In the ongoing discussion of tight ends, better known as fantasy football's most unpredictable position, things get a little clearer when looking at one week as opposed to projecting an entire season. Several matchups in the NFL's opening week raise a few eyebrows, and it's worth examining a few of the notables along with the overall rankings:
Week One Studs
Jimmy Graham: After Vernon Davis and Zach Miller decimated the Falcons defense with 100-yard performances in the playoffs, the team now has to figure out a way to stop Jimmy Graham. The top-scoring tight end of 2012 recorded his season-high of 146 receiving yards during the team's first two meetings a season ago, and it would come as a surprise to no one if Graham found a way to do that again.
Jared Cook: There's been a growing rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford ever since the summer began, and amid what's looking to be a pass-heavy offense in St. Louis, Cook should be a big beneficiary. He faces a Cardinals defense that struggled versus tight ends a season ago, and has a potential mismatch to exploit in the slot if 5'9 cornerback Javier Arenas will be relied upon to mirror the massive tight end. Though the distribution of targets in a new-look Rams offense remains to be seen, Cook has enough big-play ability to warrant the start this week.
Jason Witten: Witten's 110 catches for a tight end set an NFL record in 2013, and the scariest part is, he didn't hit his stride until Week Four due to a lacerated spleen. This year, that stride ought to be hit earlier, as he once again faces a Giants team that he abused in 2012. The Giants just simply don't have the defensive personnel to keep a handle on him, and though it'd be foolish to expect another 18-catch performance from Witten, it certainly wouldn't be foolish to expect a huge game regardless. Start him with confidence.
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Week One Duds
Jermaine Gresham: It's not that Gresham isn't talented enough to overcome a difficult matchup, but better options will present themselves this week. In addition to facing one of the league's better coverage units, no defense posted a better DVOA against tight ends a season ago than the Bears according to Pro Football Outsiders. Couple that with having his reps diluted by rookie Tyler Eifert, there just may not be enough love to go around that would make Gresham a safe start this week.
Brent Celek: Unlike Gresham's situation, the Redskins struggled to contain tight ends and bigger receivers last season, so it's not the matchup that's unfavorable to Celek. It's the fact that we just don't know exactly how involved he will be in the receiving game in Chip Kelly's new offense, especially with James Casey and Zach Ertz in the mix as well. Celek has had plenty of fantasy value in the past, but Week One is definitely a "wait and see" week for him.
Antonio Gates: Gates remains near the top of the Chargers pecking order for targets, but with a lack of weapons around him, that's a position he has by default. In Week One, he will face an unforgiving defense in Houston, a unit that ranked fourth in DVOA versus tight ends. Gates could be looked upon often due to a trench battle that's heavily tilted toward the Texans and could receive his share of checkdown options. However, his lack of ability to gain separation doesn't instill enough confidence that he will capitalize. Options at the position with better matchups would be the wiser start this week.
Take a look at how the rest of the tight ends stack-up this week: