Early 2017 Tight End Ranks
Tight End might be the most frustrating position from a fantasy standpoint. The studs (Gronkowski and Reed) aren’t reliable and will cost you a pretty penny in the draft. The year-end top scorers are hard to predict — if I wrote that Kyle Rudolph would finish as the #2 TE last year at the start of the season and you didn’t immediately stop reading my article, you’d have to re-evaluate your life. Also, the point production from the position is limited. For example, the #4 scoring TE in PPR formats last year was Jimmy Graham. He totaled 189.3 points. This put him almost even with the #33 WR Cole Beasley, who tallied 189.0 points and ahead of the #21 RB Matt Forte and his 183.6 points.
Bear with me a minute while I dive a little deeper into the TE point spread. The difference between Graham at #4 and Martellus Bennett, the #10 overall TE, was a mere 21.2 points, or 1.32 points per game last year. That is not a lot of separation. For reference, #4 WR ODB scored 50.3 (3.14 ppg) more points than #10 Brandin Cooks; #4 RB LeSean McCoy topped #10 Jordan Howard by 69.2 points (4.32 ppg); and #4 QB Andrew Luck out-paced #10 Derek Carr by 39.2 points (2.45 ppg).
With all of the above in mind, I am going to rank and tier my top 12 TEs for 2017 and throw out some streaming options that will do enough to give you a chance to win if you don’t have a reliable weekly starter.
Tier 1: Draft Early and Relax
1. Travis Kelce / KC
Travis shocked the world when he chose Maya over that other girl in the final episode of Catching Kelce. Sorry, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact this guy had a reality show.
Kelce might not be, but should be the first TE taken in fantasy drafts this year. He led all TEs with 223.0 points and 1125 yards last year. He also led his team with 85 receptions, which was good for the second highest mark among TEs. Most importantly, he played in all 16 games last year, all 16 games in 2015, and all 16 games in 2014. His ceiling would benefit from more TDs, but the combination of his skill-set and durability make him the #1 TE for me. His offseason surgery does not worry me at all at this point.
Don’t Like Kelce at #1, tell that to him not me; see how he responds.
2. Greg Olsen / CAR
See a pattern here? My top 2 TEs have both shown you can count on them to put on the pads each week and are the focal points of their Offenses. Olsen finished 2016 as the #3 TE. He led the Panthers in both receptions and receiving yards every year since 2013. Before you kill me for it, I know that he tied Kelvin Benjamin with 1008 receiving yards in 2014. Nice try, but you are going to have to slam me for something else.
Like Kelce, Olsen has proven he is durable. He has played in all 16 going back to 2008. Again, I know that he did not start every game going back to 2008, but he did start every game going back to 2012. I have Kelce higher based on age and skill-set. Can a resurgent Cam put Olsen over the top?
Tier 2: Draft Early and Pray
3. Rob Gronkowski / NE
Gronk is the most talented player on this list. You will not hear an argument from me against that point. Dude is so big and so simple, he is like a real-life version of Lenny from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. He just wants to pet the wabbits, George — if “pet the wabbits” was a euphemism for Gronk-raging with spring breakers every weekend.
If you could guarantee me 14 games from Gronk, I would have him first on this list. The only reason I have Gronk at #3 is because you don’t know what you are going to get, and Brosef is going to cost you. In 2015 and 2014, those that invested in Gronk got their due rewards. He trotted out for 15 games both years. He put up 72 rec — 1,176 yds — 11 tds in ’15, and a 82 rec — 1,124 yds — 12 tds line in ’14. Last year was a different story. Gronk needed back surgery — the 3rd of his career — and finished as the #26 TE scoring only 97.0 points. You would have been better off with Lance Kendricks.
He’s a high risk, highest reward type of guy. I am of the belief you need to get guaranteed production out of your top picks. If you take a flyer on him, you might take comfort in knowing that there isn’t much separation in the middle of the TE pack. He will catch my eye if his history of back injuries slides his ADP to the 3rd or later. We need Gronk on the field, he makes poor decisions — like this one — when he is off it (Gronk shows up a little past the 2-minute mark).
4. Jordan Reed / WAS
Reed could finish as the #1 overall TE, or forced to retire next season and neither result would surprise me. Reed is a special talent, but the concussions are a serious concern. Just this week, Jay Gruden said the Redskin Offense will flow through Jordan Reed. That is great news. The question that you need to ask yourselves is: how long do you think that will last?
I considered dropping a concussion joke in here, but I couldn’t bring myself to pull the trigger. It’s poor taste. I truly hope Reed can stay healthy; brain damage is a serious matter. Instead, I will invite you back to a time when concussions jokes were A-ok. Enjoy, courtesy of Snickers.
Tier 3: The Pack: Draft. Don’t Reach.
