2013 Outlook: Graham dropped an NFL-worst 14 passes last year, and dropped 228 yards off his season total from 2011. Both of these issues were related to a wrist injury, and Graham had offseason surgery to correct the problem. However, he also missed a game due to an ankle sprain and was limited in other contests, so it's fair to consider Graham a bit of an injury risk for '13. Nevertheless, he was fantasy's top point-earning TE last season, and with Sean Payton calling plays again for the Saints and Graham entering a contract year, a bounce-back season is ahead. With Rob Gronkowski looking risky because of his broken arm, we see Graham as the top TE to draft in '13.
2013 Outlook: The Gronk is open even when he's covered. He might be the most lethal red zone weapon in NFL history; he has 29 red zone TDs over the past three years, nine more than any other player. And despite the fact that he missed most of 2012's final six games, he still finished second in fantasy points among TEs. The downside? He does get hurt; he was hobbled in Super Bowl XLVI with a high-ankle sprain, broke his arm last year and needed back surgery this summer. It now seems likely that Gronkowski will miss games in September, but we still view him as fantasy's No. 2 TE. Select him, make sure you get a serviceable backup (like Zach Sudfeld) for the first couple weeks, then bask in the draft-day value.
2013 Outlook: In 2012, at age 36, Gonzo finished second in receptions among TEs and third in targets, yards, touchdowns and fantasy points. And because the Falcons came so close but were denied a trip to the Super Bowl, Gonzalez decided to return for another season after flirting with retirement. Can we guarantee he'll have 93 grabs again, especially with reception-friendly RB Steven Jackson in the fold? We cannot. And his legs are fading fast, as evidenced by his 2.8-yards-after-catch average, 31st among qualified TEs last year. But he's still such a dangerous red zone target, tying for a TE-high 12 catches and eight TDs inside an opponent's 20-yard line, that Gonzo will easily be a starting fantasy TE again in '13.
2013 Outlook: Throughout his stellar career, Witten has had one strike against him: touchdowns. He was the NFL's only tight end to exceed 1,000 yards receiving last year and set a single-season record for catches by a TE with 110, playing through a severe spleen injury to begin the year. But he found the end zone just three times. That was the fourth time in the past five seasons he's posted five TDs or fewer, mostly because Tony Romo just doesn't throw it to him much in the end zone. Last season, Witten had five end zone targets, compared to 13 for league-leading end zone TE Rob Gronkowski. No question Witten is a consistent fantasy starter. But his lack of TDs can be frustrating.
2013 Outlook: Ranking Davis as a fantasy starter requires a leap of faith, because he was a disaster in 2012, catching fewer than two passes per contest in the seven regular-season games after Colin Kaepernick became the 49ers' QB. But in the playoffs, Davis had two 100-yard efforts, disproving the cranky notion that he and Kaepernick can't coexist, and he's just too darned talented not to figure this out. No question, he's a tough man to trust. But a bounce back to '10 and '11 levels feels like a given, and we've seen Davis' monstrous upside before: He had 13 TDs back in '09. He's still only 29, and may be the fastest pass-catcher on his team. We're buying low.
2013 Outlook: Rudolph caught nine TDs on 53 total grabs last year, a ratio that worries us a bit, because if he doesn't find the end zone, Rudolph doesn't do his fantasy teams much good. His paltry 3.7-yards-at-the-catch average was 32nd among qualified TEs, an indication both that Christian Ponder doesn't push the ball down the field effectively and that Rudolph doesn't generate much separation. Greg Jennings is the only other proven commodity in the Vikings' receiving corps, so Rudolph will be a major target in 2013. His fantasy owners just need to hope that includes the red zone, where last year he tied for fourth among TEs with 16 targets, 14 of which he caught for all nine of his TDs.
2013 Outlook: Daniels battled hamstring, hip, back and shoulder problems last year and rarely practiced, but still finished as fantasy's No. 8 TE. He's a solid fit for Matt Schaub's current caretaker incarnation, because Daniels is a savvy receiver who can take advantage of zones and make grabs in a defense's soft middle. But his limitation is the same as that of the rest of the Texans' receivers: The team is incredibly run-heavy when it gets close to an opponent's goal line. Daniels had all of three red zone receptions last season, and only one grab in an opponent's end zone. He's never scored more than six TDs in a season, and we don't imagine that starts in 2013. But he'll at least give you solid yardage most weeks.
