The tight end position is an interesting one, to say the least. It is extremely important to have one good tight end, but it is completely useless to have two good ones. I wouldn't be too surprised if the NFL format made tight ends eligible for the flex position in the near future. Last season was an unbelievable year for the tight end position, with two of them breaking effectively all of the single season tight end records. It should be no surprise that those two tight ends lead off the list of best tight ends in Fantasyland going forward.
My Top 10 Tight Ends of 2012: (Compare to NFL Analysts' Top TEs)
1. Jimmy Graham: If Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez were alone for the Patriots, they would hold this spot, but I would not risk my tight end having looks taken by a different tight end. Graham was nearly unstoppable last season, and there is really no reason to expect anything new this season. Grabbing Graham early might be more valuable than grabbing a wide receiver, since there are so many relatively good receivers out there. Think late second round for this guy, because he will consistently score WR level points at a typically inconsistent position.
2. Rob Gronkowski: Read above for why this guy is number two. I expect his numbers to be down a little this season. Keep in mind that Hernandez was injured on-and-off all last season. I think Hernandez is the more athletic player, but Gronkowski has had more of an opportunity to build rapport with Tom Brady meaning that he is still more valuable.
3. Aaron Hernandez: This guy is a lot like Jimmy Graham and he is a great consolation prize if you miss out on Grok or Graham. He is going to be less consistent, but I feel like he is much more likely to have monster yardage games. He feels faster than Gronkowski, and he started getting some carries towards the end of last season. If this guy is put in as halfback more often he will have huge value.
4. Antonio Gates: This guy can be amazing if he stays healthy. Even at 31, he should be one of the strongest weapons for a Chargers team that just keeps bleeding talent. Don't pass on this guy in the 6th round, but don't reach for him either. He has been plagued by injuries recently.
5. Jason Witten: As long as Romo plays, Witten scores big. Tony Romo loves this guy as a security blanket. He is a strong player who is still outplaying some of the younger tight ends. This might be his last really great season, but since Robinson left the Cowboys he might get more looks.
6. Jermichael Finley: This guy suffers from the strength of the Packers receiving corps and his propensity for dropping passes. He could have a break out season if the Packers suffer many injuries on offense, but he could fade into obscurity if he doesn't show up hungry to compete this season.
7. Vernon Davis: Can you imagine the value of this guy with a strong quarterback? Unfortunately, he just hasn't won the eye of Alex Smith. This is one player who might actually improve thanks to the improved strength of those around him. Defenders will be less able to key on him, meaning that he could see more single coverage or linebacker coverage. This is a wait and see situation, but he is a steal in the 6th or 7th round.
8. Fred Davis: This is a risky call. If Rex Grossman was the starter, Davis would be, well, right here on the list. This placement is assuming that RGIII can be as good as Rex Grossman was last season. Don't overdraft him, but don't let his potential slip by.
9. Brent Celek: He is young and full of potential. If the Eagles do a better job of not imploding this season, he should really play well. He is more of a red zone threat than a big yardage guy, but I think Vick could start keying on him more this season.
10. Jacob Tamme: Manning loves his tight ends. Manning and Tamme played together in Indy. This seems like it should be a great pairing, but I just don't feel it for some reason.
The value of these tight ends really levels out at about the 8th position. Almost every other tight end in the league is borderline "worth-owning" in the league. Look at the possibility for a Lions tight end to break out this year. Additionally, if Flynn or Kolb play well this season, look for their tight ends to step up in a decent way.