Over the next few weeks, the Fantasy Assembly’s greatest fantasy football minds will come together to produce our 2016 consolidated rankings. Join Andy Germani, Tommy Landseadel and Joe Mica as they help you prepare for your rapidly approaching football drafts.
Today we discuss the Tight End position. Draft strategy here can essentially be broken down to one of three options:
- Pay for Gronk
- Reach for a second tier player
- Wait to fill the position in the late rounds
There is no other position where the top option creates such a substantial advantage over the rest of the field. Putting together a balanced roster after investing your first pick on a tight end can be difficult, but it is awfully tough to pass on Gronk.
There are quite a few potentially high scoring options on the board after Gronk, but most come with a high degree of risk. Owners who are willing to wait a bit could either hit the jackpot or be left searching for waiver options by week 4. For owners who invest in the safer options, like Olsen and Kelce, just remember what you paid for. They may not finish with as many fantasy points as some of the upside players taken later, but their certainty of production makes them worth their draft day price tag.
All of our rankings assume standard scoring:
- 6 points for TDs
- 1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
- 1 point for 25 yards passing – no PPR
Without further ado, let’s check out the ranks!
1. Is Gronk worthy of a first round selection?
Andy: I always think Gronk is worthy of a first round selection, however this year I think it is in the end not in the middle. He is the obvious number one selection though, and you can bank 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns as long if he plays at least 12 games. As long as he is in the lineup he is the number one difference maker in all of fantasy.
Joe: I checked four leagues from 2015 where Gronk was drafted in the first round. Three of the four teams had losing records. (They went 5-8, 6-8, and 6-7 for a combined .425 win%.) The fourth team went 11-3 and won the league title. Based on this mini sample size, I would say that Gronk is not worthy of a first round pick. However, it should be noted that the 3 owners with losing records may have over-estimated Gronk’s overall impact, perhaps thinking that he would carry their fantasy team single-handedly. Gronk is the best player at his position, yet other first round RB and WR being selected are still projected to out-perform Gronk by several hundred yards easily. That difference could come back to hurt owners if they take additional risks during the draft.
Tommy: Gronk is absolutely worth a first round pick. Personally, I would not consider him until the top 3 receivers and top 4 running backs are off the board, but he is one of the safer choices in round 1. I actually believe Gronk’s value is slightly lower in PPR leagues, because target monsters like Reed, Olsen and Walker have a bit more relative value. Still, I would much prefer Gronk in round one over a player I was not 100% sold on. By the way, countering Joe’s point, I drafted Gronk in two leagues last season. I finished 1st and 2nd in those two leagues. You have to be intelligent with your roster construction if you take him, but it is very doable!
2. Other than Gronk, are there any other tight ends worth reaching for early?
Andy: If I don’t get Gronk I am not reaching for anyone. I have done a lot of mocks so far from different positions and I have never taken a tight end earlier than the 10th round in any of them. When I don’t get Gronk I end up taking two tight ends really late and hope that one of them will look like a solid option after week 2.
Joe: Julius Thomas missed the preseason and the first 4 games of 2015 with a broken hand. In the remaining 12 games he averaged 55 yards per game. That put him on pace for 880 yards, which would have ranked him fifth among tight ends. Since ADP has him as a 9th round TE-10, it’s safe to say that owners are either patient or are undervaluing him.
Tommy: Coby Fleener is a skilled pass catcher and Drew Brees is a TE kingmaker. Fleener is highly likely to break out this season and everybody knows it. Still, I think he may be worth the cost. Julius Thomas is the other TE I really like. The Jaguar offense is on the rise and Thomas appears healthy and ready to dominate in the red zone. If I miss on Gronk, Reed or Olsen, I will gladly reach for one of these players in round 5 or 6.
3. Which Tight End will you be looking to avoid this season?
Andy: I will not end up with Jordan Reed this season. A borderline third or fourth round pick and a concussion could not only end his season but his career. I would rather take the likes of Randall Cobb, Russell Wilson, Kelvin Benjamin, etc. that are going in that area. I would not take Travis Kelce either at his current ADP.
Joe: Since being drafted by the Bucs in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has always been projected to do well. After two injury-plagued seasons, he has failed to live up to those high expectations. ADP currently has him as a flyer TE-20 in the 14th round and the ECR have him a few notches higher! Yet even at such a low risk value, the fact that he has only amassed 16 games in two seasons – he is unreliable to finish a season. Devaluing his stock even more, in those 16 games (which would represent a full season) he has totaled a meager 559 yards and 6 TD. Based on 2015 TE numbers, ASJ would not even have finished in the top 13. There are stronger long shots with less of an injury history available late.
Tommy: Jordan Cameron is starting to look like a one hit wonder. There was much optimism after Gase landed in Miami, but early training camp reports suggest that the Fins have not really shown any signs of expanding his role and they are somewhat disappointed in Cameron’s performance. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is another. He has been passed on the depth chart by Cameron Brate and is not even worth a late round dart throw at this point. Lastly, be careful with Jimmy Graham! He was underutilized by the Seahawks last season, and almost nobody comes back from the injury he sustained last season. If you take him late, just be sure to keep expectations in check.
4. Which TE do you see as under-valued & someone to target in the mid to late rounds?
Andy: I am all over Antonio Gates this season if I can get him around the 10th round. Gates is still averaging about 725 yards and seven touchdowns in the past five seasons and that includes a suspension shortened season last year. He is the go to red zone target for the Chargers and I don’t see that changing. If I can’t get Gates I like taking a lottery ticket on Jimmy Graham late. The talent is obviously there, and if I can pair him with a Dwayne Allen or Eric Ebron at the very end of the draft I don’t mind doing that for the first week or two of the season to see who looks like a good option.
Joe: My absolute favorite here is Jordan Cameron. ECR has him at 20 and ADP has him at a distant 22. What I like about Cameron has nothing to do with Cameron, and everything to do with his new head coach Adam Gase. History shows that Gase loves to use the TE. In two seasons at Denver and another in Chicago, Gase’s lead TE caught an average of nearly 11 TD each season. (Note in Chicago, it was a combination of Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller.) If Gase remains true to form, Cameron could be in for a nice year in the redzone.
Tommy: I really like Martellus Bennett this year. The Pats figure to go double TE as their base personnel set. Given the lack of depth at the WR position, Bennett could emerge as their 4th receiving option behind Gronk, Edelman and Lewis. Bennett is likely to be featured in the red zone also.
Up Next: the top 20 Defenses for 2016
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