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Fantasy football rankings, Week 12: Tight end features breakout candidates

Dan Ciarrocchi of Pro Football Focus breaks down the top 25 options for Week 12 and highlights three breakout candidates.

The nightmare at the tight end position in fantasy football continued last week, unless you were one of the owners who, for whatever reason, started Garrett Graham, Delanie Walker, Charles Clay or Danny Noble in your lineup.

The saving grace in all of this is that despite the aforementioned outputs, the usual suspects in fantasy lineups at least did not disappear. The likes of Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen, as a whole, could keep their fantasy owners from screaming at their television sets*

*That is, unless you had Gronk on your fantasy team and needed five more points to win as the Patriots took the field for their final drive. Lump me in that category with you.

Let's take a look at a few breakout tight ends for Week 12:


Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Washington Redskins):

The Washington Redskins defense can't stop anything right now, and they probably won't start with Vernon Davis. Davis will have the benefit of facing a secondary that has given up 19 passing touchdowns and 275 yards per game through the air, which could be just the cure for an offense struggling to pass the ball.

Not only does that bode well for the Niners' leader (besides Kaepernick) in touchdowns, but the best part is that fantasy owners have better odds than not that Davis will capitalize. He's the go-to weapon in the red zone, and the Washington Redskins defense has the lowest variance among all defensive units, according to Football Outsiders. So, not only have they been bad, but the most consistently bad, and will now face a tight end that will draw the likes of London Fletcher and Brandon Meriweather in coverage. Versus fantasy football's third-highest scoring tight end, they will have their hands full with Davis, who is a must-start in all formats.

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Arizona Cardinals):

The Arizona Cardinals defense is darn good, and has been for a while. Something that they haven't been so good at, however, is shutting tight ends down. In addition to allowing more fantasy points to all tight ends in standard leagues, the Cardinals have also allowed just over 87 yards per game to opposing tight ends this season, which is the worst mark in the NFL.

Coby Fleener is coming off the best game of his career, and it's great that Andrew Luck is finally finding his college teammate on a regular basis, what with Reggie Wayne out for the season and Darrius Heyward-Bey being unable to fill those shoes. Granted, that's a massive void to fill, but Fleener's earned the right to get more chances as the secondary target behind T.Y. Hilton. With his growing role in the offense and with the best matchup of the week, it's hard to not have Fleener in fantasy lineups in Week 12.

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons (vs. New Orleans Saints):

The Falcons are playing on Thursday night, and three-days rest is never an ideal condition for the likelihood of a 17-year veteran to take the field. But Tony Gonzalez just doesn't play by the rules, as his fantasy owners remember him barely practicing at all leading up to Week 11. But still, Gonzalez not only wound up playing in 50 of the team's 74 snaps, but managed to catch seven passes for 63 yards in a game that got out of hand quickly.

Expect the Falcons to play catch-up once again this week versus a New Orleans Saints team that, to the knowledge of football fans everywhere, can put up points at will. That will likely be the case versus a putrid Atlanta pass defense, leaving plenty of time for Gonzalez to feast on underneath and seam routes late in the game. He is fantasy football's fifth-highest scoring tight end in the league despite seemingly disappearing from the stat sheet week-to-week, and fantasy owners could do much worse than to have him in the lineup in a potential shootout.

Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 12:

Rank Player Team Opponent
1 Rob Gronkowski NE DEN
2 Jimmy Graham NO ATL
3 Vernon Davis SF WAS
4 Coby Fleener IND ARI
5 Tony Gonzalez ATL NO
6 Julius Thomas DEN NE
7 Antonio Gates SD KC
8 Jordan Reed WAS SF
9 Jason Witten DAL NYG
10 Jordan Cameron CLE PIT
11 Greg Olsen CAR MIA
12 Delanie Walker TEN OAK
13 Charles Clay MIA CAR
14 Garrett Graham HOU JAX
15 Heath Miller PIT CLE
16 Martellus Bennett CHI STL
17 Brandon Pettigrew DET TB
18 Tim Wright TB DET
19 John Carlson MIN GB
20 Mychal Rivera OAK TEN
21 Rob Housler ARI IND
22 Brandon Myers NYG DAL
23 Andrew Quarless GB MIN
24 Anthony Fasano KC SD
25 Jeff Cumberland NYJ BAL

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