Complete Week 8 Projections

Position: ALL | QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST | K | FLEX
     
PROJECTED 2014 SEASON STATS
1. Jimmy Graham, NO TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics14486121514.116000211
2014 Projections13484111513.313000189
2014 Outlook: We regularly say that a tight end has to submit a truly historic season to justify a first- or second-round pick. Well, in 2013, Graham did just that. His 16 TD receptions led the NFL and was the second most ever by a tight end. It's true that after an incredible start -- 49 catches, 746 yards and 10 TDs through Week 9 -- Graham leveled off a bit. Bothered by a plantar fascia injury, he topped 73 yards receiving in just one of his final eight contests. But in that span, he also had 6 TDs, so we'll shut up. Perhaps the NFL's truest matchup nightmare, Graham is a cornerstone of the Saints' offense. Maybe historic seasons have simply become his norm.
2. Julius Thomas, Den TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics896578812.112000144
2014 Projections967292312.812000162
2014 Outlook: In his first year as a starter, Thomas established himself as a red zone freak -- 8 of his 12 TDs came inside an opponent's 20 -- and a trusted safety valve. Part of what makes Thomas tick as a fantasy option is the talent around him. Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker (as long as he's able to recover from his latest concussion) and Emmanuel Sanders should ensure that Julius will regularly see singled-up looks, and Peyton Manning trusts him to take advantage. The bottom line: The Broncos' offense is a machine, and Julius Thomas is an essential cog. He missed a couple of games with a knee injury in 2013, but he should be all systems go this season.
3. Rob Gronkowski, NE TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics673959215.2400080
2014 Projections956392014.68000140
2014 Outlook: If Gronk could guarantee us 16 games, we'd be tempted to place him atop our TE list. He's that good. In 50 career regular-season contests, he's scored 42 TDs. But he has also undergone eight career surgeries, the latest of which is probably his most serious. He tore his ACL and MCL after a huge hit from T.J. Ward in Week 14, putting Gronk on the clock for 2014 training camp. And frankly, even if he meets a Week 1 deadline, you have to wonder whether the star-crossed Gronk can keep overcoming physical adversity and take NFL-level punishment. We love the guy, but every year he seems to carry more risk.
4. Vernon Davis, SF TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics845285016.313000156
2014 Projections885683514.9113330150
2014 Outlook: Big Vern was the No. 2 TE in fantasy last year, quite a rebound from his No. 15 ranking in 2012. It turns out all those theories suggesting Davis and Colin Kaepernick couldn't coexist were as ridiculous as they sounded. The duo seemed to like each other just fine inside the red zone, where Davis scored 9 of his 13 TDs. In a run-heavy offense with Michael Crabtree healthy and Stevie Johnson aboard, we'd argue that Davis won't be a top source of yardage or receptions. But the possibility of double-digit TDs keeps him elite.
5. Jason Witten, Dal TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics1117385111.78000127
2014 Projections1137481811.17000123
2014 Outlook: Last year Witten topped 5 receiving TDs for just the second time in the past six seasons, earning his fantasy owners a respite from their annual end zone torment. In general, though, 2013 was a bit of a comedown. Witten posted his fewest catches and lowest yardage total since 2006 and had a whopping seven games in which he caught three or fewer passes. He's still only 32 and can bust loose in any given week, but we'd be worried about last year's so-so totals combined with his typical dearth of touchdowns.
6. Jordan Cameron, Cle TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics1178091711.57000127
2014 Projections1157487911.97000127
2014 Outlook: Through the first eight weeks of 2013, Cameron was fantasy's No. 2 TE behind Jimmy Graham. He had 49 grabs and 6 TDs and was only 34 receiving yards behind the prolific Graham. Defenses got wise to Cameron thereafter, and his second half featured only 31 catches and one score. Now that Rob Chudzinski no longer coaches in Cleveland, it's fair to wonder whether the offense will revolve around the TE position as much. Cameron is still a tough matchup and a fantasy starter, but last year's early-season dominance was probably a bit of an outlier.
7. Greg Olsen, Car TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics1097381611.26000110
2014 Projections1007084212.05000114
2014 Outlook: It's fair to be concerned that Carolina's inexperienced WR corps will allow defenses to focus on Olsen. But it's not exactly like Panthers wideouts set the world ablaze last year either. Regardless of the supporting cast, Olsen's past two seasons in Carolina have been remarkably consistent: around 70 grabs for 800 yards and 5 TDs. A mountain of a man with good hands, Olsen sits atop the above-average TE tier. There's no reason to reach for him in a draft, but you'll be fine if you end up with him.
