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.

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Players Receiving 3 Votes

Jordan Cameron, Miami

Bloom: Cameron was a rising star at tight end who got paid well and was expected to stay at his top production levels when he signed with Miami last year. Instead, he was mostly anonymous as he was dinged up and huffed and puffed along with a Dolphins offense that was less than the sum of his parts. Sure, he took a pay cut of 1.5 million, but the Dolphins still guaranteed five million dollars of his salary this year, which means they still expect him to play a large role. He's worth a pick in a TEBC or streaming TE approach to see if Adam Gase can revive this offense and Cameron's fantasy value.

Hicks: Jordan Cameron was a disappointment in his first season with the Dolphins. With a new coaching regime, who know how to use a tight end, expect Cameron to rebound spectacularly in 2016. With Julius Thomas, Adam Gase got him to 12 touchdowns in both 2013 and 2014, while with Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller last year in Chicago he got a combined 87 receptions for 878 yards and 8 touchdowns. With the Browns, Cameron proved that he has the ability to be an elite producer. Don't sleep on his chances to return there this season.

Ingel: Cameron is another freak athlete, standing 6'5", 254 lbs running a 4.59 forty and posting a 37.5 inch vertical. Cameron went criminally underused, like most of the pieces on this Dolphins offense, last year while Gase helped make fantasy studs out of tight ends Julius Thomas (in Denver) and 31-year-old Zach Miller (in Chicago) on his last two stops. One reason Cameron was willing to take a pay cut this year? To play for Gase.

Will Tye, NY Giants

Hester: Despite almost always lacking athletes at the position, Eli Manning's teams have often utilized tight ends in the passing game. The only player blocking Tye from significant playing time is, ironically, another player who came out of nowhere and had great fantasy success in Larry Donnell. 2014's sleeper was lost for the season in Week 8, opening the door for Tye, who performed admirably. Tye caught at least three passes in every game after Week 10 (and caught five or more in five of the seven games). If either of these players can emerge and play at least two-thirds of the offensive snaps, they'll be at least streamer-worthy during many weeks of the season.

Howe: Tye is currently not being drafted among the top 17 tight ends, as fantasy owners continue to wonder just who he is. Tye is a former Florida State recruit who actually returned punts at Stony Brook – his 4.47 pro day 40-yard dash was more than impressive. And his late-2015 starting run showed much more potential than we've seen from Larry Donnell, who is injured and seems unlikely to win his starting job back. Tye was the overall TE6 over the final seven games last year, and if he's introduced into the Giants' red zone packages in 2016, look out.

Wood: Will Tye is a better player than Larry Donnell. It's only a matter of time before Tye emerges as the better fit in Ben McAdoo's wide-open passing attack. Pro rating Tye's 8 starts last season over a full 16 games yields 100 targets, 68 receptions, 774 yards and 6 touchdowns. He's big, young, an elite athlete and outperformed Donnell when given the opportunity. What's not to like as your late round tight end, particularly if you're looking for a high upside option to go along with a high floor starter.

Clive Walford, Oakland

Hicks: Clive Walford had a fantastic rookie season all things considered. The Raiders need a big guy who take the pressure off for David Carr and allow the rest of the offense to flourish. Mychal Rivera has proven to be limited in his opportunities to date and I would expect Walford to take the role and not look back this season. It may be one season too early, but this is likely to be the last season Walford presents as such value.

Pasquino: Clive Walford came on strong late in the season last year, finishing his rookie campaign strong with the Raiders at 28-329-3 for Oakland. Derek Carr is entering his third season as the starting quarterback in Oakland and has Walford along with two strong wideouts (Amani Cooper, Michael Crabtree) to round out the passing game. Walford could push for TE1 value this season and is a great value late in fantasy drafts. I love his status as a TE2 in drafts with upside.

Wimer: Walford plays for a young, improving offense and showed flashes of production last year. He's an excellent choice as your backup tight end based on his upside playing alongside Derek Carr/the Raiders' improving unit this year.

Jason Witten, Dallas

Holloway: Even in Dallas' nightmare season in 2015, Jason Witten caught 77 passes. He has definitely lost a step and enters this season at the age of 34, but he gets his quarterback Tony Romo back. He and Romo have always had a great connection. Witten will be playing his 14th season with the Cowboys and has not missed a game since his rookie year.

