Jan 14, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) catches a touchdown pass as Denver Broncos cornerback Andre

Drafting Tight End In 1st Round of Fantasy Football: Smart or Super Smart? Or Just Really, Really, Really Stupid?

While it might only be June and the start of the next NFL regular season, also the start of fantasy football, isn’t until September, that doesn’t mean I can’t get a head start on my fantasy football draft prep work.

Each year that I play fantasy football I’m always looking for a trend that I can exploit with my fellow league mates, and one that I hope they haven’t been able to figure out yet. I like to think that the key to winning a fantasy football championship is research, research, and more research, with a little bit of dumb luck thrown into the mix.

The more and more fantasy football related articles I read this summer the more I’m starting to think that it’s the year the tight end position in fantasy football rises to prominence. We already know that we live in a football world where the quarterback is king on the field. But quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers have been a part of the first round picture for a while now in fantasy football.

November 28, 2011; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Giants 49-24. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

There hasn’t been a tight end worthy of first round consideration in fantasy football before but that might change this year with Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski’s dominant real life and fantasy seasons last year. With those two tight ends now in your mind the question that I pose to you GMEN HQ readers is: did last year’s play of Graham and Gronkowski elevate the two into the discussion of first round fantasy football draft picks?

The answer to me is yes. The saying in fantasy baseball is, “you don’t pay for saves.” Closers in the realm of fantasy baseball are a dime a dozen basically and in any given year a closer that was drafted near the bottom of the draft could wind up with the most saves at the end of the year. There’s no point in wasting a high draft pick on a position that could yield you the same results near the bottom of the draft.

In fantasy football the positions of neglect have always been kicker, tight end and defense. The #1 ranked defense, tight end or kicker didn’t proportionately blow out the competition in their respective positions. But that might no longer be the case at the tight end position.

The top 200 overall Yahoo! fantasy football player rankings have Graham and Gronkowski ranked 14 and 15, respectively. In a standard 12-team draft that would place them at the top of the 2nd round, narrowly missing out on being drafted in the first round. The only other tight end to even make the top 50 was Antonio Gates (48). Graham and Gronkowski are in a class of their own when it comes to tight ends and the numbers don’t lie and these were their stat totals for last year:

Jimmy Graham – 149 targets, 99 receptions, 1,310 receiving yards, 11 receiving touchdowns

Rob Gronkowski – 124 targets, 90 receptions, 1,327 receiving yards, 18 total touchdowns (17 receiving, 1 rushing)

No other tight end last year caught more than 83 catches, reached 1,000 yards receiving or was in the double digits when it came to receiving touchdowns.

If you were to include the best stats of Graham and Gronkowski amongst wide receivers, Graham would have had the 6th most targets; Gronkowski would have been third in receptions, 6th in receiving yards, and 1st in receiving touchdowns!

What the argument all boils down to is that with Graham and Gronkowski you have the potential to get stud receiver stats and points from the tight end position. It’s almost cheating and harkens back to the days when Marques Colston was listed at tight end during his rookie year in the league even though he was clearly a wide receiver.

While I’m not saying that Graham and Gronkowski are the only tight ends worth drafting in fantasy football this upcoming season I do think that they’re worth taking earlier than any other tight end and that might very well be in the first or second round. Sure, there are some other tight ends you can wait to take later such as Coby Fleener, Aaron Hernandez or Jermaine Gresham that could produce at a high rate. It’s just that the difference in points differential between Graham/Gronkowski and any other tight end might be pretty ridiculous once the season comes to an end.

No matter what website you go to Graham and Gronkowski are ranked 1 or 2 amongst tight ends and there’s no doubt about that fact. What you have to decide is whether or not their potential production warrants you ignoring other high profile fantasy positions in the first round such as running back, wide receiver or running back?

Me, personally, with the running back by committee approach being the new norm in the NFL, any quarterback being able to pass for 3,000 yards (20 quarterbacks last year) or throw at least 20 touchdowns (14 quarterbacks last season) and so many receivers emerging because of pass first offenses I might just be crazy enough to draft Graham or Gronkowski in one of my fantasy football drafts. And if I had the last pick in the first round of a snake draft where I can start a tight end at the flex position I might even double up on the two and fill the rest of my team with value picks and sleepers at the other positions.

Remember, the goal of fantasy football is to draft a team full of players with high values and Graham and Gronkowski might be the two that hold the greatest value at their position than any other players in fantasy football.

So, I ask you again GMEN HQ readers: are Graham and Gronkowski now in the first round fantasy football discussion? Let us know in the comments section.

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Tags: Fantasy Football Fantasy Football Draft Fantasy Football Jimmy Graham Fantasy Football Rob Gronkowski Fantasy Football Tight End

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