Last season, NFL.com introduced a new tool to help fantasy owners in their quest for a league title -- the fantasy points allowed (FPA) ratings. These ratings are based on the strength of a player's schedule using the average fantasy points their opponents allowed against the six major fantasy positions the previous season. For example, the Buffalo Bills allowed an average of 9.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends in 2010. As a result, any tight end that faces the Bills in 2011 is rewarded 9.2 points. Rob Gronkowski, who faces them twice as an divisional opponent, is rewarded a combined 18.4 points. The larger the overall point total, the easier the schedule.
Of course, we all know that there is no fool-proof way to figure out which fantasy players will succeed and which ones will fail. Rosters and coaches change, defenses will improve or falter from one season to the next, and the unpredictable nature of the NFL will continue to frustrate fantasy owners. But these FPA ratings still can be very useful when picking between players with similar value and looking for those ever-elusive sleeper candidates.
1. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins (111.1 points): Fasano has never been considered a No. 1 fantasy tight end, and even having the most favorable FPA rating at the position isn't going to change that in 2011. The Notre Dame product faces the Bills (2), Eagles, Broncos, Raiders, Chargers and Texans among his more attractive opponents.
2. Jared Cook, Titans (109.4 points): Looking for a deep sleeper at the tight end position? Keep Cook's name in mind on draft day. He finished strong at the end of last season, catching 15 passes in his final three games. Cook's 2011 schedule includes favorable games against the Texans (2), Jaguars (2), Browns, Broncos and Bills.
3. Dustin Keller, Jets (107.6 points): Keller finished in the top 10 in fantasy points among tight ends in 2010, but he was terribly inconsistent. A favorable schedule ahead includes games against the Bills (2), Eagles, Broncos, Raiders and Jaguars, but that's not enough to make Keller more than a high-end No. 2 fantasy tight end.
4. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (107.5 points): Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez both will be drafted in fantasy leagues, but the former has more potential as a true No. 1 option. Regardless, this talented pair of receivers face a favorable schedule that includes games against the Bills (2), Eagles, Redskins, Broncos, Raiders and Chargers.
5. Leonard Pope, Chiefs (107.3 points): With Tony Moeaki out for the season, Pope moves into a prominent role. While he does have a favorable schedule that includes games against the Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Chargers (2), Packers and Bills, Pope isn't likely to be a major player in fantasy land. He's not even worth drafting in 2011.
6. Kevin Boss Raiders (106.9 points):Zach Miller is out of the mix after signing with the Seahawks, so the team added Boss as the new starting tight end for coach Hue Jackson. Though he's still just a No. 2 fantasy option, Boss will face a favorable slate of games against the Broncos (2), Chargers (2), Packers, Bills, Browns and Texans.
7. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons (106.3 points): Gonzalez is a future Hall of Famer, but his numbers have steadily declined in each of the past three seasons. So despite a very favorable schedule that includes games against the Panthers (2), Packers, Texans, Jaguars and Eagles, Gonzalez's arrow is still trending downward in fantasy land.
8. Matt Spaeth, Bears (105.1 points): With the trade of Greg Olsen and release of Brandon Manumaleuna, Spaeth is now the favorite to start for the Bears. While he has a favorable schedule that includes games against the Packers (2), Panthers, Broncos, Raiders, Chargers and Eagles, he's mostly a blocker with no value on draft day.
9. Travis Beckum, Giants (104.9 points): With Boss out of the mix, Beckum figures the share the tight end work with Jake Ballard for the Giants. There are some favorable matchups against the Eagles (2), Bills, Cardinals and Packers, but neither of these players has any value in fantasy land outside of extremely deep leagues.
10. Antonio Gates, Chargers (104.8 points): Gates would have posted one of the best statistical seasons ever from a tight end in 2010, but injuries ultimately cost him the opportunity. The unquestioned top fantasy player at his position, Gates has some nice matchups against the Broncos (2), Raiders (2), Packers, Bills and Jaguars in 2011.
11. Dallas Clark, Colts (104.1 points): A wrist injury cost Clark most of this past season, but he should be back in plenty of time for the 2011 campaign. The No. 2 fantasy tight end on NFL.com, Clark should bounce back with the help of a favorable schedule that includes games against the Texans (2), Jaguars (2) and Titans (2).
12. Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (103.8 points): Lewis isn't likely to finish in the top four in fantasy points at the position again, but he does have an attractive schedule that includes games against the Texans (2), Titans (2), Panthers, Browns and Chargers. Still, Lewis won't be drafted as more than a high-end No. 2 fantasy tight end.
13. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (102.7 points): There's a lot of uncertainty in the Bengals offense, but Gresham is someone to watch. The talented tight end out of Oklahoma showed flashes of potential as a rookie, and a 2011 schedule that includes games against the Browns (2), Texans, Jaguars, Titans, Bills and Broncos is favorable.
T-14. Chris Cooley, Redskins (102.3 points): Cooley put up great reception and yardage totals last season, but his lack of touchdowns (3) hurt his overall value. Still, the veteran out of Utah State remains a No. 1 fantasy option moving forward. Games against the Eagles (2), Cardinals, Seahawks, Bills and Panthers are pretty favorable.
T-14 Jimmy Graham, Saints (102.3 points): Maybe the single-biggest sleeper at the position heading into 2011, Graham had a very strong finish to last season and is now the unquestioned starter after the release of Jeremy Shockey. He'll also face some attractive matchups against the Panthers (2), Packers, Texans, Jaguars and Titans.
