Plant a Flag: TE

Footballguys staff members make a stand on a tight end

Make a call on a tight end. Who will surprise - either good or bad? Why?

Chad Parsons: Zach Ertz is one of my go-to tight end targets for 2016. The Eagles passing game looks to run through Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. Touchdowns have been the main speed bump to Ertz emerging as a top-5 fantasy option the past two seasons, logging 133-1555-5 receiving. Even an average NFL tight end touchdown rate would more than double Ertz's end zone trips to-date.

Stephen Holloway: I totally back Chad's call on Zach Ertz. Jordan Reed is the early one that scares me. He was awesome a year ago and could again be Cousin's top target in Washington, but a concussion history at the tight end position that blocks and frequently ventures across the middle in front of linebackers is not who I would trust at TE2. A potential late value pick is Ben Watson. Watson is being billed as only productive because of Drew Brees, but he had a top ten finish early in his career at New England and he finished TE13 twice, once at New England and in his first season in Cleveland. Watson could start and with Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman currently injured could get a lot of targets from Joe Flacco.

Jason Wood: I agree with Chad and Steve that Zach Ertz is being underdrafted at present. I'll plant my flag though on Jason Witten. Witten gets undervalued every year and this year he's being treated as though his career is at an end. Yet, he showed no real signs of drop off last year. His yards per catch were within career norms, as was his catch rate. The only issue Witten dealt with in 2015 was the loss of Tony Romo for much of the season. He's Romo's most trusted receiver and is set to move up the all-time NFL record books this year with another solid season. In PPR formats he's a can't miss low end TE1 that comes at a TE2 price.

Andy Hicks: I'm avoiding Delanie Walker this year. 32 year old tight ends coming off career years, on an offense that could be a mess are something I would prefer to not take a chance on. The Titans are expected to run it a whole lot more and maybe even use their average receivers a bit more. His contract extension was all smoke and mirrors, but essentially a one year prove it again deal. I'm thinking he won't.

Chris Feery: I’ve tempered my enthusiasm on Gary Barnidge for this season. He was an extremely pleasant surprise in 2015, but things have changed big time in Cleveland. New head coach and offense plus additional talent at the skill positions equals reduced opportunities for Barnidge. The Browns did not draft five wide receivers without the serious attention of revamping their offense, and they just may have found a stud of the future in the form of Corey Coleman. I don’t expect Barnidge to completely fall off the map, but those expecting a repeat of 2015 could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

John Mamula: Coby Fleener will finish as a Top 3 TE this season. The Saints passing offense heavily utilizes the TE position. Last season, Ben Watson rose from mediocrity and was targeted 110 times for 74 receptions, 825 receiving yards and 6 TDs, good for 7th at the TE position. We are all aware on Jimmy Graham's dominance in New Orleans from 2011-2014. During those seasons, Graham's target totals were: 167, 135, 142, and 125. The Saints went after Fleener in free agency with a large five-year $36 Million contract. They expect him to perform as a top receiving option and you should as well this season.

Phil Alexander: The cat might be out of the bag after he caught a 43-yard touchdown in the 49ers first preseason game, but I've been on the Vance McDonald bandwagon since late last season when he was quietly a top-15 tight end in Blaine Gabbert's eight starts. McDonald led the 49ers in red zone targets and touchdowns after Gabbert took over, and he's currently listed as the starter in San Francisco. Because McDonald was largely considered a bust prior to last season's stretch run, it's easy to forget he's a former second-round draft pick and has nearly unrivaled athletic ability for his size. With Chip Kelly's paced-up scheme, a defense that figures to land them in plenty of shootouts, and a largely unproven wide receiver depth chart, there should be enough targets to go around in San Francisco for McDonald to maintain top-15 numbers.

Devin Knotts: Eric Ebron will underperform this season compared to where he is being drafted. The biggest reason is that dating back to his college career he has never been a red zone target, and if he is not scoring touchdowns he will have to see a significant increase in yardage this season. While he should have additional targets come his way with Calvin Johnson retiring, Ebron still has to prove that he can show consistency and not drop the ball as much as he did as he was third in tight ends with a drop rate of 7.1%.

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