Do Not Draft List: Tight End (Fantasy Football)
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Ah, the tight end position. Unless you were lucky enough to have one of the top three on your roster last season, you were one of the many fantasy owners on the weekly tight end ride of misery. I would compare having to stream tight ends in 2018 to the traveling carnival ride, The Zipper. A hot box that will either ruin your afternoon by branding you with the scorching metal grate door or by turning you upside-down so many times you prepare to see your lunch for the second time that day.
One of the biggest decisions that a fantasy owner will make this draft season is when to draft a tight end. If you are willing to break the bank with an early-round pick, you might just be able to “set it and forget it.” However, if you’re in the camp that waits to address the position, you’ll more than likely be playing tight end roulette. So while the rest of your league is throwing darts, here are three tight ends I’m not drafting in 2019 based on their current PPR ADP. Hopefully, this helps you thin the herd.
O.J. Howard (TB) – PPR ADP: 59th Overall, TE4
Now, currently there is a decent gap between the big three at the top and the rest, but I was surprised to see O.J. Howard come in at number four. Granted, he’s currently only two spots ahead of Evan Engram in overall ADP, but in my opinion, he should be going at least a round or two later. We know Howard carries the high draft capital of being a former first-round pick, but have we seen enough to make us believe he’s capable of returning top-four value?
He has yet to stay healthy through his first two seasons in the league, missing eight games over that span. Howard has also never been a particularly high-volume pass catcher, having never totaled more than 35 catches in a season. He was averaging 3.4 catches per game in his 10 games in 2018, but that is only a 54-catch pace. To put that in perspective, those are Trey Burton numbers.
Now, we know the past doesn’t always predict the future. Howard will now be paired with new head coach Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay this season, but this might not be the best news for fantasy owners. While Howard is arguably the most talented tight end Arians has ever coached, his offenses have not produced fantasy-relevant players at the position in the past. Since 2007, only once has a tight end in an Arians’ offense surpassed 145 PPR points. For reference, 145 PPR points only would have been good enough for TE9 last season.
David Njoku (CLE) – PPR ADP: 86th Overall, TE9
Guess I have a thing against third-year tight ends? Like Howard, I like the talent Njoku brings. Unlike Howard, Njoku has proven that he can hold up to a 16-game NFL schedule.
The issue here is not lack of talent or injury risk. For me, it’s volume. While Njoku did rank seventh at his position in 2018 with 89 targets, I’m not sure he’ll be able to match that number this year, let alone surpass it.
With the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., there will be fewer balls to go around in “The Land,” and I expect Beckham to demand a pretty high volume share, as will Jarvis Landry. Currently, Njoku is coming off the board as the ninth tight end overall, which is where he finished last season in PPR formats. I’m just not sold that he’ll be able to outperform the price you’ll have to pay on draft day. The Cleveland hype is going to be a factor this season, so I’ll let someone else grab Njoku in Round 8.
T.J. Hockenson (DET) – PPR ADP: 131th Overall, TE13
It’s hard to put a player on this list that is currently going in Round 12 and is outside the top 12 the position, but if you’re in a position to draft Hockenson as your starter, I’d look elsewhere. As we’ve seen, tight end is one of the tough positions for rookies to come in and make an impact right away. Since 2010, only two rookie tight ends have finished inside the top 12 in PPR, Evan Engram in 2017 and Rob Gronkowski in 2010. While I think the long-term value of Hockenson is intriguing, are you willing to wait him out in a redraft league?
While the Lions once had one of the highest volume passing offenses in the league, those days are now behind them. After finishing 13th in passing last season, the Lions hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. So even though there may be a new face calling plays, look for the run game to play a big role in this offense. With that, I’ll wait on Hockenson as a mid-season waiver add versus spending a draft-day selection on him.