Seems like awhile ago, doesn't it?
Heading into the 2015 campaign, fantasy fans can count the number of reliable tight ends in the entire league on one hand. That makes knowing which players are in the best or worst situations to succeed -- based on their offenses and respective coordinators -- more important than ever before. Much like my previous column looking at backfield situations and projections, that's where I come in.
Below is a list of all 32 teams, including projections (targets/catches) for their top tight end(s). I've also included tight end totals from 2014 in the case of teams with incumbent coordinators, along with data on how new coordinators have handled the position in previous stints at the pro or college level. You'll also find a FPPT (fantasy points per touch) average from 2014, which can help you do your own fantasy point projections based on the prognosticated targets and catches.
Can you remember the last time the Cardinals had a useful fantasy tight end? It was probably Freddie Jones (2002-2004), and he never had more than 517 yards or three touchdowns as a member of the team. The situation isn't likely to change in 2015, either. With coach Bruce Arians and coordinator Harold Goodwin at the helm of the offense, Cardinals tight ends ranked 24th in targets (86), 26th in receptions (50), 24th in yards (588) and dead last in touchdowns (one) in 2014. ... John Carlson, who has since retired, led the team with 55 targets and 350 yards. ... The duo of Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas will top Arizona's depth chart in 2015, but neither will make a real impact.
The Falcons haven't had a legitimate option at tight end since Tony Gonzalez retired, and that isn't going to change this season. In 2014 under former coordinator Dirk Koetter, Atlanta ranked last or next to last in targets (51), catches (33) and yards (241). Falcons tight ends also scored just three touchdowns. ... New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense in Cleveland produced just 54 tight end receptions in 2014, but Jordan Cameron missed six games. When he was on the field, he averaged 4.8 targets per contest. That projects to 76.8 over a full 16 games (or about the same as Owen Daniels last season). ... Jacob Tamme, the team's top projected pass catcher, won't be picked in most re-drafts.
Dennis Pitta (hip) is likely to open the regular season on the PUP list, leaving Maxx Williams as the favorite to see more tight end targets. Rookies rarely make an impact at the position, though, so Williams has minimal re-draft appeal for fantasy owners. ... New coordinator Marc Trestman's offense helped Martellus Bennett record a career-high 128 targets, 90 catches and 916 yards in Chicago last season. Baltimore doesn't have a tight end who can fill Bennett's shoes, however. ... Coincidentally, this is the second time that Trestman has followed Gary Kubiak as a coordinator. He headed to San Francisco (1995) after Kubiak departed for Denver with former coach Mike Shanahan.
The Bills ranked in the lower half of the league in tight end targets (97), catches (69) and yards (705) last season. Scott Chandler, now a member of the New England Patriots, accounted for 72 percent of the targets. ... New OC Greg Roman likes to use multiple tight ends, which he showcased during his time in San Francisco. In two seasons together under Roman, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker combined to score 17 touchdowns. From 2011-2014, Davis finished sixth or better in fantasy points among tight ends. ... Charles Clay could finish among the top three in targets for Roman in 2015. However, he's still a No. 2 in most drafts and worth no more than a late-round selection.
Greg Olsen was the fourth-most targeted (123) tight end in the NFL last season, which led to his career-best numbers in catches (84), yards (1,008) and fantasy points (136.8). In his two seasons under offensive coordinator Mike Shula, Olsen ranks second in targets (234) at his position. Jimmy Graham (267) is the lone tight end with more targets during that time. ... In 2014, the Panthers were no worse than fifth at the position in targets (150), catches (98) and yards (1,167). Olsen accounted for at least 82 percent of his team's totals in each of those categories. ... While his touchdown numbers don't jump off the page, Olsen hasn't finished with fewer than five scores in a year since 2008.