Parsons: It is hard to believe Jason Witten is now unlisted in the top-150. Witten was TE8 in targets last year despite Tony Romo missing part of the season and Dallas' offense being a general train wreck. A PPR setting is mandatory for Witten as he has surpassed five touchdowns in a season just once in the last five years. However, like Tony Gonzalez, Witten continues to make a living on short-to-intermediate routes and long-standing chemistry with his quarterback. Witten is the ideal pairing with an upside tight end option to offer stability as an owner searches for higher impact.

Wood: Certain players are perennially undervalued. Jason Witten is a lock Hall of Famer when he retires yet it seems that fantasy owners have found reasons not to draft him throughout his career. I've capitalized on that mistaken logic year after year; and intend to again in 2016. The only reason to justify Witten's current ADP is if you think age has overcome him and he's hit a major wall. Yet, the stats don't support that claim. His catch rate remains elite. He's still one of the team's top blockers and guaranteed to be on the field for most snaps. Last year's 3 touchdowns were more a function of Tony Romo's injury than anything related to Witten. Are people discounting Dez Bryant for what happened last year? Then why should we discount Witten; particularly in PPR formats where 75+ receptions is his absolute floor over a 16-game schedule.

Players Receiving 2 Votes

Jared Cook, Green Bay

Bloom: We've all fallen for Jared Cook hyde before, but he never had anyone approaching Aaron Rodgers' status as a quarterback. Richard Rodgers was almost fantasy relevant as the Packers top receiving tight end last year, and he's one of the less impressive athletes to occupy that role in the NFL, while Cook is one of the most. The Packers don't have a proven third receiver, so Cook could be the de facto #3 target if his offseason foot surgery doesn't slow him down and keep him from getting on the same page as Rodgers. It's worth a late pick to see if Cook gets hot early in a TEBC or streaming TE approach.

Ingel: It's much easier to play with Aaron Rodgers than the dreck he's had to deal with in Tennessee and St Louis. He's 6'5" 246lbs, runs a 4.50 forty and has a 41 inch vertical… that's the definition of a freak athlete. At his current late 15th round ADP, there is only upside.

Austin Hooper, Atlanta

Feery: Austin Hooper was one of the top two tight ends on the board in this year's draft, and he could not have landed in a better situation in terms of potentially having an immediate role in the offense. As training camp approaches, he finds himself at third on the TE depth chart behind Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo. If Hooper catches on quick, he'll leap to the forefront and assume TE1 duties for an offense that is lacking in viable targets. Julio Jones will continue to set the league on fire, and Mohamed Sanu should be a nice upgrade at the WR2 position. Outside of those two, there simply aren't many threats in the passing game, which points us to whoever assumes the TE1 job to be a pretty big factor in the offense. If that turns out to be Hooper, he could prove to be a steal as a late round flier.

Waldman: Veteran tight end Jacob Tamme was the team's best receiving tight end for the Falcons last year but Matt Ryan failed to develop a rapport with the veteran. Tamme is also a limited, undersized blocker. Levine Toilolo blocks like a pseudo lineman but his range as a receiver is limited to 10 yards. After the catch, he moves like a prehistoric wagon with square wheels. Out of Toilolo, Zach Ertz, and Cobi Fleener, only Toilolo was a superior blocker to Hooper at Stanford. Hooper is also more physical at the catch point than Ertz and Fleener and a more fluid runner than Ertz. The Falcons need a second and third option to open the field for Julio Jones and catch quick and easy passes from Ryan. Hooper is still a low-odds option to exceed the modest expectations fantasy owners should have for rookie tight ends but scheme fit and talent is a good match to consider late in drafts.

Zach Miller, Chicago

Simpkins: A 14th-round selection, Miller is being seriously undervalued. Chicago traded away the disgruntled Martellus Bennett to the Patriots. Meanwhile, Miller quietly signed a 2-year deal to remain with the team. He showed well when Bennett was out last year and becomes much more interesting this year. The Bears also abstained from drafting a tight end, leading us to believe they are very comfortable going forward with Miller as the starter.