2013 Outlook: Olsen set career-high single-season marks in receptions and yardage in 2012, essentially serving as Cam Newton's No. 2 receiver and operating out of the slot on about two-thirds of his routes. He's mammoth and faster than most inside linebackers, which helps him get open down the seam, but despite seeing the sixth-most targets among TEs last year, Olsen posted only one 100-yard game. Plus, in an offense where Newton and Mike Tolbert dominate in goal-to-go situations, Olsen only saw five end zone targets last year, and caught just one of them. In a deeper league, we view Olsen as a steady late-round starter at TE. But in standard leagues, he's best suited to be a reliable backup.
2013 Outlook: Gates put his plantar fascia woes behind him in 2012, and his seven TDs were a respectable sixth among TEs. But he's fading along with the rest of the Chargers' offense. He topped 60 yards receiving in a game once all year, and his 538 total yards easily represented his smallest total since his rookie year. Philip Rivers still looks for his TE down the field, as Gates' 7.9-yards-at-the-catch average attests (seventh-highest among TEs), but Gates averaged just 3.0 yards after the catch, which ranked 29th. Most importantly, Rivers isn't the same player he used to be. Maybe Mike McCoy and Ken Wisenhunt can spruce up this San Diego offense and Gates will rebound. But don't hold your breath.
2013 Outlook: Myers broke onto the national scene last year, finishing top six among TEs in targets, catches and receiving yards for a bad Raiders offense. Now he changes to Eli Manning and the Giants, who show an annual willingness to make fantasy stars of their tight ends. Will it happen for Myers? Certainly he's got the receiving chops; of TEs with at least 50 targets, Myers caught the highest percentage of passes thrown his way in 2012. But he had a truly awful season as a blocker. Maybe that was because of a lingering shoulder injury, or maybe he's just not a very good blocker. If the latter is true, we're worried he could find his way into Tom Coughlin's doghouse.
2013 Outlook: The good: At 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds with 4.49 40-yard speed, Cook is the pinnacle of athletic freakdom. The bad: In four NFL seasons, he's never eclipsed 49 catches or four TDs. The weird: Cook was one of this winter's most sought-after free agents, and signed with the Rams for $19 million guaranteed. Now, former St. Louis starting TE Lance Kendricks was also supposed to be freakish, and he's never caught more than 42 passes in a season. But the Rams have Cook, Chris Givens and Tavon Austin, making them one of the NFL's speediest offenses. Cook definitely has upside.
2013 Outlook: Finley never accumulated more than 72 yards receiving in a game last year, plus found the end zone only twice. In short, he was a massive fantasy disappointment. The beauty of playing with Aaron Rodgers is supposed to be a plethora of scoring opportunities, but a season after catching all eight of his TDs from inside an opponent's 12-yard line, he was a red zone afterthought. To call Finley mercurial is an insult to Lindsay Lohan; his contract drama seemingly never ends, and he spent some of 2012 criticizing Rodgers for not being a great leader. Jordy Nelson's summer knee scope could open the door for more consistent work for Finley, but we couldn't trust him to be a fantasy starter.
2013 Outlook: A freak athlete at 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Bennett is a strong blocker who possesses 4.68 40-yard speed. In his one year with Eli Manning, he showed flashes of playmaking but hyperextended his left knee in Week 5 and played hurt thereafter. Bennett has the ability to produce strong numbers in Chicago, but as with all Bears offensive weapons, his future is directly tied to whether the team can fix its awful offensive line. Brandon Marshall found a way to produce despite this toxic blocking in 2012, but that was largely because Jay Cutler flung it to him 188 times. If the QB gets better protection and can spread the targets a bit, Bennett has exciting potential.
2013 Outlook: Last year, the Lions lost receivers faster than Spinal Tap lost drummers, yet Pettigrew couldn't take advantage. His catch and yardage totals dipped to rookie-year levels and he continued his career-long problem of finding the end zone. If fantasy stardom didn't happen for Pettigrew when Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles imploded, it may never happen, even in the NFL's pass-heaviest offense. Part of Pettigrew's problem as a fantasy asset is that he's such a good blocker, and sometimes Tony Scheffler steals his looks while he's otherwise engaged. But the primary problem appears to be Pettigrew himself -- he doesn't make big plays or catch a high volume of passes. We don't view him as a fantasy starter.
2013 Outlook: Davis tested the free-agent waters this winter but found tepid league interest after his 2011 season ended with a drug suspension, and his '12 season ended with a torn Achilles. So he'll return to the Redskins on a one-year, "prove-it" deal. Washington reportedly expects both Davis and Robert Griffin III to be ready for Week 1, but there are many rehab hurdles to be overcome. Plus, the potential-laden Davis wasn't tearing it up with RGIII at the helm last year; before his injury, Davis averaged 52 receiving yards per game and caught zero TDs. If Griffin really is ready to rock, we'd be foolish to argue Davis doesn't have upside. But his risk is even more significant.