Jordan Reed making an acrobatic catch, originally posted to Flickr by Keith Allison and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

This year, the tight end position is a bit different than the past few years. The reason for that is where the top tight ends are being drafted this year. Gronk was being drafted in the first round the last few years, which is way too high for a tight end, in my opinion. There’s way too much value at the RB and WR position at that point to draft one. That’s why I usually say to draft a tight end late. Like super late. Right before your QB, defense, and kicker late. As of today, Gronk is being drafted in the middle of the second round. That’s still too high for me. But he can drop. How does this change the strategy, and how do you handle either strategy?

Here are the current ADPs for the top tight ends:

  • Gronk – 2.07
  • Travis Kelce – 4.02
  • Jordan Reed – 4.08
  • Greg Olsen – 5.05
  • Jimmy Graham – 6.02
  • Tyler Eifert – 6.08

I only list those six because I wouldn’t draft anyone between those guys and the later round guys. I wouldn’t draft Gronk at that price. If he drops to the third round, I would consider it depending on who’s on the board. The playmaking and week-winning ability of Gronk can make it worth a third round pick. I just don’t like to take too much risk in the first few rounds, and Gronk’s injury history makes him a risky pick. High risk, high reward. I like the price on Kelce and Reed. I would personally go Reed over Kelce. Each of their offenses runs through each of those guys, but the ceiling for Reed is higher with a more high powered offense in Washington. With the news of Jeremy Maclin being released from Kansas City, Kelce’s opportunity goes up even higher.

There’s too much risk for Olsen and Graham for me. It depends on who’s on the board, but these guys don’t do it for me. The offense is changing in Carolina, and even though Olsen is a staple of that offense, he disappeared for a huge chunk of last season. Olsen is so talented, but I don’t think his offense provides him much of an upside or high target totals. I do like Eifert at that ADP. When he’s healthy and on the field, Andy Dalton looks for him in the red zone – a lot. I have to see if he’s a full participant in training camp and doesn’t re-aggravate his back injury. That might seem like a stretch, but I can’t justify the price tag if he’s not fully healthy. If he’s not going to be ready, his price tag might drop and I might consider drafting him and streaming the position for a few weeks. Oh wait, that’s what we thought last year. Don’t do that.

Here are the current ADPs for the later round tight ends that I would consider:

  • Kyle Rudolph – 9.02
  • OJ Howard – 10.07
  • Zach Ertz – 10.12
  • Eric Ebron – 13.08

I’m not going to get into why I don’t like other tight ends that aren’t listed, but if you’re wondering why I didn’t list another tight end that you like, hit me up on Twitter (@upperhandffb) or Instagram (@upperhandfantasy) and maybe you can convince me. Or I’ll convince you. Or maybe we’ll agree to disagree 🙂

I like Kyle Rudolph because he had 132 targets last year. That ranked first for tight ends and 15th overall in any position. If I can get him in the 9th round, I’ll take him, especially in PPR. Bradford loves him. He even had 7 TDs, and that’s a decent number for the Vikings offense last year. I actually expect their offense to take a step forward this year with their new additions at running back, improved offensive line, and second year in this offense (and first full training camp) for Sam Bradford.

I’m committing a cardinal sin by possibly drafting a rookie tight end. Rookie tight ends historically don’t do well. Very rare to have a TE that has fantasy relevance his first year. However, we’re always looking for the narrative to find that exception. Jameis Winston loves his tight ends. Since entering the league, he’s had the 5th best passer rating when targeting tight ends, behind Brady (Gronk), Dalton (Eifert), Rivers (Gates/Henry), and Cousins (Reed). We can see why the Bucs invested in a tight end early. They’re building around Winston’s strengths. He made a not-so-talented Cameron Brate very fantasy relevant last year. Now that they have an extremely talented OJ Howard, those targets that were going to Brate become even more valuable. The offense in general should take a step forward, and Howard can be that exception to the rule when it comes to rookie tight ends this year.

The only reason why Zach Ertz isn’t considered a top-tier tight end is because of his low touchdown numbers. But he’s had two 75-catch, 800-yard plus seasons in a row with two different quarterbacks. He’s become a favorite of Carson Wentz, and assuming Wentz and the offense takes a step forward this year, Ertz should be able to surpass those numbers and at least get that touchdown number up to 6 or 7. He’s a very talented tight end who needs to be looked at in the red zone more often, but keep in mind that he had four last year, which is 25% of Wentz’s touchdowns. With the amount of yards Wentz has thrown last year, his touchdown number is sure to come up and that should prove well for Ertz. Tight ends are a QBs best friend, and with the defense worrying about Torrey Smith stretching the field and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Ertz will soak up targets this year.

Eric Ebron had one touchdown last year, and that’s not the number we want from a big, talented tight end. However, he has been improving each year he’s been in the league and can breakout this year. He went from 47 receptions/537 yards/5TD to 61/711/1. This year he needs to put the yardage and touchdowns together and become a reliable target for this offense. He has the talent and the first round pedigree to be a 80-catch 900 yard receiver with at least 5 TDs. Everyone is upset that he had a 0 point fantasy game last year, but that’s why his draft stock is so low, because people are bitter. Take advantage of that and see if you can get him for free on draft day if all the tight ends you wanted are off the board. Huge potential, and at this point in the draft there’s no risk.