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 4 Votes

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Brimacombe: With only playing 17 games over the past 2 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 as the 16 ranked ADP TE 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 QB 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 9 of those were for touchdowns.

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.

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.

Waldman: The fear for fantasy owners is the tight end's health. If the Vikings tight end plays the entire season, he's in an offense with two big-play receivers and arguably the best running back of the past 10 years. Teddy Bridgewater has no problem spreading the ball around and buying time in the pocket. Look for Rudolph to earn a high reception count this year and convert enough red zone looks to earn top-10 production.

Players Receiving 3 Votes

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Haseley: I like Austin Seferian-Jenkins for two main reasons - one is the Jameis Winston factor. Winston is a gunslinger who will extend plays and find open receivers over the middle, which is where Seferian-Jenkins will see a lot of action. Two, Seferian-Jenkins is entering his second year where most young tight ends start to develop their game. He is a big target with talent that will be unearthed by Winston. You can select him as your second tight end and suffer little to no risk. The reward could be high, especially if Tampa Bay winds up passing the ball often like I envision.

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 numbers, making his current draft spot too low.

Simpkins: Seferian-Jenkins is endowed with a size-speed combination that is mouthwatering. While he suffered from the terrible quarterback play of Josh McCown and Nick Foles last year, Winston will elevate him to fantasy relevance in 2015. He will be another big-and-tall safety blanket for his rookie quarterback. While defenses are concerned with stopping Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, ASJ will have the skillset to win over the middle and rock the red zone. Already, the word from OTAs and camp is that Winston and ASJ are displaying good chemistry. With an ADP that is currently in the late eleventh to early twelfth round, ASJ makes a fine choice to vastly outperform his draft position.

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

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.

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.

Wood: Jason Witten is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career, but fantasy owners are acting like the end is nigh. It's true Witten's fantasy value took a hit in 2014 (64 receptions for 703 yards and 5 touchdowns), he still finished as the 10th best tight end. When a guy's down season equates to a 10th place finish, he's worth more than an 8th round draft pick. Witten's underlying skills haven't deteriorated as exhibited by his 11.0 yards per catch average and 71% catch rate. With the likelihood that the ground game is going to regress without DeMarco Murray, I expect Tony Romo to throw more in 2015. Witten ranked 1st, 6th, 5th and 6th from 2010 through 2013 -- let's not pretend he's fallen off a cliff.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears

Parsons: Bennett led tight ends in receptions in 2014 and with Brandon Marshall out of the picture is a prime candidate to repeat his high volume this season. At TE5, Bennett is priced closer to his floor than ceiling and, outside of Rob Gronkowski and his Round 1 price tag, rivals any tight end’s upside.

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. Rookie Kevin White could be done for the season and Alshon Jeffery is banged up to, so Bennett’s great size, hands will come in handy this season. Bennett was a big part of the offensive attack last year (90-916-6) as the Pro Bowler led the league in tight end 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.

Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins

Hester: Two years ago, Cameron caught 80 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns with a Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer platoon. This led to him being a fifth-round fantasy pick in 2014 drafts despite a quarterback situation that was going to just as weak entering the year. Now, Cameron will catch passes from Ryan Tannehill, who is being touted as a QB1 candidate this season, yet he’s being selected in the eighth round. If he avoids injury, Cameron is a lock to exceed his draft position. If he gets injured, replacement-level production on the waiver wire is usually easily accessible at tight end.

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

Larry Donnell, New York Giants

Wimer: Donnell is playing on an ascending passing attack; he's improving his game according to reports out of training camp; and the Giants' defense leaves a lot to be desired, making the passing game likely to thrive this year. I like him to finish in the top-10 at his position, making his current lowly ADP an opportunity to find a lot of value in Donnell during 2015.

Wood: Let me state upfront that I’m assuming Donnell's recent Achilles injury (suffered in the first week of camp) ends up being minor. In that case, I love Donnell's ADP and would aggressively target him as a late round flier capable of Top 10 value. At 6'6", 269 lbs, Donnell is a beast in the middle and tough for defensive backs to displace in the red zone. Last year's 63 receptions for 623 yards and six touchdowns were impressive (and yes, I realize 3 of those touchdowns came in one game), and I see no reason why Donnell should have reached his peak in his first season as an NFL regular. With Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle pressuring defenses vertically, Donnell will have plenty of space to work short- and intermediate routes.

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

Hicks: Tyler Eifert was expected to be a prominent feature of the Bengals offense last season, but his week 1 injury put an end to that plan. It is essentially the same offense and Jermaine Gresham was allowed to leave. It is easy to see how Eifert could become a fantasy starter this season, especially with the lack of fantasy quality at the position this year. He obviously has health and experience questions, but when backup players are going in the 13th and 14th round he is an easy choice to outplay his ADP.

Simpkins: Many forget the large investment the Bengals made in Eifert when they took him with a 2013 first round pick. The Bengals had big plans for Eifert in 2014 before an elbow dislocation derailed his entire season. In fact, each of Dalton’s projected top three target battled injuries all season, which is partially why this passing game looked anemic and why the running game surged. With everyone on the mend, anticipate we’ll see a Bengals offense that is not as hesitant to throw in 2015. This bodes well for the prospects of the physically talented tight end. The team has made it clear that they want him heavily involved in the offense in 2015. While Eifert has shown to be somewhat of an injury risk over his short career, the upside he presents in the late eleventh round is just too good to pass up.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts

Haseley: I like Dwayne Allen this year and based on Andrew Luck's propensity to throw touchdowns to the tight end (16 last yr), he's a wise investment as my TE2 behind Greg Olsen. The Colts are also expected to have more three WR sets, which will keep only one tight end on the field. Dwayne Allen is a better blocker than Coby Fleener, so my gut says he'll see more snaps. Allen could finish in the Top 10, but I only feel comfortable with him as my TE2.

Owen Daniels, Denver Broncos

Alexander: If you throw out the 2012 season, in which Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen split snaps, and combine the 2010 production of Tamme and Dallas Clark (who was placed on injured reserve after six games), the average year-end stat line of Manning's top tight end since 2007 looks like this:

  • 74.5 receptions, 804 receiving yards, 9.7 touchdowns, 138.6 standard fantasy points.

For context, only three tight ends eclipsed 138 fantasy points last season – Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates. This year it's Owen Daniels' turn to enjoy the Peyton Manning bump, and as an added bonus he's (once again) hitched to Gary Kubiak's play calling. Daniels has played in Kubiak's tight end friendly scheme his entire career. His familiarity with the system, combined with Manning's history, Julius Thomas' defection, and Kubiak's tendency to target tight ends in the red zone, makes a double digit TD season entirely possible.

Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

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.

Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

Holloway: Dwayne Allen is a much more all-around tight end and is used more frequently for the Colts. He and Fleener both began their careers with the Colts in 2012. Allen out produced Fleener in their rookie seasons, but Fleener took over the lead role in 2013 when Allen missed most of the season and he again was the Colts leading tight end last year. Fleener continues to be the more targeted tight end this year as well. The targets may be slightly less this season, with the improved wide receiver roster and a possibility of a more productive running game, but Fleener has finished as TE15 and TE6 over the past two seasons.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

Waldman: Not as big of a value as my other option Kyle Rudolph, Walker's value dipped thanks to the Titans drafting Marcus Mariota. The concern is the productivity and efficiency that a rookie passer can provide out of the gate. Although Mariota played in a spread system, he also made Colt Lyerla and Pharoah Brown stars at Oregon. Look for Mariota, a task-oriented passer who sticks to his progressions, to rely heavily on Walker.