It's difficult not to turn fantasy football tight end posts into 1,000-word love fests about Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, but when they top the ranks at the position like they did in Week 9, it is going to be hard not to. This week Gronkowski is on a bye, which paves the way for other tight ends to assert their own fantasy football value.
On the other side of the coin, things don't get much better for tight ends as a whole outside of a select few this week. That's essentially been the case all season. There's production to be had, but owners have had to dig deep to find out where it will be coming from. Week 10's rankings is a good place to start, but let's get to that right after I highlight a few studs and duds to take note of.
WEEK 10 STUDS
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (vs. Dallas Cowboys):
No one needs to be reminded of how much of a stud Jimmy Graham is in fantasy, but it's worth mentioning that he is racking up fantasy points at a rate comparable to Rob Gronkowski's monster 2011 season. And by the way, Gronk set a record for tight ends with 17 receiving touchdowns that season, a record Graham is currently on pace to shatter after catching 10 touchdowns in his first eight games.
Fantasy's highest-scoring tight end of the past two weeks, as well as the entire season, is in line to finish with 98 catches for 1,492 yards and 20 touchdowns. The yardage and touchdowns would be career highs, and in Week 10, Graham gets to face a Dallas Cowboys team that has allowed the second-most points to opposing tight ends this season. Once again, Graham owners should be able to sit back, relax and watch the fantasy points pile up.
Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (vs. San Diego Chargers):
It's been rough goings for Julius Thomas in recent weeks after getting off to such a torrid start to the season, and compounding matters further is an ankle injury that he suffered against the Washington Redskins before the bye. That shouldn't be a concern, as Thomas' ankle sprain was never meant to be serious, and he returned to the team's Wednesday practice after having the week to rest.
Though Thomas will face a Chargers team that has been stingy versus tight ends, it has not been so against the pass as a whole, giving up an average of 272 yards through the air. Like every other team, the Chargers will have to worry first about locking down the likes of Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, and that worry has allowed Thomas to break free for easy scores. Expect that to happen again in a potential shootout at Mile High.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (vs. Denver Broncos):
Speaking of said shootout in Denver, Antonio Gates is poised to be another player to cash in despite his four-game touchdown drought. Gates still remains heavily involved in the Chargers passing game despite the emergence of players like Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, as Gates remains on pace to snag a career-high 96 passes.
Against a Broncos team that has allowed four 100-yard games to tight ends this season already, Gates looks like a prime tight end to start this week. It will take all hands on deck for the Chargers to keep up with the Broncos' high-octane offense, and Gates ought to draw plenty of attention from long-time quarterback Philip Rivers in the process.
WEEK 9 DUDS
Martelus Bennett owners better pray that Jay Cutler comes back earlier than expected. Although Josh McCown has exceeded expectations as Cutler's replacement, it's left Bennett's production out in the cold. Bennett averaged 7.5 targets with Cutler under center, while McCown has thrown Bennett's way 11 times in two games, resulting in just 43 yards.
The Detroit Lions present a favorable matchup for Bennett, who caught eight passes for a season-high 90 yards against them in Week 4, but it's clear that his involvement in the receiving game remains behind that of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte. Because there is not much depth at the tight end position, Bennett's worth a desperation start, but just that.
Boy, do Greg Olsen's fantasy owners miss Rob Chudzinski's play calling. Olsen has turned into a touchdown-dependent option who is not getting the looks at nearly as high a frequency as he did in 2012, and though he has strung together two nice weeks, expect that to come to an abrupt halt. The 49ers have allowed an average of 45 yards per game to opposing tight ends, which doesn't bode well for a player who is only averaging 38 yards per game over the past month. The odds of Olsen finding the end zone are always decent, but it's a lot to bank on during a game that could turn into a defensive slugfest. If possible, owners who are seeking production from a tight end would be advised to look elsewhere this week.
Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 10: