A Way Too Early Look at Fantasy Football 2018 Top 10’s: Tight End Edition

Written by Mikey Ostrowski

And now we have the dreaded tight end position to discuss. It’s the only position on your fantasy roster that is seemingly worthless without a top-3 guy plugged into it. However, the key word here is “seemingly”… never undervalue your tight ends.

Finding a player to plug into the TE spot on your lineup might just be the most overlooked process in fantasy football. Everyone obviously aims to snag Gronk or Kelce, but these stars usually only go to that guy in your league that is willing to overpay for them. Which leads me to the age-old question: Is Gronk worth a first-round pick? He just might be.

I’ll defend his case when I introduce him into the rankings, but before I get into that, here’s some stats. In PPR, the overall TE1 and TE2 scored 233 and 227 points, respectively. The bottom of the TE1 list scored 137 and 132. 9 receivers and 8 running backs outscored the top tight end in 2017… so why on earth would you spend a top 12 pick on a guy who isn’t top 12 in scoring? Because it’s all about the positional points. Your roster only has 1 tight end slot (we don’t count flex here), and if your stuck with that guy scoring 100 points fewer than the best tight end in the league… well, you do the math.

Let’s get into it.

      Tight Ends:

  1. Rob Gronkowski (NE)
  2. Travis Kelce (KC)
  3. Zach Ertz (PHI)
  4. Jimmy Graham (SEA)
  5. Evan Engram (NYG)
  6. Delanie Walker (TEN)
  7. Hunter Henry (LAC)
  8. Kyle Rudolph (MIN)
  9. Greg Olsen (CAR)
  10. Jordan Reed (WAS)

 

Now that we have the list down, let me get back to Rob Gronkowski. I’m sure you could’ve guessed he would be #1 on my list, and let me explain why he deserves to be your #1 pick (providing you have a late pick). When he plays, he’s consistently a monster. But if he was outscored by 17 guys, why would I draft him so early? Because it’ll make you elite. The tight end position for most fantasy footballers is next to useless. If you’re starting a low-end TE1 (mind you, the bottom third of the TE1s averaged less than 10 points a game) your other players really have no room to underperform. However, if you’re getting Gronk’s average weekly score of 17, you get some slack. Do you take him over a top-5 runner? No way. Do you take him over Antonio Brown or DeAndre Hopkins? Please don’t. But if it comes down to the top runner being a Melvin Gordon caliber player, and the top receiver being a Michael Thomas… well, you gotta go Gronk here. Only a handful of guys in your football league will have a tight end that could actually make a difference in the outcome of a game; make sure one of those guys is you.

Next up, another obvious one: Travis Kelce. The reigning TE2 overall in PPR in 2017… was actually Gronk. Kelce was the #1 scoring tight end this year, which shouldn’t be very surprising. I do have to disclose that he did play two more games than Gronk. Nonetheless, he still had an excellent season. He averaged 15.5 PPR points each week and is as matchup-proof as they come. Whether its Smith or Mahomes tossing the pigskin to him in 2018, he’s a sure thing to stay a top-3 tight end. Oh, and don’t be afraid to reach on him in the mid-2nd round,  he carries the same value that Gronk does but a little bit of a cheaper price.

Usually tight ends are tough to rank after the first two guys (always Gronk and Kelce), but this one was an easy choice. Zach Ertz completely broke out this season and was a huge steal in drafts everywhere. With an ADP of 92 (that’s the seventh round), Ertz was only the 7th tight end off the boards. However, he finished #3 overall in just 14 games played. He’s a real talent with an even better talent throwing to him. His ADP is going to skyrocket in 2017 and might go as early as the fourth round. He’s going to build from his breakout season and will only get better from here.

Jimmy Graham is not the same guy that was going in the first round four years ago. But, he’s still a huge dude with huge hands that knows how to find the end zone. Notching 10 touchdowns in 2017, Graham has proven once again that he is an unstoppable force in the red zone. He might not be a huge factor between the 20s, but he’s a weekly threat to score a touchdown… and at the TE position that’s all you can really hope for.