Bennett was a targets machine under Trestman, but will the same scenario occur under new coordinator Adam Gase? In 2014, Denver tight ends finished in the lower half of the league in targets (96), catches (63) and yards (672). The Broncos did rank fourth in tight end touchdowns (15), however, and Graham was the lone player at the position with more scores than Julius Thomas (24) during Gase's tenure in the Mile High City. That does show a huge dependance on touchdowns for fantasy points, however. ... Gase also used more multiple tight end sets than Trestman in 2014, but the Bears aren't deep behind Bennett (Dante Rosario, Zach Miller) and will continue to feature him.
In his first season as the coordinator in Cincinnati, Hue Jackson's tight ends ranked in the lower half of the NFL in targets (103), catches (80), yards (604) and touchdowns (five). Jermaine Gresham, who is no longer on the roster, led the team with 79 targets. He also scored all five of the tight end touchdowns. ... Jackson's offense did produce a top-10 fantasy tight end (Zach Miller) in his previous campaign as a coordinator (2010) with Oakland. ... Tyler Eifert, who is returning from shoulder and elbow injuries, figures to lead Jackson's tight ends in targets in 2015. The return of Marvin Jones in addition to A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu could limit his numbers, though.
The Browns offense will look a lot like the old one under new coordinator John DeFilippo, at least in that it will continue to lean on the run. However, the loss of Cameron could be tough to overcome in the passing game. DeFilippo's system requires the presence of a playmaking tight end (or the "F" tight end), in addition to the "Y" tight ends (blockers like Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray). ... Rob Housler, who has never finished better than 32nd in fantasy points at his position, figures to move into that "F" or "move" tight end spot. ... The Browns figure to be in the bottom half of the NFL in pass percentage again in 2015, so Housler won't be in a great position to succeed.
The Cowboys ranked in the middle of the league in most tight end categories last season, including targets (16th), catches (14th) and yards (14th). The position did rank tied for seventh in touchdowns (nine), however. ... Witten dominated the tight end targets with 90, which was 77 more than the next best tight end (Gavin Escobar). While he still ranked 10th in fantasy points at the position, Witten's numbers did suffer under coordinator Scott Linehan. In fact, his 64 catches and 703 yards were his lowest totals since 2006. That's not a surprise, though, as Linehan's system also limited the value and production of Brandon Pettigrew in Detroit.
Coach Gary Kubiak loves to use tight ends in his offense, but has that love equated to fantasy numbers? In three seasons as the offensive coordinator in Denver, Kubiak led Shannon Sharpe (a Hall of Famer) to a season with 770 yards and eight touchdowns. In the following two seasons, Jeb Putzier averaged 526 yards per season and scored twice. When Rick Dennison took over as the Broncos' coordinator (2006-2008), Tony Scheffler averaged 493 yards per season and scored 12 times. Between Houston and Baltimore (2010-2012, 2014), Owen Daniels had one season with 700-plus yards and scored more than four touchdowns once. So while Kubiak might use multiple tight ends, those players aren't locks to produce monster fantasy numbers.
Coordinator Joe Lombardi's first season in Detroit resulted in minimal numbers from the tight end position. In fact, the team had the fifth-fewest targets (78), the fourth-fewest catches (41), the third-fewest yards (392) and tied for the second-fewest touchdowns (two). ... Eric Ebron led Detroit's tight ends in targets (47) and fantasy points (30.8) during his rookie campaign. Those numbers weren't even good enough for him to finish among the top 40 at the position. While an increase in his totals should be expected across the board in his second pro season, Ebron is not likely to morph into a consistent point producer for your fantasy football team in 2015.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers ranked 27th in tight end targets, 24th in catches and 26th in yards under coordinator Tom Clements last season. That's not to say a tight end can't do well in his system, as Jermichael Finley put up 61 catches for 667 yards during the 2012 campaign. Instead, it might say more about the wide receiver talent in the pass attack, or Green Bay's lack of faith in either Richard Rodgers or Andrew Quarless as a prominent offensive option. ... Fantasy fans should also keep in mind that despite all of his impressive numbers across the board, superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw the football just 536 times last season. That ranked a mere 20th in the entire league.
