8 Value Plays at Tight Ends - Footballguys

The Footballguys staff finds value at the tight end position

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. In an attempt to point out this value, we asked our staff to look through the Top 150 and identify players that should outperform their draft position.

Player Receiving 5 Votes

Jordan Reed, Washington

Phil Alexander: It may have taken years, but we're finally getting an injury discount on Jordan Reed. Reed has now appeared in 12 games or fewer in four of his five NFL seasons. No one should have to spell out the risk for you here, but if his off-season toe surgery was a success, the reward is a possible top-3 tight end fantasy finish. Alex Smith is no stranger to playing with talented tight ends, having supported monster seasons from Vernon Davis and Travis Kelce. For his own part, Reed was still able to command targets last year (seven per game) while playing hurt and was coming off a trademark multi-touchdown game before the toe injury ended his season. Taking Reed at or ahead of his current ADP is a move that can pay huge dividends, though you’ll want to draft a contingency plan in the later rounds.

Jeff Haseley: Jordan Reed has loads of potential. When you look back at player's careers, they tend to have up and down seasons. Injuries are usually the reason for such hills and valleys in a player's tenure in the league. We've been through the ups and downs with Reed. An upswing seems imminent. It would not be a surprise to see Reed rise from the injury ashes to have a bounce-back season, especially given how Alex Smith targets his tight ends. The injury situation at running back may also lead to a heavier pass approach offense, which of course favors Reed.

Ryan Hester: The knock on Reed isn’t that he’s on a bad offense, it’s not that he has a bad quarterback, and it’s not that he lacks talent. Injuries are the reason his price tag is so low. But he’s healthy now, not limited from any drills or 11-on-11 work in camp. His conditioning still needs to improve because he wasn’t running until a month before camp, but that can improve before the season. And even if he can’t play 100% of the snaps, he can still have an impact in passing situations and near the goal line.

Andy Hicks: If Jordan Reed didn’t have a detailed injury history, his draft slot would be at least a few rounds higher. His performances on the field are worthy of the elite bracket of tight ends, as was demonstrated by his 2015 season where he ranked second despite missing two games. In 2016 when he missed four games, he would have ranked number one on points per game basis. 2017 was a write off due to multiple lingering issues. All reports have him fit and firing for 2018 and as such he should be treated as the elite option he is. Replacements on the waiver wire or depth at the position is easy to fill during the draft.

Matt Waldman: Alshon Jeffery was healthy enough for most of the year after several seasons of leg injuries because he addressed the problem with an alignment specialist. When a player can pinpoint the cause of chronic injuries, it often leads to a breakthrough. It appears that Jordan Reed found that root cause and took care of it with a surgical procedure to his feet. He told the media this spring that he feels dramatically better. As he rounds into shape this summer, he's working with a quarterback who helped Travis Kelce deliver elite production. Expect a rebound for Reed in 2018.

Player Receiving 4 Votes

David Njoku, Cleveland

Jeff Haseley: All signs point to this being a breakout year for David Njoku and his draft value is still at a point where he can be picked off the board as a TE2. He's the clear top target at tight end for the Browns and he may see decent single coverage with defenses keying on Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon.

Jeff Pasquino: Big targets over the middle are often favorites of weaker offenses and quarterbacks, which is a great reason to like Njoku from the start. Despite the uphill climb of performing well on an 0-16 team as a rookie, Njoku had a 32-386-4 campaign last year. The Browns looks to be improving, at least on paper, and the second-year starting tight end appears to be a central part of a passing game that could be without Josh Gordon for the majority of the season. Njoku offers TE1 potential at a solid TE2 price.

Daniel Simpkins: Rookie tight ends are historically a poor bet for fantasy production, but last year’s crop proved to be an exceptional bunch. David Njoku was overshadowed by the play of Evan Engram, but his 30 receptions, nearly 400 yards, and four touchdowns put him among elite company. Only Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, and Aaron Hernandez ever recorded 30-reception, 300-yard campaigns by age 20. Cleveland has used top picks over the past several drafts to assemble a formidable roster. Acquiring Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, and Nick Chubb may finally give the team the offensive pieces to the puzzle that will bring them back to respectability. Njoku will be a welcome safety valve and red zone mismatch for this budding unit. The opportunity for Njoku to improve on both yardage and touchdown totals is there, making him a great value at current ADP.