5. Jimmy Graham / SEA
The Seattle-wide Missing Person Milk Carton Campaign put together to locate the Seahawks’ TE paid off last year. After being AWOL in 2015 (for Jimmy’s standards), Wilson and Graham got on the same page in 2016. The chemistry between those two will grow even more in 2017 and we will see his reception total increase. If one or two of the names above get hurt, Graham will finish in the top-3. He might even if they don’t.
6. Martellus Bennett / GB
Get this man in a state farm commercial and make it official! Much like most of the green and gold faithful up north, I too went from a slight panic when the Pack announced Cook was not coming back to elation when they signed Bennett. Martellus has great ball skills and is a solid blocking TE (not that it matters much for fantasy). I love this fit. It is almost as if Match.com paired Rodgers and Bennett. Out of everyone in Tier 2, Bennett and Graham have the most Tier 1 upside. This is a little high compared to the consensus rankings. Then again, Mike McCarthy agrees with me.
7. Delanie Walker / TEN
If you told me this was going to be Walkers 12th season, I would call you a liar. You would be right and I would have to apologize — I wouldn’t like it, but I would still do it. Walker is a solid option at TE. I think his age and experience (read years of getting hit) slow him down a little in 2017, but I also think the growth of Marcus Mariotta will make up for some of those losses. I am not going to reach for him in the draft. I am not advising you to do that either. If he falls to you for the right price, go ahead and take him.
8. Kyle Rudolph / MIN
I have thought the #8 spot was both too high and too low for Rudolph, so you know what that means, it’s probably just right, Goldilocks. Rudolph received 132 targets last year. That is nuts. Bradford loved his big TE. There are still questions that need to be answered about the Vikings QB situation, but the purple people eaters have yet to add any big names to their WR corps. He will see another healthy serving of targets this year and more than his fair share of red zone looks. Opportunity is gold.
9. Tyler Eifert / CIN
TD Tyler. If this guy could only stay healthy, I think we could see great things from him. It seems he can’t, so we won’t. That’s a shame. He gets to top-10 on potential alone.
10. Jack Doyle / IND
You heard me right. I think Doyle is definitely going to finish as a top-10 TE this season and I think he has potential to do some really big things for the Colts. Dwayne Allen is gone and Luck loves him some TE. Doyle finished as a top-15 TE with fewer than 50 targets last year. Those target numbers will go up this year — big. We at FFCircus think Luck will be back in form in 2017and Jack Doyle will benefit from that.
11. Zach Ertz / PHI
Zach Ertz almost landed higher on this list, but ended up being bumped down below the likes of Jack Doyle. The addition of Alshon Jeffery decreases his value just enough to support the drop. I like what I saw from Wentz in year-1, but the fact Ertz’s QB is only a sophomore plays a factor in his ranking as well.
12. Eric Ebron / DET
Ebron was a pre-season fantasy darling in 2016. Many pundits predicted great things from the Lions’ TE following Megatron’s retirement. Things didn’t go as planned. He only caught more than 5 balls in 4 games, he never eclipsed the 100 yard mark, and he only hauled in 1 TD — the same amount of TDs he threw for. I expect Ebron to get more red zone looks this year — he has the tools and build to excel in that part of the field. I expect better performance from the Lions’ TE in 2017.
Tier 4: Streamers / Plug-and-Plays
Some (perhaps all) will be drafted, but some (perhaps all) will be available on the waiver wire during the season as well.
Hunter “Hearst” Henry / LAC
Oh, how I wish the name above were true. His parents missed a golden-opportunity there. I like the kid. I really do. Chargers are getting Keenen Allen back and Antonio Gates won’t go away. Those two factors relegate “The Game” to Tier-4.
Dennis Pitta / BAL
I know you don’t want him as your starting TE. Neither do I. Pitta did have the most receptions for a TE in 2016 though, and that alone makes him a solid streamer or plug and play option.
Cameron Brate / TB
Brate tied Henry for the lead in TDs for TEs last season with 8. The addition of D-Jax (and dare I say AP?) to the TB offense bites at his value.
Ladarius Green and the “Road Dog” Jesse James / PIT
Small sample size for Green with the Steelers due to… you guessed it! Injuries. He is an above average athlete and can be a real threat in the Steelers’ passing attack if he can stay healthy. If Green can’t, the second wrestler on our list will pick up the slack.
Tier 5: Tempting…But Hands Off
You are going to want to take them. For the sake of your sanity, don’t.
Zach Miller / CHI
Miller showed he can play last year, albeit in an up-and-down fashion. He followed a 4 reception 33-yard week 2 performance with 8 receptions 77 yards and 2 TDs in week 3. I am not targeting Miller this year. The Bears are in the midst of way too many changes to expect Milller to be more consistent. You might want to chase the point as he sporadically goes off during the season, do yourself a favor and don’t.
Coby Fleener / NO
Fleener. Coby Fucking Fleener. I am going take out a restraining order against this guy. I don’t want him anyway near my team, and to think the Saint’s TE is something I should want really bad. Take him if you want him. I have nothing more to say.
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