Former quarterbacks coach George Godsey will take over as the team's new offensive coordinator, but things don't figure to change for his corps of tight ends. In 2014, the Texans ranked dead last in tight end targets (51) and catches (32), next to last in yards (316) and tied for sixth-worst in touchdowns (three). ... Godsey did coach New England's tight ends from 2012-2013, which would make some fantasy fans think he'll attempt to utilize the position more often. Unfortunately, Houston doesn't have a tight end like Rob Gronkowski on their roster. ... Garrett Graham, who led the team with 28 targets a year ago, shouldn't be on the fantasy radar. Neither should C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Few offensive coordinators liked to use their tight ends last season as much as Pep Hamilton. The Colts finished third in tight end targets (164), sixth in catches (98), second in yards (1,287) and tied the Patriots for the most touchdowns (18). The same level of production shouldn't be expected in 2015, however, as the Colts added Andre Johnson to replace Reggie Wayne and drafted Phillip Dorsett as a downfield threat. ... Coby Fleener led the team's tight ends in targets (92), but both he and Dwayne Allen were largely dependent on scoring touchdowns to produce for fantasy owners. In fact, 38 percent of Fleener's fantasy points and 55 percent of Allen's came on touchdown receptions.
Few tight ends were more dependant on touchdown production last season than Julius Thomas, who scored almost 60 percent of his fantasy points on end zone visits. That was despite seeing a modest 62 targets or an average of 4.7 targets per contest (13 games). In an offense led by Blake Bortles (and not Peyton Manning) and expected to miss time due to an injured finger, Thomas will see his red zone opportunities and touchdowns decrease in 2015. Draft him with caution. ... New coordinator Greg Olson can use his tight ends often, as Mychal Rivera saw 99 targets under Olson in Oakland last season. However, Rivera also scored four fewer touchdowns between 2013-2014 than Thomas had in 13 games last season.
Kansas City Chiefs
Under coordinator Doug Pederson, the Chiefs finished in the top half of the league in tight end targets (130), catches (96), yards (1,111) and touchdowns (9) last season. Travis Kelce led the team in targets (87) and finished among the 10-best tight ends in fantasy football, but he also lost 36 targets (including five that went for touchdowns) to Anthony Fasano. Fasano is no longer on the roster, though, leaving Kelce to see more opportunities in 2015. ... Coach Andy Reid liked to use his tight ends while leading the Philadelphia Eagles offenses (1999-2012), as players such as Chad Lewis, L.J. Smith and Brent Celek all had stints as No. 1 fantasy tight ends.
In Bill Lazor's first season as coordinator, the Dolphins finished 12th in tight end targets, 11th in catches, 12th in yards and tied for 16th in touchdowns. Clay led the team in targets (84), but he finished with just 605 yards and 78.50 fantasy points. During his two seasons (2001-2002) in Buffalo, Lazor's top tight end (Jay Riemersma) averaged just 470 yards and scored a combined three touchdowns. ... The addition of Cameron is good for the offense on the field, but Miami has a lot of mouths to feed in the form of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings. That could limit Cameron's targets and production, so keep that in mind before drafting him.
The Vikings didn't create much production at the tight end position last season, finishing in the lower half of the league in targets, catches and yards. That was due in part to the absence of Kyle Rudolph, who was limited to just nine games because of injuries. When he was on the field, however, Rudolph averaged 3.8 targets per game. He's a candidate to be a decent fantasy draft bargain in 2015, but don't reach for him. ... In Norv Turner's three previous stints as a coordinator, just one of his tight ends (Cameron, 2013) had more than 60 catches or 600 yards. In 2002-2003, Randy McMichael averaged 541 yards with a combined six touchdowns under Turner in Miami.
New England Patriots
To the surprise of no one, the Patriots ranked either first or second in tight end targets (171), catches (111), yards (1,427) and touchdowns (18). That's what happens when Rob Gronkowski is the No. 1 option in your pass attack. Since 2012, Graham is the lone tight end with more touchdowns than Gronkowski. However, he's also played in 14 more games than Gronk during that time. The Arizona product is also fourth in receptions (176) and fourth in yards (2,506), but his per game averages (5.3 catches, 76 yards) exceed even Graham at the position. ... Gronkowski has also averaged one touchdown for every 6.5 catches/10.2 targets. That makes him worth a top 20 overall selection.
