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Jason Katz | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Early 2018 Tight End Rankings

Evan Engram

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.

1. Rob 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.

2. Travis 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.

3. Zach 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.

4. Evan 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.

5. Greg 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 Cam Newton, Olsen is a very high floor pick, but he is getting up there in age (32).

6. Jimmy 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.

7. Jack Doyle I genuinely believe there is a non-zero chance that Andrew 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 with Jacoby Brissett. In this offense, Doyle has a high floor regardless of the quarterback but would be more appealing with Luck under center.

8. Hunter Henry Is 2018 finally the year that Father Time gets to Antonio 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.

9. Delanie 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.

10. Kyle 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.

11. Jordan 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.

12. O.J. 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 TE.

Just Missing the Cut: Jared Cook, Tyler Kroft, George Kittle

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