In my experience, drafting a tight end should be like drafting a QB: if you don’t get one of the top two or three guys, just wait until you fill the rest of your starting lineup, maybe even after a few RB/WR backups.
I’ve noticed that I seem to have some sort of knack (if possible) in finding quality tight ends to plug and play for the majority, if not all, of the season. So I begged (demanded) that I be in charge of writing the article focusing on drafting tight ends for this draft kit. Yes, this title was meant to get the blood pumping because nothing makes the blood flow harder than finding a surprising Tight End, see Kyle Rudolph (TE2), Cameron Brate (TE7), or Jack Facking Doyle (TE13).
Most fantasy players will tend to agree with my opening statement: wait on tight ends. I can tell you a handful of players in several of my leagues (including me) that will never consider taking Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce within the first two rounds. A “premium” TE will cost you just as much as a premium RB or WR, but gets you less points. Travis Kelce was TE1 last year in PPR formats and scored 223 points. Golden Tate was WR17 and finished with 223.1 points and Jordan Howard was RB10 and finished with 230.1 points. What I’m saying is, you could spend one of your first four draft picks on a premium TE, but would it really be worth it?
My bashing of the Tight End position isn’t actually bashing, I’m just trying to make a point. I would argue, however, that getting an above average tight end is where you will win a lot of the closer matchups throughout the season. I can’t tell you how many matchups I’ve won over the last few seasons by having an inferior team in RB and WR slots, but having a deeper and better quality team due addressing every position, especially the TE spot - even if that was toward the end of drafts.
Maybe I was just lucky, but I consider it a skill of some sort...so buzz off.
Below are four TEs that are being severely undervalued, especially in auction and larger league formats. Every TE is currently TE11 or worse, per FantasyPros Standard rankings, and all are TE10 or worse in PPR formats aside from Ebron, who is listed at TE10.
Eric Ebron (STD: TE11, PPR: TE10)
Eric Ebron is a popular target in the fantasy world every summer. The man is a physical specimen. The only problem is, he seems to get injured pretty frequently. Regardless, he ends up on the list because he has so much promise and is still being drafted behind guys named Ertz and Bennett.
Ebron missed 3 games in 2016 but was still able to finish as TE 14 in PPR. With the gunslinger Matthew “Frat” Stafford at the helm, Ebron saw 86 targets, hauling in 61 receptions for 711 yards and only 1 TD.
If you look deeper into the numbers, you’ll see that Ebron had 9 catches of 20+ yards, showing that he has big-play ability in an offense with some often questionable wide receivers. Of the 13 games played, Ebron was able to see at least 5 targets in 12 games, had 40 yards or more in 9 games, and actually finished the season strong hauling in 26 receptions of the 36 targets over the last 5 games. With a healthy season in his sights, aside from his current hammie issue, I expect Ebron to finish as a top 10 TE in 2017.
Zach Miller (STD: TE24, PPR TE23)
I said we were looking at deep TE pickups, didn’t I? Zach Miller, as well as the next few tight ends, are VERY unsexy picks. You can probably find him in the Free Agent Pool after your draft and he may even stay a FA until you have to use a waiver on them. I do think there’s some potential here for Miller to be a decent play in 2017, so hopefully you won’t have to use a waiver on him. In 2016, Miller was only available for 10 games, but in those 10 games he racked up 47 receptions on 64 targets. For a tight end, that isn’t bad at all. Hell, Cameron Brate finished as TE7 last season and only had 17 more targets in 6 more games.
Miller was on a quiet-but-destructive pace last season before the injury. After Week 11, which was the last game he played, Miller was on pace for 102 targets, with 75 receptions. Travis Kelce was the TE1 last season with 85 receptions, granted, Kelce was the main focus point in KC’s offense. At the end of the day, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to see Miller finish as a top 10 TE in 2017 assuming health isn’t a factor, although a midseason QB switch in Chicago could impact Miller’s fantasy impact.
Charles Clay (STD: TE29, PPR TE22)
This list just keeps getting uglier and uglier, doesn’t it? Ew, Charles Clay, why would I ever draft him? I’ll tell you why, he’s another main weapon in an average passing attack in Buffalo. While I wouldn’t draft him in your 10 team league, I could see him as a decent play with some upside or as a VERY low-priced option in auction leagues.
With yet another season of a hobbled Sammy Watkins, Charles Clay, yes CHARLES CLAY, led Buffalo in targets (87), receptions (57), and tied for the most receiving TDs (4). He played in 15 of 16 games, having at least 7 targets in 7 games, at least 5 receptions in 7 games, at least 40 yards in 7 games, and had a catch rate of 65.5%, which isn’t bad considering T-Mobile isn’t exactly the most accurate QB. Do I think he can get better? Maybe, he is technically entering the peak years of his career. I wouldn’t bet on a big season, but I expect a top-15 performance, especially if Watkins and an older McCoy both continue to be stricken by injury.
Benjamin Watson (STD: TE33, PPR TE28)
This pick shouldn’t be surprising to any reader who is familiar with the Ravens passing attack, especially if you’re a PPR player. If you’ve ever watched even a half of the Ravens offense play, you’ve seen how important the tight end is to the offense.
Watson was a new signing last season, but tore his Achilles in preseason and missed the entire year. Dennis Pitta, who has since died of a hip injury, had 121 targets last season with 86 receptions (1st among TEs). He finished as TE8 in PPR formats. If you look at the available Ravens tight ends, you’ll see it’s basically just Watson.
Now Watson isn’t exactly a sure thing, especially in fantasy. He’s seen 90+ targets only 3 times in his 12 season career (technically 13, but last season was lost). He’s had one season of 800 yards and was primarily used as a blocking tight end throughout his career. The upside of Watson is decently high, especially in a game where tight ends are few and far between. Maybe this is just a Ravens fan seeing a “new” weapon in an offense that attempts so many 5 yard check-downs to tight ends and running backs, it would make your head spin, but I do think there is something to be said about the role Watson may play in 2017.
Any Questions or Comments? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @FFMilkman or leave a comment below!