Fantasy Football Sleepers & Values: Tight Ends
Strategies involving the tight end position vary from analyst to analyst. There are those who believe that it’s an easily replaceable “onesie” position -- i.e. owners only have to start one per team, so there are always a number of decent options available on the waiver wire -- and therefore it’s not worth burning an early round pick on an elite tight end. Then there are those (like me) who believe that drafting an elite tight end is a good foundation for a championship roster.
Rob Gronkowski is the first tight end off the board and looks like a terrific 1st round pick, especially if Tom Brady can win his case against the NFL. If Brady’s suspension stands, Gronk should still post good numbers, but he’s more of a wild card with Jimmy Garoppolo under center instead of Tom Terrific.
Jimmy Graham is often the second tight end drafted in the 3rd round. I think his targets will dip a bit in Seattle, but the quality of those targets will be great in Seattle’s highly-efficient passing attack. He’s also likely to soak up a ton of red zone targets, which should raise his floor.
Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen are typically the next two tight ends off the board. Kelce began to play starter’s snaps in Week 11 and posted #4 TE numbers in both PPR and standard formats down the stretch. He has more upside than Olsen, who was the #4 TE in both formats last year, but Olsen is probably safer, especially with Kelvin Benjamin out for the year with a torn ACL.
When we throw in Martellus Bennett, after those five, it’s a bit of a crapshoot as to which tight ends will round out the top 10. Below is a list of Values (going in the 9th-11th rounds) along with a list of Sleepers (12th round or later) that owners can target if they elect to wait on the position.
Delanie Walker, Titans
Last year, Walker finished #9 in standard formats and #8 in PPR leagues even though he missed a game and a half in the middle of the season due to a concussion. He was #12 and #11, respectively, in 2013. In his last 22 games with the Titans, he has averaged 11.9 PPG in PPR formats, which would have yielded a #6 TE finish last season. In Marcus Mariota, he should get an upgrade at quarterback and figures to remain a big part of the team’s passing attack, such that it is. As our 6th-ranked tight end in both formats, Walker’s availability in the 10th/11th rounds makes drafting a tight end early less of a priority than in years past.