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Not much can stop Rob Gronkowski - and that includes a four-game suspension of his starting QB. Gronk is still the king at his position even though he had neither the most TDs nor the most receptions among TEs last year - and even though NE's two-TE plays this year will feature a former Bear who could challenge him for targets.
Here are my top 15 TEs:
1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
The category he did lead the position in is yards, with 1,176, best since his 2011 career high of 1,300-plus. His angry QB should be throwing him a lot of deep passes this year, with relatively little in the way of reliable talent at WR.
2. Jordan Reed, WAS
Benefited from QB Kirk Cousin's second-half torching of opposing defenses, and collected 87 reception and 11 TDs, both second among TEs. 952 receiving yards last year, and Cousins helps him toward 1,100 this year as he has room to continue improving.
3. Greg Olsen, CAR
If you want reliable stats, and Gronk's injury history concerns you, Olsen hasn't missed a game since his 2007 rookie year with the Bears, and had a career-high 1,104 yards last season. A recurring target for QB Cam Newton.
4. Delanie Walker, TEN
Despite a pre-season health scare, he's poised for a second-straight top five season. His position-leading 94 catches last year and 1,088 yards suggest a higher ranking, though QB Marcus Mariota has a WR upgrade in Rishard Matthews who could steal targets.
5. Travis Kelce, KC
After two seasons of just under 900 yards receiving and five TDs, he still has us thinking bigger, like 1,000 and 10, but probably a gamble putting him any higher than this.
6. Coby Fleener, NO
Another would-be breakout who just hasn't gotten there. His supposed rapport with his college QB in IND never amounted to much, but now he's with QB legend Drew Brees, who still aches for a Jimmy Graham replacement. Fleener like will see career-high targets.
7. Zach Ertz, PHI
A lot of people calling for a breakout after 75 catches, 853 yards, but just two TDs last year. Maybe less of a gamble than Fleener if you miss out on the first five TEs, but want someone with a solid season already on the books.
8. Antonio Gates, SD
The old man is hanging in there. He missed five games last year, but his 56 catches for 630 yards and five TDs is pretty good for the time he saw, and QB Philip Rivers throws more than any other QB.
9. Gary Barnidge, CLE
Last year's biggest TE surprise and nine TDs and 1,043 yards, so why so low? The Browns were decimated at WR, and really the entire offense. This pre-season, WRs Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman already look great, and the RG-3 experiment at QB just might work.
10. Tyler Eifert, CIN
Led all TEs with 13 TDs, as QB Andy Dalton threw to him repeatedly in the red zone and almost nowhere else, as a relatively low 615 yards suggests. Coming off tough injury, and looking like he won't return until at least Week 4, though maybe later.
11. Martellus Bennett, NE
Gronk is No. 1 in NE, but Brady has never had a second TE in his two-TE sets with Bennett's ability. So is he second choice or will he actually steal some of Gronk's thunder? Whatever the case, I think he gets enough targets to be a borderline fantasy starter.
12. Julius Thomas, JAC
Had two straight seasons of 12 TDs with Peyton Manning in DEN, and we weren't expecting that with Blake Bortles, but his 455 yards and five TDs in 12 games last year left us wanting. This year, he may benefit from opposition scrambling to cover JAC's great WRs.
13. Dwayne Allen, IND
Very little to recommend him, but really just speculating here that he gets more attention with Fleener gone from IND and QB Andrew Luck looking to pass a lot as he tries to rebound from a lost season.
14. Eric Ebron, DET
A potential draft-and-stash target to see how much work he gets in what should be a fast-paced DET offense. Had five TDs last year and a lot of people like him as an eventual breakout, but has missed much of the preseason with injury issues.
15. Zach Miller, CHI
The Bears have looked so bad so far, not sure what to think about Miller, but he had a couple big games last year built on just a couple big plays. Another to pick and put on the bench to see how often he's targeted, and how often he turns in more big plays.
Just Missed: Jimmy Graham, SEA
He sure fell fast after injuries and poor usage by SEA. I think he's a decent candidate to improve on 650 or so yards and two TDs last year, but there's already an injury issue lingering over his Week 1 status.
Sleeper: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TAM
Still waiting for his follow-up on a 110 yards, two-TD performance in last year's opener, but he wallowed for most of last season. Everyone loves QB Jameis Winston as a breakout this year, so wouldn't be surprised if ASJ feeds off that for his own big year.
* Part 1: The Top 20: New World Order.
* Part 2: Year of the Zero RB.
* Part 3: Embrace The Targets.
* Part 4: Throwing Deep.
Disco Danny O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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