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Top 12 Tight Ends Fantasy Football Predictions

Aug 22, 2018

Ricky Seals-Jones has major breakout potential

Let me be clear: these are not my tight end rankings. If you want that, I’ve got an updated copy with notes here. Rather, this is my stab at a perfect bracket if you will. I’ll take the historical data to determine where the top 12 tight ends tend to come from in terms of ADP. Then from there, I’ll take a crack at predicting where everyone will finish. If you want to see my top 12 QB predictions, you can check it out here and keep an eye out for my RB and WR predictions later on in the week. With that said, let’s dive into the past three season’s top finishers.

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2017 TE1s

  1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP #1)
  2. Travis Kelce (ADP #2)
  3. Zach Ertz (ADP #9)
  4. Jimmy Graham (ADP# 5)
  5. Evan Engram (ADP #22)
  6. Kyle Rudolph (ADP #10)
  7. Delanie Walker (ADP #8)
  8. Cameron Brate (ADP #18)
  9. Jack Doyle (ADP #12)
  10. Jason Witten (ADP #15)
  11. Tyler Kroft (ADP #31)
  12. Hunter Henry (ADP #11)

2016 TE1s

  1. Travis Kelce (ADP #4)
  2. Greg Olsen (ADP #3)
  3. Kyle Rudolph (ADP #17)
  4. Jimmy Graham (ADP #10)
  5. Delanie Walker (ADP #5)
  6. Cameron Brate (ADP #45)
  7. Martellus Bennett (ADP #11)
  8. Zach Ertz (ADP #8)
  9. Jordan Reed (ADP #2)
  10. Antonio Gates (ADP #9)
  11. Hunter Henry (ADP #18)
  12. Coby Fleener (ADP #6)

2015 TE1s

  1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP #1)
  2. Gary Barnidge (ADP #48)
  3. Jordan Reed (ADP #26)
  4. Delanie Walker (ADP #8)
  5. Greg Olsen (ADP #3)
  6. Tyler Eifert (ADP #14)
  7. Travis Kelce (ADP #4)
  8. Benjamin Watson (ADP #32)
  9. Richard Rodgers (ADP #22)
  10. Zach Ertz (ADP #11)
  11. Antonio Gates (ADP #13)
  12. Jason Witten (ADP #6)

As you see, there are loads of fantasy tight ends who came from outside the top 12 and well outside the top 12. Chances are high that the same type of thing will happen this season with some of the highest drafted players at the position taking a step back one way or another.

Top 12 Fantasy Football TEs of 2017

TE #12: Rob Gronkowski (NE): ADP #1
You may scoff at this, and could very well end up correct, but we are talking about a player who has missed 26 games over the past six seasons and finished outside the top 12 in two of those six years. The Patriots haven’t let him on the field yet this preseason and will be extraordinarily careful with him if he sustains a minor injury since they’ve essentially wrapped up the AFC East already. If he missed a handful of games, this would be about where he ends up.

TE #11: Dan Arnold (NO): ADP #55
Looking back at the data from previous years, it quickly becomes clear that one seemingly random tight end will be the beneficiary of an injury ahead of him on the depth chart. For Arnold, he would step right into a spectacular situation with Drew Brees at the helm. The converted wide receiver has athleticism to spare and could quickly become this year’s version of Gary Barnidge or Cameron Brate should he be forced into the starting lineup.

TE #10: O.J. Howard (TB): ADP #15
Speaking of Brate, he is part of a crowded receiver core with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson and Howard. That doesn’t mean one of these guys won’t succeed in fantasy, however. Howard was remarkably the TE17 last year despite seeing just 39 targets. With his unbelievable 1.93 fantasy points per target, Howard could crack the top 10 even at a much-diminished rate of production.

TE #9: Charles Clay (BUF): ADP #21
Clay only missed three games last year, but the Bills allowed him to play minimal snaps in the 5 games following his injury. In the first four and last four games of the season, however, he was their primary tight end and saw a ridiculous 27% of the Bills’ target share. That number in those weeks was 3rd in football to only DeAndre Hopkins and Antonio Brown. Granted, 27% probably won’t happen again, but at even 22%, he would be a reliable low-end TE1 most weeks.

