I’ve always been kind of notorious for “hating” Tight Ends.
I never want to pay the price to get a guy like Rob Gronkowski, and I can usually convince myself to avoid the next two or three guys as well. By the end of the draft, I end up with some misfit who I end up dropping by Week 4, and I replace him by some other misfit that I end up droppin by Week 9. As much as I hate to admit it, having a quality tight end is important.
This year, tight end is pretty disgusting, as a lot of question marks have popped up around what used to be the “good enough” guys, and no one has really stepped in to take their places.
Here’s a glimpse of what we can expect from the TE position in 2018 fantasy drafts. Average Draft Position (ADP) and Expert Consensus Ranking (ECR) data is for a points per reception (PPR) league courtesy of FantasyPros.
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The Stud: Rob Gronkowski (TE1, Overall ECR: 23, ADP: 22)
Gronk is - and has been for a while - the obvious elite tight end. You know the story - he’s absolutely unstoppable when he’s on the field, but he tends to find himself watching from the sidelines more than not. At an ADP of 22, he would have to be your second or third player drafted, which is too high for me. If he fell to 30 or so in a 10-team league (beginning of the fourth round), and you already had two solid running backs and a quality receiver in the first three rounds, I’d take Gronk. Otherwise, I’m just not willing to pay the price.
Very Good, But Very Pricey: Travis Kelce (TE2, ECR: 26, ADP: 26) and Zach Ertz (TE3, ECR: 34, ADP: 33)
Kelce and Ertz are in a tier of their own right after Gronk. As with Gronk, I’d be fine taking them if their ADP fell into the 30s (Ertz’s already is) and I felt like I had a solid, high-floor team in place. Kelce is probably a bit too expensive for my taste, but Ertz is intriguing. I’d consider him at the end of the fourth, but if he falls into the 40-45 ADP range and you’re already strong at RB, Ertz is a guy I’ll be targeting heavily.
Solid Production, Solid Value: Greg Olsen (TE4, ECR: 61, ADP: 63), Evan Engram (TE5, ECR: 64, ADP: 59, and Delanie Walker (TE6, ECR: 70, ADP: 73)
Tight Ends in this area get very interesting. By pick 60 in a 10-team league, you’d already have six players, so without a tight end let’s say that’s three running backs and three wide receivers. This is probably where I’ll be targeting a tight end: I don’t have to sacrifice a starting RB or WR (or even FLEX), but the TEs in this area are still solid quality.
Considering their respective prices, I prefer Olsen, then Walker, then Engram. Engram was phenomenal in 2017, but he’s a bit expensive here, especially considering the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and an expected massive swing back towards the running game in an attempt to reestablish a balanced offense for the Giants. Olsen had always been very dependable prior to his injury last year, and Walker is pretty much as solid as you can get without being that incredible. He averaged just under five catches for 50 yards on a per game basis last year, so trust me you can do much worse at tight end.
Who The Hell Knows?: Jimmy Graham (TE7, ECR: 73, ADP: 57), Kyle Rudolph (TE8, ECR: 81, ADP: 75), Jordan Reed (TE9, ECR: 98, ADP: 89), and Trey Burton (TE10, ECR: 99, ADP: 91)
This is pretty much the risk-reward section.
Will Jimmy Graham be incredible because he now has arguably the best QB in the league throwing him the ball in Aaron Rodgers, or will Rodgers continue to neglect his TE as he pretty much always has?
Can Kyle Rudolph carve out his piece of a suddenly-booming offense, or will Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook take all his fun away?
Will Jordan Reed play more than 2 games? What about 4? All 16? Literally no one has any idea.
Can Trey Burton be a capable starter? If so, will the Bears offense produce enough for him to be relevant?
I’d really like to have my tight end before we get here, but if I have to pick from this lot, I won’t be doing it until the 80th pick or so, so that probably rules out Graham for me. If you want solid and slightly underwhelming, Rudolph is there. If you want massive upside, Reed is your guy. If you want a combination, you’re probably looking at Graham or Burton.
The Other Guys I Kinda Care About:
Jack Doyle (TE11, ECR: 103, ADP: 117)
If Andrew Luck is healthy, Doyle is in a good spot with great value here. If only stinky Eric Ebron wasn’t there to ruin all the fun.
George Kittle (TE12, ECR: 114, ADP: 119)
Kittle showed several sparks throughout the 2017 season, and he’s definitely worth a flyer if you really want to avoid the Jordan Reed/Trey Burton party. It remains to be seen how he’ll fit in to the 49ers offense with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm all year, but at a generally underwhelming position, Kittle showed that he can be more than capable.
Charles Clay (TE14, ECR: 132, ADP: 185)
The Bills should be playing from behind a bunch this year, and while I don’t really expect their offense to be anything resembling “good”, I do think the volume should be there for Clay.
O.J. Howard (TE15, ECR: 137, ADP: 137)
Howard is a physical freak, and I’m really hoping that he unseats Cameron Brate as Tampa Bay’s TE1and becomes a focal point for this offense. In my eyes, he is the lottery ticket at TE.
If you end up with someone between Gronk (TE1) and Walker (TE6), you should probably only draft one TE. If you end up with someone in the “Who The Hell Knows?” section, I’d probably try to also grab a Jack Doyle, George Kittle, or Charles Clay in case your earlier pick blows up in your face (looking at you, Jordan Reed). If you end up with Kyle Rudolph and really don’t have a RB/WR that you love in the late rounds, I’d target a guy like O.J. Howard.
In summation, if you want to pay up for a TE, go for it, but make sure you have a solid foundation before then. If you end up with a high-risk guy, consider pairing them with a nice boring solid guy.
Follow Donald on Twitter @DonaldGibsonFF