Though tight end is a deep position, it's one that is subjected to more variance at first glance than quarterbacks or running backs. Jimmy Graham's Week 6 output is a good example of this, as he failed to record a catch in a game that followed four consecutive 100-yard performances.
This week, however, there are several tight ends of all tiers that are amid good matchups, and hopefully won't discover the same fate as Graham did. But last week, for every Graham, there was a Tim Wright, Joseph Fauria, Kyle Rudolph or Dallas Clark who had surprisingly big outputs. Let's examine a few who could be in line for that this week:
WEEK 7 STUDS
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers): There's a lot to like about Tony Gonzalez, who now finds himself as the top priority in the receiving game with Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White still hobbled from ankle and hamstring injuries. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has even come out and said what all fantasy owners were thinking: Gonzalez will be featured as the Falcons' No. 1 guy. There are pros and cons about drawing that extra attention from defenses, but Gonzalez is one of the few pass catchers in the league who is open when he isn't. Expect Matt Ryan to look for him frequently, especially near the goal line.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Tennessee Titans): Davis has been one of the more boom-or-bust players in all of fantasy football, as evidenced by his week-to-week yardage totals. In his five games, he has posted 98, 20, 18, 88 and then last week's 180-yard explosion. So it's safe to say that when he's on, he's on. That could be the case this week as the 49ers face a Titans defense that houses Alterraun Verner, who is making a valid case for becoming the league's next shutdown cornerback. Verner has allowed just 11 catches in six games and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for a rating of just 15.8, tops among all corners this year. That said, Colin Kaepernick would be wise to look toward his tight end, who ought to draw less daunting matchups in coverage. If that's the case, Davis could continue his hot streak.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. Indianapolis Colts): Usually when a player is dependent on touchdowns for fantasy production, it's a bit of a red flag. But when a player like Julius Thomas plays for a team as high scoring as the Broncos, that's just fine. And when he's one of the primary targets when they get near the goal line, that's even better than fine. Through the team's first six games, Thomas has been kept out of the end zone just once, and his seven touchdowns are second in the league to teammate Wes Welker's eight. There will always be plenty of wealth to go around in Denver's offense this year, and Thomas is a good bet to cash in against the Colts.
WEEK 7 DUDS
Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta Falcons): Wright burst on the scene last week, catching seven passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in the first start of his career. He has versatility, athleticism and hands that are capable enough to have owners in deep leagues and dynasty leagues excited. However, much of his production can be attributed to the absence of wide receiver Mike Williams, who missed last week's game with a hamstring injury, but should be back this week. With a reliable receiver like him back in the mix, that may dilute the targets too much for Wright to capitalize on as he did in his breakout game. Wright is worth a stash in deep leagues, but owners would be better suited to wait and see how he does for one more week before penning him into lineups.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins (vs. Buffalo Bills): Though the Buffalo defense has been far from perfect, one thing it has done particularly well has been keeping tight ends from beating the Bills. They have allowed an average of 42 yards per game to opposing tight ends, which is fourth in the NFL. Clay has already surprised owners with a consistent, touchdown-dependent output from week to week, but leaves much to be desired in terms of yardage, with the exception of a 109-yard performance versus the Colts in Week 2. It's too much to ask for Clay to score touchdowns at the rate he has thus far (three in five games), and a regression may be in order. This could be the week it begins.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions (vs. Cincinnati Bengals): Three touchdowns in one game is sure to raise eyebrows of fantasy owners everywhere. Unfortunately, relying 100 percent on touchdowns for fantasy production isn't a good strategy for your standard formats. He's a 6'7 behemoth who the Lions clearly view as a red zone threat, but with Calvin Johnson a week removed from his knee injury, expect him to retake primary duties in that department. Fauria has only been targeted nine times on the season, and has only run 29 routes as well. It's a big gamble to expect consistent fantasy production from someone who has only caught seven passes on the year.
Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 7: