Targeting Late Round Tight Ends
By Jeff Pasquino
August 9th, 2010

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:

  1. Teams with no WRs in the Top 50 ADP List
  2. Teams with only 1 WR in the Top 50 ADP List
  3. 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 (Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Oakland) 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, and the TE ADP shows it with Oakland's Zach Miller and Tampa Bay's Kellen Winslow both in the Top 12 at the position. That leaves only the Browns to discuss:

  • Cleveland - Ben Watson comes over from New England and immediately becomes the starter for the Browns. Their wideouts are very young and inexperienced (Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie) so having a big target for Jake Delhomme is a nice option. A very dark horse is the hybrid TE/FB Evan Moore who had some nice games in the second half of 2009.
  • Category 2 - Teams with only 1 WR in the Top 50 ADP List

    This group of teams is pretty large (12 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 Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez, Vernon Davis in San Francisco and Houston's Owen Daniels as "Type A" tight ends. These guys are far from sleepers, so 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 Carolina, St. Louis and Jacksonville are scratched off of the list. That leaves six teams to go over, so let's hit it:

  • Seattle - The Seahawks are struggling to piece together a viable offense, but John Carlson should be a key part of the solution. He finished last season with 50 catches and seven touchdowns for the Seahawks yet he is relatively still an unknown. Carlson should not fall outside of the Top 12 at tight end but if he does grab him and be glad that you did.

  • Chicago - Sure, Devin Hester is a Top 50 guy - at #50. Yeah, that's really solid. The unique part here is that the Bears actually have two TEs in the Top 2 5 ADP list - Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark. Both are value plays and could become solid targets, but with two of the splitting targets the value is diminished.

  • Washington - Chris Cooley is a stud TE when he is healthy, and now that he is back and ready to go for the Redskins. Questions do remain about the offense in general with Donovan McNabb now at quarterback and also the threat of Fred Davis as another tight end to steal targets. One good look the depth chart at wide receiver in Washington tells you all you need to know here; after Santana Moss the cupboard is bare. Take Cooley (and in very deep leagues, Davis too) as a TE2 with huge upside.

  • Detroit - The Denver Broncos traded away Tony Scheffler to the Lions this past April, giving the Lions two solid starting options with Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew is coming back from knee surgery and by all accounts it is Scheffler that is poised for a big season. Do not worry about Detroit's record from last year as their offense will be vastly improved. Take Scheffler as a TE2 with major upside.

  • Tennessee - This is a tricky team as the wide receivers are very unsettled. Kenny Britt looks to be the long term answer as a WR1, Vince Young loves to throw underneath. That makes his go-to favorites, Bo Scaife and Jared Cook, strong options as later tight ends to grab. If one of them starts getting more looks than the other then a Titan TE could end 2010 with 50 catches.

  • Miami - The Dolphins really started to boost the passing game in the last five games of 2009 under Chad Henne, who averaged over 40 attempts in those contests. Starter Anthony Fasano is a borderline starter with some upside in Miami, but if the Dolphins start to give him more chances he can certainly step up and deliver.

  • Kansas City - Our first rookie sleeper here presents himself in the form of Tony Moeaki. The young tight end was drafted this past April as the tight end of the future for the Chiefs, and by all accounts so far that future may be coming this September. Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis should be able to come in and mold the former Iowa Hawkeye into a solid receiver that may have fantasy upside of 35-40 receptions in 2010.
  • Category 3 - Teams with 1-2 WRs in the Top 50 ADP List but none in the Top 30

    This group of teams is much smaller than Category 2, but there are still four teams to discuss. The New York Jets have Dustin Keller who looks to be one the verge of elevating his game, so he will be long gone in the Top 20 tight ends selected. Greg Olsen is a solid tight end but Chicago's new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has never been one to get the ball to the tight end very often, so he is a risky pick. Denver's offense looks to be all about developing the young wide receivers, so that only leaves one team to go:

  • Buffalo - The Bills look terrible on paper, and with good reason. Their top WR from last year is now in Cincinnati (Terrell Owens) and only Lee Evans remains as a decent receiving option with any real experience. Buffalo will have to rely on their ground attack for much of their offense, but they cannot afford to completely abandon the pass. Look for Shawn Nelson to be more productive in his second season under head Coach Chan Gailey, who happens to have a good track record of developing tight ends.
  • 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.

    As always, questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

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