Untangling the Tight End Position

Adam Walford (@TouchdownTips)

The tight end position is becoming increasingly important in the NFL, a position which used to filled by big-bodied guys whos main job was to block to give the QB more time, or to make space for a running back to gain some extra yardage, but these days they’re becoming playmakers in their own right rather than just helping out others. The best in the business have the ability to do both. This means that its more and more important to get some value in the fantasy drafts when choosing your man.

Now, my personal opinion on tight ends is to wait until the latter rounds of the draft to pick one up. There’s probably 3 or 4 guys who are above the others, but after that there’s not enough difference in points scored to make it worth picking anyone significantly earlier than any other.

THE TOP TIER

Even the most novice of football fans will know who Gronk is. Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots is one of the most well-known players in the game, and for good reason. He’s the best there is at his position, and probably the best there ever has been.

So why not pick him in the top 10 players? Well, he gets injured. A lot, and not the odd tweak here and there, he’s had some big injuries and missed most of last season after having back surgery (his 3rd back surgery). That’s not a good thing for a guy his size and definitely not good for the way he plays the game.

If it’s healed up well and he’s good to go (apparently he’s quoted as being 100% in training so far), then he’s a solid second round pick in your draft, currently his ADP (average draft position) is 21.82 on NFL.com. Last season he played just 6 games. First game back he had a small role, but in the next 4 games he went for 93 yards or more and scored a TD in 3 of them, he’s probably the only TE who can do that.

2016 stats, played 6, 540 yards, 3 Tds, 72 points.

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The top scoring tight end last year was Travis Kelce (ADP 35) aka Baby Gronk, although don’t tell him I called him that, he’s not a fan of the nickname, for the KC Chiefs. He benefited from an injury to Jeremy Maclin late in the season to go for 4 consecutive games with over 100 yards receiving, taking him to 6 games over 100 yards for the year, the second highest in the league of any position.

He also benefited from having a QB who struggles to throw the ball more than 9 yards at a time, his yards after the catch were one of the best in the league and his quickness in the first few steps allows him to get a few yards on most defenders before they react.

This season they have lost Maclin completely, randomly cutting him earlier this month, and not added a huge amount. Tyreek Hill is expected to be the no.1 WR, he’s a burner so shouldn’t take too many targets away from Kelce. It all looks good for him coming into this year and if you believe your podcasts host Mr. Adley he will be going extremely early in the BITEZ fantasy league this year.

2016 Stats – Played 16, rec. yards, 4 Tds, 138 points.

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My choice for 3rd TE off the board would be Jordan Reed (ADP 48.28) for the Washington Redskins, again he’s a man with some injury issues (a recurring theme with tight ends) having suffered an injured shoulder last year vs Dallas, but remarkably he finished the game that it happened in, and somehow scored 2 Tds, it did however mean that he missed a few games later in the season, and he’s also had some pretty serious concussion issues.

He does however find himself in a better position than last year as the Redskins lost pass catchers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson meaning there should be more target share for QB Kirk Cousins no.1 target coming into this year.

2016 stats – Played 12, 686 yards, 6 Tds, 102.6 points.

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Greg Olsen (ADP 48.74) probably has the highest floor of any tight end available in the draft, he should score you regular points whatever happens for the Carolina Panthers. He would probably be my 4th pick at the position.

He will get you 10 points a week with the odd spike nearing 20. It seems likely that the Panthers will be trying to restrict Cam Newtons running game as he missed a game or two with concussion last year and if he wants a long career in the game he has to stop putting his body on the line.

They’ve helped him by drafting McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel who can run and catch from the backfield. But they didn’t really help with pass catchers, so given Wrs weight issues this off season, Olsen is probably the top target for Cam. I’d expect him to have similar numbers to last season.

2016 stats – Played 16, 1073 yards, 3 Tds, 127.3 points.

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SECOND TIER

These are guys I would be looking to take round 6 onwards ideally, although I wouldn’t be shocked if a few didn’t make it that far. Jimmy Graham (56.62), Delanie Walker (56.96), Tyler Eifert (62.59), are mid-round Tight ends.

I was somewhat surprised to see how well Graham did last season coming off a serious knee injury, I didn’t seem to notice him quietly hitting 923 yards and 7 Tds on the season to finish the 4th highest point scorer with 124.3.

His situation hasn’t changed a whole lot in Seattle, he’ll still be a top 2 target with Doug Baldwin, their run game will again be changeable, they’ve brought in Lacy who can be a smasher in the red zone, but Graham remains the best target in the air once they get close to the end-zone, with another year of chemistry with Russell Wilson there’s no reason he shouldn’t get near to those numbers again.

