Special to FV by Matt Swedlund
1. Jimmy Graham NO @ NYJ
Jimmy Graham is dealing with a foot injury that limited his snaps in week eight but that didn't limit his potency in the end zone as he grabbed two TD's on three targets and three receptions. Even with an injury and a low volume of targets Graham is a must start simply because of his dominance in the red zone. Through seven games he has 10 targets, seven receptions and six TD's inside the twenty. Odds are if he gets the ball in the red zone its crossing the goal line for six. The Jets defense has had issues covering opposing TE's and have allowed the 10th most receiving yards against the position along with four TD's in four different weeks. Rob Gronkowski made a triumphant return to the league to the tune of 114 yards against them in week seven so as long as Graham is in uniform he is top TE every week.
2. Jordan Cameron CLE vs. BAL
Jordan Cameron should not be producing at the level he is currently due to the obstacles stacked against him. Not only does he play for the woeful Browns, but he's been catching passes from two different sub-par QB's without much of a running game to give him space. Yet through eight weeks he's scored in four out of eight games and has four games of 80 yards or more. Like Graham he's a beast in the red zone with nine receptions on 15 targets (eight more than the next closest receiver) and six TD's. He has a good matchup this week as only seven teams have allowed more receiving yards to TE's than the Ravens, and Cameron already put a 95 spot on them in week two. Tim Couch could take a hiatus from blabbering about the SEC on Fox Sports South to start for the Browns this week and I'd still give Cameron a TE1 ranking.
3. Rob Gronkowski NE vs. PIT
Do you think Tom Brady was happy to have Rob Gronkowski back in week seven? I'm going out on a limb to say that eight receptions on 17 targets for 114 yards speaks for itself. Unfortunately he followed that up with a dud in week eight but the Patriots shelved the passing game against Miami and steamrolled them on the ground all day long. He almost had a product day as Brady found him for a 40-yard TD strike but it was negated on a holding call. Pittsburgh has been tough against opposing TE's as only two teams have allowed fewer scores and fewer yardage to the position this season. This is largely due to them facing an overall lack of talent at the position, something that Gronk has in spades despite not being 100%. The new-found running game is a bit concerning but even if his yards are down Gronk is always a threat inside the red zone where he lead the team in scores in 2012 with eight despite not playing a full season.
4. Jason Witten DAL vs. MIN
Week eight was not a good one for Jason Witten, and he ended it with the league lead in shouting matches with Dez Bryant. He is Tony Romo's second favorite target in the red zone with three receptions on eight targets for three TD's. Only the aforementioned tantrum thrower has had more success in the red zone for the Cowboys and only the Cardinals have allowed more TE's scores than Witten's week nine opponent the Vikings. The Vikings have yet to allow 100 yards to a TE but have allowed multiple TD games twice to the position. At the end of the day Witten is still the second most targeted receiver on the Cowboys and a game against a severely depleted Minnesota secondary is just what the doctored ordered.
5. Jordan Reed WAS vs. SD
Jordan Reed's season has been a slow burn that final burst into an open flame in the last two weeks with 224 yards and a score. He's Robert Griffin III's favorite targets, but his skills will be put to the test this week against a Chargers team that has allowed the seventh fewest yards to TE's and hasn't allowed a TD to the position since week two. Reed is now second on the Redskins in red zone targets and receptions, which further cements his growing star in the fantasy football world.
6. Antonio Gates SD @ WAS
My Gates, My Gates, why hath thou forsaken me? After putting up a career resurgent 438 yards and two scores through the first five weeks Antonio Gates has left fantasy managers wanting with back-to-back painful games in weeks six and seven. The bye week couldn't have come at a better time and hopefully with recharged batteries after a couple relaxing balneotherapy sessions at the local spa he's ready to go up against a soft Redskins defense. While only five teams have allowed fewer yards to opposing TE's, only the Cardinals have allowed more TD's to the position than Washington through eight weeks. Gates two week slide should come to an end this week in the nation's capital and I have ranked as a solid TE1.
7. Martellus Bennett CHI @ GB
Martellus Bennett sits just outside the top 10 TE's in receiving yards, but his four scores including a short red zone TD last week are sixth best in the league. He is third on the team in targets with 47 and that should continue even with Jay Cutler out for a couple weeks as Josh McCown looked very comfortable in relief behind center with 200 yards passing and a score. Green Bay has allowed the fifth most receiving yards to TE's this season and only four teams have allowed more TD's. Bennett leads the Bears in red zone targets and is tied with Brandon Marshall with four scores so all indications point to a good week.
8. Tony Gonzalez ATL @ CAR
The assumption has been that with Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White fighting throw a couple weeks of injury that Tony Gonzalez would shine. The opposite has been true as Harry Douglas busted out and Gonzo has been completely shut down. Fantasy managers can take some solace in the fact that the Falcons at least tried to get him the ball last week with eight targets, but his 26 yards was the second lowest output of the season. Only seven teams have allowed fewer yards to TE's than the Panthers but they have allowed three TD's in the past four weeks. Gonzo is tied with the injured Jones for the team lead in total targets and leads the team in every red zone category so the numbers should start catching up to those opportunities soon.
9. Greg Olsen CAR vs. ATL
Absolutely everything is going sideways for the Falcons and stopping opposing TE's is no different as they've allowed the six most TD's to the position. Greg Olsen scored his second TD of the season last week, both of which have come from inside the twenty. Only Steve Smith has better stats in the red zone as at the Panthers offense continues to find is groove Olsen's numbers will continue rise. Atlanta has only allowed one TE to go for more than 45 yards all season but Olsen will have room to work inside the twenty.
10. Charles Clay MIA vs. CIN
The Bengals defense has been a tough nut to crack for offenses in the last five weeks but TE's have found some wiggle room as Cincinnati has allowed three TD's during that span. Charles Clay isn't going to blow your doors off with yardage numbers but he has scored three TD's in the last four weeks. Clay's recent outburst in production has a lot to do with his presence in the red zone as all three of his scores have come inside the twenty. His efficiency in the red zone is perfect at six receptions on six targets which should keep him on Miami's playlist moving forward.
Tyler Eifert CIN @ MIA
Through eight games this season the touches for both Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have stayed consistent but the eye test isn't close. Eifert is by far the better athlete and despite not registering a score in the red zone yet he has seen twice as many targets as Gresham. The Dolphins have struggled to contain opposing TE's as only one team has allowed more TD's to the position. They have allowed two 100-yard games this season to Jordan Cameron and Jimmy Graham so this will be one of the best matchups Eifert sees all season.
Tim Wright TB @ SEA
Without a doubt Seattle is a tough matchup for Tampa and Tim Wright but he's developed a good repertoire with rookie Mike Glennon. In two short weeks Wright has rising to third on the team in red zone targets, and only Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson have more scores. The season ending injury to Mike Williams opens the door for Wright to play an even bigger role within the offense, especially inside the twenty. It will be an uphill battle as only two teams have allowed fewer TD's to TE's than the Seahawks but consider this a down payment on the possibility of a solid second half of the season.