2017 Early Rankings: Tight Ends

2017 Early Rankings: Tight Ends

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor), last update Mar 28, 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 six Top 6 seasons in the last seven 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 Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Below you'll find my second 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 underway, 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 positional rank in My Fantasy League MFL10 ADP. 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% 0
4 Greg Olsen CAR 13.3 14.1 52% 0
5 Delanie Walker TEN 12.8 14.3 45% 3
6 Tyler Eifert CIN 12.3 14.5 63% -1
7 Martellus Bennett GB 10.4 10.4 75% 3
8 Jimmy Graham SEA 11.9 11.5 62% -2
9 Hunter Henry LAC 8.3 8.3 79% -2
10 Zach Ertz PHI 11.1 10.8 59% -1
11 Kyle Rudolph MIN 12.0 10.3 55% 0
12 Eric Ebron DET 11.0 10.4 48% 0
13 Jack Doyle IND 9.1 7.6 78% 1
14 Cameron Brate TB 11.4 9.2 71% -1
15 Austin Hooper ATL 4.6 4.6 108% 1
16 Jason Witten DAL 10.0 9.9 58% 4
17 Zach Miller CHI 12.0 11.4 64% 10
18 Antonio Gates LAC 10.1 11.6 65% 13
19 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU 8.9 6.6 82% -1
20 Julius Thomas MIA 9.1 10.0 69% -1
21 Ladarius Green PIT 9.1 8.3 75% 2
22 Jared Cook OAK 6.9 6.1 80% -1
23 Dennis Pitta BAL 9.9 9.9 67% 9
24 Coby Fleener NO 8.7 7.9 85% -7
25 Dwayne Allen NE 7.6 5.7 119% -1
26 Charles Clay BUF 9.4 9.4 75% 3
27 Gary Barnidge CLE 7.5 11.2 60% 1
28 Vance McDonald SF 7.9 7.0 90% 2
29 Tyler Higbee LAR 1.6 1.6 - -3

Of the players going in the single-digit rounds, Delanie Walker looks like the best value in the 8th. He finished #5 last year after a #3 finish in 2015 and the Titans haven't done much to reduce his role heading into 2017. If I miss out on Walker, my next target will be Martellus Bennett, who landed in a great situation as the top tight end in Green Bay.

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 8th round ADP seems fair, though the Eagles added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which won't help Ertz's target share.

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. He's a fair value in the 9th round.

Eric Ebron 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's going a good bit higher at MFL (10th round) than he is at Fantasy Football Calculator (13th).

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. The arrival of DeSean Jackson may negatively impact his targets, though with Jackson and Mike Evans working outside, Brate should be free to roam the middle of the field.

Two second-year tight ends -- Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper -- should move into starting roles in 2017. Each rookie had his moments, but Henry looked especially ready for a big role. Another second-year TE, Tyler Higbee, may start for the Rams now that Lance Kendricks has signed with the Packers.

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. As the 20th tight end off the board in the 14th round, he represents a solid floor as a TE2.

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:
Preseason
,
2017

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