The Tight End position is similar to the QB position in Fantasy Football, in that they are both very deep positions. Just like with the QBs, the “waiting game strategy” will be a common and effective approach to the TE spot.
There are a ton of injury issues at TE right now. Tyler Eifert is going to be out 4-6 weeks. No one knows when Ladarius Green will be back and Jimmy Graham is highly questionable for the start of the season. All of those guys would’ve been Top 12 TEs if healthy.
Unlike the QB position, there are three players (Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, and Greg Olsen) that are head and shoulders above the rest of the TEs. I’m not a proponent of using your first round pick on Gronkowski (ADP 9). If Reed (ADP 38), or Olsen (ADP 41) slip into the fifth round, I’ll be more than happy to take them there.
Most likely, I’ll be playing the waiting game though. I’m not a huge fan of the expert consensus No.4-No.6 TEs (Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, and Coby Fleener). I’ll be targeting the No. 7- No. 10 TEs (Gary Barnidge, Julius Thomas, Zach Ertz, and Antonio Gates) in rounds 8-10. While I like all four of these TEs, I like the value of Gates (ADP 102) the most.
I actually have Gates raked ahead of Julius Thomas and Zach Ertz, as my No. 8 TE. This makes Antonio Gates my Must Draft Tight End.
Must Draft Tight End
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (ADP 102)
Gates is 36 and we have seen TEs be productive at that age before (i.e. Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe). The Chargers made the decision to give Gates a 2-year contract extension, and allowed Ladarius Green to hit the free agent market. So, San Diego obviously still has confidence in him.
Gates was suspended for the first four games last season. He also missed another game due to a foot injury, and he played the majority of the season noticeably hobbled by the injury. He still posted a very solid stat line of 56 catches, 630 yards, and 5 TDs.
If you project those numbers out over a full season, Gates would have finished with 81 catches for 910 yards. That would have placed him third in receptions and sixth in yards at the TE position. The five TDs were a bit low for Gates as well. He had 12 TDs in 2014.
The Chargers offense struggled to score TDs last year. They moved the ball well through the air, with Philip Rivers throwing for over 4,700 yards. However, they had the worst rushing attack in the league. I don’t see their running attack improving much this year, especially considering they just lost their best offensive lineman in D.J. Fluker for the season.
The Chargers are a bad team with a bad defense. They will likely be near the top of the league in pass attempts again this season. Emerging young star wide receiver Keenan Allen will be the No. 1 target in the passing game. Gates should be the clear cut No. 2 option, with RB Danny Woodhead and new addition Travis Benjamin also getting their fair share of targets.
The Keenan Allen Effect
Gates and Allen only played two full games together before Allen went down for the season in Week 8. In those two games, Gates had 18 catches, 187 yards, and 2 TDs. They were also the only two games Gates played before suffering a foot injury that lingered the rest of the season.
With opposing defenses being forced to double cover Allen, Gates should have plenty of room to work with in the middle of the field. The Chargers offense really struggled down the stretch after the loss of Allen. They were forced to start WRs Dontrelle Inman and Malcom Floyd. The duo of Allen and Travis Benjamin will be a major upgrade, and the passing game should thrive in San Diego.
Durability and Consistency
Durability and consistency are quite rare at the TE position. Gates provides both of them. In his 14 year career, Gates has only missed 10 games due to injury and has played hurt often throughout his career. Gates is also as consistent as they come. He had less than 50 yards in only three games last season, and he’s always a threat to score in the redzone.
Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns (ADP 80)
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP 92)
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 101)
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