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Fantasy football rankings, Week 17: Tight end features breakout candidates

Dan Ciarrocchi of Pro Football Focus breaks down the top 25 options for Week 17 and highlights three breakout candidates.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

For fantasy owners maximizing their fantasy seasons, Week 17 provides a bit of a mixed bag. Teams may opt to rest their starters during meaningless games -- and there are quite a few -- between teams that are locked into playoff seeding and ones that are eliminated from playoff contention. As a result, players that may have gotten owners so far into the season may prove little to no value in the league's most important game.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't value to be had. Some teams are playing for their lives, and ones that aren't could be paving the way for nice sleeper options. Let's examine a few of those for 2013's fantasy football finale:


Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

It's fair for fantasy owners who have Vernon Davis on their rosters to be upset over him posting zero catches in Week 16. However, they are about to find out why holding grudges in fantasy football is one of the worst things to do. If owners somehow stayed alive despite Davis' goose egg, they would be wise to give him another chance against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals have given up far and away the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, including 16 touchdowns. Davis remembers that fact well, as it is no coincidence that he had his best game of the season against them, catching eight passes for 180 yards and a pair of scores. With the 49ers still in contention for the NFC's top playoff seed, they won't rest their starters or ease up on the gas. Start Davis with confidence one last time.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

In an alarming trend in the eyes of fantasy owners, Graham played just 54 percent of the New Orleans Saints' snaps on Sunday. But even in a game where Drew Brees struggled against an imposing defense, and in a torrential downpour, Graham still posted five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. The moral of the story is even when factors do not go toward Graham's favor, he is far and away the most valuable tight end in fantasy football and remains a must-start every week. That includes Week 17.

Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota Vikings)

Though the Detroit Lions do not have a playoff spot to play for, that doesn't mean that nothing can be gained for fantasy owners from a team that is in evaluation mode. Brandon Pettigrew is on injured reserve, and there is a chance that the ailing Calvin Johnson could be kept out of action in a meaningless game. Add it all up, and the team's only healthy tight end, Joseph Fauria, could be in line for a role that expands far beyond his usual goal-line duties. The 6'7 target could see himself thrust into a prominent role with the Lions lacking receiving weapons, and fantasy owners could do far worse than taking a flier on him.

Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 17:

Rank Player Team Opponent
1 Jimmy Graham NO TB
2 Vernon Davis SF ARI
3 Julius Thomas DEN OAK
4 Tony Gonzalez ATL CAR
5 Greg Olsen CAR ATL
6 Charles Clay MIA NYJ
7 Antonio Gates SD KC
8 Martellus Bennett CHI GB
9 Delanie Walker TEN HOU
10 Jason Witten DAL PHI
11 Joseph Fauria DET MIN
12 Ryan Griffin HOU TEN
13 Coby Fleener IND JAC
14 Heath Miller PIT CLE
15 Dennis Pitta BAL CIN
16 Marcedes Lewis JAC TEN
17 Brandon Myers NYG WAS
18 Jared Cook STL SEA
19 Zach Miller SEA STL
20 Andrew Quarless GB CHI
21 Scott Chandler BUF NE
22 Zach Ertz PHI DAL
23 Brent Celek PHI DAL
24 Tyler Eifert CIN BAL
25 Logan Paulsen WAS NYG

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