The tight end position in fantasy has become perpetually fickle. For the last few years, good tight ends have been hard to come by (for those who don’t draft Gronk). The ones who are good either end up disappointing or getting hurt. This season we’ve already seen a major hit to the tight end position as Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tore his ACL at team OTAs and will miss the 2018 season. To get back to how tight end value has been decreasing over the years, consider this graph:
If the graph isn’t clear, allow me to explain. I looked at the top-three tight ends (in standard scoring) over the last five seasons, added their scores together, and divided by three to find the average number of points scored by the top-three tight ends that year.
After that, I took the scores of the next-three tight ends (TEs #4, #5, and #6), and did the same to find their average score. In 2013, a top-three tight end averaged 173 fantasy points, whereas the next-three tight ends averaged just 106.
1. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
If I were to make one point about the graph, it would be about Rob Gronkowski. In 2016, when the top-three tight ends averaged just 130 points, Gronk played in only eight games and had three targets with no receptions between two of those games. As for the other four seasons listed, Gronk finished as the number-one tight end in three of those seasons (2014, 2015, and 2017). Gronkowski comes with his injury concerns, but his impact to the tight end position is obvious in today’s game. If he’s still available by the third round in your draft, take him without hesitation.
2. Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
I have Zach Ertz listed ahead of Travis Kelce, but they are basically synonomous and interchangeable in the top-tier of tight ends. I put Ertz ahead simply because his situation is somewhat easier to predict, given that Kelce has a new quarterback (whereas Ertz gets his back from injury). Zach Ertz has been consistent over the last three seasons. He has had at least 70 receptions and 800 yards in his last three seasons. The biggest difference in 2017 was that he found the endzone a career-high eight times.
3. Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce is likely going to ball in 2018 – that’s just who he is. As I mentioned, Kelce has a new quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. We don’t know exactly what they’re like on the field together because Mahomes played in one game last season: Week 16 in Denver. The problem, when it comes to analyzing his on-field relationship with Kelce, is that Travis Kelce didn’t play Week 16 in Denver. Travis Kelce is very talented and has a crucial role in the Kansas City offense, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the fact that he has a new quarterback (who, by the way, is also talented).
4. Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
If you ignore Olsen’s 2017 season, which he missed most of with a foot injury, he’s been pretty consistent. In the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons, Olsen had more than 75 receptions and 1,000 yards. If Olsen can maintain his role in Carolina’s offense and stay healthy, he should provide for fantasy owners.
5. Jimmy Graham – Green Bay Packers
I’m gonna ride that Jimmy Graham hype train until it runs out of tracks or coal, whichever comes first. Graham essentially becomes the second-best pass catcher in Green Bay with Jordy Nelson’s departure and is a monster in the redzone. In 2016, Aaron Rodgers threw 18 touchdowns in the redzone between Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Graham had a down year in 2017 when it came to receptions and yards but caught 10 touchdowns, four more than in 2016.
6. Evan Engram – New York Giants
Whether or not you think Engram is too low or too high, we must all agree that Engram is in a much different offense than in 2016 and the expectations must change. Odell Beckham is healthy and Saquon Barkley was drafted with the second-overall pick in this year’s draft. With all that being said, I would love to have Evan Engram at his late-fifth-round ADP. Engram is talented enough to be a consistent fantasy tight end, and it’s safe to believe that Engram did enough last season to keep a role in New York’s offense.
7. Trey Burton – Chicago Bears
Bears head coach Matt Nagy has said that he wants Trey Burton to play a “Travis Kelce” role in Chicago’s offense. Burton has high upside in a seemingly-brand new offense (as the Bears have signed wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency in addition to firing their head coach) and can be drafted at a good price. The Bears also signed Burton to a four-year/$32 million contract, and I say follow the money.
8. Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings
Kyle Rudolph has played all 16 games in each of his last three seasons. In those three seasons, Rudolph has had over 70 targets and five touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph is consistent, knows how to find the endzone, and is well worth his seventh-round ADP.
9. Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
Delanie Walker had the most receptions of the Titans’ receiving corps last season, with 20 more receptions that the receiver in second place. Walker has gotten over 800 receiving yards in each of his last four seasons and only has one season in which he didn’t play at least 14 games. Delanie Walker isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done and for a good price.
10. Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
Jordan Reed would be a top-three tight end if he could just stay healthy. For fantasy owners, this gives him a low ADP compared to tight ends of equal talent. Reed has high upside in a passing attack that lacks a clear-cut number-one. Reed has enough talent to have a flyer taken on him, especially if you can get him late.