After recording episode 52 of our podcast last week, I realized the incredible and exciting amount of depth at the tight end position in 2017. Even beyond the top 15, there’s plenty of value in the 16-25 range for those of you that play in even deeper leagues or two TE leagues. Here’s my look at the position heading into next season, not including any incoming Rookies.
1. Jordan Reed
We debated my placement of Reed at the top of the pack on the podcast and I stand by my decision here. There’s something special with his rapport with Kirk Cousins and IF he’s able to stay healthy, I truly believe he will finish with a better season than Gronk. He only played in 12 games in 2016, but he found the end zone 6 times. I’m betting he’ll finish with a season more like his 2015 one, in which he scored 11 times on 952 yards receiving. A career best, 1,000+ yards for Reed in 2017 is my prediction.
2. Rob Gronkowski
Assuming he’s in a Patriots uniform next season, you’ve got to believe he’s coming back healthy and in Beast Mode. Tom Brady looks better than ever. I fully expect Gronk to eat into the target share that was heavily received by Edelman last year.
3. Travis Kelce
This guy absolutely CRUSHED me in Week 16 with his monster performance against the Broncos in one of my biggest money, fantasy championships. I’m forever salty towards Mr. Kelce for that reason, but now that just makes me want to own as many shares of him in 2017 as possible. He could very well finish as the #1 fantasy TE in PPR formats again in 2017. As I mentioned on the podcast though, I hope the Chiefs continue to feed this beast with targets.
4. Greg Olsen
Probably as safe of a bet for a top 5 TE as possible. He’s still Cam Newton’s number one target and I’m also expecting a bounce back season from Cam. When you sit back and take a look at his numbers the last few years, it’s impressive. Olsen has been a thousand yard receiver for the last 3 seasons, with a minimum of 120 targets and 77 catches per season. That is incredible. Sign me up! He’s a modern day Jason Witten and he’s tough as nails. I’ll take the consistency all day long.
5. Delanie Walker
Mariota is only going to continue to get better, so I expect Walker to do much of the same. The guy is a monster in PPR leagues. He’s had at least 100 targets and 800 yards receiving in each of the last 3 seasons now. Another safe bet for a solid fantasy season.
6. Tyler Eifert
Slow start to 2016 with injuries but finished the season pretty strongly for the Bengals, scoring 5 touchdowns in only 8 games. When Eifert, Dalton and Green are on the field at the same time, naturally I like his chances to be a fantasy impact player much more. Here’s to a healthy 2017.
He was able to play in all 16 games in 2016 and his numbers were back to the way they were when he played with Drew Brees. This was quite refreshing for a lot of fantasy players last year that “gambled” by taking what was a potentially washed up Graham. He proved a lot of people wrong when he scored 6 touchdowns on 65 catches for 923 yards receiving. Russell Wilson seems to have finally figured out how to make best use of the crafty Veteran and I’m looking forward to see what he can do in 2017.
He’s now had 100 targets and 800 yards receiving in back to back seasons, but he’s only scored 6 times in those 29 games. If Ertz is able to find the end zone more frequently, he certainly has upside to be a top 5 tight end in the fantasy world and a major asset for the Eagles.
I’ve always been a big Kyle Rudolph fan and in 2016 he finally enjoyed his breakout season in which he hauled in 83 passes for 840 yards and 7 scores. He was targeted a whopping 132 times with Bradford under center. I’ve heard rumblings of Bridgewater not being ready to come back and the Vikings negotiating an extension for Bradford. All signs point to another big season for Kyle Rudolph. Also of note, he’s played in 16 games in back to back seasons for the first time in his career.
Huge Ebron fan right here. He’s one of the most athletic tight ends in the league, hands down. If you’ve been listening to our podcast lately then you know I am keen on Stafford having another big fantasy season this year. Ebron should be a big beneficiary of this based on sheer volume alone. The big issue was his lack of ability to find the end zone last year. I am expecting that to change in 2017 - I’ll chalk 2016 up as unlucky in that department.
“Make America Brate Again,” as Mr. Tate would say, or Make the Bucs Brate again as I will tell you! This is the year of the Buccaneers and I am feeling the presence of Cameron Brate continuing in Tampa Bay. He took advantage of 81 targets from James Winston, catching 57 balls for 660 yards while finding the end zone and impressive 8 times. Look for the Winston/Brate combo to continue to improve.
I caught a little heat from the crew for having so much faith in Dennis Pitta but look at what he was capable of doing over a full and healthy season. He didn’t score a lot of touchdowns (2), but he had career highs in catches (86) and yards (729). Flacco looked his way often in 2016, targeting him 119 times. Barring any major injury setbacks, Pitta should be a target hot in 2017.
Will this be the year that Hunter Henry really steps up as the #1 TE for Rivers? I am not quite so sure, but that’s why I have them ranked right next to each other. I think Henry gives them a better chance to stretch the field, but Gates can still be a dangerous option in the red zone. For that reason, I think both players can have a solid fantasy season. I expect an increase from the 54 targets of last year, but the 8 number feels about right for touchdowns.
Gates - He was
He was still able to play in 14 games last season and was targeted 92 times, scoring 7 touchdowns with 548 yards receiving. I am not so sure he’ll get quite as many targets this year but I think he can still put up close to 500 yards receiving and near double digit touchdowns. He’s still got that connection with Rivers and even though he’s old and slow, there’s still some left in the tank.
15. Julius Thomas
I’ve always liked Julius Thomas and I think a lot of people will forget about him in their fantasy drafts in 2017. I thought the Jags had committed to Thomas, as they paid him a $3 million bonus that kicked in 5 days after the Super Bowl, but then they went and traded him on Monday. He’s in year 3 of a big 5 year deal and hasn’t really been healthy enough to make the impact he is capable of. Assuming he has a good camp, comes back healthy in addition to Tannehill, Thomas is more than capable of being a top 10 fantasy TE. I kind of like him in Miami the more I think about it.
Others to keep an eye on: Gary Barnidge, C.J. Fiederowicz, Coby Fleener, Jason Witten, Zach Miller, Jack Doyle, Dwayne Allen, Jesse James/Ladarius Green, Jared Cook, Vance McDonald, Austin Hooper