Wimer: Miller has a scary injury history, but he was VERY scary to opposing defensive coordinators as the Bears' lead tight end late last season. With Martellus Bennett now in New England, Miller could easily become the #2 target in Chicago behind Alshon Jeffery. Miller caught five TDs in only part of a season as the lead tight end for Jay Cutler (week nine-season end) last year. Miller has top-10 potential at his position and should be on your short list of options at tight end this year.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota

Pasquino: Kyle Rudolph is a former Pro Bowl tight end that has missed time in both 2013 and 2014 with injuries, but he returned last year to finish the season as TE14 despite a learning season for his quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. Rudolph is the very definition of a solid TE2 with a high floor and plenty of upside if the passing game starts to return to value for the Vikings' offense. Teams will focus on stopping Adrian Peterson first, so quick passes over the middle to Rudolph will be there all season for Bridgewater. I think Rudolph offers strong upside as a late TE2 in fantasy drafts this year.

Waldman: The Vikings passing offense lost fantasy credibility last year. Most fantasy owners and analysts attribute the problem to Teddy Bridgewater but the real issue has been the offensive line. Due to the league-leading amount of pressure that Bridgewater faced due to a decimated offensive line in 2015, Rudolph was forced to stay at the line of scrimmage as a pass protector. If the Vikings line stays healthy, it's one of the better units in the league. This will allow the Vikings to use Rudolph more often in the passing game. Add Laquon Treadwell to the mix, and Rudolph will find easier opportunities than he did last year.

Ben Watson, Baltimore

Haseley: The Ravens have not had a legitimate tight end threat since Dennis Pitta went down with his hip injury (twice). Ben Watson may be a player in the autumn of his career, but he showed last year with New Orleans that he is capable of filling a role and executing it well. Watson will be able to pick up on the Ravens offense quickly and adapt his skills to the needs of the position in Joe Flacco's system. He will probably come short of last year's lofty numbers, but even an average season of 50-600-5 is attainable, that would warrant fantasy consideration in certain matchups. At TE28, he's an excellent value with the pedigree to perform much higher.

Hester: Watson is in a suddenly-crowded tight end group in Baltimore with second-year man Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore also at the position. Gillmore is often injured, though, and Williams is still a question mark. And when a General Manager like Ozzie Newsome makes a surprising move like signing Watson was, it's worth noting. Baltimore's receiving corps is also shaky entering 2016 with injuries and a lack of depth, so this is as much as "someone has to catch passes" dart-throw as it is a nod to Watson's ability – though he probably does represent the best red zone threat on the team.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay

Haseley: I am not a fan of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and I would not be surprised to see Cameron Brate continue to share targets with him, if not replace him altogether. Rumors have circled about Seferian-Jenkins inability to learn the offense, which is a yellow flag for a player of his magnitude that's been with the team for two years, heading into the third. Brate is the one that coaches are talking about, not Seferian-Jenkins. Don't be surprised to see a drastic change that could put Brate in the shotgun seat for more involvement in 2016.

Charles Clay, Buffalo

Holloway: Clay's production in Buffalo slipped a little from his last two years in Miami. However, he had the third most targets and could have a larger piece of the offense which should be improved in Tyrod Taylor's second year as the starter. Clay has red zone skills and has scored 17 career touchdowns.

Vance McDonald, San Francisco

Alexander: McDonald led the 49ers in red zone targets and touchdowns after Blaine Gabbert took over as their starting quarterback last season. Gabbert showed quite the affinity for throwing to tight ends when San Francisco got within striking distance, aiming 36% of his red zone throws at the combination of McDonald, Blake Bell and Garrett Celek. With Vernon Davis out of the way, McDonald has the opportunity to build on last season's promising finish (he was quietly a top-15 tight end after Gabbert took over) and establish himself as the number two target in an offense that should be playing from behind in most games.

Erik Swoope, Indianapolis

Simpkins: Dwayne Allen ended up re-signing with the Colts, but we know that he can't seem to stay healthy for an entire year. With Coby Fleener departed for the New Orleans Saints, the door is wide open for Swoope should Allen go down. The athletic basketball convert has the profile to be a mismatch, especially in red zone situations. He's going undrafted right now, but keep Swoope on waiver wire speed dial, for he could be a difference maker for your squad.

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