Hello everyone, and welcome back to another article in our draft strategy series, where we take a look at each position and how to best attack it in drafts. We’ve covered QB’s, backs and receivers up to this point, so now let’s switch our focus to the Tight End position. I’ve been pretty in-depth with our backs and receivers conversations, but it’s going to be a bit straightforward for this article. Not saying I’ll not give quality and dependable analysis (do I ever?), but it won’t be as complex.
So let’s jump straight into it.
More Tiers, Less Fears
The Tight End position is very straightforward this year. There are the top two elite TE’s, then a handful of some very good options, a few high-upside options, and then some bleh TE’s. So let’s talk about each TE, in order based on ADP, and what they bring to the table in 2017.
- Rob Gronkowski (ADP: 21st overall): I want to like Gronk this year. We all get that he’s a freak athlete. He has amazing chemistry with Tom Brady and the rest of the coaching staff and offense, and he’s really dependable and consistent when he’s on the field, which is the main issue. He can’t seem to play a full 16 games of the season. And it wouldn’t be a problem for a normal Tight End if we could consistently get 12-14 games of TE1 production, but a normal tight end isn’t going at 21 overall. There’s no doubt that Gronk will be productive (even with Cooks now in the mix), but if you’re going to take him, please take him at some sort of value. Because we can’t still expect 16 games out of him anymore.
- Travis Kelce (ADP: 38th overall): I really like Kelce this year. I’ll be publishing my own rankings soon enough, but he’s my top TE this year. He’s been consistent, and consistently healthy, and with Jeremy Maclin out of the offense now, Kelce should be a target monster this year. Sure, they still have Tyreek Hill, but Kelce has the leg up on Hill when it comes to chemistry and rapport with QB Alex Smith. His ADP of 38th overall isn’t the worst in the world, but I have to say I’d be more inclined to take him in a 10 team league or smaller, and there is a more emphasis on difference-makers than in a 12 or 14 team league. In those size of leagues, I’d be waiting a bit more until I’m already comfortable with my current receivers and backs. However, in my mind, Kelce is the best tight end in fantasy.
- Greg Olsen (ADP: 49th overall): I find it very fascinating that Greg Olsen is still the third tight end off the board in drafts. Sure, the 32-year old has been as productive and reliable as you can get for the position, but his ceiling, to me, is just not has high as some other options later in drafts (See, Jimmy Graham below). I believe his upside is capped in the same way that I believe Cam’s upside is capped in drafts as well. With many reports and statements made by Riverboat Ron during the offseason and into training camp, the idea is that the Panthers will want to limit Cam’s running plays and mobility in order to get him to last longer as the centerpiece of the organization and to avoid as many shoulder and head injuries as possible. They made this even more apparent with the drafting of speedsters Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. Sure, Cam has still always found his big man over the middle, but with the change to a more screen and short passes to McCaffrey way of offense, I think Olsen might suffer a bit. He’s not a bad TE1 for fantasy, but I’d rather wait to get either Graham or Reed.
- Jordan Reed (ADP: 52nd overall): There has been some concerns over the past few weeks about Reed’s placement on the PUP list to open Training Camp, but if Gruden and the organization remain careful to their approach to Reed, then this has all been much ado about nothing (his ADP hasn’t slipped at all really since the news has came out). I really like the idea of Reed in 2017. First off, his ADP in the start of the fifth round is pretty satisfying, as you can expect to get 2 quality backs and receivers before selecting a very solid TE, or maybe even getting a Rodgers or Brady before you get Reed. Second, the upside of Reed is incredibly high because he’s the only receiver in Washington that has any sort of built-in chemistry with QB Kirk Cousins, aside from Jamison Crowder. There are a crap ton of targets up for grabs with the departures of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson from the offense, and Reed should capitalize on this as Cousins’ favorite target. I’m not all-in on Reed due to some injury concerns (I’d like to see how it plays out in Camp before going all-in), but he’s definitely up there as one of my favorite TE’s to get in drafts.
- Jimmy Graham (ADP: 55th overall): Another one of my favorites. Although last year he did come back from injury after missing some time to begin the season, he’s spoken numerous times about it this offseason, and he’s told us that he was never fully 100% healthy at any point during the regular season. Well lucky for us, now he is apparently 100% in time for 2017, and now in an offense without a reliable running game, a healthy Russell Wilson and a slightly improved O-Line, all of the pieces are there for Graham. The Seahawks have always been really pass-heavy in the Redzone, and although they may start to use more of new HB Eddie Lacy, there is a definite role in this offense for Graham, and he comes at a very reasonable price.