TE #8: Greg Olsen (CAR): ADP #5
Olsen is one of the most maddening players to analyze this preseason. Over the past three seasons, he led the NFL in target share. He was also dreadful once returning from his injury. Well, except in the playoffs where he was a beast again! Which is it? The target share should drop with the additions of D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey to a passing game where he was the primary weapon. That is enough to convince me he isn’t a sure-fire top-five tight end anymore.

TE #7: Kyle Rudolph (MIN): ADP #7
Kirk Cousins loves throwing to his tight end and will have more reason than usual this year with Rudolph on his roster and a shoddy offensive line that should have him under pressure quite a bit. The issue with Rudolph, however, is that his upside is limited as long as Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook are all healthy. Not all five of them can finish top 15 in their respective positions unless you are banking on Cousins to win the MVP. Rudolph will be touchdown dependent without enough targets to maintain top-five production.

TE #6: George Kittle (SF): ADP #13
Unfortunately for the 49ers and fantasy owners, Kittle is already banged up, but that doesn’t rule him out from a breakout 2018 quite yet. When Jimmy Garoppolo was under center for those five games last season, Kittle and Garrett Celek combined to score 59.2 standard league fantasy points from the tight end position. If Jimmy G continues to target his tight ends this year, and especially in the red zone, Kittle could quickly become a fantasy star.

TE #5: Travis Kelce (KC): ADP #3
With top-five QB, Alex Smith off to Washington and raw sophomore, Patrick Mahomes taking his place, the entire Chiefs’ receiver core could be in for a hit. Add Sammy Watkins to the equation and it would be safe to say Kelce’s target share is likely to take a step backward while his 6.6% TD-rate regresses back toward his career average of 4.4%. Either of those would be enough to knock him out of the top tier.

TE #4: Ricky Seals-Jones (ARI): ADP #25
Until recently, it seemed Arizona would go with Jermaine Gresham once again, but as it turns out, Seals-Jones is their starter and has bonkers offensive potential. The former top high school football and basketball recruit is an elite athlete who scored 38 standard fantasy points on 132 snaps last season. That 0.28 pts/snap rate is nearly double Gronkowski’s 0.17 from last season. Granted, he won’t sustain that type of efficiency, but Seals-Jones can be a monster weapon in a deflated receiving core.

TE #3: Trey Burton (CHI): ADP #10
It is rough that Burton has to compete for targets with Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen and a surging Anthony Miller, but the matter of the fact is that Chicago paid Burton like much more than a role player and have used him as such in the preseason. In fact, Burton is helping Mitch Trubisky and the Bears learn Matt Nagy’s new offense so it should come as no surprise when the future star is heavily utilized in it from the get-go.

TE #2: Jack Doyle (IND): ADP #12
In case you haven’t noticed, the Colts’ depth chart is barren at wide receiver. They also have a quarterback who gave fantasy owners 350 fantasy points the last time he played a full season. That puts Andrew Luck in historical company. If he can finally stay healthy, Doyle may be in for a monster season. For a while, it seemed that the Colts were going to use Eric Ebron all over the field, but as of now, it appears that Doyle is going to get the lion’s share of tight end snaps and targets.

TE #1: Zach Ertz (PHI): ADP #3
Trey Burton is gone, Alshon Jeffery may be out six weeks, Nelson Agholor is banged up and suddenly, Ertz may be the top weapon in a Carson Wentz offense ready to wreak havoc on the world. Believe it or not, Ertz also has more receptions than Rob Gronkowski in each of the past three seasons. If Alshon does end up missing a chunk of time, plenty of those receptions could end up around the goal-line.

Notable Exclusions

Jimmy Graham (GB) – Multiple lingering injuries, plus neither TE’s or first-year Packers’ players do well in GB.
Evan Engram (NYG) – Lousy 0.93 fantasy points per target last year, likely due for significant target regression with Saquon in and Odell back.
Delanie Walker (TEN) – Already injured and Tennessee hasn’t given any indication when he will return.
Jordan Reed (WAS) – Has averaged just 10 games per season and didn’t do much of anything in 6 games last year.
David Njoku (CLE) – Competing with Gordon, Landry, Duke and Callaway for targets in a Tyrod offense isn’t encouraging.

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