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 3 Votes

Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers

Alexander: The #FreeLadariusGreen movement has taken an unexpected turn. Antonio Gates is finally out of the picture for an extended period, and Green is still being drafted in the 14th round, or later. Why hop off the bandwagon now of all times? There’s almost zero risk in finding out if Green can maintain his trademark per route efficiency in an expanded role. The types of players you’re passing up to acquire Green this late in your draft will be available on waivers during the year. A Top-5 tight end for 30% of the fantasy regular season will not.

Hester: Green was a preseason hype monster last year and ended up a major disappoint as Antonio Gates once again took a long soak in the fountain of youth and dominated San Diego’s tight end role. This season, Gates is suspended for four games, but Green is still being selected very late in drafts. Perhaps fantasy owners are remembering his disappointing 2014. They should keep in mind, though, that his role entering this season is very different. Even if you get four quality starts from Green and then Gates returns to his normal role, Green is still a value at his current ADP.

Wood: Long-time readers may be shocked to see me, of all people, touting Ladarius Green. I've banged the drum about Antonio Gates and eviscerated anyone who suggested Green was a threat to Gates' dominance. But as fantasy analyts, we have to be flexible and Gates' 4-game suspension changes thing. Green is going to get a month-long tryout. At his ADP, you can roster him late as your backup and hope he finally breaks out. If he doesn't, or if Gates returns to the full-time role upon his return, Green is an easy cut for the waiver wire pick of the week.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers

Hester: Miller isn’t the player he once was, and he’s not even a top-three target in Pittsburgh’s offense. But he is a solid red zone option on an elite offensive unit that will make frequent red zone trips. While it’s not sound strategy to draft and keep multiple tight ends in typical 16-to-18 round drafts, Miller is someone to keep an eye on throughout the year as a streaming candidate, injury replacement, or bye week fill-in player. He’ll have a couple top-12 weeks due to touchdown scoring.

Holloway: Heath Miller’s involvement in the offense historically has only been limited by the need for the Steelers to use him in a blocking role. Even with that blocking role, he has averaged 4.33 catches per game over the past three seasons. The Steelers offensive line is rated as the NFL's fourth best by Matt Bitonti, so that is a reduced concern. They will likely lean heavily on the passing game the first two weeks while Bell sits with suspension and Miller should have more targets than his low ADP suggests.

Pasquino: Pittsburgh is going to have to throw the ball a ton this year and score a lot of points to make up for what should be a down year for the Steelers on defense. Ben Roethlisberger has already stated that he expects Pittsburgh to score at least 30 points a game this year, and you should listen up when the quarterback says that. Le'Veon Bell cannot make up the difference alone, nor can Antonio Brown. Heath Miller is a three-down tight end that can be a solid relief valve over the middle and especially near the end zone.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Jace Amaro, New York Jets

Holloway: Amaro started off slowly and then came on strong in the middle of his rookie season before slowing way down after suffering a concussion in week 12 against Buffalo. He caught 38 passes in 14 games for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. He could be targeted more frequently this season by Ryan Fitzparick, even though the Jets have two excellent wide receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.

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 tight ends 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.

Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions

Haseley: It's not a foregone conclusion that second year tight end Eric Ebron will develop into a fantasy relevant player this year, but he's nearly forgotten in drafts. He can be picked off the board as a late second tight end or even as your third tight end in deeper leagues. Ebron was highly touted coming out of college and he has the pedigree to be a difference maker on offense. He's the type of player that you want to take a chance on near the end of your draft.

Simpkins: While Ebron’s rookie season may have been disappointing by many people’s standards, remember that not many tight ends break out as rookies. It’s true that Ebron did seem very cocky and immature with some of his comments last year. The buzz out of Lions’ practices indicate that Ebron, who has struggled with drops in particular, is still having problems holding on to the ball. Don’t dismiss him out of hand, however. Ebron admits that last season was very humbling for him and that he now realizes that success will have to be worked for. By all accounts, he is displaying more professionalism and teachability on the field. He’s had some drops, but he’s also had some really good days at practice, too. Ebron was highly drafted (tenth overall) and will be emphasized in the passing game accordingly. The Lions will be more balanced toward the run this season, but the opportunity will be there for Ebron to establish himself in this passing attack as Megatron begins to slow down. For those who really like to wait at the tight end position, Ebron is often slipping into the thirteenth round or later of 12-team formats. He presents good upside for very little cost.

Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons

Parsons: Outside of Julio Jones and Roddy White, targets are wide open for a third fantasy-viable option. Levine Toilolo confirmed his profile as a stiff, red zone-only NFL option in 2014 with minimal competition. Tamme has performed well over the years when paired with a quality quarterback. Tamme is the perfect veteran half of a late-round committee approach at tight end with low-TE1 upside.

Waldman: The Falcons offense thrived with Tony Gonzalez working the seams and flats. Levine Toilolo is a better blocker than receiver. Tony Moeaki's body hasn't stood up to the rigors of the league. Tamme has the H-back size and skills to work well in Kyle Shanahan's offense. Look for upwards of 50-60 catches for Tamme this year, which will help Julio Jones more than Roddy White or Leonard Hankerson.

Clive Walford, Oakland Raiders

Simpkins: It was Maxx Williams, not Clive Walford, who was expected to make the biggest splash of all the rookies in this tepid tight end class. Williams does not appear to be in line to start, but Walford has done so well in camp that he is expected to win the job over Mychal Rivera. Walford left practice recently with an undisclosed injury (speculation is that the injury was a strained hamstring), but reports indicate he’s almost ready to return. If Carr takes another step forward this season and Walford continues to play well into the regular season, he could surprise by going from an undrafted player to a streaming option.

Wimer: Walford is challening for the starting job in Oakland. Though hampered by a sore hamstring early in August, he's back in practices. He's worth a late-round flyer on the chance he wins the contest and becomes a reliable target for Derek Carr.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams

Hicks: Jared Cook has been on the cusp of fantasy starter status in the last 2 years despite having to catch passes from Austin Davis, Shaun Hill and Kellen Clemens. A halfway decent quarterback like Nick Foles should see Cook push into the bottom end of fantasy starters at some stage this year. It is clear the Rams aren’t blessed with talent at wide receiver and somebody has to be there to catch it. The reliable Cook should be that man for the Rams in 2015. Great value when you are trying to fill your roster.

Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

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.

Virgil Green, Denver Broncos

Waldman: Either Green or H-Back James Casey will see a lot more love if Owen Daniels has yet another injury that keeps him off the field. Green has the great physical skills and good hands that the Broncos have yet to exploit in the offense because of Julius Thomas' presence.

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Pasquino: This is a “high risk, high reward” pick at tight end right here. Washington recently lost Niles Paul (ankle) for the season, leaving the door wide open for Reed to be the starter once again. Reed has 95 catches, 964 yards and three touchdowns in just 20 NFL games due to injuries (mostly concussions) that have kept him sidelined too often in his first two seasons. If he can stay healthy, he offers TE1 upside that can be had very late in drafts.

Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Wimer: Rodgers is leading in the race to be the starting TE in Green Bay, which has been a valuable position on the team at points during Aaron Rodgers' tenure at quarterback. With Andrew Quarless in legal jeopardy, I like Rodgers as a late-round gamble.