2017 Never-Too-Early Rankings: Tight Ends

2017 Never-Too-Early Rankings: Tight Ends

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor) on Feb 10, 2017

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Below you'll find my first stab at 2017 rankings for the tight end position. I don't generally like to publish rankings prior to free agency and the draft, but I know that early mocks/drafts have already started up, MFL10s are close behind, and 4for4 subscribers may be wondering where I stand on certain players heading into the offseason.

These rankings have been going up one position per day this week, so be sure to check the front page if you’re interested in seeing the other positions.

The rankings are based on PPR scoring systems. I’ve included 2016 points per game, two-year points per game (where applicable) and two-year Coefficient of Variation (CV) which measures how consistent a player is on a week-to-week basis. (The lower the CV, the more consistent the player.) I’ve also included the difference (DIFF) between my rank and the player’s current rank at Fantasy Football Calculator, a site that compiles ADP data for early mock drafts. A positive number means that I'm relatively high on the player while a negative number means -- you guessed it -- that I'm relatively low on the player.

Below the rankings you'll find some discussion about a few players that jump out as particularly good or bad values heading into the spring.

# Player Team 2016 PPG 2YR PPG 2YR CV DIFF
1 Travis Kelce KC 14.6 13.4 53% 1
2 Rob Gronkowski NE 12.1 15.9 58% -1
3 Jordan Reed WAS 14.1 16.3 59% 1
4 Greg Olsen CAR 13.3 14.1 52% -1
5 Delanie Walker TEN 12.8 14.3 45% 1
6 Tyler Eifert CIN 12.3 14.5 63% -1
7 Jimmy Graham SEA 11.9 11.5 62% 0
8 Zach Ertz PHI 11.1 10.8 59% 0
9 Kyle Rudolph MIN 12.0 10.3 55% 3
10 Cameron Brate TB 11.4 9.2 71% 1
11 Eric Ebron DET 11.0 10.4 48% 8
12 Martellus Bennett NE 10.4 10.4 75% -3
13 Antonio Gates SD 10.1 11.6 65% -3
14 Hunter Henry SD 8.3 8.3 79% 0
15 Jason Witten DAL 10.0 9.9 58% 1
16 Jared Cook GB 6.9 6.1 80% 5
17 Zach Miller CHI 12.0 11.4 64% -2
18 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 8.9 6.6 82% -1
19 Ladarius Green PIT 9.1 8.3 75% -6
20 Dennis Pitta BAL 9.9 9.9 67% 0
21 Charles Clay BUF 9.4 9.4 75% -
22 Coby Fleener NO 8.7 7.9 85% -4
23 Gary Barnidge CLE 7.5 11.2 60% -1
24 Jack Doyle IND 9.1 7.6 78% -
25 Julius Thomas JAX 9.1 10.0 69% -
26 Vance McDonald SF 7.9 7.0 90% -
27 Dion Sims MIA 5.8 4.5 116% -
28 Lance Kendricks LA 7.1 6.4 77% -
29 Dwayne Allen IND 7.6 5.7 119% -
30 Austin Hooper ATL 4.6 4.6 108% -

With the way early TE ADP is shaping up, I’m inclined to wait until the double-digit rounds to draft Kyle Rudolph, Eric Ebron or Jared Cook, if he re-signs with the Packers, but more on those guys later.

If Rob Gronkowski can recover fully from back surgery and participate in the full offseason activities, I think he’ll overtake Travis Kelce in these rankings, but he’s obviously a good bit closer to the next few players than he has been in recent years.

Zach Ertz has finished strong in each of the last two seasons. He has averaged 6.7 receptions for 73 yards and 0.35 touchdowns from Week 9 on, while averaging just 3.3 catches for 35 yards (and zero touchdowns) in Weeks 1-8. The target discrepancy (9.2 per game vs. 5.2 per game) is stark. His 7th round ADP seems fair, so he’d be tough to pass up in the 8th round.

Kyle Rudolph led the league in TE targets and finished second in scoring at his position. Unless the Vikings figure out how to run the ball more effectively, I’d expect his role to continue into 2017 with “throw it short” Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Eric Ebron is being drafted very late, considering he finished #14 in total points and #12 in points per game. He only caught one touchdown, so he’s due for positive regression after catching five touchdowns in 2015. He set career highs in targets (85), receptions (61) and yards (711), and finished with the 9th-most targets per game at his position. He jumps out as the best early value on the board.

The Buccaneers gave Cameron Brate the gig in Week 3 and he posted the #7 TE numbers the rest of the way. He caught eight touchdowns, so he’s TD-dependent, but also managed 57 catches for 660 yards.

Once Jared Cook returned from his high-ankle sprain in Week 10, the Packers made a concerted effort to involve him in the offense. Over the final 10 games (including the playoffs) he averaged 4.2 catches for 55 yards and 0.30 touchdowns per game. That equates to 11.5 PPG, or low-end TE1 numbers. If the Packers bring him back, he should be a nice late-round value.

With an 11th-place finish in 2016, Jason Witten has now finished in the top 12 in total fantasy points at his position in 13 straight seasons. Remarkable.

Hobbled by injuries most of the year, Charles Clay finished strong, catching 21 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns in his final four games. He was the #12 TE in the second half of the season and averaged the 9th-most targets in that span.

Filed Under: w21, 2016

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