Coming off a stellar rookie season, Evan
Engram will be a popular TE pick after the big three.
Last week we looked at my top 12 at the QB position. The series
continues this week with Tight Ends. There’s a little more
clarity at this position. The biggest questions right now are where
Jimmy Graham will end up and whether Jordan Reed will ever play
football again…oh and whether Rob Gronkowski will retire.
As we continue to inch towards the 2018 NFL season, here are my
way too early top 12 TEs.
Gronkowski – For now, let’s go under the assumption
that the best TE in NFL history is not going to quit in the middle
of his prime. Since he became a starter in his second year (2011),
Gronk has finished top two by average scoring every year of his
career. Granted most of those were cut short by injury, but when
Gronk is on the field, he provides the single most decisive edge
at any position in fantasy. If he’s playing, he’s the top TE even
with the injury concerns.
Kelce – Going from Alex
Smith to Pat Mahomes should only help Kelce, who is coming
off a career year where his 15.6 FPts/G, while firmly behind Gronk,
was also firmly ahead of everyone else. Kelce has eclipsed 100
targets for three straight seasons without missing a game. He’s
not quite Gronk, but he’s far more likely to play a full season.
Ertz – There was a clear big three at tight end in
2017 and, like Hulk Hogan in 1996, Zach Ertz was the third man.
The difference between Ertz and Gronk was the same as the difference
between Ertz and the fourth best TE. If you have one of the big
three, you will have an advantage at the position. The rest are
very much bunched together.
Engram – Engram had one of the best rookie seasons
for a tight end in NFL history and it went largely unnoticed.
Engram thrived with the ghost of Eli
Manning and a sprinkle of Geno
Smith at QB while spending much of the season as the primary
focus of opposing defenses due to the absences of Odell
Beckham Jr. and Sterling
Shepard. EE has the physical makeup of a future elite player
at the position. It would not shock me if that began in 2018.
I don’t anticipate there being much discrepancy over the top four
TEs drafted and the exact order.
Olsen – After a lost season due to a broken foot, Olsen
should return to his usual not elite, but mostly really good ways.
Olsen typically finishes in the TE5-7 range. With a rejuvenated
Newton, Olsen is a very high floor pick, but he is getting
up there in age (32).
Graham – This ranking is assuming Graham ends up back
in New Orleans, which I think is most likely to happen. There’s
no way he’s still in Seattle. Graham is a shell of his former
self and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s lost a full second on
his 40 time. He looks that slow. However, Graham can still be
a force in the red zone and if he’s back with Drew
Brees, 10 touchdowns is on the table, which will be enough
to propel him into the top five at the position.
Doyle – I genuinely believe there is a non-zero chance
Luck has thrown his last NFL pass. I wouldn’t say it’s the
most likely outcome, but it’s possible. Doyle had 108 targets
last year and finished as the TE5 by average points. He did that
Brissett. In this offense, Doyle has a high floor regardless
of the quarterback but would be more appealing with Luck under
Henry – Is 2018 finally the year that Father Time gets
Gates? I think it is. The Chargers need to free Hunter Henry.
He’s just too athletic to remain in a timeshare. If Henry really
is unshackled, then this ranking is probably going to be too low.
Walker – Tight Ends do tend to age better than RBs
and WRs, but Walker has a lot of mileage on him at age 34. He
still had a productive 2017 despite an offensive gameplan that
restricted everyone involved. New OC Matt LaFleur is saying all
of the right things and hopefully he unleashes Marcus
Mariota. That will allow Walker to perhaps return to the volume
he saw in 2015 when he had 133 targets, but the Titans didn’t
have an excellent 1-2 in Corey
Davis and Rishard
Matthews back then.
Rudolph – 2016 is going to be Rudolph’s career year.
I can’t envision him ever sniffing 132 targets again. But his
81 from last year was serviceable and despite the significant
target drop, he actually scored one more touchdown (8) than he
did in 2016. Rudolph is a solid, yet unspectacular option that
won’t lose you weeks, but probably won’t win them either.
Reed – It’s far more likely that Jordan Reed is done
than Andrew Luck. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s more likely
than not. Even if Reed tries to play, at this point no one should
have any confidence that he will be able to stay on the field.
If he does, Alex Smith should actually be beneficial for him given
Smith’s affinity for the position. Reed is going to either be
a screaming value or a complete waste of a pick. I would be remiss
to ignore the fact that even when Reed did play last season, he
was useless all but once.
Howard – There’s no reason for Cameron
Brate to continue to see snaps ahead of Howard. The second
year player out of Bama is just a lot better. Howard is tremendously
athletic and although he wasn’t a volume pass catcher in college,
he has the tools to be an effective fantasy TE. Howard showed
flashes in 2017. A few more of those in 2018 and he’s a top 12
Just Missing the Cut:Jared
Cook, Tyler Kroft, George Kittle