The tight end position for 2012 has a wide range of talent, and while I would consider this position deep this year there are still a lot of question marks. The tight end position has slowly evolved through the years from block first catch second, to catch first and rarely block. Most tight ends in the league now are heavily involved in the passing game, and with more teams running with two tight end sets this has made it a lot easier to find a viable tight end on draft day.
The days of Antonio Gates and Jason Witten being the first tight ends off the board are over, and if you think the first tight ends will be drafted around the fourth round like normal then you have another thing coming. If you want to get one of the top two tight ends this year you better be ready to pony up and pay full price. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski had two of the best years for tight ends in the history of the game, and if you want one of these guys you are going to have to use your second round pick to get them. In my opinion I think that price tag is a little steep, but the potential for return on investment is certainly there. I see no reason why both these guys can’t have solid years again, but I would be surprised if they surpass their numbers from a year ago.
There is a big drop off after the top two tight ends go off the board, but there are still some high upside guys that you can get in the middle rounds. You can go with younger higher upside guys like Jermichael Finley or Aaron Hernandez, but there are still some older more proven options like Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. These guys don’t have the upside potential as the top tier guys, but they come at a much cheaper price.
This year more than most I am really excited about a few tight ends that are going to go pretty late in most drafts. There are a lot of options, and at least a handful of guys that I think could be top 5 tight ends, but you will be able to get them many rounds later than the big name guys. Guys like Brandon Pettigrew, Jacob Tamme, Fred Davis, Jermaine Gresham, and Jared Cook all have huge potential and could have breakout campaigns in 2012.
Personally, I prefer to gamble at the tight end position and try to find the breakout guy every year rather than using a good draft pick to get one of the big name guys. Another reason I do this is because even if i guess wrong with my later round gamble, it isn’t that hard to trade for a decent tight end if needed. There are normally a couple teams that end up with two solid tight ends, and since they can only start one I have found it’s not that hard to pry one away.
While I would never say that taking Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham in the second round is a bad pick, it is not what I would suggest doing on draft day. There are just too many other options at this position, and I would much rather take Jared Cook or Jermaine Grehsam in the later rounds and save my second round pick for a top receiver, running back, or quarterback. Normally when I look at the tight end rankings there are only about 8 guys or so that I am excited about maybe owning. However, this year there are about 12 really good options at this position, and my advice would be to wait on draft day and and take one of the high upside tight ends in the later rounds.