Deep Sleepers: Tight Ends

The Footballguys staff digs deep for sleepers at tight end

A fantasy draft is all about obtaining the most value with each selection. There is value available throughout a draft, and grabbing it is one of the most important keys to a successful fantasy team. This article specifically targets deep sleeper value (players that can be found very late in a fantasy draft). In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look deeper than the top 150 players and identify players that should significantly outperform their late draft position. These players should be your targets after the 12th round of your draft.

Player Receiving 5 Votes

Tyler Eifert

Sigmund Bloom: It’s easy to forget Eifert, whose second season was nipped in the bud by a shoulder injury. The Bengals pass offense isn’t the potential weekly bonanza it was under Jay Gruden, but Eifert should still get a chance to be a 2A target with Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard as 2B and 2C behind AJ Green. He has a tremendous skillset and long wingspan for red zone work and Eifert is still one of best TE talents in the league that hasn’t broken out yet. He’s worth a late pick in deeper leagues.

James Brimacombe: Everything went wrong for Tyler Eifert in his second season in the league as he had a season ending injury in game one. Now entering his third season in the league he will look to build on his 2013 rookie numbers of 39/445/2. He will be a welcoming addition for QB Andy Dalton to try to get back on track as the Bengals offense needs to get their players back to full health.

Ryan Hester: Eifert was a first-round pick not long ago, and only injuries have kept him from realizing that potential. Eifert is a “move” tight end who can create mismatches with his speed and strength. On a team without a true second wide receiver and a quarterback whose confidence can get shaky at times, a tight end like Eifert is a nice asset.

Andy Hicks: In his crucial 2nd year Tyler Eifert suffered a season ending foot injury in the opening game. He was expected to be a vital part of the Bengals offense and was clearly missed. The Bengals allowed Jermaine Gresham to leave this off season and expect Eifert to resume his progression. Given the dearth of quality fantasy options at tight end this year you could do a lot worse than take a chance on Eifert developing into what the Bengals expected when they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft.

Ari Ingel: Eifert is a former first round pick that could easily finish in the top 10 this year. Traditionally it takes tight ends a bit longer to develop in the NFL and splitting time with Jermaine Greshamand a slew of injures did not help. Now with Gresham gone and with Eifert fully healthy, this could be his breakout year. He’s an exceptional athlete and a great receiver that can do a lot of damage in the pass game down the middle. In the opening game of last season, Eifert had 3 catches for 37 yards on only eight snaps before injuring his elbow and missing the rest of the season. He’s someone you should be aggressive in drafting this year.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

Larry Donnell

Sigmund Bloom: Donnell is dealing with an achilles issue right now, but the Giants still excited about his potential as the primary receiving tight end in a pass offense that is on the rise. He was a frequent red zone target before Odell Beckham burst on the scene, and the converted QB has more room to grow than a typical 27-year old. If Victor Cruz isn’t ready to assume a large role in the pass offense, Some of that extra work will likely go to Donnell.

Jeff Haseley: Larry Donnell showed that he can make plays with the Giants in his semi-breakout year in 2014. He is expected to be the team's leading tight end threat this year and should see plenty of targets while defenses focus their efforts on Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz. Donnell could quietly finish in the Top 12 and is an excellent example of a TE2 to target in the later rounds.

Jeff Pasquino: If I told you that you can wait until Round 15 and pick up your backup tight end, you probably would be okay with that plan. Now if I told you that your second tight end would be someone who had six touchdowns last year (tied for seventh in the league), 63 catches and 623 yards, you probably would be very happy with those numbers. I know I would. That is exactly what Larry Donnell represents as the forgotten tight end for the Giants. Last year at this time, no one expected any production from the tight ends for New York, but Donnell emerged and finished as a Top 12 tight end last year even with Odell Beckham stealing all the headlines. That’s OK by me – take Donnell and laugh all the way to the bank.

Daniel Simpkins: After his three-touchdown outburst in Week 4 of the 2014 season, many owners streamed to the wire to acquire Donnell. When he was double-covered the following week and produced a goose egg, many of those same owners were disgusted and threw him back. Donnell is only entering his third season and tight ends usually mature at a later age than the other skill positions. With Beckham, Cruz, and Vereen threatening defenses, Donnell will likely never see double coverage in the 2015 season. In an ascending Giants offense, Donnell has the chance to improve upon his totals and be a committee option for those who like to stockpile at other positions.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Jace Amaro

Christopher Feery: Questions at the QB position and a new HC & OC leave the Jets offensive outlook as a question mark. Amaro showed a few flashes in his rookie year after a stellar college career at Texas Tech and possesses the size to make a big impact at the position. New OC Chan Gailey could implement more of a spread offense for 2015 which would benefit Amaro and his playmaking ability. While not quite a top 10 TE, he could very well be just outside of it in his sophomore year.

