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When looking at the choices for filling the tight end position, the 2012-13 NFL season provides a variety of strategies. It's because the position is deeper than it has ever been, including a couple of record-breakers at the top of the list.
This season, two tight ends, new England's Rob Gronkowski and New Orlean's Jimmy Graham, stand far above the crowd, but each will cost you a second-round selection. Graham is currently going first with a fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP (Average Draft Position) of 16.7 while "Gronk" is going just a few picks later at 21.6.
Selecting one of them, or waiting until the larger second tier of tight ends begins to show up on draft boards in the fifth or sixth round is one of the primary questions you will have to decide on when picking your draft day strategy.
Or you could even wait until everyone else has selected their starting tight end as the position is that deep this year. If you are in a 10-team league and every other owner has selected a tight end, based on the current ADP, you could still have future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, Jermaine Gresham, Jared Cook or Coby Fleener.
But lets get back to the primary question, whether to spend a second-round pick on Graham or Gronkowski.
Gronkowski had the season of a lifetime in 2011, hauling in 90 balls for a record 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also ran one in from the two-yard line for an 18th touchdown. The only factor that has changed heading into this season is the addition to the team of a talented deep receiver in Brandon Lloyd. The Patriots didn't have that type of threat last year, but quarterback Tom Brady will likely use him frequently to open up the middle of the field for his trio of favorites - Wes Welker, Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Graham on the other hand should see more work as the team lost Robert Meachem in the offseason. The third-year tight end out of Miami, actually had more receptions than Gronkowski, 99 in all, for 1,310 yards and 11 scores. His numbers are less likely to fall than Gronkowski's totals as Meachem's spot in the starting lineup will go to Devery Henderson and his open roster spot to a rookie like Nick Toon.
If you decide to wait on the tight end and take another position in the second round, then you could end up with a player like wideout Larry Fitzgerald, Steven Jackson, Cam Newton or Marshawn Lynch. For our argument, lets say you take the Cardinals receiver Fitzgerald.
The analysis becomes; is Fitzgerald and Antonio Gates (ADP 45.7) better than or equal to Jimmy Graham and the wideout/running back you would pick in the fifth round. Again using fantasyfootballcalculator.com that choice could be BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ADP 46) or Percy Harvin (ADP 46.8).
We will keep the tight end/wide receiver combinations to make the calculations easier. Therefore, is Fitzgerald and Gates better than Graham and Harvin?
Using last year's numbers, the Fitzgerald/Gates combo would be worth 144 receptions for 2,189 yards and 15 scores while the Graham/Harvin combo was worth 186 catches for 2,277 yards and 17 scores. Winner - Graham and Harvin.
But lets look at the latest TSN projections to see what we can expect for 2012-13. The Fitzgerald/Gates combo would now be worth 163-2,349-18 while the Graham/Harvin combo 174-2,118-15. Winner - Fitzgerald/Gates.
This is how your decision-making process should work in every round. It can get even more complicated if you decide to hold off until the late rounds for a tight end. You would then have three variables for each side of the equation, the picks in the second round, fifth round and 11th round. Needless to say, it can keep your head spinning.
But if you want to win your fantasy draft this season, its the type of analysis that must be done to procure the best possible team. Good luck and good drafting.
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