New Orleans Saints
In his six seasons as the team's coordinator, Pete Carmichael's offenses have thrown the football more than 61 percent of the time on five occasions. The Saints used their tight ends a ton last season, as they ranked first in targets (175) and catches (119), and third in yards (1,201) and touchdowns (17) at the position. Of course, Graham made up for over 71 percent of the targets and catches, 74 percent of the yardage and 59 percent of the touchdowns. He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks this spring. ... Josh Hill looks like the best bet for value of the current tight ends, but he could see fewer than half of Graham's 2014 numbers.
New York Giants
In his first season as the coordinator in New York, Ben McAdoo's offense ranked near the middle of the league in tight end targets (13th), catches (12th) and yards (13th) while ranking sixth in touchdowns (11). Of course, three of those scores came in one game (Week 4, Larry Donnell) against the Washington Redskins. It should also be noted that more than 25 percent of Donnell's fantasy points total from last season came in that one contest. Furthermore, one-third (33 percent) of his points came on touchdown catches. While it isn't impossible for him to put up another six touchdowns, Donnell could also see fewer targets with both Victor Cruz back and Shane Vereen in the mix.
New York Jets
The Men in Green didn't have much of a presence at the tight end position last season, finishing 17th in targets, 20th in catches and 21st in yards. New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has had some success with tight ends in the past, but it was not on a consistent basis. In fact, just one tight end not named Tony Gonzalez has recorded more than 500 yards in a season under Gailey during his time as either an NFL coach or coordinator. That player was Scott Chandler, who finished 13th in fantasy points among tight ends in 2011. ... Jace Amaro is out for the season with an injured shoulder, and neither Jeff Cumberland nor Kellen Davis are draftable options in most leagues.
The Raiders threw the football more than any other team last season (66.1 percent), but their tight ends still ranked just 21st in catches (66) and 25th in yards (583). That isn't likely to change with Amari Cooper now in the mix. ... New coordinator Bill Musgrave has had some success utilizing the tight end in the past, as Rudolph scored nine touchdowns when the two were together in Minnesota (2012). With that said, Musgrave hasn't had a single player at the position who has recorded better than 500 yards in his last five seasons as a coordinator (2003-2004, 2011-2013). ... Mychal Rivera, who had 99 targets in 2014, could see a decline in that total during the 2015 campaign.
Coordinator Pat Shurmur had very little success with his tight ends in St. Louis, but the level of production has been much higher in his first two years with the Eagles. In 2014, Philadelphia ranked sixth in tight end targets (143), eighth in catches (93) and sixth in yards (1,101). Shurmur has also seen the combination of Zach Ertz and Brent Celek record a combined 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons. ... Ertz is the player from this duo to draft in fantasy leagues, as he's expected to see a jump in the 50.3 percent of the offensive snaps he saw in 2014. An increase to the 70-percent range makes him a breakout candidate and well worth a look in the middle to late rounds.
The Steelers threw the football on 60.4 percent of their offensive plays last season, but their tight ends didn't produce huge numbers. In fact, the position ranked 22nd in targets, 17th in catches and 16th in yards under coordinator Todd Haley. In his time between Arizona and Kansas City, Haley never had a tight end record more than 300 yards. ... On a positive note, Heath Miller has finished in the top 11 in fantasy points in two of his three seasons under Haley. The bad news? Miller has scored a combined four touchdowns since 2013. He's also failed to score more than three touchdowns in four of his last five campaigns overall, making Miller little more than a high No. 2 option.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers were big on using their tight ends in Frank Reich's first season as the offensive coordinator, finishing in the top 10 in catches (90), yards (1,052) and touchdowns (13). Whether or not those numbers shrink remains to be seen, though, as the team will be without Gates (suspension) for the first four games. The veteran accounted for 78 percent of their tight end targets and yards, not to mention all but one of their touchdowns. ... Ladarius Green figures to be a popular late-round pick while Gates is on the sidelines, but he's no lock to see the same 6.1 targets per game that his teammate received. Green's shelf life as a starter should be short as well.
