I am a big proponent of drafting tight ends late. After the Gronkowski’s, the Jordan Reed’s, and the Travis Kelce’s of the world, there isn’t that much of a difference in points scored between the middling TE1s and tight ends who finish as a TE2. You can’t say the same about running backs and wide receivers; the point disparity between someone you draft in the 5th round compared to someone you draft after the 10th will most likely be drastic. For this reason, streaming tight ends is also a viable option, and one strategy is to draft a tight end who you think can have at least a nice start to the season. Since you didn’t draft him early and didn’t invest much, you don’t have any reason to hold onto him, and can easily replace him on the waiver wire as you take a look at undrafted or dropped tight ends over the first couple of weeks. Since we only need to start one tight end, you can find decent replacements on the waiver wire, and instead stock up on RBs and WRs in the draft, who will take up multiple positions on your roster, and are not so easy to find on the waiver wire. Here are a few tight ends that I’m aiming for at the end of my PPR fantasy drafts.
Zach Ertz – 10.05
Zach Ertz was third in PPR points per game, only behind Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed. The reason why he’s being drafted so late is probably because of the new receivers being introduced into the offense in Philadelphia. There’s no doubt that Alshon Jeffery will command targets, and Torrey Smith will get his share of targets as well, but tight ends are an integral part of Doug Pederson’s style of west coast offense. He’s into short and intermediate routes to get the ball out of Wentz’s hands quickly. If you look at Pederson’s history in Kansas City, tight ends like Travis Kelce and running backs like Jamaal Charles were huge beneficiaries of the system, where plays were designed specifically for them. Ertz and Wentz developed chemistry last year and he has been Wentz’s go-to receiver outside of Jordan Matthews. In the 10th round, you’re getting someone who should see 100+ targets and be around the league leaders at the position in receptions. Ertz only had 4 touchdowns last year on 16 red zone targets, and with an improved offense, I think that can go up this year as they get more chances in the red zone. Wentz threw for almost 4,000 yards last year, but only threw 16 touchdowns. If he throws around the same number of yards, I expect his TD rate to come way up to the mean, and for Zach Ertz to be one of the beneficiaries.
Jack Doyle – 11.02
On offenses led by the best quarterbacks, we have to consider all of their weapons. Donte Moncrief and TY Hilton are Luck’s primary options, but there is room for another weapon or two to emerge with fantasy relevance. Previously, we could never count on Jack Doyle to perform because of the presence of Dwayne Allen. Doyle had 75 targets to Allen’s 52 last season. Now that Allen’s gone, it would seem like Doyle would see an uptick in targets, but not so fast. Erik Swoope swooped in (sorry, I had to) and had 22 targets himself, and didn’t see the field in the first five weeks. Am I worried about that? Not really. I’m still a fan of drafting Doyle because of his upside. He got paid, and everyone from the GM to the coach to Andrew Luck seem to trust him. Doyle also led the NFL in catch rate at the TE position, so for these reasons I would trust his talent and not worry about Swoope cancelling out Doyle’s value the way that Allen did. I think Doyle can potentially get 100 targets in this offense, and those are some quality targets coming from Andrew Luck.
Eric Ebron – 11.06
Eric Ebron was drafted 10th overall in the 2014 draft, and some would say that he’s been a disappointment, but I would disagree. Tight ends take a little while to get acclimated into the league, and Ebron is no exception, although he has improved each year. If you rank tight ends in PPR by points per game, Ebron ended as 12th best, which would make him a TE1. He missed three games last year, still finished as the 14th best tight end in total points, and had 61 receptions for 711 yards in only 13 games. With another 3 games under his belt, his numbers would be pretty impressive. The number that really stands out is his lone touchdown last year. At least we know that it can’t get worse. If he could have finished the season as a TE1 if he played every game, and if that TD number comes up just a bit, you’re looking at an extemely great value drafted in the 11th round. With Anquan Boldin’s departure, look for Ebron to gobble up more red zone targets and get close to 1,000 yards receiving this year.
Cameron Brate – 13.07
OJ Howard being drafted in the first round by the Bucs is the reason why Cameron Brate has fell so far in ADP, even after finishing as the TE7 last year in PPR. Rookie tight ends usually don’t make a legitimate fantasy impact their first year, so I would expect Howard to come along slowly, even with his draft pedigree. Brate isn’t their long term answer, but Winston did have rapport with him last year, and there’s no doubt he needs a tight end to throw to. Since entering the league, he’s had the fifth-best passer rating when targeting tight ends. Brate had 8 touchdowns last year, and scored three times in the last four games; Winston looked his way whenever they were in the red zone. I expect Howard to be one of Winston’s favorite targets at some point, but not this year. In the 13th round, you’re getting Brate for free, and if he’s still the guy, you’ve found yourself a TE1.
Coby Fleener – 13.08
Coby Fleener rubbed a lot of people the wrong way last year. He signed a big deal with the Saints, was the tight end in an offense that featured one of the top tight ends in Jimmy Graham, and we were expecting the world from him with Brees throwing him the ball. Well, that didn’t happen, to say the least, but there are some promising signs. There were reports last season that it took a while for Fleener to get a hold of the offense, and there’s only been time since then to learn it. His catch rate the first four games was 43.4%, and improved to 70% in the final 12 games. Fleener had 81 targets, and with the loss of Brandin Cooks, we could see an uptick there. With Fleener more comfortable with the offense and with an improved rapport with Drew Brees, I expect Fleener to bounce back while seeing close to 100 targets this year. Again, in the 13th round, I’m willing to take a flier on a guy who is in a prolific offense with an elite quarterback, and who the team is invested in to perform.