T-14. Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers (102.3 points): Winslow finished sixth in fantasy points among tight ends last season, but he wasn't overly consistent from a fantasy perspective. He has attractive matchups against the Panthers (2), Packers, Texans, Jaguars and Titans in 2011, but overall Winslow remains a low-end No. 1 fantasy option.
17. Owen Daniels, Texans (102.1 points): A talented player who could be undervalued in fantasy drafts, Daniels is back at 100 percent and had a nice finish to the 2010 season. He has some favorable games on the upcoming schedule as well, facing the Jaguars (2), Titans (2), Panthers, Browns and Raiders among his easier opponents.
T-18. Scott Chandler, Bills: (101.9 points) The Bills haven't had a viable fantasy option at the tight end position since Jay Riemersma, and even he wasn't very productive. That trend won't change in 2011, so a schedule that includes games against the Eagles, Broncos, Raiders and Chargers means little from a fantasy perspective.
T-18. Daniel Fells, Broncos (101.9 points): Shannon Sharpe, where are you? It seems as though the Broncos haven't had a reliable fantasy tight end in forever, and that trend won't change next season. As a result, a slate of games that includes matchups against the Raiders (2), Chargers (2), Bills and Packers means little.
20. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings (101.4 points): Shiancoe finished 24th in fantasy points among tight ends last season, but his stock has improved with the addition of veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb. However, Shiancoe's schedule is not very favorable. He faces tough games against the Bears (2), Lions (2), Chiefs and Buccaneers.
21. Greg Olsen, Panthers (101 points):Fantasy owners have rarely received much production from Carolina's tight end position over the years, but that could change with Olsen. However, keep in mind the presence of Jeremy Shockey and a schedule that includes tough games against the Buccaneers (2), Saints (2), Bears and Lions.
22. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (100.9 points): Pettigrew has shown flashes of potential at the NFL level and is a solid sleeper candidate in 2011, but he won't have the advantage of a favorable schedule based on the 2010 totals. The Oklahoma State product will face the Bears (2), Saints, Buccaneers, Chiefs and 49ers among his tougher foes.
23. Jason Witten, Cowboys (100.8 points): The top tight end in fantasy football last season, Witten has long been one of the most reliable players at his position and shouldn't be overly affected by a difficult schedule. Just for the record, Witten's tougher opponents include games against the Giants (2), 49ers, Rams, Lions and Buccaneers.
24. Ed Dickson, Ravens (99.7 points): With Todd Heap (Cardinals) now out of the mix, Dickson suddenly has some deep-sleeper value as the potential No. 1 tight end for OC Cam Cameron. Unfortunately, a tough schedule that includes games against the Steelers (2), Bengals (2), 49ers and Rams isn't going to help his stock.
25. Heath Miller, Steelers (97 points): Miller is coming off one of his worst statistical seasons, posting just 42 receptions and two touchdowns in 14 games. While he's a virtual lock to improve on those poor totals in 2011, keep in mind that Miller faces tough games against the Ravens (2), Bengals (2), 49ers, Rams and Chiefs.
26. Lance Kendricks, Rams (96.2 points): Whether it's Kendricks or Michael Hoomanawanui who tops the Rams depth chart, there's not much fantasy value to be found at the tight end position. Tough games against the 49ers (2), Giants, Steelers, Ravens, Bengals and Saints will further guarantee that neither player will have fantasy appeal.
27. Benjamin Watson, Browns (95.8 points): Watson put up some nice stat lines in 2010, but he still failed to finish in the top 12 among tight ends based on fantasy points. He'll be no more than a fantasy reserve for the upcoming season, especially with tough matchups against the Steelers (2), Ravens (2), Bengals (2) and 49ers ahead.
T-28. Jermichael Finley, Packers (95.5 points): Finley, a top-five fantasy tight end on NFL.com, shouldn't be negatively affected by a schedule that includes tough games against the Bears (2), Lions (2), Saints, Buccaneers, Chiefs, Rams and Giants. If anything, the fact that he's missed so much time due to injuries is more of a concern.
T-28. Brent Celek, Eagles (95.5 points): A major disappointment in fantasy leagues last season, Celek ranked just 18th among tight ends after finishing fourth in 2009. The upcoming schedule won't do him any favors in terms of making a statistical comeback, as Celek faces the Giants (2), 49ers, Rams and Bears among his tougher opponents.
30. Vernon Davis, 49ers (94.9 points): NFC West tight ends have a tough schedule in 2011, based on formidable divisional foes and matchups against the AFC North. Regardless, it's hard not to keep Davis ranked among the elite players at his position -- especially as he's expected to play a major offensive role under new coach Jim Harbaugh.
31. Todd Heap, Cardinals (94.2 points): The Cardinals haven't offered much fantasy value at the tight end position, but that should change in 2011 with the addition of a solid, pass-catching player like Heap in the pass attack. Unfortunately, tough matchups against the 49ers (2), Rams (2), Giants, Steelers, Ravens and Bengals make him more of a fantasy reserve.
32. Zach Miller, Seahawks (92 points): Miller is coming off a nice statistical season, but a move from Oakland to Seattle is going to put a major dent into his overall draft value. Couple that with a schedule that includes games against the 49ers (2), Rams (2), Giants, Steelers, Ravens and Bears, and Miller shouldn't be seen as more than a No. 2 option in 2011.