Value Plays: Tight Ends

The Footballguys staff finds value at the tight end position

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. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the top 150 players and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 6 Votes

Kyle Rudolph

Sigmund Bloom: Rudolph has had trouble staying healthy and didn’t look close to 100% for most of 2014. While he was struggling with injuries, Rudolph gained one of the better young passers in the league in his offense. In the past he has shown a penchant for finishing drives when he gets end zone targets. The Vikings got Adrian Peterson back, which should only open up more room for Rudolph to operate in the middle of the field.

James Brimacombe: With only playing 17 games over the past two seasons Rudolph's value in the fantasy community has seemed to go down dramatically. The fact that you can get him at a nice discount seems too good to be true. The situation in Minnesota has also changed as Teddy Bridgewater is now the face of the team and with a healthy Rudolph on the field the quarterback is going to be looking for the big target and get him the ball. Back in 2012 in a full 16 game season Rudolph caught 53 passes and nine of those were for touchdowns. When selecting Rudolph at his current ADP you are banking on him playing a full 16 game season and if that is the case don't you think Bridgewater can find him for 50+ receptions?

Michael Brown: I’m a big supporter of the Minnesota offense this season, and Rudolph is a big reason why. The only reason he’s not taken higher is because of his injury history. Working with probably the best quarterback he’s had since he’s been in the NFL, Rudolph basically needs to simply stay on the field to reach his ADP. He’s essentially being taken as a late-round flier at this point, but if we knew he’d play a full 16 games, he’d be going off the board six rounds earlier. As mentioned in our player writeup, despite playing hurt most of the last two years, he has put up 54-544-5 in the last 17 games which is borderline top-10 at the position. Yet he goes off the board as TE16, which is his absolute floor. Never discount the tight end in a Norv Turner offense, particularly one who can get it like Rudolph.

Andy Hicks: The days of numerous elite fantasy tight ends appears to be over, which means there will be many contenders for starting spots this year. Kyle Rudolph presents as an attractive if not risky target. Two injury plagued seasons mean we haven’t seen him develop into what was expected in 2013, but the Vikings offense looks on an upward curve, especially if Adrian Peterson can roam and Mike Wallace can stretch the field. The presence of those 2 will allow Rudolph plenty of room to exploit defenses.

Ari Ingel: Like Cameron, Rudolph has top 5 TE upside, but has a low ADP due to a slew of injuries the past two years. While it seems like he has been around forever, Rudolph is only 25 years old, and most of his injures have been fluky, so don’t buy into any sort of injury prone label. If he stays healthy, Rudolph should see a ton of targets playing with Teddy Bridgewater in Norv Turner’s tight end friendly scheme. Rudolph is also a big body, so he should see a ton of red zone looks. With an ADP of 139, stacking Rudolph and Cameron late in the draft makes too much sense.

Bob Magaw: Rudolph has made Washington TE Jordan Reed look like an iron man in recent seasons (hummingbirds generally have bones with greater tensile strength than Reed). But this is not a misplaced Overvalued article entry. IF Rudolph has an improbable Fred Taylor, Isaac Bruce-type reversal of early career injury woes, he had close to a top 10 finish the last time he completed a full 16 game schedule in 2012. QB Teddy Bridgewater has been raving about him in OTAs.

Players Receiving 4 Votes

Jordan Cameron

Christopher Feery: Cameron exits the Browns to join the Dolphins and will become a favorite target of Ryan Tannehill. Underwhelming QB play and a concussion that limited him to 10 games last season saw him take a step back from his solid 2013 season. Cameron posted a line of 80/917/7 in 2013 and could easily approach or exceed that for 2015. Tannehill has the potential to be a top 10 QB this year and a young WR corps could stretch the field, opening up plenty of red-zone targets for Cameron. A top 5 TE season is within reach.

