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2016 Fantasy Football Positional Preview - Tight Ends and Defenses

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Counting down the defenses and tight ends for your fantasy draft

Gronk Spike!
Gronk Spike!
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Positional Preview -€” Tight Ends and Defenses

We're working through each of the major positions for the upcoming fantasy football season. To be clear, this is a fake football article. We will discuss players in tiers and a little strategy along the way. Rankings within a tier are less important than the tier the player appears in. As always, your thoughtful comments are welcome below. We'll run through these rankings in countdown style. Team and bye week are listed for convenience. We're ranking 25 Tight Ends and 20 Defenses. This is our last positional preview as I do not use kickers in fantasy #killthekicker

Let's start with defenses

Tier 4 -€” Bye Week Plays

20. Baltimore Ravens, 8

19. Chicago Bears, 9

18. Washington Redskins, 9

17. Jacksonville Jaguars, 5

16. Miami Dolphins, 8

15. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8

Keep an eye on these teams when we get to the bye weeks and play the matchups. However, make sure you're not counting on any of these teams on a week to week basis. The Jaguars are all projection here with the influx of young talent (Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, Myles Jack). Yes, I do think the Bears can post some good weeks defensively as I really like the improvements to the front 7 and there are a few interesting matchups on the schedule

Tier 3 -€” Low end starters

14. Philadelphia Eagles, 4

13. New York Jets, 11

12. Oakland Raiders, 10

11. Cincinnati Bengals, 9

I might be high on the Eagles, but I really like the talent on that side of the ball. The problem is what their offense lacks and how that might impact gameflow and tire out the defense. The Jets, Raiders, and Bengals all have a ton of talent and defensive minded coaches to help get the most out of it. These teams should be there late for those that like to wait until the last possible moment.

Tier 2 -€” Solid Starters

10. New England Patriots, 9

9. Minnesota Vikings, 6

8. Buffalo Bills, 10

7. Los Angeles Rams, 8

6. Houston Texans, 9

5. Kansas City Chiefs, 5

A Bill Belichick defense is almost always a solid buy and this year should be no exception. The Rams team in general is tough to figure out but Aaron Donald is a beast and has some talent surrounding him. The problem is the 4 games against Seattle and Arizona. All of these tiers offer a high potential for sacks and turnovers, which is what we like, but only one has JJ Watt, who gets to feast on AFC South offenses. The Chiefs are an underrated group that will serve you well if you miss out on the group below.

Tier 1 -€” Elite

4. Denver Broncos, 11

3. Carolina Panthers, 7

2. Arizona Cardinals, 9

1. Seattle Seahawks, 5

I get it if you're all over the Von Miller Broncos and want to double down with them. I simply can't put them higher than 4 because of the questions on offense. Ideally, you want your fantasy defense to be playing with leads, which forces offenses to abandon the run and pass into nickel and dime sets to force turnovers. I don't see a lot of that in Denver this year. The Cardinals and Seahawks are interchangeable and have similar arguments for their greatness. The dynamic playmakers on Arizona make them the better threat to score defensive touchdowns but Seattle has a proven track record of shutting down opponents and racking up points that way. Both are fierce and should be in your starting lineup all year.

Now on to the Tight Ends:

Tier 6 -€” Names to keep an eye on

25. Will Tye, NYG, 8; 24. Kyle Rudolph, MIN, 6; 23. Jared Cook, GB, 4

22. Jordan Cameron, MIA, 8; 20 Charles Clay, BUF, 10; 20. Clive Walford, OAK, 10

I'd put my interest level as mild for these guys. Ideally, you only roster one tight end and not worry about the slot for the majority of the year. These guys are all gambles for one reason or another. My favorite of the bunch is Clive Walford and the Oakland offense is still evolving before our eyes. Will Tye might be lost in the targets scrum with the talent at wideout but his name has popped up before. Others are teases or low ceiling guys.

Tier 5 -€” Players with question marks

19. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB, 6

18. Gary Barnidge, CLE, 13

17. Eric Ebron, DET, 10

16. Zach Miller, CHI, 9

15. Jason Witten, DAL, 7

14. Jimmy Graham, SEA, 5

I'm not buying the Gary Barnidge late career bloom but I'm more than happy to let you do it. Ebron suffered a leg injury in camp and he hasn't done anything to justify his high draft status and Seferian-Jenkins was dropped on the depth chart at one point. Witten is a Hall of Famer but at this point in his career, the ceiling is low. Graham and, to a lesser extent, Miller have some of the best pass catching ability but injury concerns are completely valid. I know a lot of guys on here love Miller and I want to be wrong on this ranking.

Tier 4 -€” For the Gamblers

13. Martellus Bennett, NE, 9

12. Dwayne Allen, IND, 10

11. Antonio Gates, SD, 11

10. Coby Fleener, NO, 5

9. Zach Ertz, PHI, 4

Former teammates Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen don't have to split reps or targets anymore and now have elite QBs throwing them the ball. What can they do with it? Gates held off Father Time last year for an incredibly productive run -€” can he do it again? It's easy money if he can stay on the field. Will Marty Bennett fill get enough targets to justify playing in the Brady offense? He'll probably be the 4th option -€” you willing to gamble? Ertz has the talent but does Bradford?

Tier 3 -€” Semi-Elite

8. Julius Thomas, JAC, 5

7. Ladarius Green, PIT, 8

6. Tyler Eifert, CIN, 9

5. Delanie Walker, TEN, 13

Thomas is the once great target for Peyton Manning and I expect an uptick this year with the high volume Bortles offense. Total projection for Ladarius Green here as he's done little to earn this rank but that Pittsburgh offense is so good and no one to challenge for targets. Eifert proved his worth last year and I'd expect more this year with the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Delanie Walker is so close to the next tier but admittedly, he's a better real life tight end than fantasy. He's completely worth his price tag and a great consolation if you miss out on Tier 2.

Tier 2 -€” Elite

4. Travis Kelce, KC, 5

3. Jordan Reed, WAS, 9

2. Greg Olsen, CAR, 7

The ceiling on Kelce is probably a little higher than Reed or Olsen but the offensive system keeps him at 4. He's a great talent that can take over games and more balls seem to find him when a big play is needed. Jordan Reed put up a sick stretch with Kirk Cousins last year and expectations are high. If he can stay healthy, he'll turn a profit. Olsen is the safest pick of the tight end group. Ultra-durable, a real rapport with Cam, and that veteran always open savvy bonus that comes with experience in this league. I'm willing to grab a guy in this tier before filling in a WR3, which usually puts the value at rounds 5-6. Before then is a bit of a gamble to fill out your roster.

Tier 1 -€” Gronk

1.       Rob Gronkowski, NE, 9

The man gets his own tier. What more is there to say? He'll probably go in the first round of your draft and if that is unpalatable to you, well, don't get mad when he beats you with crazy Gronk stuff. He's the best player at this position by a wide margin and is putting together a Hall of Fame resume. He may not be the smartest guy in the world, but you're not putting together a Math Olympiads team. Draft. Gronk Spike. Win.