- Tyler Eifert (ADP: 61st overall): Eifert should still resume his duties in this Cincy offense like he always has, being an absolute TD vulture in the redzone. Sure, they now have John Ross, but it shouldn’t change things for Eifert’s production levels. Eifert comes at a 6th round price, so you can ideally get 5 non-TE position players before getting a reliable option, which is more than ideal at this point.
- Delanie Walker (ADP: 76th overall): Nope. Avoid. May-day, may-day! They barely used Walker last year in relation to his usage in year’s past, and what makes you think they’ll start to use him now with Corey Davis and Eric Decker into the mix? Nope, let’s move on.
- Martellus Bennett (ADP: 83rd overall): I really don’t see it with Bennett. He’s been okay, but never as a consistent, week-to-week #1 TE (outside the months of September and October in Chicago), only as a plug-in-play in New England. Now the 30-year old has gotten paid and his much-beloved SB ring, and now joins an offense that has never showed any signs in going to their TE. He has to compete for Rodgers’ attention between Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery out of the backfield. Good luck with that.
- Kyle Rudolph (ADP: 97th overall): I don’t mind Rudolph. He comes at a very affordable price of the late 9th round in fantasy. The O-Line play is somewhat decent, there are other weapons that can draw away attention from him, and Sam Bradford has always had a thing for his TE’s. I think he’s good, but not great. You don’t need to wait until nearly the 10th this year unless you’re completely punting the position.
Everyone else, I’m fine with staying away from, unless you’re really going to punt the position. If you are, first off, godspeed and good luck, and if you are, you should look at the three best options for doing so.
- Zach Ertz (ADP: 103rd overall): Without Jordan Matthews anymore in this offense, Ertz becomes the de facto #2 receiver behind Alshon. This is a great situation to be in. Not only is the offensive line play excellent, but he should be an absolute target monster this year. Remember, his HC Doug Pedersen was the one who introduced the world to Travis Kelce when he was the OC back in Kansas City.
- Eric Ebron (ADP: 139th overall): He’s dirt cheap, and if there was any year for him to break out, this would be the year to do it. There are some targets up for grabs with the departure of WR Anquan Boldin, especially in the red-zone, where Ebron should be producing the most. Remember, Matthew Stafford should be a big-time candidate for TD regression with now a vastly improved O-Line. All of the pieces are there for this young TE to break out.
- Jack Doyle (ADP: 122nd overall): Simply put, Luck is back and healthy, the offensive line is back and healthy, and he had his best games without Dwyane Allen, who is no longer there. For ta 12th round price tag, you couldn’t ask for much more upside than what you’re getting from Doyle.
Alright guys, there we have it! Again, like always, if you have a question or comment about something you read above, your fantasy team, or just to say hello in general, please don’t hesitate to leave one below, and I’ll get to it as quickly as I can. Stay tuned in the coming days for an AFC West Preview and my Top 200 rankings!
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach.
i’d be REALLY careful saying DET’s O-line improved, they are now starting (due to an injury for i think of around 6 min weeks) greg “false starts don’t win me cars, are you sure?” robinson. now is it POSSIBLE one of the worst coaching regimes ever put together (fisher’s rams) were the entire reason for him in all previous years, maybe, but if he’s even half as stupid as he’s been his entire career stafford and co. might be in some trouble. this might actually help ebron, and hurt entire offense in general. i don’t know how ertz is behind m.bennett though. really i’d rather have any of doyle/ertz/rudolph/ebron over bennett and walker. i noticed those targets dropping last year for walker as an owner and it’s not getting better. bennett’s never been near consistent at all, and unlike ertz/doyle/ebron he’s been around for a very long time so his game isn’t improving (a chance with those others).
@Eli Man Penguin Boy: and def reed/jimmer/eifert over olson at this point. honestly i might want eifert most of all those, even without price difference. and “luck is healthy” really….
@Eli Man Penguin Boy: Thanks for reading and leaving this comment Eli!
First off, when I say the O line is improved, I mean that they should perform better than last year. Think of the “there’s no place but up” saying, even though Detroit wasn’t nearly the worst O-Line in the NFL.
