On Second Thought: Tight Ends

A discussion of how my early preseason expectations have changed as we near the start of the regular season

It's hard to believe that we're just a week away from the start of the NFL regular season. For many fans, they're just now starting to pay attention. But for fantasy owners, for FOOTBALLGUYS, we're already many months into our preparation. As one of the contributors to the site's projections, I have to have the entire league modeled and projected by late April. Needless to say, a LOT of things happen between then and the beginning of September. I, along with the other staff, tweak our projections and expectations as we go along. But it occurs to me that very little is ever said about the way our opinions change. This article, and others like it, will highlight in a qualitative manner the assumptions that went into my initial projections that have since changed considerably. Enjoy.

On Second Thought...

...Ben Watson (BAL) is not going to emerge from the crowded Ravens depth chart

Watson was a Top 10 fantasy tight end way back in 2006 playing for the Patriots, he had a 13th ranked season in Cleveland, and is coming off a 7th ranked season in New Orleans. The veteran signed with Baltimore and appeared to have the edge over the likes of Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams and Crockett Gillmore. Unfortunately, a torn Achilles ends his season and leaves Baltimore with a collection of unexciting tight ends.

...Tyler Eifert (CIN) is a risky pick, but still worth the effort

Eifert underwent surgery to repair his ankle in May, and missed the entire preseason. He’s going to miss the start of the regular season, too. Like many, I was willing to give Eifert the benefit of the doubt after his 13-touchdown breakout season. But as his recovery slowed to a crawl, I began to avoid him and recommended as much in my projections. Yet, as I look at the tight end landscape, Eifert is still worth drafting because of the massive drop off at the position beyond his ADP.

...Jason Witten (DAL) is not a draft day steal

Witten has been drafted as a late-round TE2 (ADP = TE15) all preseason, and that meant savvy fantasy owners could reap the rewards of a mispriced asset. Witten showed no skills degradation in 2015; his only drop off related to the loss of Tony Romo. Sadly, those who listened to me this preseason may regret it now that Romo is out again (broken back). Witten will be serviceable, but his upside is gone now that Dallas has to rely on a ball-control, conservative offense with a rookie starter.

...Virgil Green (DEN) is the Bronco to take a flier on, in deeper leagues

This preseason the early talk focused on Jeff Heuerman, but the hype didn’t match the practice reports. Meanwhile, Virgil Green has evolved from a blocking specialist to an oft-targeted red zone threat this preseason. Many forget that Green was an off-the-charts athlete in college and projected more as a receiver than a blocker; so he has the pedigree to make fantasy noise.

...Jordan Cameron (MIA) will not resurrect his fantasy value

With Adam Gase taking over in Miami, there was hope Jordan Cameron would rebound from two disappointing seasons. Unfortunately, Cameron has been a forgotten man this preseason and beat writers have universally panned Cameron’s effort, hands and athleticism. All is not lost for the former Top 5 fantasy tight end, but the light is dim and flickering.

...Martellus Bennett (NE) is a fantasy commodity worth targeting

I was down on Bennett after his trade to New England, given the inauspicious way Bennett’s career ended in Chicago. I thought people were too quick to make comparisons to the Gronkowski/Hernandez era and wanted more evidence. The preseason provided that evidence as the Patriots appear to be using a 2-TE set as the new base offense in order to get Bennett on the field. Bennett can push for Top 12 honors on his own merits, but would be an elite every week starter if Gronkowski gets hurt.

...Will Tye (NYG) may not be the smartest last round pick of the season

Will Tye was dynamic as Larry Donnell’s replacement last season – his pro-rated totals equaled 68 receptions for 774 yards and 6 touchdowns. I expected Tye to run away with the starting job in camp, but Larry Donnell fought hard and appears to have held onto his starting slot. Both tight ends will factor into the offense, which means neither has a lot of fantasy value.

...Zach Ertz (PHI) will be an elite fantasy option

Ertz has ranked 20th, 13th, and 10th in his first three seasons – good but not great fantasy numbers for a player many thought would follow in the footsteps of Greg Olsen and Antonio Gates as elite options. I initially viewed Ertz as having a low end TE1 ceiling, but this preseason has me convinced the sky is the limit. He’s been the best (and only consistent) player in Eagles camp and Doug Pederson’s offense made a star of Travis Kelce in Kansas City. With Jordan Matthews injured and Nelson Agholor struggling, Ertz is going to be a target machine and, as a result, an elite fantasy option.

...Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (TB) will be the starter

Sefarian-Jenkins was overvalued in early May, as fantasy owners had visions of his freakish athleticism translating into fantasy stardom. Yet, Sefarian-Jenkins dug a big hole with the coaches and seemed on the verge of being released while Cameron Brate was getting 1st team reps. It now appears that was a clever motivational ploy as Sefarian-Jenkins has re-focused and is back with the 1st team.

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