The Footballguys staff was asked to mention their most significant rookie tight end for the upcoming season. Most significant can have a lot of meaning, so - in this case - it means we just asked our guys to pick the rookie tight end they most wanted to write about. Here are the results.
Maxx Williams - 9 mentions
Alexander - In recent years, the 20th ranked tight end has typically finished the season with about 75 fantasy points. Since 2000, only six tight ends have scored at least 75 fantasy points as rookies. History clearly tells us to ignore rookie tight ends (as anyone who wasted a 2014 redraft pick on Eric Ebron can attest), but Baltimore second rounder Maxx Williams has a realistic shot at fantasy relevance this season. With Dennis Pitta recovering from his second fractured hip in the last 24 months, and Crockett Gilmore more of an in-line blocker, Williams is the only tight end on the Ravens' depth chart who qualifies as a playmaker. Last season, under Marc Trestman (who now calls the plays in Baltimore), Martellus Bennett finished behind only Rob Gronkowski in tight end targets, and was the most heavily targeted tight end in the red zone. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has stated he expects Williams to make an immediate impact in the red zone and on third downs. If he can hit the ground running as a route runner and blocker, there's not much standing between Williams and the 500 receiving yards and five touchdowns he would need to finish inside the Top 20 tight ends.
Brimacombe - When the Ravens selected Maxx Williams they gave quarterback Joe Flacco a go-to target in the redzone and a sure target over the middle of the field in 3rd downs. Williams is 6'4" 250 lbs and has been compared to star tight end Jason Witten. NFL's Mike Mayock raved about Williams catch radius calling him "A great athlete with big hands", and went on to compare him to Kyle Rudolph. Williams is the long-term solution at tight end for the Ravens but still could battle Dennis Pitta this season for targets. If Pitta struggles with injuries to start the season look for Williams to build an instant connection with Joe Flacco. In 25 career college games at Minnesota, Williams has caught 61 passes for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns and although those numbers are not huge you have to realize it was for an offense that did not like to pass the ball much and now with an opportunity with the Ravens that have always loved getting the ball to their tight end, he has to be on your radar to make a name for himself in his rookie season.
Haseley - Normally, rookie tight ends take some time to develop and don't show much in terms of fantasy value in year one. Maxx Williams is arguably the best tight end in a below average draft class for tight ends. Landing in Baltimore is a good spot for him, simply because there are question marks at the position with the uncertain health of Dennis Pitta (hip), the release of Owen Daniels and uncertain talent level of Crockett Gilmore. Having said that, new Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman has a poor history of tight end success in his past with the lone exception being Martellus Bennett with the Bears in his most recent position. Before that, you have to go back to Ted Popson and Brent Jones from his days with the 49ers in the mid-90s as the last Top 10 tight end in his offense. Williams may receive the most snaps of all rookie tight ends by default, and therefore he would be the one rookie tight end I'm most excited about from a fantasy perspective.
Hicks - It is almost a fantasy obvious decision to never invest too highly in a rookie tight end in redraft leagues. Despite the passing game being dominant in today’s NFL, including the evolution of the tight end position, the rookie has not excelled at this level. Only four rookies in the last 15 years have been fantasy starter material. This year the leading candidate to be highly drafted is Maxx Williams out of Minnesota. Williams looks to be an exciting prospect, but not only does he have to learn the intricacies of an NFL offense, he has a bunch of relatively inexperienced skilled offensive players around him and the potential of Dennis Pitta or Crockett Gillmore winning the starting job. The severe hip injuries to Pitta may end his career, but news needs to monitored carefully given the expectations of Williams this year. Crockett Gillmore also was drafted in the third round last year and is developing well. A full off season could easily see him start ahead of the rookie. Williams is an excellent investment in dynasty leagues though, just don’t expect much in redrafts.
Holloway - Maxx Williams was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens and lands in an ideal spot. The Ravens historically use their tight ends well (76 receptions in 2014) and their new offensive coordinator Mark Trestman featured Martellus Bennett for 90 catches in Chicago last year. The only potential player that could keep Williams from starting is Dennis Pitta, but he suffered a second hip dislocation and fracture early last season, turns 30 during the summer, and may not be able to return.
Pasquino - Baltimore had to get more skill player talent in 2015 with the loss of both Torrey Smith (signed in San Francisco), Owen Daniels (signed with Denver) and the uncertainty of Dennis Pitta’s health. Baltimore rolled the dice in a trade-up in the second round and I think they came up big here with arguably the best tight end prospect in the draft in Maxx Williams. The Ravens moved up to get their guy who could easily start this season if Pitta does not come back. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offensive scheme favors tight end routes, so Williams could prosper.
Tefertiller - There was only one premier fantasy tight end in the 2015 rookie class, Maxx Williams. Fortunate for both him and fantasy owners, Williams fell into a sublime situation. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens to replace Owen Daniels (and likely Dennis Pitta) in Marc Trestman's offense. Let's remember that Martellus Bennett put up career numbers in Trestman's offense last year. Williams has an optimal landing spot to showcase his play-making talents. He should finish as a TE1 in fantasy leagues...as a rookie. There will be enough targets for him to possibly crack the Top 6 at the position. Williams is athletic and able to make a play after the catch. This is an optimal fit for player and franchise … and fantasy owners should take notice.
Wimer - Maxx Williams is the most significant rookie tight end drafted during 2015. He is widely considered the best tight end prospect in this draft class, and the Ravens are already talking about utilizing him in third-down and red-zone situations. With Jeff Heuerman (Denver) already lost for the season due to a torn ACL suffered in rookie minicamp, and other rookie tight end prospects buried behind capable veterans, Williams stands out as the rookie with the best intersection of talent and opportunity for the upcoming 2015 season.
Wood - In one of the weakest tight end classes in recent memory, I suspect Maxx Williams will be a near unanimous choice for most significant rookie addition. Williams isn't cut from the same uber-athletic cloth as Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates, but he's a strong, fundamentally sound player who runs precise routes and can make difficult catches in traffic. Williams' game is more akin to that of Jason Witten -- which is high praise considering Witten is going to someday walk through the door in Canton.
Not only is Williams the most talented tight end of this rookie class, he also landed in a perfect situation. The Baltimore Ravens lost Torrey Smith in free agency and that leaves Joe Flacco with exactly zero impact players in his receiving stable (unless you count Steve Smith -- I don't). Williams will be given every opportunity to make an immediate impact; something even the most talented rookie tight ends rarely get a chance to do.
Clive Walford - 2 mentions
Parsons - The 2015 rookie tight end crop is an uninspiring one as even Maxx Williams slipped 20-30 picks beyond his Round 1 predraft expectations. Walford heads to Oakland where the name of the offseason was getting Derek Carr an upgrade of weaponry. In addition to Amari Cooper at wide receiver, Walford represents an immediate upgrade over ho-hum incumbent tight end Mychal Rivera. Walford is a complete tight end and one that punishes defenders after the catch. Even with 30 or fewer receptions, Walford is poised to be a fun watch as a 2015 rookie.
Simpkins - Mychal Rivera truthers everywhere were feeling pretty good after free agency. The team was rumored to be flirting with Julius Thomas, but he ultimately signed with Jacksonville. This false sense of security was dashed when Walford was taken in the third round. Walford is a better blocker and a better athlete than Rivera. He has some work to do as a route runner, but Rivera is nothing special in that category either. While Walford probably won’t start immediately, expect him to supplant Rivera as the lead Raider tight end in 2016.