It’s hard to believe we’re a week away from the NFL regular season. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here’s a quick look at some of the most important changes from my initial rankings back in early May.
On Second Thought...
Charles Clay (BUF) won't be a top-10 tight end
When I looked at the barren wasteland in Buffalo, I presumed Charles Clay had to see an inordinate target share. However, I failed to account for how often he's hurt. It's hard to project someone Clay's age to become an every-week fantasy starter for the first time.
Trey Burton (CHI) was overvalued, but Adam Shaheen's injury bailed him out
Like most analysts, I projected Burton as a breakout after signing with Chicago; he's playing the same position that made Travis Kelce a star. Then two things dawned on me. One, Burton isn't on Kelce's level. Two, Adam Shaheen is as good, if not better, at football. But as luck would have it, Shaheen got hurt which puts Burton back into the TE1 conversation.
Tyler Eifert (CIN) will be a factor
I'm not drafting Tyler Eifert, and I don't think you should, either. However, my initial belief he would possibly retire after a litany of injuries proved incorrect. He's had a relatively healthy preseason and is set to start for the Bengals.
David Njoku (CLE) is worth betting on in deeper leagues
If you're in a league that's deep enough to roster multiple tight ends, Njoku is on the shortlist for backups who could end up being must-starts later in the season. He's looked great in the preseason, and the Browns only other proven pass-catcher -- Jarvis Landry -- isn't much of a red zone threat.
Jason Witten (DAL) leaves a void in Dallas
I didn't expect Jason Witten to retire, and his move into the broadcasting booth leaves Dallas with three tight ends trying to approximate what Witten gave them.
Jake Butt (DEN) isn't a can't-miss late round value
Jake Butt missed his rookie season recovering from a collegiate ACL injury, and I expected Butt to emerge this summer as the clear No. 1 in Denver. It hasn't happened, which relegates him to the waiver wire watch list.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (JAX) probably won't amount to much
Seferian-Jenkins' career numbers are less impressive than I thought they were, and his injury history more significant. The Jaguars aren't going to be a high-volume passing offense, and I would rather bet on other pieces of the Jacksonville puzzle.
Antonio Gates (LAC) isn't coming out of retirement
Gates wasn't going to be a must-have fantasy asset either way, but I'm still surprised the Chargers didn't re-sign him after Hunter Henry's season-ending injury. This is more significant news for Philip Rivers than for the tight ends on the roster.
Evan Engram (NYG) is overvalued
Engram is an enticing athlete, but he also drops way too many passes. He's got hands of stone. That won't play well on a Giants offense full of other viable pass catchers, from Odell Beckham to Sterling Shepard to Saquon Barkley.
George Kittle (SF) is probably overvalued
Kittle did nothing last year, so it's odd that so many fantasy analysts -- myself included -- were ready to anoint him as a breakout star. An injury-riddled preseason threw cold water on projecting the breakout. It's still possible, but not worth paying a lot for on draft day.
Jordan Reed (WAS) is worth the gamble
The injury history speaks for itself, but Reed is one of the few difference-makers at the position when he's healthy. He got through the preseason unscathed, and his ADP is low enough to take the risk.