Sleepers & Values: TEs
The tight end position looks to be very top-heavy heading into the 2013 season. Jimmy Graham sits on top of the mountain and looks like a rock-solid pick in the 2nd round, but with Rob Gronkowski's back surgery, Dennis Pitta's hip injury and the incarceration of Aaron Hernandez, the top of the position has thinned out quickly.
If I miss out on Graham in the 2nd, I'll typically wait until the 4th-6th rounds and target Jason Witten, Vernon Davis or Tony Gonzalez. Witten and Gonzo offer boring consistency, while Davis should see an increase in targets given Michael Crabtree's absence due to a Achilles injury. Kyle Rudolph has some upside but it's hard to get excited about the Vikings' passing game. I worry about his involvement outside the red zone.
As for Gronkowski, owners who are not risk-adverse could pull the trigger as early as the 3rd round, but the 4th round would be more palatable. If he only misses a couple of games, he'll be a good value, especially if his owners can also grab Zach Sudfeld as a handcuff.
Here are eight tight ends that are interesting picks in the middle and later rounds:
Owen Daniels, Texans (12-Team ADP: 9.11)
In his last 34 games (including the playoffs) Daniels has averaged 4.1-48-.26, which equates to #8 TE numbers in our current projections. He was actually better in 2012 than he was in 2011, which disputes the notion that he's over the hill at age 30. He is probably the most boring player in this list, but boring production gets the job done. He could see an increase in TDs with James Casey gone, so he's a good player to grab alongside an upside play. At worst, fantasy owners should get low-end "baseline" production.
Jermichael Finley, Packers (8.08)
Finley has a tantalizing skill set, but drops have been a serious problem throughout his career and he has put the blame on some mysterious lack of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. But over the last seven games, Finley cut way back on the drops while averaging 4.6-57-.14, which equates to TE10 numbers over the course of a full season. HC Mike McCarthy said that Finley was a "different man" after the team's Week 10 bye, which coincided with the initiation of weekly game planning meetings with Rodgers. Finley's strong finish may translate to 2013; he's focused again as he enters another contract year. (Update: Finley has drawn raves from the coaching staff, and is primed for a good season.)