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When we look back at each Fantasy Football season, as so-called experts, we like to figure out what we got right and what we got wrong.

We’ve taken a look at each position to see what lessons we can learn in retrospect. In looking at the 2017 tight ends, we can come up with a few lessons that can help on draft day.

In 2016, the tight end position seemed deep heading into draft day. By the middle of the season, Fantasy owners were scrambling on the waiver wire to find someone to give them more than three points.

Often times, the tight end you draft isn’t the tight end that you end the season with. Perhaps, it is best to try to draft a solid tight end from the beginning.

Let’s look back at 2016 and find some lessons to use when drafting 2017 tight ends.

2017 Tight Ends

Lesson #1: Touchdowns are fluky

When starting a tight end each week, Fantasy owners are often hoping for a touchdown. The easiest way to double-digit points from a tight end is a touchdown. In 2016, 11 tight ends had five or more touchdowns:

Cameron Brate, TB 8
Hunter Henry, SD 8
Kyle Rudolph, MN 7
Delanie Walker, TN 7
Antonio Gates, SD 7
Martellus Bennett, NE 7
Jimmy Graham, SEA 6
Jordan Reed, WAS 6
Dwayne Allen, IND 6
Jack Doyle, IND 5
Tyler Eifert, CIN 5

 

In looking at the tight ends who had five or more touchdowns in 2015, only five of these names are repeats: Kyle Rudolph (five in 2015), Antonio Gates (five in 2015), Delanie Walker (six in 2015), Jordan Reed (11 in 2015) and Tyler Eifert (13 in 2015).

For those chasing touchdowns from year to year, they were likely disappointed. Gary Barnidge, Eric Ebron, and of course Rob Gronkowski  were busts for Fantasy owners in 2016. When looking at tight ends for 2017, look at the touchdowns from 2016, but don’t focus on them. They aren’t necessarily an indicator as to what 2017 will bring.

 

Lesson #2: Pay attention to targets

The year-on-year target analysis doesn’t provide a lot to go on. Here are the Top 5 target leaders from 2015 and their 2016 targets:

2015 Targets 2016 Targets
Delanie Walker, TN 133 102
Gary Barnidge, CLE 125 82
Greg Olsen, CAR 124 129
Rob Gronkowski, NE 120 38
Jordan Reed, WAS 114 89

 

Only Greg Olsen was in the Top 5 for targets in 2016, although Walker’s 102 was sixth among tight ends. While Gronkowski was injured for most of 2016, Barnidge fell victim to poor quarterback play. Jordan Reed played in 12 games in 2016 compared to 14 in 2015. Not that two additional games would add 25 targets, but it would raise him closer to the Top 5.

The key to looking at targets is looking at the offense. Cleveland’s offense struggled, and that explains the drop in tight end targets. For the two offenses that stayed the same (or close to) – Tennessee and Carolina – the tight ends could still get triple-digit targets on the season.

When looking ahead to 2017, look at tight ends that had a high number of targets, but also are in offense that will continue to support those targets. Kyle Rudolph had the most targets in 2016, and this should continue in 2017. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz also were in the Top 5 for targets in 2016, and both, assuming their teams stay the same, should be TE1s in 2017.

 

Lesson #3: Injury-prone tight ends don’t change their stripes

Fantasy owners who drafted Rob Gronkowski in the first round learned this lesson. Gronkowski, when healthy, is a top-tier tight end. However, 2016 did not see very many healthy games for the TE1. Gronkowski hasn’t played 16 games since 2011. He’s going to be 28 heading into the 2017 season and will likely spend more time on the bench.

Jordan Reed hasn’t played a full season in his four years in the league. While he is a stud tight end when healthy, given all of the injuries he’s faced, odds are that he’s not going to put together a 16-game season. He’s certainly worth drafting, but Fantasy owners need to know that they will need a back-up for at least a few games a season.

Jimmy Graham came back from one of the toughest injuries to return from, and actually played all 16 games in 2016. However, Fantasy owners still may want to consider drafting a second tight end if they take him in 2017.

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Sarah Lewis
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Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis (formerly Sarah Bojarski) once spent an entire cocktail hour at a wedding reception answering Fantasy Football start/sit questions on Twitter. She has been writing about Fantasy Football for five seasons now, and is always willing to talk draft strategy with anyone looking to win their league. Follow her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32
Sarah Lewis
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