When it comes to picking out NFL tight ends for fantasy purposes, it does not take much to figure out who the top candidates are this season. If you are looking for some late value picks, however, you have come to the right place. What I want to find for all of us here are tight ends that should be getting several targets a game. With five or more balls headed their way each week, they should be able to haul in at least three on average and have a shot at 40-50 yards a week and possibly a touchdown. That may not sound like much, but that works out to be 48 catches and 640-800 yards a year, which would put any TE right near the Top 12 last season (provided he scored a few times). Not bad at all.
So what's the plan? I have looked at several different ways to pick up some valuable tight ends later in fantasy drafts before, but this time I am going to get a bit more scientific. Here I will take a look at an overall ADP list and pick out three different types of teams. Oddly enough, I care more about the wide receivers on a given team than about the tight ends. The reasoning is pretty simple - if the quarterback on a given team has limited options, the ball has to go somewhere. What better option than a big guy over the middle?
I broke the 32 NFL teams down and kept the ones that fit into three basic categories:
- Teams with no WRs in the Top 50 ADP List
- Teams with only 1 WR in the Top 50 ADP List
- Teams with 1-2 WRs in the Top 50 ADP List but none in the Top 30
Here are the results:
Category 1 - Teams with no WRs in the Top 50 ADP List
This may be surprising to some, but there are actually a few teams with absolutely terrible wide receiver options. These are three teams (Miami, St. Louis) that have no one that anyone wants to draft very early at flanker or split end. Despite that, NFL teams never seem to run the ball on every down, so someone has to make a catch now and then. That means that the tight ends on these teams are worth a look. Both starting tight ends on each of these teams has some upside, especially Lance Kendricks for the Rams, who is getting a lot of work in the preseason. Miami's tight end group is led by Anthony Fasano, but he is as best a fantasy flier and probably more of a reach to be picked at all in most fantasy leagues.
Category 2 - Teams with only 1 WR in the Top 50 ADP List
This group of teams is pretty large (seven NFL teams), but some of them are easily scratched off because either (A) their starting tight end is a top option or because (B) their TE has an ADP lower than Death Valley. Quickly looking over the list, we have to dismiss Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham as a "Type A" tight end, but it is borderline and he should be considered as a great later pick. With that said, let's transfer our gaze to "Type B". I cannot recommend drafting a tight end on a marginal team that is still figuring out their passing game so Buffalo and Arizona are scratched off of the list. That leaves four teams to go over, so let's hit it:
Houston - The Texans continue to look for a wide receiver to start and rely on opposite of Andre Johnson, who is a stud WR1 no matter how you slice it. Johnson also gets hurt now and then, which makes the Houston tight end even more valuable. As a result, Owen Daniels is very much a high upside sleeper tight end to target.
Chicago – Yes, they did add Brandon Marshall, but who is the second option? Devin Hester? Alshon Jeffery? Not much to hang your hat on, which means a dark horse to really look at if you need a late, late tight end is Kellen Davis for the Bears. Chicago has been hinting at more targets and receptions for Davis, but it is far from a lock, so draft accordingly.
NY Jets – The Jets are really struggling this preseason, from wide receiver to running back to quarterback. If Santonio Holmes performs as expected, that is one solid target, but it is nearly guaranteed that tight end Dustin Keller with be no worse than second on the team in targets. With his TE2 ADP, Keller has lots of upside if the New York Jets passing attack gels as the season ages.
Kansas City – The Chiefs are planning to run the ball a ton this year with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, and Matt Cassel does not excite many fantasy players either. After Dwayne Bowe as the top receiver for the Chiefs, it is not much to select from so although I like the talent level of Kansas City's Tony Moeaki, but he is not much better than a late round flier and it would not surprise me at all to see him go undrafted.
Category 3 - Teams with 1-2 WRs in the Top 50 ADP List but none in the Top 30
This group of teams is usually much smaller than Category 2, but several NFL WR1s are just sitting outside the Top 30 this season, which increases this category to eight teams. Washington (Pierre Garcon), Indianapolis (Reggie Wayne), San Diego (Malcom Floyd), Tennessee (Kenny Britt) and San Francisco (Michael Crabtree) all make this list, as do Cleveland, Jacksonville and Seattle. San Diego (Antonio Gates), Washington (Fred Davis) and San Francisco (Vernon Davis) have stud tight ends, so they are not worth discussion. Cleveland, Jacksonville and Seattle all have murky passing games, so we will omit those teams as well. That leaves several of these teams have good talent at the tight end position, so let's take a quick spin around this group:
Indianapolis - The Colts drafted two tight ends in April to compliment Andrew Luck, and they have their hearts set on running a two-tight end offense. Coby Fleener is a nice TE2 with TE1 upside that is available in the second half (or later) of fantasy drafts. Luck and Fleener have great chemistry as they both went to Stanford. Dwayne Allen is the second tight end and he was widely regarded as a top pass catcher entering the 2012 NFL Draft. Fleener has more upside but in very deep leagues both are worth a look.
Tennessee - The Titans are revamping their passing game with Jake Locker finally taking the helm. Kenny Britt is supposed to be the WR1, but injury and suspension concerns are holding his fantasy value down. Nate Washington is the WR2 and rookie Kendall Wright is waiting to get playing time too. All of this means that – on paper – Jared Cook looks like a valuable tight end to pick up, but I would hesitate here as the starting wide receivers and RB Chris Johnson all should have many more targets than Cook each week.
If you are waiting this season to pick up a tight end later in your draft or even just looking for a good second (or third) option, take a longer look at the guys outlined here. Values exist at TE outside of the Top 10-12 names that are going to go in the first half of your fantasy drafts, so do not overlook the later guys who can help your team get those extra points and win a few more games this year.
Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.