San Francisco 49ers
Few teams used their tight ends less than the Niners last season, as the squad ranked no better than 29th in targets, catches, yards or touchdowns. Furthermore, a total of 20 individual tight ends had more receptions than all of the Niners tight ends combined. ... Former fantasy star Vernon Davis had his worst campaign since he was a rookie (2006), finishing outside of the top 30 at his position. ... New coordinator Geep Chryst, a former tight ends coach, was part of a Carolina offensive coaching staff that helped the position have the most productive receiving campaign for Panthers tight ends in a decade (2009). That's good news for Davis, who could have a rebirth in 2015.
The tight end position wasn't very productive for the Seahawks last season, finishing 25th in targets, 27th in catches and 17th in yards. Seattle tight ends have also scored a mere 19 touchdowns since 2011 under coordinator Darrell Bevell. During that same time, Graham, acquired in a trade with the Saints, has scored 46 times. ... Bevell will no doubt use Graham a ton more than he did his previous tight ends, even more so in the red zone, but fantasy fans can't expect a return to his elite 2011 and 2013 numbers. New Orleans threw the football 689 times in 2014, which ranked second in the league. Seattle threw the ball 496 times, which ranked dead last among the 32 teams.
St. Louis Rams
It might be a surprise to fantasy fans, but the Rams ranked no worse than 11th in tight end targets (6th), catches (10th), yards (11th) and touchdowns (9th) last season. Still, the team's best tight end, Jared Cook, finished with just 634 yards, three touchdowns and 81.4 fantasy points. That was good for 15th at the position. Cook wasn't even the team leader in tight end touchdowns, as Lance Kendricks had five end-zone visits. Don't expect Cook to be selected until the late rounds. ... New coordinator Frank Cignetti has never served in that position at the NFL level. His last run as an offensive coordinator was at Rutgers in 2011 when his tight ends combined for 16 catches, 153 yards and one score.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers ranked an unimpressive 26th in tight end targets (82), 25th in catches (51), 28th in yards (469) and tied for next to last in touchdowns (two) last season. Of course, it didn't help that rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins missed seven games due to injuries. ... New coordinator Dirk Koetter has had some success with tight ends in the past, as Tony Gonzalez (2013, 2014) and Marcedes Lewis (2010) both had seasons with at least 700 yards and eight or more touchdowns. On the flip side, Koetter's top tight end also failed to produce 550 yards and more than two touchdowns five times in his last eight years as a coordinator. Still, Seferian-Jenkins does have sleeper appeal.
Veteran Delanie Walker had the best fantasy season of his career under coordinator Jason Michael, finishing with personal highs in catches (63) and yards (890) to go along with four touchdowns. Those numbers were good enough to rank ninth in fantasy points among tight ends. ... The Titans did rank 10th in both targets (126) and yards (1,004) at the position, but ranked a middle of the road 16th in catches (73) and tied for 16th in touchdown catches (five). Walker accounted for 84 percent of Tennessee's tight end targets, 86 percent of the catches, 89 percent of the yards and all but one of the touchdowns. He'll remain on the TE1 radar with rookie Marcus Mariota at quarterback.
In their first season under coach Jay Gruden and coordinator Sean McVay, the Redskins ranked in the top 10 in tight end targets (133), catches (102) and yards (1,050). Unfortunately, the position recorded a mere two touchdowns. ... Jordan Reed led the Skins with 65 tight end targets (11 games) and projected for 94 over a full campaign. In his first two pro seasons combined, Reed has averaged an impressive 6.2 targets per game. Injuries have caused him to miss 12 games in that time, though an injured knee shouldn't keep him from the start of training camp. ... With both Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen out for the season, Reed will have every chance to emerge if he can avoid injuries.