Ari Ingel: Cameron’s stock is way down due to his concussion history and also due to the horrible quarterback play in Cleveland last year. While he is still a bit risky on the health side of things, his quarterback play will be much improved now that he is with Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Cameron is one of the most athletically gifted tight ends, so his ceiling is very high, especially since Tannehill favors throwing to the short and intermediate receivers. If he can stay healthy, he should easily produce top 5 TE numbers.

Daniel Simpkins: Cameron moves from the dumpster fire in Cleveland into an ascendant situation in Miami. When he’s had competent quarterback play, he’s demonstrated that he can be a top option, and Tannehill will be more than competent. Count on Cameron to become Tannehill’s safety blanket, especially in red zone situations. Owners can currently draft Cameron in the late seventh round, a real bargain for a TE who could possibly finish in the top five at the position. If owners are worried about Cameron’s history of being banged up, they can take another committee option later in drafts.

Mark Wimer: Cameron should be Ryan Tannehill's favorite target in Miami sooner rather than later. I think he is vastly under-valued as of mid-June (I have him third on my tight end board), and will be adding him to a lot of my redraft teams this year.

Josh Hill

Daniel Simpkins: Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills were traded away by New Orleans, leaving a huge void in the passing game. Brandon Cooks will see a lot of balls come his way this year, but there will be a need for bigger-bodied targets in the red zone. Josh Hill fits that bill quite nicely. Though he’s no Graham, he’s big, athletic, and displays soft hands while on the move. Colston seems to be aging out and is unlikely to challenge Hill as the second leading receiver on the team. The fact that drafters can get him in the late eighth round of 12-team drafts right now makes him a great value.

Matt Waldman: Sean Payton raved about Hill this offseason. Coaches typically do these things to build the confidence of players they hope to rely upon for the coming season. In this case, Hill has shown enough on the field that he’ll become a viable TE 1 if he earns a fraction of Jimmy Graham’s top production for the Saints. Drew Brees may be older and the Saints will be running more often, but Brees’ career isn’t dead and the passing game isn’t disappearing under a pile of Schottenheimers.

Kyle Wachtel: The opportunity of a lifetime is in front of Hill. Jimmy Graham was locked in as the second best tight end, light years ahead of the other options, and he saw the targets to match his stature. Plenty of red zone real estate is available for Hill to purchase and even if he sees one-half of Graham’s targets, low-end TE1 production is within range.

Mark Wimer: Hill has a big-time opportunity with Jimmy Graham now in Seattle. I think Hill will be a top-10 tight end for fantasy owners this year (Brees has come to rely on that position, and Hill is capable), so he is undervalued as 13th tight end selected according to ADP.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Jeff Haseley: The Buccaneers are going to see an uptick in passing this year with Jameis Winston under center. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is entering his second year in the league and should see a spike in production by default. His size-speed combination will give Winston a big target, especially when opposing defenses will focus their efforts on stopping Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Seferian-Jenkins will see a lot of mismatches that Winston will look to exploit. He could be a breakout tight end in 2015, especially if Winston is as good, if not better than advertised. He's a great TE2 pick that you can stash and wait on. If he hits, you have an instant starter on your roster.

Ryan Hester: Despite multiple injuries in his rookie season, Seferian-Jenkins showed flashes of being a reliable target and a dynamic playmaker. This season, his offense inherits Jameis Winston who, despite being a rookie, should out-perform the Josh McCown/Mike Glennon platoon from 2014. Winston displayed the ability to utilize a tight end throughout his college career, and he did so with Nick O’Leary, who is a far inferior athlete to Seferian-Jenkins. Winston isn’t afraid to take chances, particularly when his receiver has a significant size advantage. Seferian-Jenkins will have that size advantage over just about anyone that covers him. A half-dozen touchdowns isn’t outside the range of possibilities. Last season, Larry Donnell’s 63 receptions, 623 yards, and six touchdowns made him the #11 tight end in PPR scoring. Seferian-Jenkins could approach those, making his current draft spot too low.

