Every year at this time, one of my favorite duties as a dynasty owner is to stash away players who could sprout growth in 2018 to fill up roster spots I had been using for depth. This is especially cathartic when I’m refreshing the roster of a team that just missed or got eliminated from the playoffs. Let’s look at tight ends, a position that gives us some of the best rags to riches stories every year.
Jonnu Smith, TEN - Smith should still be rostered in every dynasty league, but check just in case. He flashed top-end athleticism and receiving skills for a tight end and gets to study under Delanie Walker.
Adam Shaheen, CHI - Like Shaheen, he should be held in most, if not all leagues. He has flashed a couple of times in the last month and his role should only grow as this season winds up.
Rico Gathers, DAL - The basketball convert lived up to his Zeus nickname at times, but he ended up on injured reserve with a concussion. His size/athleticism combination is rare and Gathers seemed to have more than enough natural acumen catching the ball and turning into a runner after the catch. Jason Witten won’t be much longer in the NFL, paving the way for Gathers if he can stay healthy.
Trey Burton, PHI - The cat is out of the bag regarding Burton’s skills. He is going to be free agent next year and will likely be signed to start somewhere in 2018.
Erik Swoope, IND - There was a lot of optimism that Swoope would take a big step forward this year, but injuries to him and Andrew Luck kept that from happening. In the meantime, it was Jack Doyle that took that step and he is now poised to be the Luck’s #1 tight end next year. Swoope could still play a big role in an offense that might lose Donte Moncrief to free agency, and we still don’t know how good he could be as a basketball convert who was new to football when he entered the NFL.
Stephen Anderson, Ryan Griffin, HOU - Anderson was a dud in a highly anticipated Week 14 start against San Francisco, but the second year move tight end still has promise as a possible #3 pass catcher for Deshaun Watson. Or perhaps 3A, with Griffin, who is sidelined with his second concussion this year. CJ Fiedorowicz, who made this group a trio, maybe have to retire because of a trio of concussions. Anderson has had a concussion already this year himself. The situation is a moving target, but one worth having a share of due to Watson’s immense ability.
Nick Vannett, SEA - The 2016 third-round pick has shown some ability and Jimmy Graham is a free agent next year. Graham should come back, but if he doesn’t and Luke Willson also leaves in free agency, there’s a path for Vannett to be the starter in a Russell Wilson pass offense. Vannett is turning 25 this spring and is just on the verge of his prime years.
Tyler Kroft, CIN - Tyler Eifert has broken down, leaving the starting job to Kroft, who has been at least serviceable at times. The Bengals offense could be on the verge of transitions, but Kroft should remain the starter next year if Eifert doesn’t turn it around, and he has laid the foundation for some growth in 2018.
Cameron Brate, TB - Brate will be a free agent next year and should at least retain his 2017 value if he is tabbed to start elsewhere. He could even gain value if he lands in a better spot.
Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI - The huge converted wideout landed with a splash and three scores in his first two games. He has slowed down, but the 22-year-old has a lot of room for growth.
Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, LAR - This young duo is in a very good passing game that could lose Sammy Watkins and free up some targets for 2018. Everett is the better stash of the two, but Higbee has some Gronk/Kelce in him.
George Kittle, SF - We can look at all young 49ers skill players in a different light now that Jimmy Garoppolo has shown up to save the offense. Kittle has flashed when he hasn’t been hurt or battling typical rookie inconsistency.
Jacob Hollister, NE - The 24-year-old 2017 UDFA Hollister has the athletic profile we are looking for at tight end, and he’s in a good situation. Dwayne Allen hasn’t really clicked with Tom Brady, so the #2 tight end job is there for the taking, which becomes the #1 tight end any time Rob Gronkowski is out.
Jake Butt, DEN - Butt should get every chance to compete to start for the Broncos once healthy, but the surrounding offense limits his ceiling and he doesn’t have a high ceiling to begin with.
Clive Walford, OAK - Do you believe the Raiders will bring back Jared Cook at a price of five million dollars? If not, Walford could get a chance to start in an offense that will hopefully get back on track next year.
Logan Thomas, BUF - The converted quarterback looked smooth and athletic as a pass catcher in a very limited opportunity this year. He could grow as a player very quickly. The situation is terrible in Buffalo, although Charles Clay’s body is more like a 38-year-old than a 28-year-old and Nick O’Leary has very limited upside.
Michael Roberts, DET - The Lions seemed to have moved on from Ebron as a core piece of their passing offense earlier this year. Ebron has improved and they might reconsider, but if they don’t, Roberts could evolve into their next starter. He’s got game in the red zone and could be more reliable than Ebron, even though he is less athletic. The Lions pass offense is an above average situation for a tight end, too. We might learn that Ebron was sapping the value from a good place for fantasy production.