Week 1 of the regular season is basically here, with the first game being just days away. Your fantasy drafts might already be complete, or you're getting around to them right now. Maybe you're going to go with a player who is questionable to be ready this first week, or perhaps you just forgot about your tight end position. Whatever the reason, we've got you covered with a few sleepers for the first week of the regular season below:
While the modern day Patriots didn't invent the two tight end set, they might as well have. They perfected the system in which both are used as effective pass-catchers, and without Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady will be looking for someone to step up. Sudfeld has the size and skill to step into that role. Sudfeld is especially smart as a Week 1 option due to the fact that Rob Gronkowski is still recovering from offseason forearm and back surgery.
Fantasy owners have already started to take notice of Sudfeld, however. He's been getting drafted late so the chances of picking him up post-draft are pretty slim at this point. Still, he should be worth a look, especially if you're looking to Gronkowski as an option later in the season. There's also the fact that the Bills were just OK when it came to stopping tight ends, last season.
Pettigrew is coming off a middling season in which he caught 59 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns. He also fumbled the ball four times and generally had a down year in comparison to 2011. That said, he's only 28 years old, is in a contract year and is in the most pass-happy offense in the NFL.
Matthew Stafford attempted 727 passes last season, thanks in part to the fact that Calvin Johnson is just ridiculous and almost broke 2,000 receiving yards. But someone else needs to step up and get some of those yards, and Pettigrew is as smart an option as any. Couple that with the fact that the Lions have still not figured out their running back position, and you get some nice targets for Pettigrew.
The Lions take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1. Minnesota ended up giving up 781 yards and seven touchdowns to tight ends in the regular season last year. Pettigrew will have plenty of opportunities against a Minnesota defense in transition, especially in the secondary.
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Sure, he's not Dennis Pitta, who is headed for injured reserve with the possible return designation for later in the season, but Dickson has a lot going for him. For one, he's looked pretty good when he's actually out there getting targets. He managed 528 yards and a touchdown in 2011, prior to Pitta taking over, and had 225 yards as the backup last year.
Now, he'll get the start in the team's opener against the Denver Broncos. While the Broncos have one of the better defenses in the league and are probably a lock for the playoffs, they do have some issues. On the defensive side of the ball, they will be missing some key players, such as outside linebacker Von Miller. Then there's Champ Bailey, who is injured and may not play, and general discord on that side of the ball.
On top of that, the Broncos weren't exactly superstars against tight ends last season. Denver allowed 82 receptions, 958 yards and 11 touchdowns to tight ends last season, according to FFtoday.com. That puts them two spots away from being the worst team in the league at defending tight ends in 2012.
Fleener had a disappointing rookie season, but he should improve for a number of reasons. For one, he has a full offseason with which to work with the system and Andrew Luck and for two, he has another season in the NFL, period. He's going to be the starting tight end and should be able to put up much better numbers than the 26 receptions, 281 yards and two touchdowns he put up last year.
The best thing going for him though, at least for Week 1, is the team he'll be up against: the Oakland Raiders. Currently in the middle of a giant purge of overpaid players, the Raiders are a mess. Their defense has more holes than just about any other in the league. On top of that, the Raiders ended up giving up 84 receptions for 817 yards and nine touchdowns against tight ends last season. Only six teams had worse numbers against tight ends, and only four gave up more touchdowns.