When it comes to picking out NFL tight ends for fantasy purposes, it does not take much to figure out who the top candidates are this season. If you are looking for some late value picks, however, you have come to the right place. What I want to find for all of us here are tight ends that should be getting several targets a game. With five or more balls headed their way each week, they should be able to haul in at least three on average and have a shot at 40-50 yards a week and possibly a touchdown. That may not sound like much, but that works out to be 48 catches and 640-800 yards a year, which would put any TE right near the Top 12 last season (provided he scored a few times). Not bad at all.
So what's the plan? I have looked at several different ways to pick up some valuable tight ends later in fantasy drafts before, but this time I am going to get a bit more scientific. Here I will take a look at an overall ADP list and pick out three different types of teams. Oddly enough, I care more about the wide receivers on a given team than about the tight ends. The reasoning is pretty simple - if the quarterback on a given team has limited options, the ball has to go somewhere. What better option than a big guy over the middle?
I broke the 32 NFL teams down and kept the ones that fit into three basic categories:
- Teams with no WRs in the Top 50 ADP List
- Teams with only 1 WR in the Top 30 ADP List
- Teams with 1-2 WRs in the Top 50 ADP List but none in the Top 30
Here are the results:
CATEGORY 1 - TEAMS WITH NO WRS IN THE TOP 50 ADP LIST
This may be surprising to some, but there are usually a few teams each year with absolutely terrible wide receiver options. This season has one, but it should not come as a surprise. No, this time I am not talking about Cleveland, but it is a team that thinks about defense and running the ball first and foremost. The team made the playoffs last year and did not change their quarterback, and they lost a former top-notch starter from their ranks. Yes, you guessed it - the Jacksonville Jaguars. With no Allen Robinson or Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee (ADP of WR51) leads a lackluster group including Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook (my personal favorite) and even lesser known options. That screams value for the tight end spot, which belongs this year to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. His ADP has him at TE16, but Blake Bortles only threw at his tight ends 79 times last year. Seferian-Jenkins finished 2017 as TE27 with a 50-357-3 line on about the same number of targets (74) as a New York Jet. I think we can do better than this.
Bottom line from Category 1: The Jaguars may be a solid team overall, but their passing game struggles to support any fantasy value at any position. Look for value elsewhere.
CATEGORY 2 - TEAMS WITH ONLY 1 WR IN THE TOP 30 ADP LIST
This group of teams is usually the largest group to consider each year, and 2018 is no different. With nine different franchises falling in this category, we can pare it down a little by crossing off teams that have a top notch tight end, since we are looking for value players here. So cross of Trey Burton of the Bears and Delanie Walker in Tennessee. We can also eliminate any tight end beyond the Top 30 on the ADP list, so "no thanks" to Seattle's situation. That leaves six teams from this group, and I will break each situation down:
Indianapolis and Tampa Bay - Both the Buccaneers and the Colts offer two viable options, which could also wreck the value of both players. Indianapolis offers up Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron, while Tampa Bay has both Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard, All four are being drafted in the TE12-TE17 range as solid TE2s, and I like all four of these options. Doyle costs a bit too much for my blood and does not offer as much upside, but Andrew Luck has always loved his tight ends dating all the way back to his collegiate career. I like Brate in PPR leagues and Howard in touchdown / standard leagues based on how Jameis Winston targets each. The best value of these four could be Ebron as he costs the least (ADP of TE18).
Arizona - Ricky Seals-Jones is a wide receiver in a tight end's body, and he made a brief but big splash in the second half of the year with the Cardinals. Arizona still has a mess at the quarterback position, but Larry Fitzgerald is not getting any younger and both Sam Bradford or rookie Josh Rosen should love to target Seals-Jones early and often this year. At TE23, Seals-Jones feels like a big bargain with little downside and plenty of upside.
Baltimore - Joe Flacco has always liked to target his tight end, but the Ravens are going through a transition with rookie tight end Hayden Hurst probable to be the starter in Week 1 and some playing time going away from Flacco to Lamar Jackson. At TE19 Hurst represents modest value, but I like other options more.
Cincinnati - I just cannot get behind Tyler Eifert, who could go on injured reserve during your draft (kidding, but not entirely). I do not trust the Bengals passing game and Eifert misses far too many games every year (he has played only 24 games in the past four years). At TE15 the risk/reward screams "RISK" to me, and I will have no teams with him this season.
New Orleans - Drew Brees is never shy to throw the ball around, but Ben Watson feels closer to retirement than to fantasy relevance. At TE25 I would consider him in bonus TE leagues (PPR 1.5 or more), deep drafts and a flex tight end spot, but not much else.
Bottom line from Category 2: The back end of the TE1s offer some value, but the better options are to target valuable TE2s from this group. Both options in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis look solid, and Ricky Seals-Jones is a strong late option. Taking a committee approach at tight end with two TE2s in the TE10-18 range is a solid plan.
CATEGORY 3 - TEAMS WITH 1-2 WRS IN THE TOP 50 ADP LIST BUT NONE IN THE TOP 30
This group of teams is usually much smaller than Category 2, but in 2018 there are a number of teams in this category. Some are not even worth investigation such as the Dallas Cowboys or the New York Jets (neither team with a tight end in the Top 35), and two more have elite options (Washington and Carolina). That leaves three teams to discuss. Let's break each one down:
San Francisco - George Kittle (ADP TE11) is a borderline TE1, so if you believe in him you are buying into the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo and the whole offense. I can get behind that somewhat, but I do not expect weekly TE1 production from Kittle - so he offers a little too much risk for me as a TE1.
Miami - Another rookie starter, Mike Gesicki (TE18) looks to be the top option, but five others are on the roster right now and according to a tweet from the Miami Herald's Adam Beasley, Dolphins offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said he might run more 13 personnel packages this year. The 13 package has three tight ends, which could mean Gesicki is on the field a lot. That also means two other tight ends are, and rookies tend to have a rough transition to the NFL. I am passing on Gesicki.
Buffalo - Charles Clay (TE21) seems to always get in this article, and no one can question that he can step up and deliver a solid performance in any given week. The bigger issue is quarterback for the Bills, with a rookie (Josh Allen) likely leading after AJ McCarron fractured his collarbone. Clay usually finishes as a solid TE2, but he does not offer much upside.
Bottom line from Category 3: This does not look like a good year to reach for this group. Stick to the first two.
If you are waiting this season to pick up a tight end later in your draft or even just looking for a good second (or third) option, take a longer look at the guys outlined here. Values exist at tight end outside of the Top 10-12 names that are going to go in the first half of your fantasy drafts, so do not overlook the later guys who can help your team get those extra points and win a few more games this year.
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