It seems so logical. The more passes thrown your way, the more
catches you are likely to make. More receptions should equal more
receiving yards and more touchdowns and by default fantasy points.
Your wide receiver should be in fantasy heaven, right?
Unfortunately, the numbers don’t exactly back up the theory.
Based on the data collected here at FFToday over the past four
seasons, only 52 percent of the top-10 fantasy receivers finished
in the top-10 in targets (21-of-40). That’s barely over
It is, however, a great indicator for tight ends. Since 2011,
33 of the 40 top fantasy tight ends (82.5 percent) have also finished
in the top-10 in targets.
With that in mind let’s look at which tight ends should
finish in the top-10 in targets next season.
Gronk led all tight ends in targets with
131 last season.
Gronkowski, New England – When you have the best tight
end in football, you don’t stop throwing him the ball. Plus, the
Patriots receiving corps is only slightly above average. “Gronk”
should lead the position in targets and fantasy points for the second
Bennett, Chicago – Bennett was the beneficiary of injuries
to both wide receivers last season and posted career highs in targets,
receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. With Brandon
Marshall replaced by a rookie speedster Kevin
White, the middle of the field should open up even more for
Bennett. Quarterback Jay
Cutler, on a short leash this season, is likely to throw most
of his passes to guys he trusts and that means Bennett, Alshon
Jeffery and Matt
Olsen, Carolina – The Panthers have added two young receivers
over the past two seasons in Kelvin
Benjamin and Devin Funchess, but Cam
Newton’s tight end has been, and will continue, to be a primary
weapon. His targets have increased in each of the last four seasons
in Carolina and he’s averaging 106 per season. The trend should
continue in 2015.
Graham, Seattle – Graham was traded from the team that
threw the second-most passes in 2014 (659) to the team that threw
the fewest passes (454). This means, the man who finished in the
top three in targets in each of the last four seasons, is likely
to take a significant hit. He’ll still see 100-plus targets and
be a top-10 fantasy option, just not the No. 1 choice.
Kelce, Kansas City – The addition of Jeremy
Maclin on the outside should do wonders for Kelce in the middle
of the field. Kelce saw 87 targets in 2014 with only Dwayne
Bowe to stretch the defense, but should crack triple-digits
in 2015 because the Chiefs still have one of the worst sets of wide
receivers in the NFL.
Thomas, Jacksonville – The Jaguars didn’t spend all that
money (five years, $46 million) to make Thomas a decoy. The 26-year-old
has elite ball skills and pass-catching ability and throwing shorter
passes may help keep young Blake
Bortles from getting killed. The Jaguars’ tight ends saw a combined
94 targets last season, but Thomas should reach that number in 2015,
all by himself.
Clay, Buffalo – Clay’s move to Buffalo has been largely
unnoticed around the league, but fantasy owners should pay attention.
Despite not being healthy for most of 2014 he still saw 84 targets
last season. He was targeted 103 times in 2013 and posted fantasy-worthy
numbers that season. Matt
Cassel knows how to feature a tight end and Clay should return
to 2013 target and production levels.
Fleener, Indianapolis – Despite being No. 2 on the depth
chart last season, Fleener was the Colts No. 1 receiving tight end.
That’s because the Andrew
Luck-to-Fleener combination has been working well together for
six seasons – three in Indianapolis and three at Stanford. Luck
trusts him and therefore so must we. The addition of Andre
Johnson and rookie Phillip
Dorsett could take targets from T.Y.
Hilton and Donte
Moncrief, but shouldn’t hurt Fleener’s fantasy value.
Ertz, Philadelphia – It doesn’t hurt anybody on the Eagles
that the team runs a ridiculous number of plays. Last season they
led the league with 1127 plays, more than 100 above the league average.
Many thought Ertz would have a breakout season in 2014, but they
were one year too early. Despite sharing time with blocker Brent
Celek, Ertz saw 88 targets in 2014 and that number should increase
Hill, New Orleans – Just because Saints quarterback Drew
Brees doesn’t have Jimmy Graham on his team doesn’t mean he’ll
stop throwing to his tight ends. It just means he’ll be throwing
to a different tight end and for the most part that should be Hill.
Hill caught just 14 passes last season, but five were for scores,
which tied him for 11th at the position. No, he won’t post Graham-like
numbers, but you should expect he’ll see 85 or more targets and
have top-10 fantasy value.
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.