8. Dennis Pitta*, Bal TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics33201698.5100021
2014 Projections1097380011.08000128
2014 Outlook: Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip early in training camp and understandably lacked explosiveness when he returned in December. His absence was devastating to Baltimore's passing game. The Ravens just didn't have enough receiving weapons without him, which explains why they forked over $16 million guaranteed this winter. New offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is famous for featuring athletic tight ends out of the slot, and Pitta's connection with Joe Flacco is strong. Torrey Smith will handle the deep stuff, Steve Smith will get looks and Owen Daniels will be a factor, but we're predicting that Pitta will lead Baltimore in catches this year.
9. Kyle Rudolph*, Min TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics463031310.4300045
2014 Projections975657610.38000105
2014 Outlook: Even before he broke his left foot in Week 9, Rudolph was a fantasy disappointment. A season after scoring 9 TDs, he had 3. Even worse, he posted only one game with more than five catches or 51 yards receiving. Rudolph is a giant human who runs well; his limitations have been his QB and an offense that hasn't focused on him. Enter Norv Turner, the Vikings' new offensive coordinator, who has a history of creating star tight ends. He was a crucial part of Jordan Cameron's breakout in Cleveland last year and Antonio Gates' development in San Diego. Fully trusting Rudolph, who's never topped 500 yards in a season, is tough. But he does have breakout potential.
10. Jordan Reed, Wsh TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics594549911.13118065
2014 Projections856168911.361140105
2014 Outlook: Reed's rookie season was a fantasy roller coaster. He started predictably slow, with just 13 catches for 106 yards and 1 TD in September. But for more than a month thereafter, the Redskins pumped him the ball relentlessly: His 14 targets in Week 8 tied for the fourth most for any TE in a game all year. Unfortunately, by mid-November, Reed was out for the season with a serious concussion. New Washington coach Jay Gruden comes to town with an offense that'll look downfield often, and Reed will be part of that effort. But DeSean Jackson's arrival to play alongside Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts may limit the number of available targets for the TE.
11. Martellus Bennett, Chi TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics966575911.7500096
2014 Projections906373511.75000101
2014 Outlook: Somewhere in that hulking body of Bennett's lurks a player who could destroy fantasy leagues with downfield plays and double-digit TDs. Unfortunately, his employers don't use him that way. Bennett's first season with the Bears looked like his prior season with the Giants: five or six targets per game, but very few of the vertical variety and only occasionally in the red zone. We suppose it's only natural that Bennett is forced to fight for table scraps in an offense featuring Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Alas, plan on Bennett's flashing big-time ability -- and disappearing for chunks of time.
12. Delanie Walker, Ten TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics86605719.5600087
2014 Projections865559810.95110090
2014 Outlook: Give Walker credit: In his first season as a full-fledged NFL starter, he posted career highs across the board and showed improved hands. In his final year with the 49ers, he had seven drops on 37 targets; last season he had only three drops on 85 targets. New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt spent 2013 in San Diego helping Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green combine for 94 grabs and 1,248 yards, and while that would be an ambitious projection for the smaller Walker, it's at least an indication that he won't waste away. A top-10 season isn't out of the question.
13. Zach Ertz, Phi TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics563646913.0400064
2014 Projections815064612.9400086
2014 Outlook: Those hoping Ertz would become Chip Kelly's favorite new tight end were sorely disappointed last season. Brent Celek ran 66 more pass routes than the rookie, and overall Ertz played about half as many snaps. But moving forward, we think Celek showed enough as a blocker that Ertz has a chance to establish himself as the top receiving tight end in Philly's high-octane offense. Of course, if we're wrong, drafting Ertz to be your starter will come back to haunt you, which is why we've resisted the temptation of predicting a massive breakout. But if you're looking for a possible surprise stud, Ertz fits the bill.
14. Charles Clay, Mia TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics1036975911.067151113
2014 Projections946167311.05617096
2014 Outlook: After Dustin Keller went down in the preseason with a catastrophic knee injury, Clay, a third-year halfback/fullback, was forced into action as Miami's primary tight end. And what a revelation he turned out to be. Clay isn't a factor as a run blocker and he's not a burner or a total athletic freak, but he has soft hands and is a reliable safety valve for a young QB (Ryan Tannehill) who often needs one. Add it all up and Clay finished among the top 10 TEs in targets (101), catches (69), yards (759) and touchdowns (6) last season, and he even saw the occasional carry from the Dolphins' backfield. Clay won't win you weeks, but he's an acceptable fantasy starter.
15. Antonio Gates, SD TEYEARTARRECYDSAVGTDRUSHYDSTDPTS
2013 Statistics1177787211.34000102
2014 Projections805460411.2400082
2014 Outlook: Last season Gates finished third among tight ends in receiving yards, third in targets and fourth in catches. So why isn't he an elite fantasy option anymore? Because his understudy is ready. Ladarius Green is a decade younger and several steps faster than Gates, and he's learned at the foot of the master for two seasons. Plus, after years of leading TEs in average yards at the catch, Gates is now near the bottom of the pack. At 34, his legs have simply left him. We can envision one valedictory season for Gates in which he shares the job with Green. But the end is near.