Andy Hicks: As is typically the case a rookie tight end traditionally struggles and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins was no exception. His 2nd year however could be totally different. The rookie QB, Jameis Winston, will need a safe outlet and Sefarian-Jenkins should present that option. A huge target and with opposing defenses worried about Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, the 2nd year man from Washington will be an inviting target. It might be a year too early, but at his asking price it will be worth it to find out.

Chad Parsons: Austin Seferian-Jenkins flashed upside at times as a 2014 rookie prior to a season-ending injury. Seferian-Jenkins has a Rob Gronkowski-like prospect profile with above-average size, athleticism, and strong historical production. With Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans occupying safeties on the outside, Seferian-Jenkins will consistently see single coverage over the middle. Jameis Winston marks a substantial upgrade under center as Tampa Bay is one of the more underrated offenses entering 2015.

Delanie Walker

Phil Alexander: Walker finished as the TE9 in standard leagues last season, yet he’s currently coming off the board as the TE14. He’s a boring name tied to a lousy offense, but his role is unlikely to change much from last year, and the Titans’ passing game should improve a bit with Marcus Mariota taking over at QB. Last season, Walker was one of only six tight ends to receive more than 100 targets. There were some weeks where he disappeared, but the same could be said of just about every non-Gronk TE. Walker’s eight Top-12 weekly finishes placed him just behind Travis Kelce and Martellus Bennett last season in terms of tight end consistency.

Cian Fahey: Delanie Walker has quietly been one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the past two seasons, but you're unlikely to know it. That is because his maturation as a player has coincided with his move to the Tennessee Titans. Walker has been living off of scraps from poor quarterbacks, but will now get a significant upgrade with Marcus Mariota taking over. Mariota should be able to repeatedly find him on short and intermediate routes. Not only will Walker rack up the receptions, but he also offers YAC potential and a threat down the seam for big plays.

Stephen Holloway: Delanie Walker had the most targets (106), the most receptions (63), the most receiving yards (890) and was 2nd to Kendall Wright in TDs scored for the Titans a year ago. This season, Walker will be receiving passes from Marcus Mariotathe Titans’ highly touted rookie. Mariota is more talented than any of the three quarterbacks employed any the Titans last year and rookie quarterbacks are known to lean heavily on their tight ends, particularly when they are the best receiver on the team.

Bob Magaw: Walker labored for years in relative obscurity as a blocking specialist counterpart to receiving TE Vernon Davis with the 49ers, but finally got a chance to shine with the Titans in 2013. After a 60-571-6 initial campaign in Tennessee, he significantly elevated his yardage last season (63-890-4). By all accounts, prized #2 overall QB Marcus Mariota is the real deal, but like many rookie signal callers when under duress, he may appreciate the safety valve intermediate route of the TE, and Walker will be the beneficiary.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Dwayne Allen

Sigmund Bloom: Allen was not 100% for very much of 2014 and changed his regimen this offseason to start off in better shape than he did last year. We might write Allen off as injury prone if he goes down once again, but in the meantime he could be one of the main pieces of the most productive offense in the league, and better able to take advantage of what that offers to his fantasy owners. Andrew Luck saw that Allen buttered his bread when called on in the red zone, and good quarterbacks are good because they know what works. Even if his efficiency drops, improved weapons all around could give Allen and the offense more trips to the red zone to convert. He’s still the best bet to score at TE each week not named Gronk or Graham.

Jeff Haseley: If you can't land an elite tight end, draft a tight end on an elite offense and reel in consistent production with some big weeks here and there. Most people are afraid to latch onto Dwayne Allen because of the Coby Fleener factor as well as injury concerns. My gut says Allen is the better receiver and he's finally healthy enough to be relied on for consistent numbers. Allen had 8 touchdowns in a part time role last year, which tells me his floor is 4-5 scores with the possibility of more if he earns the primary tight end position or if an injury thrusts him into that role. Allen can be drafted as a TE2. There's no need to rush him into your lineup, but if he hits, you've got a diamond in the rough or a potential trade gem who can improve your team in other areas.

