2017 Positional Rankings: Top Ten TEs
There is nothing worse than not being able to get what you want. I have wanted an irrigation system at our house since the day Rebecca and I moved in but we can’t afford the $2k+ price tag to do so. Each fall I say next year is the year we will bite the bullet and buy one and yet each spring I find myself rolling out the hoses and setting up the sprinklers. I want to one day get my irrigation system and I want to one day own Rob Gronkowski! Gronk is head and shoulders the best TE in the NFL and the first tight end that should be drafted. For too long Gronk’s ADP had risen to a 1st round price tag making him unaffordable to me and causing me to have to look else where to fill my needs at tight end. Well, 2017 looks like it might finally be the year I get to draft him. Gronk’s ADP has been dropping this offseason and it is currently sitting towards the back end of the 2nd round as fantasy owners are scared away by the fact his 2016 season was cut short due to a back injury which required surgery. This lack of confidence in Gronk’s ability to stay healthy has provided drafters a tremendous opportunity to acquire the league’s best TE, who plays in one of the best passing offenses at a discounted price. Let’s hope his ADP continues to fall this summer because it would feel good to finally get something I want!
With out further ado let’s break down this year’s top tight ends and please stay off my lawn!
10. Zach Ertz – Zach Ertz is a hotly debated player in the Guru’s office but no one can argue that on an improving passing offense Ertz has become one of Carson Wentz favorite targets. In 2016 Ertz set a career high in receptions (76) and went over 800+ receiving yards for the 2nd consecutive year. Each year Ertz has improved his Yds/G but has not been able to crack more than 4 TDs in a season. The arrival of Alshon Jeffery will reduce his target share but we hope Alshon can take pressure off Ertz in the red zone so he can be more efficient with those targets and hopefully score more touchdowns. Ertz is a TE1 because of offensive production and red zone opportunity but his ceiling seems to be limited to what we saw last year which was good enough for the 8th best TE in fantasy. With an ADP of 124.0, Ertz has tremendous draft value.
9. Martellus Bennett – Bennett was a huge winner this offseason. A year after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots he was able to find his way to Green Bay to go play with Aaron Rodgers. Bennett could not have fallen into a better situation and this move has really helped raise his ADP amongst the fantasy community. Before the FA period began Bennett had an ADP of 119 and since signing with the Packers has seen his ADP jump up to the beginning of the 7th round (74). Bennett was routinely the 3rd or 4th option in an explosive Patriots offense but he was still able to produce a 55/701/7 season. His 410 YAC was the 3rd most of his career and is a number he should be able to duplicate in Green Bay. No doubt he benefited from the loss of Gronk but in Green Bay, he is the guy and should see the bulk of the snaps. Green Bay had the 3rd most Red Zone scoring attempts per game (4.0) & the 3rd most Red Zone passing touchdowns per game (2.6). If Jared Cook can become a fantasy relevant TE in Green Bay, Bennett is a no brain late tight end target for smart owners.
8. Kyle Rudolph – Rudolph the red nose Viking had himself a career year! Rudolph had career highs in Rec (83), Targets (132), Yds (840), Yds/G (52.5), & YAC (353) in 2016. My god that is an impressive stat line for any pass catcher but for a TE on a bad team it really stands out. A waiver wire player in 2016 Rudolph was a major surprise to the fantasy owners who were able to pick him up. Insert Sam Bradford, an offensive system that focused on short efficient passes and injuries to Stefon Diggs & Adrian Peterson and you had the perfect storm for Rudolph to succeed. Regression is almost certain but the Vikings were one of the most efficient passing teams in the NFL and even with a healthy Diggs and some new backfield pieces, Rudolph will once again be their main target in the Red Zone and we all touchdowns are currency in redraft!
7. Delanie Walker – Walker is getting a little long in the tooth but his attachment to a young ascending quarterback in an offense that is slowly unleashing his passing ability are what make “Johnny” Walker a solid option at tight end in 2017. The offense is going to look a lot different with the additions of Decker, Davis, and Taylor to an already improving receiving core and one of the leagues best running back tandems. Walker regressed from his career 2015 but was able to still post a 65/800/7 stat line on 102 targets which was good enough for a top 5 TE finish. With an ADP of 77.5 just slightly behind Bennett, Walker provides great value late in the 7th round.
6. Tyler Eifert – TD Eifert is what I like to call him because his rank and value all revolve around his ability to score touchdowns. In his early and often injured career Eifert blew up posting career highs in rec (52), targets (74), rec yards (615), and touchdowns (13) but it all came crashing down when he underwent off season ankle surgery which caused him to miss the first 7 games of the 2016 season. In a shorten season Eifert once again flashed his dominance posting a 9/102/1 on 12 targets in only his 2nd game back. When healthy and that is a big WHEN, Eifert is one of the best TE’s in the NFL & the Bengals love to look for him in the red zone. With great hands (only 1 drop last year on 47 TGTS & 6 on 74 TGTS in 2015) & size Eifert presents an owner with tremendous upside, one that might just be able to help you win your championship which is why he is coming in at number 6 on our list. Eifert is, however, coming off back surgery which caused him to miss the last two games of the 2016 season but he is not supposed to miss any time in 2017 as of right now. Be smart if you are targeting Eifert this year in the middle to late 7th round. Make sure in the later rounds to draft a suitable replacement in the event he gets hurt again. It could be the risk that wins you your league championship!