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Delanie Walker on the other hand could well find himself missing some targets in comparison from last year. The Titans will probably remain a run first offence with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but they added some big weapons in the passing game, drafting Corey Davis at 5 and picking up Eric Decker in free agency.

Decker is a redzone monster so I can easily see him taking some targets from Walker, and Davis was a record breaking receiver in college so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him getting some too. His stats for last season had him with Played 15, 800 yards and 7 Tds equating to 123.10 points. I will probably be avoiding the big man this year, which is annoying as I love the guy as a player, but I just don’t see the value where he is.

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Tyler Eifert had some serious injury issues last year, he injured his ankle in the pro bowl and missed the first few matches of the season, that somehow evolved into a back injury which meant he missed even more matches, BUT the thing is… when he plays. He scores. His record is ridiculous for the Bengals, he got 5 in 8 games for them last year, the 2015 season which earnt him his pro bowl call up he led the team with 13 in 13 games.

His yardage isn’t remarkable but that TD rate is second to none. They’ve added some pace, and their offensive line has got worse which could mean more dump offs to the tight end and more receptions for him. 2016 stats – Played 8, 394 yards, 5 tds, 69.40 points.

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GUYS I’M MORE LIKELY TO GET.

Hunter Henry (129.75) had a brilliant rookie year for a position that rookies generally struggle at. He was hugely touchdown dependent, which is always a risk, but with Antonio Gates ageing and only needing 2 Tds to break the all-time tight end scoring record, I think he’ll see a lot more of the ball this season.

The Chargers strengthened their offensive line so QB Phillip Rivers should have better stats this year, they did add Mike Williams at WR, and should hopefully welcome back Keenan Allen, so there’s more targets there, but his propensity for scoring Touchdowns will be something Rivers looks for. 2016 numbers – played 15, 478 yards, 8 TD, 93.80 points (Gates had 548 yards and 7 Tds, so if i’m right that he’ll be faded out for Henry to take some of his numbers then there’s potential for a huge season from HH)

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Jack Doyle (105.47) Doyle had somewhat of a breakout year last year while sharing the load with Dwayne Allen who had a few injuries, Allen has no left for the Patriots while Doyle signed a pretty big money contract extension, which shows all I needed to know about how the Colts feel about him. Played 16, 584 yards, 5 td, 86.40 points.

Dwayne Allen accounted for 6 Tds and 400 odd yards, so again, without him there you’d expect Doyle to take some of that load. A concern would be the health of QB Andrew Luck who has yet to throw a ball in the summer after having shoulder surgery in January. The Colts have finally tried to help protect him and he’s a great talent so if fit there shouldn’t be an issue.

A few other guys to look for later on, Martellus Bennett of the GB Packers, had a great season as the number 2 tight end for the Patriots last year and becomes the no.1 for the Packers, but they just look for Jordy Nelson when they get to the red zone, so scoring targets could be an issue for him.

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Eric Ebron for the Lions could have a good year, they lost their main red zone target from last year so will look for a big body in the middle of the field.

Kyle Rudolph seems to have caught everyones eye now, he was a 10-12th round pick at one point and was largely being ignored, but now has an ADP of 69. That’s actually where he should be after being the third highest points scorer at the position last season with just 1.3 points less than Olsen at 126, but that means I likely won’t be drafting him now.

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Ben Watson (150.84) for the Baltimore Ravens is basically free in drafts, he’s playing in the team that had the most passing attempts in the league last season, and I believe will be the starting tight end after Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip and was released. Pitta himself had 119 targets last year, catching 86 of them, if Watson gets near that figure he’ll be a very relevant fantasy player.

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So there you have it, hopefully this will help you sort out the tight end position and give you a few guys to target when you draft this summer.

2 thoughts on “Untangling the Tight End Position

Add yours

  1. Personally a fan of some of the guys you don’t mention. Think Julius Thomas could have a nice year for fantasy owners chasing TDs in standard. I think Coby Fleener will have a big bounceback year too. He will probably be the biggest beneficiary of the departed Brandin Cooks.

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    1. I was already running at 2,000 words! I do like the promise of Thomas in Miami, they apparently have plays specific to him. But if you believe all the hype then the Dolphins are going 19-0 this season! Coby Fleener… I just can’t take him, ever. I just don’t like him, though you could be right with no Cooks

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