Zach Ertz

James Brimacombe: Ertz had a nice 2014 season collecting 58 receptions for 702 yards and 3 touchdowns. He showed flashes of big play ability and was willing to go up and make the tough catch regardless of timing in the game. It was well documented that Nick Foles wasn't the most accurate of passers and now with Sam Bradford at QB that his best quality as a passer. With Jeremy Maclin off to Kansas City and Bradford now under center, Ertz could continue to develop into one of the elite TE's in the league.

Michael Brown: Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy are gone. A second year man and a rookie are holding down the receiving fort for the Eagles. Where is the trusted veteran to come in and lead this offense? Enter Ertz. He put up very solid stats a year ago, even if nearly 20% of his production came in one game (it was Week 16, so PPR championship owners will always hold a special place in their hearts for his 15-115 performance a year ago against Washington). But make no mistake, this is no one-hit wonder. Ertz has serious talent, and seemingly little competition for receptions in Philadelphia. As his opportunities rise, and more people realize what a focal point he is going to be in this offense, his ADP should rise with it.

Jason Witten

Stephen Holloway: Dallas ran the ball 477 times a year ago with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball 393 times. Expect the number of rushes to decrease and the targets for Dez Bryant and Witten to climb proportionately. Witten and Tony Romo have great rapport and Witten’s production should climb back to approximately 2013 levels when he caught 73 passes for 851 yards and 8 TDs.

Jeff Pasquino: Jason Witten is a “seasoned veteran”, which is a nice way to say that he is getting old. Here’s the thing – everyone gets old, even Tony Gonzalez, remember him? Both of these players were productive season after season right up until retirement, and I believe that Witten will be the same way again this year. Tony Romo loves to target Witten over the middle, especially in the end zone. Getting Witten at TE10 this year just sounds like highway robbery to me.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Martellus Bennett

Jeff Pasquino: Jay Cutler loves to throw the ball, and now he has lost one of his favorite targets in Brandon Marshall, who was traded away to the New York Jets. That opens up the door for a lot of targets in the Chicago passing attack, and some of those are going to go towards their big tight end, Martellus Bennett. Certainly rookie wide receiver Kevin White will be in the mix, but Bennett has great size, hands and was a big part of the offensive attack last year (90-916-6) as the Pro Bowler led the league in receptions in 2014. There is little depth behind Bennett in Chicago and while expecting 90 catches may be a stretch, a Top 5 finish this year is certainly within reach.

Owen Daniels

Christopher Feery: Tenth year pro Owen Daniels joins the Broncos after a one-year stopover with the Ravens. The departure of Julius Thomas opens up the No.1 TE job and while Daniels will not approach that level of production, a TE in a Peyton Manning offense receives an immediate fantasy boost. He will be challenged by Virgil Green for targets, but if Daniels has anything left in the tank he could provide top 10 TE results from a late-round selection.

Coby Fleener

Jason Wood: In 2014 no player ranking and projection was met with more consternation than Coby Fleener. I projected him as not only the Colts' top tight end (most preferred D. Allen), but also as a top 10 fantasy option. Most scoffed. Not to toot my own horn, but he ended up blowing past consensus expectations and finished as the 6th best fantasy TE with 51 receptions for 774 yards and 8 TDs. Fleener isn't a perfect player, but he's got a rapport with Andrew Luck that goes back to their college days. He's a big part of the league's most exciting young offense. With Andrew Luck ready to ascend to the very top of the QB pantheon, I don't see why Fleener's role would be reduced in 2015. He's entering his prime, delivered a value season in 2014, yet fantasy owners aren't clamoring to pay 2014 value. I'll happily target Fleener again this year, and you should too.