Over the past month and a half, I’ve ranked the top 25 quarterbacks, the top 35 running backs, and the top 50 wide receivers for dynasty leagues. Last but not least, we come to the tight end position. As always, these rankings are based on PPR leagues. The rankings are also broken into tiers so if your favorite player isn’t where you think he should be, feel free to rearrange the tiers to your own liking – and if that still isn’t good enough, tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below!
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City – There aren’t really any flaws to point out about Kelce from a fantasy perspective. He’s had 4 straight 800 yard seasons, the last 2 of which were over 1000 yards and 80 catches and he’s still in his prime at 28 years old. He plays for a good offensive minded coach, and is a centerpiece for his offense. Invest with confidence.
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England – I’ve been a huge Gronkowski fan for years, throughout all of his various injuries. It’s easy to forgive Gronkowski for missing time, when he’s reminding how dominant he is every time he does play. On a per game basis, Gronk still managed to outscore Kelce last season. Unfortunately, however, reports have surfaced that Gronk just isn’t having fun playing football anymore and may be considering retirement. It’s certainly understandable given his expansive injury history and the fact that he’s essentially accomplished everything he can in the NFL. I expect Gronkowski to play next season, and I think fears of an early retirement may be overstated, but Kelce is good enough and safe enough to finally knock the best tight end of all time from the #1 dynasty spot at the position.
Long Term Starters
3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia – Ertz has been a good player for a while now, but last season seemed to mark a breakout for him thanks to the success of the Eagles. At this point, he’s 27 years old and a near lock for 800 yards a season with a handful of touchdowns and 70+ catches. Essentially, he’s discount Travis Kelce, which is still a really good asset to own, especially when you consider that Philadelphia’s offense should continue to dominate for the foreseeable future.
4. Evan Engram, New York – Last year’s tight end rookie class was a bit overshadowed by the dominance of the rookie running backs, but it was one of the most promising classes in recent memory. Engram was one of the headliners and didn’t disappoint, finishing as the TE4 in PPR points per game. He may be held back by the return of the Giants top targets in Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, but he should continue to develop as a complementary option for the Giants.
The Next Generation
5. David Njoku, Cleveland – Njoku flashed moments of greatness last season, but wasn’t quite able to put it all together consistently. That said, I was pretty happy with Njoku’s 32 catch, 386 yard, 4 TD rookie season considering the awful QB play he dealt with. The sky is the limit for Njoku.
6. Hunter Henry, San Diego – Will Antonio Gates ever retire? Apparently not. His presence seems to hold back Henry a bit, but Henry is still a very talented young tight end. There aren’t a lot of tight ends his age who have proven to be as good of pass catchers as Henry has.
7. OJ Howard, Tampa Bay – The first tight end drafted, in last years loaded class, some people may view Howard’s rookie season as a disappointment. I wouldn’t. Howard totaled 6 touchdowns while sharing the position with veteran Cameron Brate and taking on a variety of blocking responsibilities. Howard’s role in the offense may limit his upside a bit, but you can guarantee he’ll be a very good player for a very long time.
The Last Generation
8. Greg Olsen, Carolina – A broken foot prevented Olsen from having his 6th straight 800 yard season and 4th straight 1000 yard season. At 32, he may not have many of those years left, but he’s still Cam Newton’s favorite target and tight ends have been known to play late into their 30s.
9. Jordan Reed, Washington – Everybody knows the story with Reed by now. He simply cant stay healthy. He’s suffered a wide variety of injuries in his career, but by far the most concerning have been his 5 concussions. Retirement could be one hit away for Reed. On the bright side, when he’s on the field he’s a fantastic route runner with excellent hands, and one of the most important pieces in Jay Gruden’s offense.
10. Jimmy Graham, Seattle – Set to be a free agent this offseason, Graham’s value will likely depend on where he lands this offseason. Regardless of location, however, Graham is a touchdown monster scoring 10 on just 57 catches last season. I expect that skill to age well.
11. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati – Eifert has a lot in common with the two players above him. He also has an extensive injury history and is set to be a free agent this offseason. He’s also very talented, particularly at scoring touchdowns. Both he and Reed are risky options that could provide massive returns if you can buy low while people are forgetting how good they can be.
12. Delanie Walker, Tennessee – Walker is the oldest player on this list and his replacement is already lurking (more on that in a minute), but he’s also just a very good player and a top option for Marcus Mariota. I have a lot of confidence that the Titans offense will be new and improved in 2018 under new Offensive Coordinator Matt LeFleur and Walker should continue to post TE1 numbers.
13. Jonnu Smith, Tennessee – This may seem bold to some, but I am a huge Jonnu Smith believer. Yes, he’s still behind Delanie Walker on the depth chart. No, he didn’t have a huge rookie season. Yes, he was drafted a round later than two of the 2nd year tight ends behind him on this list. But I promise there’s a lot to love here as well. For starters, Smith was clearly drafted to serve as a potential replacement for Delanie Walker. Walker has obviously been very productive in Tennessee and I expect Smith to be as well once he takes over. Like Walker, Smith is a great athlete. He ran a 4.62 40 yard dash at the combine last season at 6’3”, 250 pounds and posted a 38 inch vertical. And have I mentioned I love the look of the Titans offense moving forward? Even last season, Smith was having plays drawn up for him specifically. I don’t expect you to have to pay TE13 prices for Smith in any of your leagues which makes now a great time to buy.
14. Austin Hooper, Atlanta – Hooper seems to be following a pretty standard TE progression. He had 19 catches as a rookie and followed it up with 49 for more than 500 yards this past season. Still only 23 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to keep improving on those totals.
15. George Kittle, San Francisco – 43 catches for 515 yards is a pretty promising start for a 5th round rookie tight end. Kittle could explode in the future in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
16. Gerald Everett, Los Angeles – Everett wasn’t very involved in the Rams offense but he flashed big play ability, averaging more 15.3 yards per reception. Tight ends are notorious for developing slowly, so I wouldn’t worry about Everett too much yet. He’s still a relatively high draft pick in an offense where Sean McVay will be sure to utilize him.
17. Adam Shaheen, Chicago – I was very high on Shaheen last year, but he was essentially nonexistent in Chicago’s offense last season. Considering he’s also a bit old for his level of experience (he turns 25 next season), Shaheen is definitely the least exciting upside gamble at tight end.
18. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota – Rudolph has been a solid option for fantasy owners over the past two years. While he’s only had more than 550 yards once in his career, the 28 year old has scored plenty of touchdowns to make up for that. With Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen hoarding most of the targets in Minnesota, Rudolph’s upside will remain capped, but he’s a productive starting tight end.
19. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York – There was a day when Seferian-Jenkins looked like he’d be the next big thing at tight end. That day has passed, largely due to off-field issues, but last season he showed us he’s still talented enough to be a quality tight end.
20. Eric Ebron, Detroit – Similar to Seferian-Jenkins, Ebron has never managed to live up to his hype. I don’t think the breakout everybody keeps waiting for is going to come, but he’s a young starting tight end in a pass happy offense.
At the beginning of this post, I said we had reached the “last but not least position”. I lied. Unless you play in a tight end premium league, tight end is the weakest position in fantasy football, and the one I am most inclined to ignore in favor of other positions. The lack of depth can mean that having a dominant player like a healthy Gronkowski gives you a large edge over your competition, but for the most part the position contains a variety of unproven young players and unexciting veterans.
Like most positions, I prefer to focus on upside so I often look to target younger tight ends who may come at a discount due to slow starts to their careers. The “Upside Gambles” tier will likely score fewer fantasy points than the tier below it next season, but they also provide a shot at locking down the position for years to come.
Visit Fantasy Rundown for additional fantasy football rankings for 2018 – it’s never too early.