Matt Waldman: Njoku's rookie performance is notable when considering how raw of a technician he was as a rookie. His good plays were often straight-up physical domination of opponents at the catch point. Njoku has developed a greater technical facility, he'll have good receiving talent surrounding him, and he'll earn usage split from the formation as a receiver. This is important because Tyrod Taylor hasn't been a great match for tight ends in Buffalo. Expect that to change in Cleveland because Njoku will be used more like a big receiver.

Players Receiving 1 Vote

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis

Dan Hindery: If Andrew Luck continues to look like himself, the entire Colts offense is undervalued. In Luck’s last 38 games, he has thrown for 86 touchdowns (2.3 per game), which equates to more than 36 over a 16 game season. There is a lot of opportunity in this offense. Looking at the Indianapolis pass catchers, it is easy to see Doyle emerging as the #2 target (behind only T.Y. Hilton). Eric Ebron is overrated and unreliable, as evidenced by Detroit’s decision not to pick up his relatively affordable fifth-year option. Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are just guys. Meanwhile, Doyle has a career catch rate of 77% and emerged as a go-to guy in the Colts offense with 139 receptions over the last two years. Doyle should be going in the top-10 at the tight end position.

Zach Ertz, Philadelphia

James Brimacombe: The Eagles have many playmakers on offense to compliment Zach Ertz in the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mike Wallace, Dallas Goedert, Jay Ajayi, and Corey Clement. This only helps Ertz have the ability to see more single coverage and to have better matchups on the field. He had a breakout season last year even while missing a pair of games finishing with 74 catches for 824 yards and 8 touchdowns. He almost always goes after both Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce in drafts but comes at a much bigger discount and offers similar upside.

Rob Gronkowski, New England

Jeff Tefertiller: With an ADP very late in the second round, Gronkowski is a strong value play. It was not long ago he was considered a steal at the 1/2 turn. With the main concern being health, the ADP has swung too far. The Patriots are a team without a true WR1, needing to rely on the star tight end.

George Kittle, San Francisco

Phil Alexander: Kittle’s ADP is down about a round-and-a-half since he separated his shoulder in the 49ers preseason opener, which is welcome news for tight end value seekers. The injury -- which isn’t expected to keep Kittle out of any regular season games -- will silence the mounting industry hype and ensure he’ll usually be available in the double-digit rounds. For a deep-dive on why Kittle is the reason to wait on drafting a tight end this season, click here. The Cliffs Notes version -- Kittle was hand-picked in the NFL Draft by a coach who has consistently maximized tight end fantasy production, had an excellent rookie season at a position with a steep learning curve, is tied to a potential franchise quarterback, and is the only viable red zone threat on his team. As long as his injury prognosis remains positive, draft with confidence.

Greg Olsen, Carolina

Will Grant: Jimmy Graham heading to Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball has everyone remembering those goal-post dunks that Graham used to do in New Orleans. Evan Engram’s rookie performance last year has fantasy owners expecting great things from him again this season as well. Between those guys trending upward and Greg Olsen’s injury-filled season last year and many people are hesitating to take Olsen as their starting tight end. That hesitation gives Olsen his value and while he’s probably not going to be drafted three rounds after Graham this season, don’t feel like you are missing something if Olsen falls to you because people are jumping on Graham and Engram. By the end of the year, I think Olsen finishes the season with best stats of this group.

Delanie Walker, Tennessee

Ari Ingel: Walker is the most underrated stud tight end in fantasy football. Playing in an old-school offense the past four years, he’s still managed to go over 800 yards each season. He is Marcus Mariota’s favorite target, especially in the red zone, where he had 8 targets inside the ten-yard line last season. Now playing with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, who honed his skills under coaches Sean McVay (Rams) and Kyle Shanahan (49ers), the Titans offense should be much improved, which means even more fantasy production for Walker.

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