The tight end position is a dumpster fire of a position in Fantasy. So I shall not keep you long.
You either stream the position until 1 sticks, draft one too high if you want to draft it and forget it (Gronkowski, Kelce being the main ones in recent years after Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen’s ascendancies in New Orleans and Carolina respectively). or you pick up a mid to late round one and maybe grab one off of waivers and “see how it goes”. Either way, GMs ideas of how to play the Tight end is probably one of the most varied on the spectrum of the skills positions (QB being the nearest comparative).
Couple with that, you aren’t able to get much of an edge from rookies as TEs don’t usually perform that great in the NFL (Evan Engram last year aside). Whether this is due to the TE always being scheme dependant, or it just takes a couple of years to get to grips with the TE position in the sport.
All in all, I can see why some leagues make the TE only position a flex, essentially treating the more elite TEs effectively a WR.
That said, the Free Agency has thrown up some interesting storylines heading in to the 2018 season;
Trey Burton was the guy who is probably the biggest winner in the TE Free Agency. He heads over to the Bears for a whopping 4 year, $32m deal. The coaching staff there have already come out and said they intend to use Trey Burton as a pass catcher, working from the slot on occasions (All aboard the hype train!) and with the name exposure he gained from the SuperBowl, expect Mr UK Men’s Clothes Retailer to go overdrafted in your league.
That said, he is only 26 and has his best years ahead and now will get the volume, so who’s to say he cant break into the top 5 this year at the Tight End position? The offence needs to take a step forward under Trubisky but a TE is always a QBs (especially newer QBs) best friend and security blanket. I think he’ll have a big year.
Jimmy Graham not signing back to the Saints was a big surprise once it was confirmed he was leaving Seattle. Instead Green Bay, who aren’t particularly great with TEs in recent memory, came calling and have acquired Jimmy Graham to a $30m, 3 year deal. On the face of it, considering how much Graham has slowed down and become more of a Redzone target (and injury prone), the Packers probably overpaid here. However, With Jordy gone, they needed to replace that Redzone/Endzone body who can just catch the ball and Graham certainly is that. Saints ended up signing former Baltimore Raven veteran Benjamin Watson, who is literally one of the oldest players I know (not personally) and have no idea how he is still getting work.
Ed Dickson, who showed as a competent replacement when Greg Olsen went down last year, has broken free from the shackles of Carolina and has replaced Jimmy Graham at Seattle. But before you get excited, Dickson is primarily a blocking tight end so don’t go rushing to pick him up for your fantasy rosters. Instead keep an eye on Nick Vannett. The 3rd year tight end looks certain to be the pass catcher here in Seattle so there is also a chance that both Dickson and Vannett share targets. In which case, temper expectations for both.
Another surprising move to me saw former New York Jets Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins move to Jacksonville. Surprising in the sense that why didn’t NYJ at least match that offer? They had the cap space for it, he produced effectively last year for the team and is still only 25 years young (if Ben Watson is the barometer for age). He has proved he is over his former demons so maybe there was something else the Jets weren’t liking and decided to cut ties. Either way, seems like a silly move as he was a good fit in that offence. I don’t see him being as good a fit in this offence, though Tom Coughlin knows how to get production out of TEs and often did with lesser names in New York. Jacksonville are going to be a run first heavy offence, but the signing of ASJ gives Bortles a security blanket to make easier, high percentage throws. They got him at a steal, too- $10m over 2 years.
Fantasy Impact: Most of the guys above will be drafted by GMs in 2018 (with the exception of maybe 1 in Seattle, but both of those will have streaming value once we have more info on depth and usage type). As stated above, expect Trey Burton to go way earlier than perhaps he should (perhaps 7th or 8th round in 10 team leagues, around the Delanie Walker/Jack Doyle/Jimmy Graham area?) so unless he falls to you in the 9th or 10th round, I’ll probably pass on Ertz in standard leagues. As he is likely to see a fair share of targets, I don’t mind so much in PPR seeing as though TE is a wasteland.
Jimmy Graham could be anything but if you want a QB throwing to you, it’s Aaron Rodgers (though Brock Osweiler to TE is the utopia for receptions lets not forget). However, note of caution on that; everyone thought Martellus Bennett was a good thing last year and he bombed out. I do think Graham will perform better than most recent tight ends in Green Bay due to the Jordy Nelson exit, vacating redzone targets narrative, but i wouldn’t touch him any earlier than the 9th or 10th round, and a lot of people will get him before then.
In other Tight End news:
Tyler Eifert re-signed with the Bengals and has sleeper credentials if he can stay healthy. A lot of people will have given up on him and this also kills Tyler Kroft’s value unless Eifert injures himself again in 2018 (more than likely). Eifert likely to be a double digit round guy because of this so has low risk and potentially high reward and is a perfect draft pick for those that stream the position anyway.
Luke Willson has signed with the Lions from Seattle, with the exiting Eric Ebron signing for the Colts in is what must be the worst Free Agency move in my opinion. Jack Doyle owners will not like the signing of Ebron as there is potentially a 2 TE setup onslaught coming from the colts to try and protect Andrew Luck and Ebron could quite easily eat in to the wealth of targets Jack Doyle saw last year (2nd in targets to Travis Kelce at the TE position with 80). Indianapolis have a history of employing 2 TEs in their lineups going back to the Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen days (doesn’t time go fast). Luke WIllson could see a bit of usage as the lions look to get answers at the TE position so may be a name worth keeping tabs on.
Virgil Green has signed with the Chargers, which was a slightly strange one and it’ll leave more puzzling questions as to what Hunter Henry does next season in terms of usage and receptions.
As previously stated, Ben Watson has signed with New Orleans on a 1 year deal and I fully expect the Saints to draft a TE early in this year’s draft (you can view my mock drafts here).
And finally, Cameron Brate signed a massive deal to re-sign with the Buccaneers so the tandem of he and OJ Howard will continue to leave GMs scratching their heads at which one to utilise in their fantasy teams next season.