Don’t look now, but fantasy football season is right around the corner. Over the next week, we’ll be previewing the four major positions in fantasy football. Top it off with a list of sleepers at every position on Friday and you’ll be ready to go for your draft. We use standard non-PPR scoring for all our rankings.
The tight end position looks like hot garbage this year. Maybe it’s the NFL shifting its model to more spread formations. Maybe it’s the college game doing that to greater lengths and prospects not being developed at a high level. Whatever it is, there will be a lot of people who wait on tight end this year and just roll the dice on someone after they fill the rest of their starting lineup and possibly their Bench spot. You just can’t wait til everyone fills their tight end spot because then you’re really going to be left with some shitty players.
- Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Gronk is clearly the best TE in the game. It doesn’t matter that Tom Brady is missing the first four games of the year. It’s made up for the fact that New England’s receiving options are a little banged up and Gronk will still see plenty of targets. It’ll obviously get better as the season goes on. The reason question is where do you take Gronk? The best way to evaluate Gronk vs. the field is using Value Based Drafting (VBD). VBD compares a player to the worst starter at the position. (For argument’s sake we’ll say there are 12 teams, so there are 12 starting TEs.) Gronk was 9th in 2015, 11th in VBD in 2014, N/A in 2013, 37th in 2012, and 6th in Gronk’s epic 2011. So at his best, Gronk is likely a late first round pick this year. He’s a nice have, but not a must get over some of the elite running backs and wide receivers.
- Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
Consistency is something Mr. Olsen gives you. He’s finished in the top 7 of TE scoring in the last four seasons, including 4th in both seasons since Steve Smith left town. His role shouldn’t change and he’ll be the same guy who scored double digit fantasy points in 7 of 16 fantasy games last year. I like him more than the next guy for reasons I’ll eventually mention. Don’t worry about the emergence of Devin Funchess or the return Kelvin Benjamin. It’ll just open up the seam routes more for Olsen.
- Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
Reed was a hot name coming into last year’s draft season and he exceled to levels more than we ever could’ve imagined. He became Kirk Cousin’s #1 receiver. He missed a couple games in the middle of the season, but still finished second in TE points last year. He was especially effective down the stretch, putting up three 18+ point games from Week 14-16. It was a great ride and he’s got great talent, but I’m likely not going to be the guy reaching up to draft him. There are two major things working against Reed this year. For starters there’s his health. Reed has had five concussions on record dating back to his college days. Maybe he even had some that aren’t recorded. As a guy who’s had three concussions himself, I can tell you that you multiple concussions is a danger zone. You can clearly see it in my writing ability. The second thing working against Reed is Kirk Cousins. He was great last year, finishing 8th in quarterback points. Will that happen again? Likely not. With Cousins regressing to the mean it only hurts Reed’s potential production.
- Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
The wide receiver situation in Tennessee is not overwhelmingly positive and hasn’t been for some time. That’s allowed Walker to see increased production from his days in San Francisco and that’s worked out well for his fantasy owners. Walker has improved from 11th most fantasy points at TE in 2013 to 8th in 2014 and then 5th in 2015. Walker say more targets per game last year than any other TE in the league, including the three guys listed above him on this list. The signing of Rishard Matthews won’t change that. Walker’s not a sexy name, but you can’t argue with a TE who puts up 90 catches, 1000 yards, and six touchdowns.
- Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Last year was the first year the Chiefs were going to feature Kelce in the passing game. We all expected a monster season after his breakout performance in Week 1 that featured 106 yards and two touchdowns. It never happened. Kelce only reached double digit points in four games the rest of the season. I’m not sure if this is his fault, Andy Reid’s fault, or Alex Smith’s fault, but it’s someone’s fault. There’s a reason Travis Kelce’s comparable player on Player Profiler is Rob Gronkowski. He’s got a similar skill sell, but when is it going to be unleashed? He still had an alright season, but seven games of five points or less in the 16-week fantasy season doesn’t make you feel all nice and fuzzy. You can draft him for the upside, but just don’t overpay.
- Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
Eifert’s ankle procedure in May is unfortunate considering the window of opportunity for him in 2016. With Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu gone, Eifert was going to see some of the leftover targets. (We already mentioned A.J. Green would get more as well.) The key with Eifert is that he needs to stay on the field. He missed three games towards the end of last season and continues to be a high injury risk going forward. He’ll be featured specifically in the red zone if he can stay on the field and that’s a major plus for his fantasy owners. With the situation at tight end being as bad as it is, you could do much worse than Eifert.
- Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
The positioning of Fleener this high over people like Antonio Gates, Gary Barnidge, or Julius Thomas is solely based on his opportunity. Being a tight end for the New Orleans Saints produces good fantasy production. 34-year-old Ben Watson was able to produce 825 yards and six touchdowns last year, which was good enough for TE8 in standard scoring. Fleener has great physical tools except for his hands, which clearly is a key when trying to catch passes. The targets and the high-flying offense should allow Fleener to match or slightly exceed Watson’s stats, but there’s no way I’m taking Fleener any higher than the 7th tight end spot despite what some other experts are saying.
If you’re curious about guys you don’t see listed here, you can always find me on Twitter (@MrT_BroBible) to ask questions, but remember to mention league specifics like PPR. You can always ask about general draft questions as well.