better special teams units.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers - Last years number one defense should also benefit from the kickoff changes. The Steelers have strong returners, but also have very poor kick coverage. Less kickoff returns will only be a good thing for them.
3. Green Bay Packers - The Packers are another great defensive unit and have a strong special teams unit for punt and kick off returns. They were second in defensive points last year, and there is no reason to not expect more of the same.
4. Baltimore Ravens - Another great defense with solid returners available. They are getting old there in Baltimore, but they are still plenty effective.
5. Chicago Bears - Da Bears still have a very good bend but don't break defense, and they still have Devin Hester as a return option. Good choice here.
6. New York Jets - Last year's number four defense gets bumped down a few spots because of the departure of all world "slash" player Brad Smith.
7. San Diego Chargers - The problem in San Diego last year was the special teams, not the defense. They should be much better this year, playing from ahead and rushing the passer.
8. Atlanta Falcons - The Falcons are a very underrated defense, and Matt Ryan is a great field general, so the Falcons win the time of possession battle most of the time which helps. They were the eight best fantasy defense last year, and i expect more of the same.
9. Philadelphia Eagles - I'm not quite buying in on the Philly Defense hype this year. The Eagles are a good fantasy defense, but not an elite one.
10. New England Patriots - They were the number three fantasy defense last year, but much of that came from their 8 return touchdowns. Don't expect last year here.
.... At this point, you really are doing extreme guess work and should definitely just be playing matchups here. Check out my column on that later this week for all the details on why.
-Fred "Big Derf" Tobin