Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (TE – TB) – Turns 24 this season
Austin-Seferian Jenkins is highly ranked for a dynasty tight end, but still warrants an “under the radar” label due to his injury history. Coming into the league in 2014 as the 38th overall pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers expected good things from the talented pass catcher.
With the addition of franchise quarterback Jameis Winston in the 2015 NFL Draft, Seferian-Jenkins’ stock increased. Winston is a much better quarterback than McCown and Glennon, and thus Seferian-Jenkins’ numbers increased in 2015. While still limited to seven games with a shoulder injury, Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught 21-of-39 passes for 338 yards (48.3 YPG) and four touchdowns.
Things continue to trend upwards for the young player despite only playing in 16-of-32 potential NFL games in his career. He finished 2015 on the active roster and should remain healthy, barring a preseason injury, going into the 2016 season.
It’s also important to note that tight ends take longer to develop into functional NFL players than other positions. Austin-Seferian Jenkins should begin to blossom in his third season, just like many tight ends before him did (see Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed, Julius Thomas). With another year to play with franchise quarterback Winston, a clean bill of health, and another year of experience, Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be on the verge of a tremendous 2016 season and football career.
Clive Walford (TE – OAK) – Turns 25 this season
Walford is another young tight end on a team with loads of offensive promise. His name is already known in the deep dynasty community. Coming off his rookie season, Walford caught 28-of-50 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns.
He was the fifth highest targeted Raider, behind Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Latavius Murray and Seth Roberts. Walford was also the highest targeted TE on the team, despite only starting two games at the position.
It is important to note that Walford’s role with Oakland expanded quickly. In his first eight games, he only caught eight balls for 94 yards (11.8 YPG) and two touchdowns.
In his final eight games, he caught 20 passes for 235 yards (29.4 YPG) and one touchdown. This increase in production can be attributed to becoming familiar with the offensive system and gaining chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr as the season progressed.
Oakland has said that they want to expand Walford’s role going forward. Whether that means a Eifert-like breakout in 2016 is yet to be seen. However, Oakland is a team trending upwards.
He could easily finish third in targets on the team in 2016 and figures to be Oakland’s starter going forward. He may not explode on the scene (yet), but he should find a prominent role in Oakland’s offense going forward.
Dark Horse: Jared Cook (TE – GB) Age 29
Cook is an older player, but tight ends are one of the positions that can find useful production in “old” age (see Jason Witten, Greg Olsen, Heath Miller, Tony Gonzalez). However, Cook finds himself on this list due to a welcome change of scenery.
For the last seven years of his career, Cook has put up fringe TE2 numbers with the Titans and Rams. But he never found any use more than a bye-week filler. But his new deal with the Green Bay Packers could just be what he needs to put him into fantasy relevancy.
First off, Cook has been remarkably healthy throughout his career, only missing five games in seven years. Cook has also been remarkably consistent recording between 39 and 52 catches for the last five years. Now 2015 was arguably the worst year Cook has had statistically since 2010.
However, those stats can be attributed to poor quarterback play. In fact, the Nick Foles/Case Keenum combo only threw for 11 touchdowns in 2015. But on the bright side, Cook was the second highest targeted Ram.
In Green Bay, Cook will first have to beat out Richard Rogers for the starting TE job. If he does, then he will likely be the fourth-most targeted player. But on the Packers, that’s good for 70+ targets.
Cook will continue to have an offensive role. But this time, he will be on a capable offense with a (more than) capable quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. There is the potential for moderate success for 2016 and beyond.
Dark Horse: Zach Miller (TE – CHI) – Turns 32 this season
I like Miller more than Cook, despite Cook being ranked higher. Nonetheless, Zach Miller has a starting job right now after Martellus Bennett was traded to New England. Now this starting job is nothing to shrug off.
When Martellus Bennett was unavailable in 2015, Zach Miller stepped up and delivered. Miller led the Bears in receiving touchdowns (five) in 2015. When Bennett began dealing with an injury in Week 10, Zach Miller filled the hole admirably.
In the final seven games, Miller hauled in 29 balls for 381 yards and four touchdowns. If you average that out over a full season, Miller would have had 66 receptions for 871 yards and nine touchdowns. Those numbers are on par with Travis Kelce (72-875-5).
Assuming Miller just comes close to those numbers, that would qualify him as a low-end TE1 or high-end TE2. Miller is truly one of my favorite sleepers for the 2016 season. His production may be limited to just a year or two, but if he can be had for next to nothing, he could be a valuable asset.
Check out my coverage of other positions:
- Dynasty Primer: Under the Radar Quarterbacks
- Dynasty Primer: Under the Radar Running Backs
- Dynasty Primer: Under the Radar Wide Receivers