Do Not Draft List: TE (2018 Fantasy Football)
The tight end position is always a position that is very interesting to approach in fantasy football. There is no denying the advantage that a team gets when they can start Rob Gronkowski week in and week out, never having to worry about who to start or which tight end to stream. This year, there are three big-name tight ends, and past that, it’s a bit of, well, a crap shoot. There are still some solid options, but each of them comes with some question.
Grabbing Gronkowski at the beginning of the second round, or even at the end of the first this year could very well end up being well worth the investment. As we’ve seen in recent years, as long as Gronk stays healthy, you’re looking at basically a low-end WR1 out of your tight end. Last year, Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz finished with roughly 200-230 PPR points, which was as many points as roughly the 10th-14th WR.
When you head into your fantasy drafts this year, there are three names you want to pay close attention to. Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz. According to the current FantasyPros PPR ADP, Gronkowski is the 22nd player off the board, Kelce the 25th, and Ertz the 33rd. My advice would be to keep a close eye on these three and don’t be afraid to grab one of them with an early pick. Don’t reach for any of them and instead let the value come to you. If you miss out on one, don’t worry, but I wouldn’t be going out of my way to overpay for one.
All three of these guys have the potential to finish the season as the number one overall tight end, so going with the best value would be my advice. There are a few later veterans like Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker that I wouldn’t mind grabbing, but if I miss out on one of the big three names, I’ll likely be punting the tight end position and streaming, or grabbing one later on that comes at a nice value. There are also a few tight ends this year that I have no interest in owning, and there are a handful of tight ends that I will be avoiding at their current ADP as well.
Note: This list is geared towards PPR leagues.
Jimmy Graham (GB) TE4 – 57 Overall
I’ll kick this piece off with one of the more polarizing players at the tight end position this year. One of the biggest moves in free agency this offseason was Graham signing with the Packers. The days of Graham getting drafted right up there with Gronkowski are over, and this year is no different. Although I do love the skillset and believe Graham will excel in this offense, there is absolutely no way I’ll be drafting him at his current ADP.
You’ve probably heard the talk about Aaron Rodgers not producing an elite tight end for fantasy purposes. You’ve probably also thought a lot about how Jordy Nelson is out of Green Bay and the red zone targets should be there for Graham. While I’m not entirely bullish one way or another, the bottom line for me is the ADP. I believe he’ll produce solid numbers this year, but as the fourth tight end off the board, I’ll gladly take someone like Dion Lewis, Corey Davis, or Sammy Watkins over him, all of whom are players with a similar ADP.
Evan Engram (NYG) TE6 – 60 Overall
Next up is Engram, the second-year tight end for the Giants. Last year’s tight end rookie class was very interesting with O.J. Howard, David Njoku, and Engram. The rookie season we saw out of Engram was excellent. Fantasy football is always a game of volume, and that’s precisely what made Engram so good for fantasy last year. He finished as the number four tight end in PPR with 722 yards on 64 receptions with six touchdowns.
The biggest and most obvious reason for his volume was the injuries to the rest of the receiving corps. Odell Beckham Jr. went down early, Dwayne Harris, Brandon Marshall, and even Sterling Shepard played in just 11 games. With next to no running game and the injuries to the receivers, it only made sense that Engram would get fed the ball every week.
Despite the volume that Engram was getting last year, he was not the most efficient pass-catcher. He was targetted 115 times, but caught just 64 balls, which was good for roughly a 55% catch rate. While I still expect Engram to be a vital part of that offense, things aren’t shaping up for him to get the volume he had last year.
The addition of Saquon Barkley has the Giants working to establish a running game. Beckham and Shepard coming into the season healthy will eat into the targets that Engram had last year as well. I expect him to finish as a top 12 tight end, but with an ADP of the sixth tight end off the board, he’s set to regress. I still love Engram for dynasty purposes, but for redraft leagues, he’ll be someone I won’t own many shares of this year.
Jordan Reed (WAS) TE9 – 88 Overall
The most obvious name to me that I’ll be avoiding this year at his current price, is Redskins tight end, Jordan Reed. Since entering the league in 2013, Reed has yet to play a full season. In 2015, he did end up playing 14 games, which was the most he has ever played in a season. Reed has played in just 52 games out of 80 over his five years in the league, and last year he played only six games, not to mention the countless times we’ve seen him leave the game early.
In four out of five of these seasons, he’s finished the year averaging double-digit fantasy points in PPR leagues, so there is no doubt that the upside with Reed is there. However, going off the board as the ninth tight end is far more than I’d be comfortable paying for Reed. If you’re looking past the top three to five options this year, I’d be just as comfortable waiting until the last few rounds and grabbing someone like Cameron Brate or Charles Clay, who are the 17th and 21st tight ends off the board, respectively.
When you’re looking at drafting a guy like Reed, you’re looking at roughly the 90th player overall off the board. This falls in roughly the seventh round of a 12-team league. Some players that have a similar ADP are Randall Cobb and Carlos Hyde. Do yourself a favor and grab some extra depth with a potential WR3 or RB3.
I do like the idea of Alex Smith now being the guy throwing Reed the ball, but that doesn’t justify the ADP of Reed. I cannot bank on him playing enough games for him to be worth this cost. His immense talent always will offer nice upside, but at his current ADP, I am avoiding him this year.
George Kittle (SF) TE12 – 120 Overall
The next tight end that I’ll be avoiding at his current ADP this year is one that I expect to have a nice season, and that’s George Kittle of the 49ers. Towards the end of the season last year, Kittle was putting up some decent numbers and was slowly building a nice relationship with Jimmy Garoppolo. This is one of the main things that I’ve seen fantasy owners talking about having interest in Kittle this year, and really, it isn’t true. If you looked at his game log last year, he never had more than nine targets, which was the most he had with Brian Hoyer as his quarterback in Week 5. Even with Garoppolo as the starter, his target numbers didn’t increase, they remained the same throughout the entire season.
Although I do expect him to take a step forward this year, the ADP of the 12th tight end off the board has me avoiding him. In earlier offseason mocks, he was a nice one to grab in later rounds as his ADP was roughly in the mid-teens, but the hype has gotten a bit too rich for my taste. When you’re looking at the late round tight ends in your drafts this year, Kittle has just as much upside as many of the tight end options getting drafted after him. When you’re getting into tight ends in this range, you’re essentially streaming the position. Grab some extra value and depth at the WR or RB position, and grab a guy like Charles Clay (TE24) or Jared Cook (TE21) in the later rounds of your draft.
There is a good chance that Kittle ends up being someone you can grab off the waiver wire a few weeks into the season. If he starts off slow, you’ll likely see him available to stream. While I do like Kittle this year, an ADP of TE12 has me avoiding him.