And yes, you may hate it, but I think that the whole offense changes when Luck is out. It may sound obvious, but I wanted to say it nonetheless
@Zach: obv i agree with this, i’m critiquing your line of
“Simply put, Luck is back and healthy”
here’s the most recent luck update:
this doesn’t sound good by any means. i’d love to hear what chance you think he plays at 90% or better for at least 14 games this year, this is sounding like the likeliest occurence is he misses or plays too early (and badly due to that,) week 1, and has a solid chance of the shoulder getting worse IF he does that, then if he takes time off (1-2 games to start season) his chance of coming back good is better of course; but guys force themselves to play through shit way more often than not (esp in football). DET’s line like you said probably gets better, but g.robinson starting (to this point in his career) indicates otherwise, or at least not by much.
@Eli Man Penguin Boy: I think that they’re going to be very cautious with Luck, and it’s reflected in these recent news headlines. There is a chance that he could miss Week 1 against the Rams, but he’ll be back imediately for Week 2 onwards. It isn’t a bad idea to get a backup if you draft Luck, but I don’t think we should be overreacting at this point in time. Lots of training camp and preseason football left.
@Zach: true, but anybody who’s owned luck over last 2 years knows fully well how bad him playing through the shoulder being hurt can get, relative to what you expect out of a QB drafted as high as him. i got lucky 2 years ago to have bortles to start over luck when it was obvious luck shouldn’t have been starting while having that shoulder thing and bortles was getting what seemed like at least 230 yds and 2 TD’s PER 2nd half of blowout losses. had i been forced to start luck during the 2nd half of that year i’d not have won that league (i checked, i’d have lost at least 2 matchups, including 1 playoff one).
– i finally learned this from baseball, DO NOT PAY top dollar for guys ALREADY injured going into season. this is the time of year when ANY player assumed to be top 5-10 at their position SH.OULD be at their peak of health (assuming you’d pay top value for them); if they are already hurt it’s like 70% of the time you either end up not getting close to that draft value (from injury missed time OR underperformance, and this latter is worse since you don’t replace it early enough, even if you could). i’m not saying this should at all effect dynasties (but really this is the 3rd year of this, and he hasn’t even played a game this time, so maybe even there too) but in redrafts i’d love to see the record on average of anybody in a 12 team league who drafts luck at his price and see how they end up. scares the hell out of me. ADP seems to give very little discount on him either (going QB 6 at 4th pick of the 6th round by averaged FP stats, 63rd). even when you get a discount such as:
-price (started year likely needing TJ, didn’t get it, took a while to get back, still hurt with it)
-polanco (started year with shoulder issue, never got over it, added hamstring issue)
-rodon (took WAY too long to come back, wasn’t even good till late july at earliest)
meanwhile winston 12 picks later, mariota 18 later, cousins 19 later all sound way better for that price. or RW3 paying slightly more 5 picks earlier. don’t get me wrong, if he wasn’t injured i’d say pick 40 or earlier would be very reasonable for luck. due to the price here i’d be at least as worried about luck as brees’ and his price.
so even if he is “back imediately for Week 2 onwards” this isn’t a one time issue (he’s had this off/on for 2 years at least) and i’d think it’s quite reasonable to think a full 15 weeks of luck won’t be at a 90% or better luck. this isn’t like a stanton’s jaw should be better situation (or goldy’s broken hand, or stanton’s broken finger/hand).
@Eli Man Penguin Boy: using the baseball comparison this could very easily be way more like the desmond example, breaks a VERY important hand for a hitter going into march, comes back too early, can’t hit for any power even in COL. clearly he needed months off of that hand. in this luck instance he JUST GOT many months off that shoulder and it’s STILL not 100%?
unless i’m wrong and he’s had 2 different shoulders being hurt over last 2+ years. if that’s the case it’s not nearly so bad.
Get to keep either Ty Montgomery or Tyrell Williams in the 18th round. 1 point PPR. Already keeping Mike Evans in the 4th. 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex WR/RB.
Who should I keep?
@Scott Loehring: Montgomery! Thanks for the question Scott!
Thoughts on Rico Gathers? I know Whitten can’t play forever, or can he? Do we see a Gates/Harvey scenario playing out?
@Chucky: Rico Gathers looked pretty good in the HOF game, and I think you’re right about Witten, but until he’s the definitive starter, I’m only interested in him as a late round flier in dynasty leagues