At this time of year, we should be stocking our dynasty benches with long-term upside plays if we are out of the playoff hunt, and even if we are in the playoffs, it’s time to cut your depth to a lean and mean level and still maximize your bench spots for future growth. For the next four weeks, we’ll look at each position and sort out end of season dynasty stashes and players to monitor next offseason into Snorkel, Scuba, and Submarine levels of league depth. This week, my favorite position to do deep dives at - tight end. For the purposes of this exercise, we are assuming that Mike Gesicki, Chris Herndon, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Jonnu Smith, and Dallas Goedert are rostered.
Adam Shaheen, CHI - Yes, Trey Burton is there, but Shaheen possesses a rare combination of size, ball skills, and overall athleticism. He might not level off as an every week start soon, but he’ll make enough plays to cement his status as a good things come to those who wait dynasty stash.
Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, LAR - Like Shaheen, Everett and Higbee don’t have any immediate value jump on the horizon, but both are ready made to generate fantasy value if they are called upon, and both are still on the upslope of their career. Everett is the purer receiving talent, but Higbee is in the Kelce/Gronk mold and a year closer to free agency.
Dan Arnold, NO - The converted wide receiver has already made a few head-turning plays and he’s in a Payton-Brees offense that is looking for a long-term tight end. The lights could go out on the passing game when Brees retires, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, HOU - We still haven’t had a chance to see what this offense can be with Will Fuller V, DeAndre Hopkins, and Keke Coutee on the field with Deshaun Watson yet, but one would think that the tight ends would be afterthoughts in the defensive game plan. Similar to Higbee/Everett, this duo might not start producing right away, but they have the skillset and quarterback/system to do it if called upon. Akins is the better speed threat while Thomas is a massive converted wide receiver who already looks like a red zone weapon and has been more integrated into the offense in his rookie year.
Jacob Hollister, Stephen Anderson, NE - Is this Rob Gronkowski’s last year in New England? His diminished form and big paycheck along with the team’s efforts to trade him last offseason indicate the answer is yes. Hollister has been groomed for two years now as a potential replacement in the passing game and don’t sleep on practice squad stash Anderson, who was let go from the Texans roster despite a few good moments in two years on the roster after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
Jason Croom, BUF - Croom is a converted wide receiver who has made some very nice plays in limited snaps this year and appears to be on the rise in the Bills organization. It might be an uphill battle for this offense to support more than one fantasy relevant pass catcher, but Croom is the pick if a tight end is that one.
Tyler Conklin, David Morgan, MIN - Kyle Rudolph is going to be too expensive to keep considering what little he has provided for the team. Conklin is the player to target long term with a basketball background and lots of usage as a wideout in college, but Morgan has also carved out a role and might split the targets. This could be an offense that can’t create a fantasy relevant tight end because of the quality of wide receivers.
Mo Alie-Cox, IND - Alie-Cox has the basketball background and the largest hands in the NFL. He would be a Snorkel pick if he wasn’t blocked by Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron and waiting until 2021 to become an unrestricted free agent, but things can change very quickly around here, as Joe Bryant likes to say.
Robert Tonyan, GB - Jimmy Graham has been a massive letdown as a free agent signing, so the door is open for Tonyan to become a bigger part of the passing game next year. Matt Waldman sees something and we saw Tonyan catch a long touchdown like a wide receiver earlier this year.
Demetrius Harris, KC - And yet another basketball background tight end shows up on the list. Harris has made some big plays for the Chiefs and will be a free agent next year. Chances are he’ll just be a role player like he has been in Kansas City, but you never know...
Jeremy Sprinkle, WAS - He’s on his way to becoming a reliable two-way tight end in Washington, but it’s yet to be seen if Sprinkle can become relevant in fantasy leagues. He might be more of a blocking starter with a receiving complement than a true do-everything starter and Washington has a role for a pure receiving tight end in their offense.
Michael Roberts, DET - Roberts had a great game against the Dolphins earlier this year and the team paved the way for him to have a bigger opportunity by letting Eric Ebron go this offseason. Unfortunately, he also hasn’t been able to stay healthy and greatly disappointed this summer. Maybe 2019 will be a better year for him.
Rico Gathers, DAL - The Cowboys made Gathers bulk up into a quasi-offensive tackle that moved like Rob Gronkowski - 2018 Gronkowski - and buried the fantasy potential that we saw in the preseason. He could always drop the weight and rediscover his passing game prowess, although it just appears that he won’t get a real shot to matter in a pass offense until his second contract, which isn’t coming until at least 2020 unless the Cowboys let him go, which they were loathe to do this offseason despite not wanting the player he was naturally becoming.
Logan Thomas, BUF - Thomas has stuck as a tight end after failing as a quarterback. His overall athletic package and background as a passer create an intriguing possibility, but one that has probably already topped out and fallen behind Jason Croom in the long term plans.
Moritz Boehringer, CIN - The German wide receiver with dazzling measureables is still around the league after the Vikings squandered a third-day pick on him. Now he’s a practice squad tight end on a team that doesn’t have a long-term answer on the roster.
Bucky Hodges, PIT - Hodges has a skillset and tools that fit as a big downfield target in the NFL, but he hasn’t been able to stick on a roster - or even a practice squad - for long. Now he’s in the Steelers organization, which is enough to make him worth monitoring.
Deon Yelder, KC - Yelder was a big UDFA get for the Saints, but he didn’t make the team and only lasted a month on their practice squad. The Chiefs pounced and signed him to their practice squad the day after the Saints let him go and then to the active roster three weeks later. He could grow into a larger role next year if Demetrius Harris is allowed to walk in free agency and the Chiefs organization is obviously a good one for fantasy prospects to be in.
Tyrone Swoopes, SEA - Swoopes is a converted quarterback who had one nice play when he got a cup of coffee on the Seahawks active roster this year. They have no long term solution on the roster and he could move onto the 53 in 2019.