Tight end is generally an unpredictable position. It feels like on any given week you can find the unlikeliest of heroes. For such a tough position finding a rookie who is going to be productive is that much harder.
That said, this year’s rookie class has one prime candidate, one that may surprise and then the rest of the field. Let’s take a look:
1. Colby Fleener – Indianapolis Colts
Selected 34th overall (the second pick of Round 2), Fleener is by far the cream of the rookie tight end crop and is in position to produce from Day 1. Not only does he have the most talent, but he also will join his college quarterback (Andrew Luck) in Indianapolis. Luck is going to need a safety valve, so how invaluable is it that he already has an established rapport with his tight end?
Between 2010 & 2011 Fleener had 62 receptions for 1,101 yards and 17 TD. He could easily emerge as the Colts prime red zone target just adding to the intrigue. He’s the only rookie tight end that, at this point, could emerge as a TE1 as soon as 2012.
2. Michael Egnew – Miami Dolphins
He was the third tight end off the board, being selected with the 15th pick of the third round. He had 90 receptions as a junior and, in an offense that will be a lot more up tempo under Joe Philbin, is a much better fit than Anthony Fasano. Even if he opens the season on the bench it appears to only be a matter of time before Egnew emerges as a significant part of the Dolphins’ passing attack.
With Brandon Marshall sent to Chicago in the offseason, the Dolphins’ wide receiving corps appears to be lackluster, at best, on paper. That just gives Egnew look even more attractive. While Fleener is currently the class of the group, Egnew could really surprise. He is in the perfect position to excel and, in deeper formats, is worth rolling the dice on in the later rounds.
3. Dwayne Allen – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts took a page out of the New England Patriots playbook, selecting a pair of tight ends in the same draft. The first pick of the third round, Allen should join Fleener in providing a safety valve for the first overall pick (Andrew Luck). I would prefer Fleener, especially as a red zone target, as he is the taller of the two (6’6” for Fleener vs. 6’3” for Allen) and already has the established rapport. That said, Allen is in just as good of a position to excel.
4. Adrien Robinson – New York Giants
At this point it becomes a lot of speculation as to which tight end could emerge. The Giants have had a knack in recent years of finding under-the-radar tight ends in the draft and Robinson could ultimately emerge as their best “find”. All reports have him with significantly more upside then his college numbers would make you assume (just 12 catches in 2011) and the Giants definitely need help at the position (plus, he’s one of the few tight ends who were drafted and don’t have an elite option ahead of them). That could make for a good combination, though he may more of a long-term option than one that could emerge in 2012.
5. Orson Charles – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals offense is coming together and, while they already have Jermaine Gresham ahead of him on the depth chart, we have all seen offenses with two tight ends excel. As one of the more highly regarded tight ends he gets this spot though there is no one at this point who really excites you.
What are your thoughts of the rookie tight end class? Who would you target? Who do you think could surprise?
Make sure to check out our 2012 fantasy football rankings: