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Overvalued Players: Tight Ends

Footballguys staff members discuss tight ends who are overvalued

The flip side of succeeding with value players is failing with overvalued players. These are players that will not put up stats commensurate to their draft spot, and avoiding them is another of the important keys to a successful fantasy team. In an attempt to point out these players, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should underperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 10 Votes

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay

Sigmund Bloom: Howard could be destined for big things, but it’s highly unlikely that he will arrive in fantasy leagues in his rookie year. Unless you count Mike Ditka, rookie tight ends rarely make a splash no matter how good they go on to be later in their career. Howard will share tight end targets with Cameron Brate, one of Jameis Winston’s favorite red zone targets, and the team also upgraded at No. 2 wide receiver with addition of DeSean Jackson. Howard will disappoint anyone who drafts him this year, but don’t worry. It will make him cheaper to draft next year, when he could start to fulfill his potential.

Ryan Hester: Rookie tight ends tend to struggle, and Howard has competition at the position. Cameron Brate and his 57 receptions, 660 yards, and 8 touchdowns return. He has shown palpable rapport with Jameis Winston and should at least play enough to render Howard a part-time player, if not a clear backup.

Dan Hindery: Howard has a number of obstacles blocking his path to fantasy relevance as a rookie. First, is the obvious fact that very, very few rookie tight ends make an immediate fantasy impact. The position is arguably the most difficult to transition to at the NFL level. Not only must you learn a more complicated passing scheme and face much better coverage athletes in the passing game, but you also must focus much of your time on figuring out how to block NFL defensive ends. Beyond the usual issues facing rookie tight ends, Howard has some other hurdles to leap. There is plenty of competition for targets in the Bucs offense. Mike Evans is one of the league’s top overall receivers. Desean Jackson just signed for $11M a year and is one of the league’s top speed receivers outside. Rookie receiver Chris Godwin arrived via the third round and should make an early impact. Plus, fellow tight end Cameron Brate was one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets last season and remains very much in the team’s plans for 2017 and beyond.

Stephen Holloway: Howard was the first tight end drafted this year, but Tampa Bay is loaded with quality receivers and has an effective tight end in Cameron Brate familiar with the offense already. The tight end position is a challenging one to master early, and Howard known as a talented blocker may help the Buccaneer’s offensive line more often that he serves as another target for Jameis Winston. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Brate and Adam Humphries are all excellent receivers, and we haven’t discussed Charles Sims. Howard will not get the opportunity to meet production expectations for the rookie.

Justin Howe: It's not that rookie tight ends are barred from producing well - it's just that they never really do. Dating back to 2000, we've seen 119 rookie tight ends draw 10+ targets, yet only two have reached 50 catches. One of those two was Jeremy Shockey, who drew a staggering 23.3% of Giants targets in 2002. The other was John Carlson, who played in a Seattle offense whose leading WR (35-year-old Bobby Engram) only caught 47 passes. There's really no way to apply anything close to either of those situations to Howard's 2017 outlook. If he's going to reach the value of this ADP, he'll need to steal a hefty chunk of volume and/or touchdowns from proven producers Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, and I just don't see the numbers there. Especially when we're talking about a prospect whose best college season featured just 45 catches and 3 touchdowns (at age 22).

Chris Kuczynski: Rookie tight ends are not known to make an immediate impact, and Howard goes to an offense with many talented mouths to feed. At his own position, he has competition in a very capable Cameron Brate who had about 60 catches for 700 yards and 8 touchdowns. With one of the best wide receivers and big red zone targets in the league Mike Evans, as well as the additions of another big bodied receiver in rookie Chris Godwin, and deep threat Desean Jackson, it will be hard to determine which week each specific player will be the beneficiary of single coverage or heavy game planning against them.

Jeff Pasquino: I was struggling to remember the last time a rookie tight end made a big fantasy impact, and I think it is because it has never happened. So why are people considering Howard as a borderline TE1 / fantasy starter for this season? I understand that Jameis Winston is poised to break out this year and he loves to target tight ends, but Tampa Bay just added DeSean Jackson to complement Mike Evans and it is not like Cameron Brate lost his starting status. Drafting Howard at such an elevated ADP leaves zero room for upside and opens you up to a huge amount of downside risk. No thanks.

Matt Waldman: Physically, Howard is one of the best athletes at the position in the NFL before he’s ever played a down on Sunday. He should transition faster than his peers as a blocker and it will earn him significant playing time. However, study enough of Howard’s tape at Alabama and you’ll notice that he had little—if any—“big-boy” plays as a receiver winning the ball against tight, physical coverage. Howard was rarely the centerpiece of the Alabama’s game plan. When he was, it was reliant on him as a YAC player more than a route runner or rebounder. It’s not to say he can’t be these things, but there’s not any evidence that he already is. Jameis Winston will need to be a top-5 quarterback to support at least three fantasy starters and I don’t see it this year—especially when top-12 rookie tight ends are rare.

Mark Wimer: Howard is promising rookie tight end, but he is trying to supplant a very capable veteran teammate in Cameron Brate. Brate's performance (and Austin Seferian-Jenkins's substance issues) sent Seferian-Jenkins packing to the Jets last season - I see Brate and Howard forming a 1A/1B platoon at tight end this year while Howard learns the ropes at the pro level. I think Howard is wildly overpriced at his current ADP.

Jason Wood: Tony Gonzalez ranked TE18 as a rookie. Antonio Gates ranked 19th. Jason Witten finished 94th. Shannon Sharpe was the 33rd best tight end. Greg Olsen ranked 21st. Jimmy Graham was 23rd. You get the idea. O.J. Howard may be a fantasy stud for years to come, but history says rookie tight ends are not worth rostering.

Player Receiving 5 Votes

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati

Stephen Holloway: Eifert has made a career of performing beneath expectations, usually because he can’t stay healthy. In his four NFL seasons, he has already missed 27 games. His 13 touchdown performance in 2015 gives his ADP too much of a boost. He had back surgery in December of last year, so again is questionable for preseason training camp. In addition, Andy Dalton has more capable targets this season. The team added the speedy John Ross in the first round and Joe Mixon, an all around talent in the second round of this year’s draft. The team target leader will continue to be A.J. Green, but they also have two solid receiving backs (Giovani Bernard and Mixon), who should reduce the number of tight end targets even if Eifert can stay healthy.

Chad Parsons: The passing game for Cincinnati is more crowded than ever. The Bengals drafted John Ross and Joe Mixon in the first two rounds, adding to A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard of note with which Eifert has to contend. Eifert has one notable season in four NFL years, fueled by a ridiculous 13 touchdowns in 2015 on just 52 receptions. Volume (and health) has eluded Eifert to-date and outside of multiple injuries to funnel targets his way, Eifert is an overvalued tight end in 2017.

Daniel Simpkins: It always seems to be something health related with Eifert. Even if he does manage to have a clean bill of health, the poor state of the offensive line (its two best blockers left in free agency) leads one to believe that Eifert might spend more time blocking and protecting Andy Dalton. The additions of Joe Mixon and John Ross also may cut into Eifert’s target share.

Darin Tietgen: I want this guy to turn the corner. I really do. He has the physical tools to be a touchdown machine, but the guy just can't stay healthy. He's missed 27 games over the course of four seasons in the NFL. 2014 was a wash, as was last season, for all intents and purposes. So is Eifert just an injury waiting to happen, or the 13-touchdown guy from 2015? His current positional ADP comes before guys like Delanie Walker and Kyle Rudolph, who seem to have a similar amount of upside with way less risk. If you roll the dice on Eifert, you best grab your second tight end shortly thereafter; a high-floor guy like Jack Doyle or even the ageless Jason Witten could save your season if Eifert were to get hurt again.

Jason Wood: In April, Tyler Eifert was uncertain if he’ll be ready for the start of training camp. That’s alarming for a player who expected to be fine by training camp shortly after his January back surgery. It would be one thing if Eifert was a pillar of health before the back injury, but the talented pass-catcher has missed 27 games in four seasons. Eifert averaged a touchdown per game in 2015, but that’s looking like the anomaly versus the baseline. Caveat emptor on the oft-injured Bengal.

Player Receiving 3 Votes

Hunter Henry, LA Chargers

Sigmund Bloom: Henry should become the starter, but future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates isn’t going anywhere in the passing game. While Henry’s rookie year stats were notable among his cohort of rookie tight ends historically, he was still on the fringe of fantasy relevance, and that isn’t likely to change significantly with Gates still holding down a significant role on passing downs and in the red zone. The Chargers also drafted a wide receiver with their No. 7 overall pick and all three of their top wide receivers were hurt in the second half of the year, so Henry will have an uphill battle to consistently produce in this offense.

Jeff Pasquino: Hunter Henry is expected to take over as the starter for the Chargers this year, but Antonio Gates is still there and the savvy veteran is expected to play a role on limited snaps – mostly in the red zone. That will severely limit Henry’s upside and scoring chances, capping his upside value for this season. Until Gates is completely out of the picture, Henry cannot be viewed as a fantasy starter.

Mark Wimer: Henry is the ascendant young talent at tight end on the Chargers, but Antonio Gates (53/548/7 receiving last season) is still in action to siphon off targets and touchdowns from Henry. I know recent reports indicate that the Chargers were forcing the football to Gates last year in an attempt to get him the touchdown reception record for tight ends (he tied the mark last year) - but it isn't easy to haul in seven touchdowns over 16 games at the NFL level, even if you are getting a few extra chances. Gates is old, but he still has notable red-zone skills. I think Henry boosters are jumping the gun by a season. Once Gates is safely retired - then look for a breakout from Henry.

Player Receiving 2 Votes

Rob Gronkowski, New England

Chris Feery: There’s no question that Rob Gronkowski should be the first tight end off the board, but don’t kill yourself to make that happen. He’s currently going off the board before round two comes to a close, and that’s a pretty gigantic risk for a player with his injury history. If you could guarantee that Gronkowski will see the field for at least 14 games, then he’s certainly worthy of such a lofty draft spot. We can’t do that with his history, so we’ll let others pounce and snag our tight end later on.

Andy Hicks: Rob Gronkowski is a true difference maker at his position and if he were to play all 16 games, would be the reason a lot of fantasy owners would have a successful season. As was demonstrated in 2016 though, this isn’t a sure thing. Repeated back injuries in addition to a torn ACL and multiple broken arms and it is obvious that his punishing play also affects him physically. With the price of a mid-second round pick, you have no margin for error here and I’m afraid that the chances of Gronkowski missing significant time has to be emphasized.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay

Justin Howe: Bennett is now a Packer, a move that typically skyrockets an ADP in the face of conventional wisdom. He's currently the TE8, going in Round 7 of PPR drafts, and there's little to suggest he deserves it. While the Aaron Rodgers effect can be a major thing, it doesn't necessarily apply to newcomers. The Packers' target shares have stayed relatively static for years, and even when we include Jordy Nelson's lost 2015, no Green Bay tight end has topped 58 receptions since 2012.

Eric Ebron, Detroit

Matt Waldman: If he played three more games, he had a rate of production that could have put him inside the Top 12 at the position. It’s one more "if" statement associated with Ebron’s career. At some point, you reach the point where "if" doesn’t cut it. Ebron is at that line where another year of excuses—valid or otherwise—will be one too many. The Lions drafted Michael Roberts and added an intriguing UDFA in Robert Tonyan. I think Ebron’s time as a starter in Detroit is waning and with Marvin Jones healthy and acclimated, Ebron's production is more likely to dip than rise.

Jordan Reed, Washington

Ari Ingel: Numbers were down across the board last season, as he dealt with injuries one again. Head coach Jay Gruden mentioned that “the offense runs through" Jordan Reed with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon departing. Unfortunately some of that could just be bluster, since this is still a very crowded receiving core with Terrelle Pryor and Jamison Crowder looking like future studs, and Josh Doctson supposedly healthy and the team’s first round draft pick from last year. Reed’s fourth-round ADP is a little too risky for me given all the weapons the Redskins have and with his concussion history.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee

Andy Hicks: It would be safe to say that Delanie Walker’s conversion from wide receiver to tight end has been successful. In his first seven years in the NFL, he had to play behind Vernon Davis in San Francisco, but since arriving in Tennessee he has established himself as a starting fantasy tight end culminating with two consecutive seasons in the Top 6. The only tight ends though to regularly produce high fantasy numbers after the age of 33 are Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates. Walker hits 33 this year and the Titans have drafted his replacement in Jonnu Smith and heavily invested in wide receivers. The transition has begun.