Gronkowski – Gronk will be the first tight end taken
in 95 percent of fantasy leagues this summer. He’s scored double-digit
touchdowns in four of his five seasons in the league and finished
10th in fantasy scoring last season among wide receivers. His
third-round ADP discount will be a thing of the past. Expect him
to be late first-round pick in 2015.
Graham – Graham posted a goose egg in Week 7 and wasn’t
even targeted in Week 13 against Pittsburgh and still finished
third in total fantasy points among tight ends, playing with a
shoulder injury for much of the season. Fantasy’s preseason No.
1 tight end in 2014 will take a back seat to Gronk in 2015 but
still remains one of the best at the position.
Olsen – Olsen doesn’t light up the TD column (6, 6,
5 last three seasons) but he’s been a consistent fantasy producer
since becoming a main component in the Carolina passing game in
2012. He’s coming off his first 1,000-yard- plus receiving season
and should come close to that mark again as long as he remains
the No. 2 option for Cam Newton.
Thomas – Unlike Olsen, Thomas has been a TD machine,
scoring 12 times in each of the last two seasons. Remarkable considering
he only played in 12 games last year and was largely ineffective
after Week 10, thanks to a nagging ankle injury. Thomas is an
unrestricted free agent, and his value could shift dramatically
if he doesn’t return to the Broncos offense.
Kelce – Despite all the whining and complaining from
Kelce owners about usage rates, Kelce checked in as the No. 8
fantasy TE in 2014 with a 67-862-5 stat line having played in
all 16 games. The Chiefs offense isn’t going to produce elite
fantasy numbers for any particular receiver, but I’m expecting
Andy Reid to increase Kelce’s 87 targets into low 100s in 2015.
Bennett – Speaking of targets, Bennett’s 128 were second
behind Gronkowski’s 131 as injuries to both Brandon Marshall and
Alshon Jeffery during the course of the season benefited Bennett’s
stat line. A slight regression should be expected, but he shouldn’t
have any trouble producing low-end TE1 numbers in 2015.
Walker – Walker was one of six tight ends to post 100-plus
targets last season. His size-speed combo is above average for
the position, but he sorely needs stability in the offense, specifically
at the quarterback position, to achieve his maximum fantasy potential.
Until then, his upside is capped as a mid-range TE1.
Cameron – Like Thomas, Cameron will test the free-
agent waters this offseason and reportedly doesn’t want to return
to Cleveland. I can’t blame him for that, but Cameron’s bigger
concern is his head. Concussions have plagued the career of the
athletic tight end and make him a serious risk for fantasy owners
wherever he ends up.
Fleener – The bad news for fantasy owners is the pass-happy
Colts employ a two-TE system, making both Fleener and Dwayne
Allen fantasy relevant but wildly inconsistent and difficult
to project when both are healthy. Fleener is typically more involved
between the 20s, while Allen is a heavy redzone target. Fleener
gets the nod in the health department as Allen has yet to play
a full season in his three years in the league.
Gates – I give up. I predicted the passing of the torch
Green last season, but the 34- year-old Gates promptly played
all 16 games and scored 12 touchdowns in his 12th year in the
league. It’s highly unlikely he’ll finish as the No. 2 tight end
again, and I won’t be targeting him in re-draft leagues for risk
of the wheels falling off, but the consistent TE1 production is
hard to ignore.
Ertz – Ertz is going to tease fantasy owners again
in 2015 but unless Chip Kelly’s changes his offensive philosophy,
Ertz will remain a high-end TE2 while flirting with low-end TE1
upside. Ertz made a significant leap from year one to year two
in terms of receptions (36 to 58) and yardage (469 to 702), but
Celek’s usage is just high enough that it’s difficult to see
Ertz gaining a bigger part of the offensive pie without injury
to others in the receiving corps.
Rivera – It might surprise you that one of the six
tight ends that surpassed 100 targets last season played for the
Raiders. Granted, his conversion rate was abysmal (58 catches),
but Rivera’s place in the offense is secured and there’s room
for optimism at the quarterback position for the first time in
a long time in Oakland. A modest increase in efficiency and landing
WR Amari Cooper in the upcoming draft could vault Rivera into
low-end TE1 status in 2015.