5. Jimmy Graham – Holy shit Jimmy Graham is back baby!! I hate seeing athletes get hurt but I love seeing great players round back into the form that we all remembered and it sure was fun to watch Jimmy Graham last year. After a terrible patella tendon injury, fantasy owners were very cautious when considering drafting Graham last August. The unknown of whether or not he would be able to recover from such a tough injury was too much for most owners as he went undrafted in a majority of short bench leagues. Just like Rudolph, Graham made those owners pay with a bounce back year in Seattle that was good enough for the 4th best TE in fantasy last year. The stats that jump out at me is the RZ target share (26.3% on 20 tgts), 923 receiving yards (3rd most of all TE’s), 604 air yards (2nd most of all TE’s) and his 95 targets in a predominantly run first offense. Jimmy Graham saw his targets go up in his 2nd year in Seattle and he was extremely efficient when the ball was thrown his way. I don’t think the addition of Eddie Lacy hurts Graham’s value too much because Lacy will not demand attention in the passing game. I also think Eddie Lacy might be able to give the Seahawks back the play action pass that made them so deadly during the Lynch years, which will open up the middle of the field for Mr. Graham. Heading into 2017 owners feel a lot more confident drafting Jimmy Graham than they did just 12 months prior.
4. Greg Olsen – Greg the leg is Mr. consistent! Olsen is one of the best pass catching TE’s in the NFL with some of the best hands. Over the past 3 seasons, Greg Olsen has 241 receptions and only 6 drops! That is a ridiculous number! Over those same three years, Olsen has posted consistent statistics: receptions (84, 77, 80), targets (123, 124, 129), yards (1,008, 1,104, 1,073), YAC (371, 351, 376) , and Yds/g (63.0, 69.0, 67.1). Did I also mention that he has played in all 16 games for 9 straight years! Olsen is a machine and one of the safest draft picks you can make regardless of position. The additions of McCaffrey and Samuel have me a little concerned that Olsen might see a dip in target volume but with only this year to worry about I am still pulling the trigger if Olsen falls into my lap. Once you do you can pencil in a top 3 finish if can continue to stay healthy.
3. Jordan Reed – When healthy Jordan Reed is one of the most dominant tight ends in the league and his rare blend of speed and power create a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators & LB’s. The problem with Jordan Reed is his inability to stay on the field. Since coming into the NFL in 2013, Reed has missed 18 games and has not once played a full 16 games. When he is on the field and healthy Reed has shown he can produce with the best in the business posting 11 touchdowns in 2015 and another 6 last year while only playing in 12 games. Playing in one of the most pass heavy offenses in the NFL helps Reed’s draft value but his injury history especially concussions is a major red flag that can not go ignored. If Reed is able to put together an injury free season, he has the ability and plays in the passing system that could have him ending the season as the TE 1 in all of fantasy. The question is do you really think he can finally kick the injury bug and challenge Gronk for the #1 spot? If you said yes, draft him. If you said no, keep reading.
2. Travis Kelce – Your #1 TE of 2016 is this years number two Tight End because let’s face it, it wasn’t a fair fight last year. Gronk was hurt and it left Kelce to be the badest guy on the school yard and boy did he deliver. Kelce’s numbers are staggering, 2nd in receptions (85), 1st in receiving yards (1,125), 1st in YAC (634), 4th in targets (117), and 2nd in fantasy pts per game (13.8). The only statistical category that Kelce was not top 10 in was touchdowns. Kelce’s 4 TD’s ranked him 12th amongst his peers. Kelce’s numbers have improved each year and with the departure of Jeremy Maclin this offseason, baby Gronk just might be able to top what he did last year. With an ADP of 37 and an average draft position of 4.01, I would be willing to start my 4th round with a WR2 who dresses up nicely as a TE.
1. Rob Gronkowski – Who else did you think it was going to be? I mean I told you he was number 1 at the beginning of this article and why wouldn’t he be? Yes, his 2016 season was cut short and yes it was due to another injury to his back which required surgery. All of these things are valid points but Gronk is the best tight end in fantasy football when healthy and it isn’t even close! Not only can he put up the yards Travis Kelce can (1,176 in 2015), or the touchdown output we have seen from Tyler Eifert (2011 (17) & two straight double digit touchdown seasons 2014 (12) & 2015 (11)), but when healthy last season Gronk posted the best yards/rec (21.6) of anyone in the NFL. Yes, you read that right and to really get your noodle cooking he still had the 8th most fantasy points per game of all TE’s last year at 12.8. I know New England reloaded this offseason but I don’t see that impacting Gronks Fantasy output in 2017. I think he is still the single most important offensive piece they have and if he can come back healthy he will be your #1 TE in fantasy. I’ve only been able to own Gronk once and that was after I traded for him in my home town keeper league and he is simply a game changer that gives you such peace of mind because he is truly matchup proof. If his ADP continues to slip, the value is far too great for you to pass on the chance to own the best fantasy tight end of maybe all time. Owning Gronk in at least one league would be a great consolation prize for not being able to get my irrigation system this year.
And there you have it, counting down the top ten TE’s of 2017. Feel free to send us your feedback and let us know what you think and where we maybe got it wrong by sending us an email: TrophyTime@TFFGurus.com. Remember to check out the Trophy Time Podcast which can be found on all the major podcast networks (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio) and follow and chat with us on Twitter – @TheFantasyBoys, @TFFGurus, @DaFantasyFather, and @DecoyLife.