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Fantasy football season is upon us. Draft days over the next three weeks will determine rooting interest for the next four months across the land. We conclude our preview series with the undervalued tight end position.
Tights ends have grown into an important piece of the fantasy puzzle. There are a handful of elite tight ends who function as the first or second option on their ‘real’ team’s passing attack. These select few star tight ends dominate red zone targets and provide consistent yardage totals, carrying fantasy teams to blowout victories against lesser competition and the supplying the decisive lineup advantage in the toughest match-ups.
Ordinarily, it is best to wait until the later portion of the middle-rounds to address the position, and then select a platoon of competent tight ends to play the matchup game with throughout the season. In 2016 however, it may be advantageous to spend an early middle-rounder to assure yourself one of the top few options. Remember, either starting the annual run on tight ends or ending it is the best way to maximize value.
Eric Ebron: With Calvin Johnson gone, there are many more targets to go around in the Lions offense. Ebron may be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the extra targets, especially down in the redzone, he could be a touchdown machine. ESPN ranks him 15th, which seems way too low. - Matthew Cohen
Martellus Bennett: Even as the second tight end behind Gronk, he should be the third passing option on a Patriots team that loves to pass. With Dion Lewis on the shelf for the first couple months of the season, the Patriots will likely use two tight end sets on more 80% of their snaps. Bennett is slotting in as a low-end TE1 or high end TE2 in average drafts, his ability can support a much higher ADP. - Vasilis Lericos
Antonio Gates: Gates was very inconsistent last year, having 20 point games followed by complete duds. His age may finally be catching up to him. The Chargers drafted Hunter Henry in the second round with thoughts of using him to replace Gates. That may not happen this year, but the Chargers could try to use a committee of Gates and Henry this year. - Matthew Cohen
Coby Fleener: I know the Saints will throw it a ton and Brees targets his tight ends often. But I just don’t trust Fleener. A top five ranking at the position is too rich right now for a player who is reportedly having issues learning the offense and has yet to fully prove his talent. - Vasilis Lericos
Rob Gronkowski: This doesn’t need much explaining, Gronk is the best in the business. - Matthew Cohen
Delanie Walker: Gronkowski is the obvious choice, but he is too injury prone to be the safest tight end. Walker has averaged just under 1,000 yards over the last two seasons. He will be the first option on a team that is playing catch-up a lot. - Vasilis Lericos
Biggest Bust Potential
Any Ravens tight end: The Ravens have the best group of tight ends in the NFL, but that isn’t good from a fantasy perspective. John Harbaugh will want to use all four of his tight ends, as well as work Darren Waller and Nick Boyle in once they return from their suspensions. It will be hard to determine who will have a good game, as there are not enough targets to go around to all four. Ravens are the best group in real football, but very risky in fantasy. - Matthew Cohen
Gary Barnidge: After failing to record more than 13 catches in any of his first six seasons, Barnidge broke out last year as one of the top tight ends for fantasy. Catching passes from RG3 could hurt his production. I’m concerned that last year was a fluke, but if you believe in Barnidge, at least take a backup with upside. - Vasilis Lericos
Austin Seferian-Jenkins: The Buccaneers tight end spent most of last season injured. He will come back as the starter in Tampa Bay, and James Winston may use him as a security blanket. Outside of Mike Evans, ASJ may be Winston’s most reliable target when on the field. - Matthew Cohen
Julius Thomas: Thomas has an extensive injury history and his touchdown totals were way down from what he did at Denver last year. Still, Jacksonville has an emerging team with several quality receivers to draw coverage away. Thomas could easily return to double digit TDs if Bortles continues his development. - Vasilis Lericos
Will Tye: The Giants have many big play receivers, but not many reliable pass catchers for a third-and-short. Tye is a tight end with great hands, that played well in limited time last year. Tye may have earned himself the starting job with his performance last year. Tight ends in the Giants offense have always been risky, therefore I’m not sure Tye is worthy of a draft pick, but keep an eye on him. - Matthew Cohen
Clive Walford: He had the best games of his rookie campaign last season in December. Not a viable starting option at the moment, Walford is worth a stash for later in the season, especially in dynasty leagues. - Vasilis Lericos