Do Not Draft List: Tight Ends
Tight end was a horrible position in fantasy football last season. It was so shallow that a 34-year-old Antonio Gates was the second-highest scoring player at the position, and he only had 821 receiving yards along the way. By comparison, he had 51 more yards the year before, yet finished seven places lower.
The best tight end in the 2014 NFL class, the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, would’ve barely cracked the top 10 at the wide receiver position with his totals, eclipsing T.Y. Hilton by a mere six points. And, should the trend continue, 2015 promises to be another dour year for tight ends in fantasy football.
Here are three tight ends you should exercise caution on when draft times roll around.
2014: No. 3, 889 receiving yards yards, ten touchdowns, two fumbles
Jimmy Graham was a massive disappointment in 2015, failing to live up to his billing as the league’s top tight end after a summer in which he became entangled in franchise tag controversy. In fact, he had his worst fantasy football campaign since his rookie season.
As a consensus first- or second-round pick, backed up by his average draft position in leagues last year, Graham was set to shine. He was coming off a season in which he averaged a touchdown per game and had over 1,200 yards receiving. But that never materialized. Inconsistent play from quarterback Drew Brees in addition to a game in which the tight end wasn’t even targeted, contributed to his low totals.
Perhaps it was more due to the decline of Brees, but Graham shouldn’t be at the top of draft boards this summer. Instead, it would be wiser to draft wide receivers as pass catchers higher up, and perhaps take a Greg Olson or Martellus Bennett later on. Last season hinted that Graham is not worth the risk at the top-end of your draft.
2014: No. 22, 424 receiving yards, two touchdowns
Touted as one of 2014’s top fantasy football sleepers, Jordan Cameron may as well have been asleep with paltry scoring totals that were only good enough for 22nd overall among tight ends. In all fairness to him, he was playing alongside uncertainty at the quarterback position, and missed six games through various injuries. Still, he was one of the most disappointing fantasy players last season.
And even when he did play he wasn’t that good. His best game of the year was a three-catch, 102-yard, one touchdown performance in the Cleveland Browns’ Week 6 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had only one other game which even came close – and that was in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. Aside from those two outings, he was pretty much awful.
The one upside Cameron has at the moment is that he is reportedly seeking to hit free agency and leave Cleveland this offseason. If he manages to find a landing spot with a team who has their quarterback situation ironed out, then Cameron might be able to get back to the Pro Bowl form he showed just a little over 12 months ago.
It’s hard to say at the moment because no one knows what uniform Cameron will be wearing this season. But wherever he lands, avoid drafting him too high. His current status suggests fantasy backup, at best.
2014: No. 7, 489 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns
Week 1 of the NFL regular season appeared to be the birth of a fantasy star. En route to a 31-24 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, the Peyton Manning-Julius Thomas connection garnered 104 yards, and accounted for three of Denver’s four touchdowns. Thomas’ next two games weren’t spectacular, but they were solid as he picked up a touchdown in each before getting back-to-back double-digit scores the following two weeks. Heading into Week 7, the man they call ‘Orange Julius’ was beginning to look like a fantasy stud.
But it didn’t last.
Week 10’s game against Oakland aside, Thomas had a rough end to the year. He failed to reach that double-digit mark that he had hit four times in the first six games anywhere outside O.co Coliseum. And the second half of the season took a cruel turn for the former basketball star when an ankle injury forced him to miss four straight weeks of playing time.
To make matters worse, he could be on his way out of Denver via free agency. If he doesn’t end up with a quarterback named Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Wilson or Luck, then one has to wonder what that will do to his game. If he does join another team in the offseason, then it’s the buyer beware label for Thomas. Sure, he got 12 touchdowns in 12 games last season, but how much of that was due to his quarterback? Probably quite a bit. After all, his stats declined along with Manning, which is when the Broncos opted to feed C.J. Anderson the ball.
Much like Jimmy Graham, there should be much better and reliable options in the first few rounds at either running back or wide receiver. Meanwhile, sufficient tight ends should still be found later in drafts.
*All fantasy statistics correct and in line with ESPN standard scoring.