Fantasy Football Position Breakdown: Tight Ends

For the first time in years, we have people ranking a tight end not named Rob Gronkowski number one at the position. Throughout Gronk’s career, health issues proved costly for fantasy players that used early round picks on him. How can you justify using a second or third round pick on a player who is almost guaranteed to miss at least three or four games?

If Gronk plays in all 16 games, he would pay huge dividends. That seems very unlikely given his history. In seven NFL seasons, Gronkowski has played in 16 games only twice: his first two seasons in the league.

This season, as I mentioned, certain fantasy players and analysts have begun dropping Gronk on their tight end boards The people who dropped Gronkowski from the number one spot have replaced him with Travis Kelce. Kelce had a great 2016 season and should be able to pick up where he left off.

I am not one of the people who has moved Kelce ahead of Gronkowski because I believe in waiting on tight ends. You can see my pre-training camp rankings here and my mid-training camp rankings here.

I am not willing to take a tight end before the seventh or eighth round (sometimes even later) of my drafts because there is so much value still available.

There are three things that I look for in a tight end. You don’t need all three of these because there is really only one guy that fits in all three – Rob Gronkowski. If you can grab a tight end that fits one or two of these three criteria while waiting on your tight end, you will be just fine at the position.

1. I want my tight end to be a target monster. Obviously, the more targets they receive, the more chances they have at scoring points.

2. The second thing is looking for tight ends who typically end up with a lot of receiving yards. Receiving yards lead to points.

3. Touchdowns. A tight end can make up for a lack of receiving yards with a lot of touchdowns.

Waiting on a tight end always works out well for me. I rarely end up with one of the top four or five tight ends unless one slides in the draft to a point where I just can’t pass them up.

I’m going to get into some of the guys that I like or dislike based off of their current average draft positions (ADP). Before I do so, I will run through some terms that I will use when describing players.

Boom – A player who will exceed expectations according to their current ADP. Not to be confused with a breakout. Boom players have produced in the past but are most likely being undervalued.

Bust – A player who will fail to live up to expectations according to ADP.

Breakout – A player who will have a career year this season and exceed expectations. This player has possibly not lived up to expectations so far in their career, and is most likely still early on in their career.

Lets dive into a few players and their outlooks for this season.

Kyle Rudolph (Boom) – This shouldn’t surprise anyone. To be honest, I shouldn’t have put Rudolph on this list. However, he continues to get disrespected in drafts after his amazing 2016 campaign. In 2016, Rudolph ranked third among tight ends in receptions (83), behind only Dennis Pitta (86) and Kelce (85). Rudolph was also first among tight ends in targets (132) and fourth among tight ends in receiving yards (840). Kelce (1125), Greg Olsen (1073), and Jimmy Graham (923) were the only tight ends that had more receiving yards than Rudolph. Last, Rudolph was third among tight ends in touchdowns (7) behind only Cameron Brate (8) and Hunter Henry (8).

So why is he currently being drafted outside of the top six tight ends? Take Rudolph as your tight end in the mid-late rounds and you will have a major steal on your hands that will not disappoint.

Eric Ebron (Breakout) – If I am being completely honest, Ebron is a major high- risk, potential high-reward player. You won’t have to use an extremely high pick on Ebron, as he is currently being drafted as TE17. He is already experiencing injuries in camp and that has been his biggest problem throughout his career. Once Ebron is healthy I look for him to put it all together this season. Everyone is going to lean towards Kenny Galloday, but I am not buying into that hype at this point.

Ebron has improved his stats every season of his career so far. In just 13 games last season, Ebron had 61 receptions, 711 yards, and a touchdown. The number of touchdown receptions has to go up doesn’t it? Anquan Boldin’s 95 targets and eight touchdown receptions have to go somewhere right? Ebron is going to take some of that. If he can play 14 or 15 games its very possible that Ebron could end the season with 70+ receptions, 800 yards, and 5+ touchdowns.

Jack Doyle (Boom) – Jack Doyle had somewhat of a breakout season in 2016. In 16 games last season, Doyle had 59 receptions, 584 yards, and five touchdowns. That was when Doyle competed for playing time with Dwayne Allen, who is now in New England.

This season, Doyle is slated to be the starting tight end and should have no real competition for targets from other tight ends. Don’t let Andrew Luck’s health be a concern for you moving forward. This is an offense run by Rob Chudzinski, who is arguably the most tight end-favorable coach in the league. Chudzinski’s offenses focus heavily on the tight end and it does not matter who is playing quarterback. I look for Doyle to have a great year and far exceed his current TE13 draft position.

Martellus Bennett (Bust) – How many times do we have to go through this with Packers tight ends? Year after year the Packers go out and sign a big name tight end in free agency so that the fantasy community can get excited about him. And year after year the player disappoints. “But this is the best tight end that Aaron Rodgers has had in years!” Right. And didn’t we say the same exact thing last year about Jared Cook? Cook ended last season with 30 receptions, 377 yards, and one touchdown in ten games.

Rodgers and the Packers’ offense just never use the tight end, especially in the red zone. Bennett will be the third option in this offense behind Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Bennett is currently being drafted as high as the eighth tight end which is entirely too high for my liking. I see no way that he ends up as a top ten tight end this season and I will own zero shares of Bennett this season.

O.J. Howard (Bust) – History has shown that rookie tight ends tend to struggle. Howard is going to turn into one of the better tight ends for years to come but I don’t think it starts this year. Cameron Brate is ahead of him on the depth chart and current reports are that Howard will be used mainly as a blocker. The spotlight coming from Hard Knocks and the fact the Howard comes from Alabama will inflate his draft position.

Winston and Brate showed a lot of chemistry last season, and I don’t think they are going to go away from something that is working.

Image Credit: NESN

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