This was one of the articles where about half way through the original, Rob Gronkowski vs. Travis Kelce, the nagging voice in my head kept telling me “We both know how much drafting tight ends has been a crapshoot as of late.”
I agreed with the voice and realized that I may have been up for too long. Nevertheless, I pressed forward into the first ever fatal four-way Fantasy Dilemma.
Enjoy as you marvel at who will be the best tight end in 2017.
Who is the Best Tight End to Draft?
Rob Gronkowski (ADP: 19)
- 8 GP, 25 catches, 540 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Travis Kelce (ADP: 38)
- 16 GP, 85 catches, 1,125 yards, 4 touchdowns.
Jordan Reed (ADP: 41)
- 12 GP, 66 catches, 686 yards, 6 touchdowns.
Greg Olsen (ADP:49)
- 16 GP, 80 catches, 1,073 yards, 3 touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Gronkowski dominates the NFL when he is on the field, but he can’t stay healthy. He has not played a full 16 game season since 2011. He has suffered injury after injury, and his numbers obviously have taken a hit.
In 2016 he had 540 yards and three touchdowns over eight games. Project to a full season and he has very similar numbers to Kelce. A full 16 games would give Gronk 1,080 yards and six touchdowns. That college degree and math courses are finally paying off.
Yet as Fantasy experts have harped on for years about how Gronk is the biggest risk in a Fantasy draft because of his health concerns. It has become more of a when than if he will get injured. The New England Patriots brought in Dwayne Allen from Indianapolis as Gronk insurance.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
The knock on Kelce has been that the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is too conservative and does not utilize him correctly. His numbers seem to reflect the woes of the offense, a lot of catches but not a lot of touchdowns. Kelce had three touchdowns, all in the red zone. That was as many as Spencer Ware and Tyreek Hill, and two less than Alex Smith (QB).
The Chiefs did let go of Jeremy Maclin in the offseason, but that points to a bigger role for Hill and fellow receiver Chris Conley. Kelce is simply stuck in an offense that will not put up points consistently. His ability to stay healthy and the volume of looks puts Kelce squarely in the conversation for best tight end again.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Then there is Jordan Reed, who suffers from the same fate that Gronk does. Reed, when on the field, is a dynamic playmaker and consistently creates mismatches. Kirk Cousins loves to target him, and Reed can run after the catch.
Yet as with Gronk, Reed has an inability to stay healthy. He has never played a full season, only playing as many as 14 games once. He is a great player to have when he can play, but too often he is on the sidelines in street clothes.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Finally, there is Greg Olsen, one of the most undervalued tight ends in the game. He is Cam Newton’s most reliable target and has had at least 1,000 yards the past three seasons. He is not a sexy name for owners to look for, but Olsen consistently will give your team points.
Owners know what they are getting from Olsen. If you draft him, expect 8-10 points every week. Nothing spectacular but given his ADP, it is a great value.
Looking at the final stats for tight ends last season makes me sick. Hunter Henry and Cameron Bate had the most touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, and Delanie Walker were ranked third, fourth and fifth in points, respectively. It was a mess to figure out last season.
Kelce and Olsen were the two consistent TEs last year, and I do not see that changing this year. Few arguments can be boiled down to a simple question, can you trust him? Yet that is how simple this debate will be. Olsen and Kelce can be trusted to stay on the field while Gronk and Reed cannot.
I could point out that Olsen has the highest average depth of targets among tight ends last season. That does not matter. I could point out how great Gronkowski has been when he is on the field. That does not matter. I could point out how much Kirk Cousins loves to look Reed’s way. That does not matter.
Normally this is where I would throw in some fancy stats, talk about schedules, etc. For what it is worth, Gronk has the easiest schedule and Kelce has the toughest. Yet in this specific instance, I want owners to pay attention to only one statistic: games played.
If you draft Gronk or Reed, there will come a time in the season where you will be scrambling for a replacement due to injury. Odds are that will be for weeks instead of just one matchup.
If you go into your draft with Kelce and Olsen as your top two tight ends, then you are set for the season. Gronk’s ADP makes him a value nightmare and a huge risk in the second round. Reed has even worse injury issues and if you wait for a tight end, he will leave you high and dry during the season.
It is hard to ignore consistency among all four players for better or for worse. Kelce is an elite talent on a sub par offense but will get enough catches and yards to make up for yet another season with less than five touchdowns.
Olsen will keep doing what he always does, getting just over 1,000 yards and being consistent, if not spectacular. Gronk and Reed will leave owners scratching their heads once again, wondering why they drafted a player with such an extensive injury history.
Gronk is just too much of a risk for the value you have to give up for him.
- 16 GP: 90 catches for 1,250 yards and four touchdowns (149 Fantasy points)
- 16 GP: 75 catches for 1,000 yards and four touchdowns (124 Fantasy points)
- 10 GP: 50 catches for 750 yards and five touchdowns (105 Fantasy points)
- 8 GP: 40 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns (68 Fantasy points)
Update: Jordan Reed has been placed on the PUP list. It does not change much given my projections, but owners need to worry about his health every week.
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