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Tight End Dynasty Options: An Early Look At The Position

tight end dynasty options
Photo Credit: Rachel N

It is not a good year for tight end dynasty options. Moreover, it is going to be a bad year for tight ends period.

2017 saw a jump from six TEs to seven TEs out of the top 100 FFL players. Yet a whopping nine were among the Top 100 in 2015. Even numbered years recently seem to be worse for tight ends than the odd years preceding them. Expect 2018 to look a lot like 2016, when zero TEs were in the Top 50.

Only a fool, however, would conclude that an even numbered year is the cause of the dip. But a weak draft class, the old guard on the way out, and questions regarding the current premium crop will cause this year’s TE options to be thinner than Calista Flockhart.

I’ll give you the meat of what I would do at the tight position if I’m in a dynasty league.

But first, let’s look at the three issues above:

An Early Look At Tight End Dynasty Options

Tight End Dynasty Options: This Year’s Draft?

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The Options

This rookie class is very weak, making tight end dynasty options limited. It’s admittedly deep in that there is a lot of 3rd round talent that will be available in the 5th round. However, few pundits have any TEs ranked in their Top 30, and rightfully so.

Hayden Hurst might go late in the first round, but he is a far cry from last year’s Top 25 projected pick O.J. Howard. But Hurst’s age (25) has some skeptical. Hurst did have 100 receptions over his three year college career; he is still likely a late first rounder. Draft guru Mel Kiper, for example, likes him going to New Orleans with the 27th pick.

Mark Andrews, the John Mackey Award winner and Baker Mayfield’s top target, is often just a few spots behind Hurst. Andrews has the desired size and speed for a tight end, but will need to improve his route running. He has been likened to Hunter Henry, but Henry was a far better blocker.

Behind Andrews is Mark Gesicki. Gesicki also offers great size and is extremely fast for a TE. However, his blocking leaves much to be desired. He had far too many drops as well. The only other tight end who might be atop some teams boards is Dallas Goedert.

Goedert going where?

Goedert might best typify this year’s class. Good reasons exist to support taking him, however, like the rest of his TE class, there are doubts. Before the combine, many thought Goedert might be a first round TE. However, his combine medical exam raised additional questions. Furthermore, his receptions, touchdowns, and yards all dropped from his junior to senior year, a serious red flag. Goedert has a knack for finding the soft spot in the zone as evinced by his 72 catches for 1,111 yards in 2017. Yet he lacks separation ability. He’s been linked to the Patriots, but I just can’t see the Patriots grabbing him early.

No other TE will should go in the top 100 picks. That’s miles away from last year’s class. As many as 10 tight ends were projected to be drafted last year before the end of round three. Where might some of the aforementioned tight ends be picked?

Landing Spots?

The Broncos might be the only team picking in the Top 10 who need a tight end. With such a glaring need, that would be a golden opportunity for a rookie tight end. I especially like any TE that is teamed up with Case Keenum. However, I expect the Broncos to address their defensive needs first, followed by an eye to the future at WR. Whichever TE lands in Denver is probably lacking in talent and immediate production.

Towards the middle of the order, the Dolphins seem to be perennially looking for a TE. But like the Broncos, I expect them to add to their defense first. And the fact that the Dolphins seem to be perennially looking does not inspire confidence.

The Ravens are one TE-needy team in the middle of the order who are less likely to add to their defense than a tight end, but their WR, OL, and QB needs make drafting a TE early dubious. I could see some of the teams in the back third of the draft having the luxury of picking a tight end late. Yet not a single one is an ideal landing spot for one of the rookie tight ends.

I will not be selecting any rookie TE in my redraft leagues. I will do so in dynasty leagues only if I can get them super-cheap.

Of course, old veterans can be had cheap too. The issue however is that the old guard of TE veterans are on their way out.

 

Tight End Dynasty Options: Proven Veterans

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The amazing Antonio Gates turns 38 in June and is currently a free agent. Whether he signs with the Chargers or some other team, his 12-TD season in 2014 seems like a lifetime ago. The most telling stat is that it took Gates until Week 16 to have more than three catches or more than 35 yards in a game this past season. The end is definitely coming.

Gates was taken in the same draft class as Jason Witten, who will likely play one more year. And his drop has not been as precipitous as Gates, but his receptions and receiving yards were the lowest of his career since his rookie season.

