In my humble opinion, finding tight end sleepers is more difficult than finding quarterbacks, running backs, or wide receivers who are under the radar. That’s the reason you don’t see too much of a change in tight end rankings from year to year.
Also to add to the issue, rookie tight ends aren’t going to be stars in year one.
Aside from just getting adjusted to the NFL, they also have to work on their pass protection, open up lanes for the running backs, and master the play book.
I almost forgot that they also have to catch passes. With the rookies removed, that limits the talent pool for tight end sleepers.
However, you can still find players who can exceed expectations and help your team win.
You just have to look a little harder…
How to Find Tight End Sleepers
For tight end sleepers, I like to target backup players.
I look at offenses that can support a Fantasy relevant tight end, and then I look at the health of the starter. I’m going to show an example of that in just a minute.
I also focus on players who had a poor season in 2017 but could rebound this year. A lot of your opponents will just grab a magazine for advice on the day of your draft and skip past any tight end who didn’t record at least 500 receiving yards in 2017.
However, that’s foolish.
This is a new season, and I’m expecting one of the first tight end sleepers on my list to be far more productive than he was last year…
2018 Tight End Sleepers
All ADP data for my list of tight end sleepers is from FantasyPros.com and is up-to-date as of July 29.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 22, OVR 176)
McDonald always seemed like he was on the verge of Fantasy relevancy in San Francisco. Yet the offense was terrible and he couldn’t stay healthy.
However, he does have a knack for finding the end zone, which makes him one of my favorite tight end sleepers in 2018.
Between 2015 and 2016, he caught 54 passes, seven of which were touchdowns.
Now, it’s true he had a rocky start in 2017.
But we saw the 28-year old tight end get more involved towards the end of the season. He caught four passes for 52 yards in Week 14 and posted the same stats in Week 16. McDonald was also targeted 16 times in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the postseason.
The Steelers must be confident in his abilities. They didn’t select a tight end in the 2018 NFL Draft. Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell will still be the focal points of the offense, but McDonald is a huge red-zone target (6-foot-4, 267 pounds) who may be leaned on if Brown faces double coverage.
Now, just like with the rest of the tight end sleepers on this list, he is risky. With Brown, Bell, and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the lineup, McDonald may not be a tight end you can start each week.
But he’s great to own in a MFL10 because he could pop off at any moment.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals (ADP: 24, OVR 203)
I’m sure you’ve already seen him on sleeper lists and touted here, but I don’t think Fantasy players are believing in him just yet.
In my early drafts, he’s still on the board in Round 14.
I really like his situation because the Arizona Cardinals are depleted in terms of proven assets. Larry Fitzgerald will be 35 in August, leaving Christian Kirk, Brice Butler, or Chad Williams to step up.
For the young tight end, his only competition at the position is Gabe Holmes and Bryce Williams.
Like you, I’ve also never heard of them.
I also really like that Sam Bradford is the quarterback.
Yes, he hasn’t appeared in a 16-game season since 2012. But also keep in mind that when Bradford played 15 games in Minnesota in 2016, Kyle Rudolph posted a 83-840-7 stat line.
And even if rookie Josh Rosen gets the start at quarterback, the rookie could lean on his 6-foot-5 tight end as a safety blanket.
Now, it’s true Seals-Jones has legal trouble. It’s unknown if it will keep him off the field. Thankfully, you can draft him so late that it doesn’t matter if he can’t start in Week 1.
2018 Tight End Sleepers: TE ADP OVR 30
Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins (ADP: 33, OVR 284)
When he can stay on the field, Jordan Reed is one of the best Fantasy tight ends in the league. If he’s healthy enough to start, Alex Smith will latch on to Reed like he did with Travis Kelce in Kansas City.
But let’s circle back to Reed staying on the field…
He’s never played all 16 games a season in his career. And the last time he played in more than 12 games was in 2015. I’ll take a gamble adding him to my team; but I’m making sure to handcuff Davis to him.
In 16 games last year, he posted a respectable 43-648-3 stat line, and this was also with Reed cutting into his production.
And remember, Davis and Smith played together from 2006 to 2012 in San Francisco. In 2009, Smith helped Davis haul in 78 passes for 965 receiving yards. On top of that, the veteran tight end also caught 13 touchdowns that year.
Even if you don’t draft Reed, I still like drafting Davis. He’s almost always available near the very end of my drafts.
Virgil Green, Los Angeles Chargers, (ADP: 38, OVR 318)
I’m of the belief the Los Angeles Chargers will use more three-wide receiver sets with Hunter Henry out for the year.
But I also take into consideration what could happen if things don’t go as expected…
If the team doesn’t run more plays getting the ball to wide receivers, Green is currently sitting at the top of the depth chart for tight ends.
Last season, Philip Rivers finished with the second-most passing attempts (575) in the NFL, and he attempted 578 the year before. We know he’s going to throw the ball, and he loves targeting his tight ends.
In 2017, Antonio Gates and Henry combined for 25 red-zone targets and scored a total of seven red-zone touchdowns.
He’s the biggest dice roll on this list because the Chargers could still bring back Gates. Also, Green has never caught more than 22 passes in a single season in his career.
But if the coaching staff insists on keeping a tight end heavily involved in the offense, Green has plenty of sleeper appeal.
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