On Second Thought: Tight Ends

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

On Second Thought…Tight Ends

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 had the entire league modeled and projected since 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...

Jimmy Graham (SEA) is NOT the #2 fantasy tight end

Graham is an immense talent, and entering the preseason I expected his presence in Seattle to lead to a meaningful change in the Seahawks’ run/pass ratio. As the preseason has unfolded, I’m less convinced Seattle is going to meaningfully increase its pass attempts. As a result, I can’t project Graham as TE2 even if he is the team’s leading target. Graham still sits at TE3/TE4 depending on the scoring system, but that makes him overvalued based on current ADP.

Greg Olsen (CAR) IS an elite fantasy option

Olsen was elite in 2014 (84 receptions for 1,008 yards and 6 touchdowns) but many – myself included – expected some regression in 2015. Now that Kelvin Benjamin is lost for the season, I see no way Olsen isn’t among the most targeted players at his position. Another 80-catch, 1,000-yard season is in order provided Olsen can play 16 games.

Jordan Cameron (MIA) IS a top-10 tight end

Jordan Cameron has only one season with more than 24 receptions, and has dealt with concussions. In spite of the risks, Cameron has looked dominant in the preseason practices and training camp (he's been quiet in preseason games, to be fair) and the Dolphins offense should be fluid and productive with Ryan Tannehill under center. Cameron is a good bet to be an every week fantasy TE1 while healthy.

Zach Ertz (PHI) is NOT a reliable, every week starter

This was the year Ertz was going to break out. Jeremy Maclin was gone and Ertz was fully acclimated to Chip Kelly’s system. Yet, a preseason injury and further clarity on how much depth the team has in the receiving corps illustrates that Ertz has Top-10 upside, but he’s not going to have the consistency to draft as your fantasy starter.

Tyler Eifert (CIN) is ready for prime time

Missing the 2014 season led many – myself included – to downplay Eifert’s potential in the Bengals offense. Yet, he still possesses the same smooth route-running and ‘my ball’ mentality that led many to expect greatness. He’s fully healthy and has been a focal point for Cincinnati throughout the preseason. I’m calling my shot – and tell you to do the same – Eifert will finish comfortably inside the Top 10 at the position this year.

Dwayne Allen (IND) is the Colts tight end to roster

Last season I drafted Coby Fleener in almost every league and was handsomely rewarded with a Top 10 fantasy season for a fraction of the draft day cost. I expected some regression from Fleener in 2015 but still viewed him as the better fantasy asset. I’ve since reversed course given the Colts commitment to using more 3-WR sets. If the Colts move to 3-WR sets as the rule, there’s only room for one tight end to play major snaps, and Dwayne Allen is BY FAR the better two-way player.

Jordan Reed (WAS) has fantasy relevance, for now

Jordan Reed is oft injured and I initially wanted nothing to do with him. But Washington has lost Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, leaving Reed as the only legitimate starter on the roster. Reed still isn’t a fantasy TE1, but in deeper leagues he’s worth considering as a high upside TE2.

Josh Hill (NO) is undraftable

Hill was the hot sleeper tight end to start the preseason. He’s a one-dimensional, pure pass catcher and seemed like the obvious choice to replace Jimmy Graham on a Saints team in desperate need of new targets. Yet, the coaches have consistently downplayed Hill’s role in favor of Ben Watson. Hill won’t see enough snaps to have fantasy relevance without an injury to Watson.

Jace Amaro (NYJ) isn’t going to vault up the standings

Coming out of Texas Tech, Amaro seemed an ideal NFL ‘move’ tight end. He struggled as a rookie, but so do most tight ends. I expected Amaro to show enough in training camp and the preseason to bucket Amaro as part of the high-upside TE2 options late in drafts. Unfortunately, he’s been non-existent in the preseason and betting on a major step forward has become a risk proposition.

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