Ben Watson on the other hand has seen a bit of career revival lately. Yet he was drafted only a year later than Witten and Gates. He did sign a one year deal with New Orleans, but this might very well be his last contract.

Even those from the 2006 draft class are on their way out. The Broncos released Owen Daniels last month, and he has few suitors. Marcedes Lewis was also released. Lewis has averaged two touchdowns and 20 catches over the last three years. He seems destined for retirement as well. Vernon Davis, meanwhile, caught just 10 passes the final six weeks of the season. He is at best a solid handcuff for the Jordan Reed owner for those that believe in cuffing their tight end.

The exception?

The one exception might be Delanie Walker, who is still a consistent top performer at the TE position.

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But the TE aging curve does not portend good news. Walker is entering his 13th year in the league and has seen his yards per game drop each of the last two years. What concerns me more, however, is the other pieces in the Titans offense. Corey Davis is unlikely to miss six weeks this year and he averaged more than six targets a game. Don’t be surprised if Derrick Henry steals a few targets away from Walker this year as well. Expect Walker to quickly follow in his classmates footsteps.

So, the rookies and long-time veterans are out as tight end dynasty options. What about those currently in their prime?

 

Tight End Dynasty Options: This year’s Premiums?

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Rob Gronkowski is still the top consideration. Coming off an eight touchdown, 1,000-plus receiving season will do that. But how comfortable are you investing the necessary capital to secure him when the last time he played 16 games was 2011? And while Gronk can score in bunches, inn eight of his 14 games last year he failed to score. Of those, he failed to catch more than four passes in six of them. Throw in some friction with Belichick, the fact that Gronk talked about retiring earlier this year, and the whispers that Gronk might be traded away from surefire HOF-er Tom Brady, I have a lot of doubts that Gronk is a Top 50 Fantasy player this year.

Of course, Travis Kelce also had an eight TD and 1,000-plus receiving yard season. But last season might be the peak of what we should expect. Alex Smith is now gone. In his place is second year quarterback Patrick Mahomes who has yet to play a game with Kelce. In addition, the Chiefs added another receiving threat in Sammy Watkins. Kelce should be one of the top tight ends this year again. Yet temper your expectations, starting with a touchdown total closer to his career average of 5.5 TDs.

The top option?

Zach Ertz is atop my TE rankings at this moment. He is most likely to see his numbers improve as he and Carson Wentz have another year together. But Ertz also hasn’t played more than 14 games the last couple of years. His concussion in key FFL playoff week 14 certainly dashed a number of his owners dreams last year. I don’t think he will miss week 14 again, but I mention this to remind you that Ertz has had his share of concussions.

One of the things I love about Ertz is his fearless style. Yet I would be surprised if during the upcoming season he doesn’t leave a game early due to concussion protocol. Furthermore, it went a little under the radar, but the Eagles signing of Richard Rodgers is not an encouraging sign for Ertz’s 2018 season either.

Other choices?

Should we discuss other recent premium options? Kyle Rudolph? He’s extremely TD-dependent. Greg Olsen? He’s going to have a front row seat for the Cam Newton to Christian McCaffrey show. And that assumes the Panthers don’t draft another receiving threat, which is far from certain. Jordan Reed? He’s great when he plays but has averaged just slightly over eight games played a season.

So, what should a dynasty player do?

 

Tight End Dynasty Options Solution: Invest In Second Year TEs

So the rookie class is weak, the old guard are on their way out, and even the premium TEs all have question marks. And you’re not prying away a second year stud like Evan Engram from his owner. So what is an owner to do? I am going to invest in low cost second year players.

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George Kittle and  O.J. Howard will be the tight ends I am looking to grab this year. And even if those players dynasty owners refuse to part with them, I will gladly take some of the even cheaper options on the board who were not even Top 40 TEs last year like Adam Shaheen, Ricky Seals-Jones, and even Gerald Everett. Either way, the best tight end dynasty options will be the cheap ones.

 

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg

Mark Strausberg remembers making Jerry Rice his first round selection as well as taking a flyer on a young pitcher named Doug Drabek. His Fantasy analysis has spanned multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and even golf. A FSWA finalist, his fantasy analysis has been featured in various outlets including but not limited to SI.com, USA Today national magazines, Yahoo! and RotoExperts.
Mark Strausberg

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