Under the Radar Draft Targets: TE (Fantasy Football)
Tight ends are often the forgotten position at the NFL Scouting Combine. As the fantasy football community focuses on the next wave of franchise quarterbacks, running backs or wide receivers, very few tight ends draw anywhere near the excitement.
Even the scheduling of the Combine itself plays into this. Tight ends work out with the quarterbacks and wide receivers, two groups far more popular to the average football fan. It’s also much more difficult for a tight end to be selected in the first round than any of the other skill positions.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fantasy relevant tight end options available in the 2018 NFL Draft. Tight ends are the shallowest group in fantasy football, so it’s vitally important for the savvy fantasy football fan to be aware of which tight ends have a legitimate shot at becoming reliable fantasy contributors. Here are some of the under the radar tight ends to monitor in the upcoming Combine.
Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State): Draft Projection: Round 2-4
Some sources peg Goedert as one of the top tight ends of the 2018 NFL Draft class, while others point to his level of competition as a potential red flag. Goedert played 9-man football in a tiny South Dakota town and earned no scholarships before walking on to Division I FCS South Dakota State, where he dominated the Missouri Valley Conference.
Goedert was certainly productive for the Jackrabbits, catching 92 balls for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016 and putting together another 72/1,111/7 slash as a senior in 2017. At six-foot-five, 255 pounds, Goedert is plenty big enough to continue to be a big mismatch against linebackers and defensive backs, even in the pros. A former swimmer, Goedert has excellent body control and was used all over the field at South Dakota State.
Many incoming rookie tight ends come with concerns about the ability to transition to in-line blocking, but those worries are compounded by Goedert’s lack of experience blocking– even at a lower level– and effort. However, he has drawn comparisons to Zach Ertz as a versatile, pass-catching option who should be able to contribute as a receiver in the NFL right away.
Mike Gesicki (Penn State): Draft Projection: Round 3-4
Gesicki looks like an excellent example of the new era of tight ends, a quick, athletic receiver who will be a nightmare mismatch for slower linebackers or smaller defensive backs but very limited as a blocker. At six-foot-six and 250 pounds, Gesicki is expected to run one of the top 40-yard dash times among the 2018 class of tight ends, which will help cement his status as a potential weapon in the pro passing game.
Despite the speed, Gesicki’s yards-per-reception numbers tailed off as a senior and he made less big plays of over 20 yards at Penn State but he was used more as a red zone weapon, which is something that he certainly has the frame and skill set to excel at in the NFL.
Landing spot will be important to Gesicki’s development in the run game and ability to stay on the field enough to become a factor in fantasy leagues. Winding up with a creative play-caller might be essential, as Gesicki could struggle to contribute in the running game.
Dalton Schultz (Stanford): Draft Projection: Round 3-4
Schultz only caught 55 balls for 555 yards and five touchdowns in his Stanford career, but the six-foot-six 241-pound tight end is one of the most balanced players at the position heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. While he had limited statistics as a receiver, Schultz is an accomplished blocker and that three-down ability might earn him a larger NFL role than many of his counterparts.
Schultz wasn’t a big part of the Stanford offense, failing to catch more than three balls or exceed 50 receiving yards during his senior season. However, just because Schultz wasn’t asked to run a lot of routes doesn’t mean he can’t. Schultz is big and strong and uses his body well to create space underneath. He displayed reliable hands and could be an excellent target out of the backfield on delays and screens.
He doesn’t project to be the dangerous downfield threat that many of today’s tight ends are, but Schultz has the frame to make an impact on play-action passes in the end zone and displays a three-down ability that has drawn comparisons to Jason Witten.
Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin): Draft Projection: Round 4-5
Like Dalton Schultz, Troy Fumagalli is an accomplished blocker but was far more involved in Wisconsin’s passing game. Fumagalli caught 135 balls for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns in four seasons with the Badgers.
Fumagalli doesn’t leap out in any one particular facet, but he does a lot of things well. At six-foot-six and 248 pounds, Fumagalli is adept enough at blocking to spend time as an in-line option in both the running and passing game. He’s also fast enough to play in all areas of an NFL offense, though he could stand to improve as a route runner and needs to get stronger.
That versatility will get Fumagalli drafted and he could eventually develop into a quality NFL starter, or as a reliable option in ’12’ sets.
Jordan Akins (Central Florida): Draft Projection: Round 5-7
A former minor league baseball player and converted wide receiver, Akins raised eyebrows with his receiving prowess and athleticism at Senior Bowl practices. Listed at six-foot-three and 237 pounds, Akins certainly isn’t the biggest prospect, but his experience as a wide receiver gifted him with solid footwork, separation ability, and a good feel as a downfield receiving threat.
While Akins looked good as a potential weapon up the seams, he will turn 26 years old just prior to the NFL Draft, which is a big concern, especially in dynasty leagues. He’s also rather small for an NFL tight end, which could limit him to being viewed as a part-time player primarily used on obvious passing downs as a deep threat.
Akins improved each season for the Golden Knights and ended his collegiate career with a healthy 14.2 yards-per-reception figure. He has a pretty good feel for how to get open and tracks the ball very well. With some development, Akins could become a solid contributor in the downfield game and a potential red-zone option that could draw NFL Draft interest as early as Day Three.