I considered putting Evan Engram over Graham but decided against it. The rookie hauled in enough balls from his 115 targets for 722 yards and 6 TDs, which is really impressive for a rookie, even more so for a tight end. The only reason I decided to put him after good ol’ Jimmy is because the Giants will be getting OBJ back. This should ultimately affect Engram’s targets and could limit his use. He’s not a big guy, and certainly won’t be the main target in the red zone, but he should retain plenty of upside. And who knows, maybe having OBJ back will help his productivity.

Delanie Walker is the most underrated tight end in all of football. We were all thinking it and I’ll happily be the one to say it out loud. He seems to consistently finish as a top-5 fantasy TE but he never gets the credit for it. He actually finished ahead of #4 and #5 on this list in 2017, but here I am underrating him once again. He’s always available in the mid rounds of the draft, and he always provides arguably the biggest value at the TE position. If you’re one of those guys that likes to wait on drafting tight ends, aim for Walker.

Last year, Hunter Henry made a splash when he filled in for an injured Antonio Gates. This year, he took over the reigns at the position for the Chargers. Though his 10.5 weekly average doesn’t sound like much, it actually is a pretty good number for the TE position. The Chargers offense also improved immensely this season, and they’ll look to continue that. Oh, and I almost forgot… do you remember those games where he’d lose snaps to Gates? That could very well be a thing of the past, as Gates is an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and could very well be retiring. Henry could be next season’s Zach Ertz.

Now for the tight end that I had on most of my rosters this season, Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph is a poor man’s Delanie Walker. He had about 15 less points than Walker with a very similar ADP. As I said before, Walker is always underrated so of course I selected Rudolph over him in my fantasy drafts, which in the end didn’t make much of a difference. Rudolph is a decent red zone target, and plays a role in between the 20s too. His upside is limited due to the amount of mouths in Minnesota’s offense, but he’s a solid option for those who don’t mind waiting on a TE.

Coming in at #9 is 2017’s biggest (or maybe second biggest) disappointment at tight end, which is none other than Greg Olsen. There’s no disputing this man’s talent, as he has been a 1,000 yard receiver before. He played in 7 games this season, racking up only 42 PPR points, more than half of them coming in just one of his games. Speaking as a Panthers fan, their offense was simply not there this year, and it was a down year for everyone not named Christian McCaffrey. I think #9 is low-balling it, as Olsen has proven to be a top-5 talent in the past. He’s going to be a cheap target in 2018 drafts, and I just can’t see a scenario where he doesn’t make it back to the top 10 for tight ends.

Okay, yeah. Olsen was only the second biggest TE disappointment of 2017. The biggest one by far was Jordan Reed. I’m having a tough time justifying him being on this list to be completely honest. A couple of years ago, Reed was a top-5 option in all formats. He is a beast of a player. But he’s also the most injury-stricken player in the entire NFL. Despite playing only 6 games, Reed came away with 60 points on the year, and that includes the game he went down with injury in the first half. If you take away that game, Reed averaged 12 points per game and reminded us just how good he really is. IF, and notice I used the big IF, he comes into 2018 healthy, he could be a sneaky steal late in drafts. Keep your eye out for this dude.

And there we have it fantasy fans, that concludes my first edition of “way too early rankings”. If you’ve missed the QBs, RBs and TEs, you can find the links below.

As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter with any fantasy related questions or discussions. Stay tuned for more fantasy articles from me this offseason!

@MikeyOstrowski

Other articles by Mikey Ostrowski:

A Way Too Early Look At Fantasy Top 10’s: Quarterback Edition

A Way Too Early Look At Fantasy Top 10’s: Running Back Edition

A Way Too Early Look At Fantasy Top 10’s: Wide Receiver Edition

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