Tight end is, and will forever remain, the thinnest position for fantasy football purposes. About half of all NFL teams have a usable fantasy tight end and an even smaller few have a legitimate every-week impact player at the position. Which is what made it so rough to see two guys who’ve been the first tight ends off draft boards for most of the past half-decade go down on Sunday.
Jimmy Graham suffered a torn patella tendon Sunday evening and will miss the rest of the year. Granted, the Seahawks’ version of Graham wasn’t the statistical beast fans had grown accustomed to, but he was still a top-10 tight end and one who, if in part due to name value, was seen as an every-week start. Though Graham’s injury isn’t a good thing for fantasy owners, his inconsistency should make it a survivable loss.
Pay no attention to Graham’s replacement, Luke Willson, in his absence. If Graham wasn’t producing then there’s no reason to think he will.
As for Gronkowski, his situation’s a bit more uncertain. He sustained a bruised knee, but, given how he was writhing in pain after the hit he took, that’s a blessing for New England. He figures to miss at least this next game, however, which is a tough draw for his fantasy owners being that he’s currently fantasy’s top-ranked tight end and the fantasy playoffs are in sight.
Unlike Graham, Gronkowski’s primary backup, Scott Chandler, should be added if at all possible, but he’s going to be a hot waiver claim this week and so you’ll want to have a backup plan. That’s where Atlanta Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme comes in.
Tamme isn’t a guy who will win a week, but rarely will he lose one either. He’s consistently decent, with at least 61 yards in four of his last seven. He’s also consistently available, being owned in just a quarter of ESPN.com leagues. If you’ve got a strong team regardless of tight end, Tamme’s the sort of guy you can plug in and expect at least four points, rather than the all-or-nothing sort of play that could cost you a win in this crucial point of the season. He carries a little added value in PPR leagues.
With Matt Ryan struggling recently, he may look to simplify things and Tamme provides a safety net in that regard and could see his targets increase. And depending on the game plan, he occasionally see bulk targets anyways. He’s gotten at least five targets in 7-of-10 games this year and has gotten double-digit in three of those contests, turning in 23 catches for 266 yards and a score in those games.
The primary area of concern with Tamme is that he just hasn’t gotten into the end zone often (he has one touchdown reception this year). That’s partially because the Falcons have struggled mightily inside the 20-yard line, with Ryan leading the NFL in red-zone interceptions. But the fact that Tamme doesn’t have overwhelming size or athletic ability is certainly a factor, as well.
Ultimately, Tamme doesn’t have the upside of Chandler in the sense that he’s less likely to give you a multi-touchdown game, but there’s comfort in reliability. If he gets his five-plus targets and turns that into 40 or 50 yards, you’ll survive and if he does more you’re ecstatic to do more than hold your serve.