Chad Parsons: The Jets situation is not ideal for Jace Amaro with quality receivers (Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker) and a questionable quarterback situation (Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick). However, the second-year tight end has a strong combination of draft pedigree (49 overall), athleticism (better metrics than all but Mycole Pruitt in the 2015 class among the top-150), and above-average collegiate production. Like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro has a strong case to be a matchup TE2, or better, in 2015.

Jason Wood: Jace Amaro’s rookie numbers weren’t the stuff of legend. 38 receptions for 345 yards and 2 TDs suggest Amaro was just a small cog in the Jets shaky offensive wheel. Yet that shouldn’t detract fantasy owners from looking Amaro’s way this year. It’s the norm – not the exception – for rookie TEs to struggle. Even the league’s all-time best had forgettable rookie seasons. We know from his college tape he’s a prototypical move tight end. A giant wide receiver that’s good enough as a blocker to stay on the field in all downs and distances. There are unanswered questions in New York about the offensive effectiveness, but Amaro is the kind of talented, young, ascendant player that you should target late in drafts. He COULD deliver a Top 10 season – that is well within the realm of statistical possibility.

Virgil Green

Ryan Hester: With Julius Thomas signing in Jacksonville, Denver’s tight end depth chart is just the veteran Owen Daniels and Green. Daniels is an aging player, and Green is the superior athlete. Denver has even given Green some rushing attempts, which is obviously quite atypical for tight ends. If Daniels proves unable to perform or is injured, Green could ascend similarly to how Julius Thomas did – in a very surprising fashion due to unexpected athleticism.

Ari Ingel: While most view Green as just a blocker, he is actually a physical freak with 4.5 forty jets and a 42.5 inch vertical. While the signing of Owen Daniels is a bit of a buzz kill, Manning loves throwing to the tight end and new head coach Gary Kubiak runs a tight end friendly system. Green is also a better blocker than Daniels so he should see plenty of playing time. While you don’t want to initially rely on him as your starter, it wouldn’t surprise if you eventually do.

Matt Waldman: The Broncos project Owen Daniels as the starter. While not wise to project injury, Daniels has missed 12 games in the past two years and the last time he played a full season was 2008. I’ll gladly draft Daniels in fantasy leagues. At the same time, I will consider the physically superior Green in the late rounds due to the upside he’ll garner working with Peyton Manning in a Gary Kubiak’s tight end-centric offense. Green was Colin Kaepernick’s primary receiving threat at Nevada and he was a combine workout wonder. Denver identified Green as a special team option and blocker when drafted the same year as Julius Thomas, but he can be so much more. Green turned down other offers to stay in Denver. It’s worth keeping tabs on the Broncos offense and the health of Daniels in case there’s an opportunity to capitalize on Green’s upside.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Charles Clay

James Brimacombe: Clay has new life in Buffalo and after proving he can play at a high level and compete on the score sheet he should have plenty of opportunities for the Bills. Clay has averaged a 63/682/4.5 statline over his last two seasons in Miami. The Bills QB situation is still up in the air to start the season so Clay also has the downside of being more of a blocker than a receiver but than again whoever the QB is going to be they are going to need a big target down the field.

Stephen Holloway: Clay is an underappreciated tight end. Over the past two seasons in Miami, he has averaged 63 catches, 682 yards and 4.5 TDs. The Bills signed him to a five-year $38 Million contract with $20 Million guaranteed. You would expect the Bills to want more than blocking from a tight end for that contract. The quarterback play in Buffalo leaves a lot to be desired, so an efficient tight end could benefit poor quarterbacking. Clay has finished as TE7 and TE16 the past two seasons and he missed two games last year.

Heath Miller

Jeff Haseley: Heath Miller is someone that I am comfortable targeting as a TE2 who could be started in a pinch or as a bye week replacement at worst. He's on one of the best offenses in the league and could easily turn into a weekly fantasy option if the Steelers point totals soar into the upper 20's or low 30's each week. Miller still has gas in the tank and could be a nice surprise in 2015.

Stephen Holloway: Heath Miller has finished among the top twelve fantasy tight ends five times over his ten NFL seasons, all with Pittsburgh. His numbers tend to decrease when the Steelers’ offensive line play suffers and Footballguys.com staff writer Matt Bitonti ranks them as the 4th best offensive line for 2015 and slightly better at pass blocking. Miller is a safe high floor player that you can draft late. He has only missed three games in the past four seasons and has caught at least one pass in every game over those four years, averaging 4 catches per game.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Vernon Davis

Andy Hicks: Vernon Davis typically performs well when it’s not expected and underachieves when it is. Guess what is happening this year? The departure of Jim Harbaugh helps as Davis was mainly used as a blocker first and a receiver 2nd. At age 31 we may never see Davis return to the fantasy mentionablesagain, but he is a great receiver when allowed to be and hopefully the new coaching regime of Jim Tomsula sees this.

Rob Housler

Phil Alexander: It’s been awhile since Housler’s name has popped up on the fantasy radar. Housler has always had the measurables (6’5’’, 250 lbs., 4.55 40-yard dash), but rarely the opportunity. He fell out of favor in Arizona last year due at least in part to his struggles as a blocker (a big part of playing TE in a Bruce Arians offense). The good news is Cleveland Head Coach Mike Pettine is talking him up as “the ideal move TE”. In an offense practically devoid of quality receiving options, I wouldn’t be completely shocked to see Housler - who can certainly stretch the field down the seam - emerge as the Browns’ best pass catcher this season. He’s currently going undrafted in 12 team leagues, and could carry low-end TE1 upside if he continues getting “all the first team reps”, as was the case early at OTAs.

Niles Paul

Mark Wimer: The news that Jordan Reed has been forced to the sidelines due to a surgical knee 'procedure' (arthroscopic surgery?) means that Paul will get the monster's share of reps during OTAs with the first team and will likely enter training camp as the #1 TE for the Washington club. If Paul performs well, Reed may be hard-pressed to get back in the mix for this club (Reed has been banged up a lot during his career, appearing in 20 out of 32 possible games to date).

Dennis Pitta

Jeff Pasquino: Let me start by saying this – I have always liked Dennis Pitta, and I know how close of a friend he is with his quarterback, Joe Flacco. If Pitta is healthy by Week 1 – a big if – he offers a ton of upside as a former Pro Bowl tight end that can be pickep up for dirt cheap in later rounds of a fantasy draft. If he isn’t healthy by then, Maxx Williams would be a great second choice as Baltimore loves to use their move tight ends in the offense, especially near the end zone.

Andrew Quarless

Mark Wimer: Just because the Packers haven't utilized their tight ends extensively in recent seasons doesn't mean they won't this year. Rodgers has thrown to his tight ends often in seasons past - remember Jermichael Finley in 2011 (92 targets for 55/767/8) and 2012 (87 targets for 61/667/2)? If Quarless has indeed made a leap as a player, and Aaron Rodgers said on June 16 that Quarless "...has had a great offseason. I think he’s really, something clicked in for him at the end of last year and he’s been taking the jump.", then Quarless could vastly outperform his lowly draft position during 2015.

Mychal Rivera

Jason Wood: Mychal Rivera finished as the 19th ranked fantasy TE in 2014 (58 receptions for 534 yards and 4 TDs) in spite of starting only 10 games and playing for the league’s worst offense (32nd in yards, 32nd in points scored). How is a 3rd year player, with plus athleticism, likely to fare WORSE the following season? I just don’t see it. He’s the starter, there’s a new coaching staff in place, and even if you think Rivera stagnates at last year’s numbers, he’s worth more than his current ADP. This is an ascendant player with positive optionality, a perfect 2nd TE in deeper leagues for a fantasy owner that rostered someone like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham early.

Jacob Tamme

Matt Waldman: The Falcons have Tamme as the first-time tight end heading into training camp. A healthy Tony Moeaki is the best all-around tight end on paper, but paper has proven more durable than Moeaki. Levine Toilolo will earn the blocking role as an extra lineman and the Falcons would be wise to consider converting the big fella to the offensive line as many draft analysts suggested years ago, because the former Stanford option lacks the high-end agility to do work beyond the shallowest zones of the field. Tamme will likely see some hybrid TE/FB work and earn matchup opportunities that Matt Ryan can identify at the line of scrimmage. Its good reason to believe Tamme could earn top-12 production at his position and the value is good enough to take a flier on the upside.

Maxx Williams

Daniel Simpkins: Draft pedigree and lack of competition are all working in Williams’ favor. With Dennis Pitta still ailing and 2014 UDFA Crockett Gilmore the only real competition, expect Williams to win the camp battle and dominate the snap counts at the position for the Ravens. Trestman’s frequent use of the tight end in Chicago also bodes well for Williams’ success. By all accounts, he seems to be grasping the playbook well and shouldn’t be the liability that rookie tight ends typically are. At pick 138 overall in 12-team leagues, Williams could end up being a huge hit for your team.