Dominick Petrillo @Envisionff
Tunnel Vision Week 17:
A Baker’s Dozen Tight Ends
In the final installment of the Baker’s Dozen series, we are going to be looking at the position in fantasy with the most drastic value from the top one or two players as compared to those even two or three spots lower. That’s right, we are talking about the dumpster fire which is the tight end position. But please, keep reading anyway.
Again, like with the other sexier positions, this is simply the Fantasyhotread.com way too early 2019consensus rankings. I have polled the writers and other owners and based upon the responses I got, these are the players we feel most confident in going into the next season. I decided to do 13 at each position just because I wanted to call it Baker’s dozen and well a baker’s dozen is 13. Simple. The players will be listed in the order of the consensus with my personal ranking in ().:
Zach Ertz (1) – I will be the first to admit I was lower on Ertz coming into this season than maybe I should have been. The pace he was on last season and the touchdown numbers were unsustainable. But then, they weren’t. He had an even more incredible year in 2018 and has solidified himself along with Travis Kelce as the two best tight ends in the NFL right now. With Carson Wentz hopefully coming back healthy, Ertz should avoid any form of drop off even as the Eagles try to use Dallas Goedert in two tight end sets. If he is not the number one next season, he should not finish lower than number two and in drafts, he will probably go around lower than the previously mentions Kelce.
Travis Kelce (2) – A flip-flop of Kelce and Ertz would not offend me in any way, but these are clearly the top two tight ends in the league. Under Andy Reid, Travis Kelce has come into his own and will continue to flourish with Patrick Mahomes throwing him the ball for many seasons to come in Kansas City. With weapons like Tyrek Hill and sometimes Sammy Watkins, opposing defenses will not solely concentrate their game plans on the tight end which will allow for more downfield seam routes from the oversized and speedy tight end. He may never get to the 100 catch thresh hold of Zach Ertz but his touchdown upside and his yardage numbers more than make up for it. The only drawback with Kelce is he will be the first tight end off the board and will cost you a second-round pick. But with his positional advantage, maybe it isn’t a drawback.
Eric Ebron (3) – This ranking is solely based on Jack Doyle not returning to Indianapolis. If Doyle returns and is healthy Ebron, although much more athletically gifted will take a tumble in the rankings. We know Andrew Luck loves using the tight end position and he could support two of them for sure, but with the running game coming into its own and the offensive line finally becoming a strong point for the team, more downfield options will come open and this could further limit tight end production. Even with all of these things being said, Ebron still makes my top three not so much because of his overwhelming talent, but more so because of the lack of overwhelming talent at the position.
George Kittle (4) – If any player is going to jump into the category with Ertz and Kelce it could be George Kittle. He is a monster of a man and we have seen in many games this season he is a matchup nightmare much like Gronkowski when healthy. With the hopeful return of Jimmy Garoppolo to the starting lineup in 2019, he will need a weapon he can count on and this is where Kittle will come in. Pierre Garcon is most likely gone, and the running game is a cluster due to injury both this season and in the case of Jerick McKinnon his entire career. We don’t, therefore, know what to expect from it in 2019 unless they bring in a new back. They have the money, but would they really want Le’Veon Bell? Doubtful. Look for Kittle to have an even further breakout in 2019 and cement himself in the conversation for best in the NFL.
O.J. Howard (5) – If injuries had not derailed his season in 2018, he could have led the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl. Ok, I kid. But he was having a good second season and showed he is not just a blocking tight end like he was utilized at Alabama. Unlike Alabama, the Buccaneers are not a running team and his blocking ability is not as key to his game. This allowed him to show off his pass-catching ability and has led him to usurp Cameron Brate in the pecking order for Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick or whoever is the quarterback in Tampa Bay next season. Along with Mike Evan, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries the offensive core is there as long as a running game develops. While not in the Tier of Ertz and Kelce, he is the leader of the next tier along with George Kittle and a few others.
Rob Gronkowski (6) – It is a sad state of affairs when Gronkowski is ranked at number six in the tight end rankings. But here we are. A lot of it has to do with the decline this season of both him and Tom Brady. Along with the fact we don’t even know if he is going to return in 2019 or retire. I am kind of leaning towards early retirement. He has never been a guy who eats, sleeps, and breathes football and now might be the right time for him to step away from the game and allow his body to heal. If I was certain of his return, he would move up a spot or two but still not into the top three. Hopefully, his price in drafts will fall enough to make him a value. But his name may keep him a hot commodity and a hands-off for me.
David Njoku (7) – Many people thought he would break out this season and while his season was not a bust, it was by no means the season we hoped for from David Njoku. With the full-time switch to Baker Mayfield early in the season, there were a few good games which allow us a glimpse into what can be with the dup and hopefully we will see it come to fruition as the Browns make the playoffs in 2019. The offense in Cleveland is set to take off and if Njoku is a part of it, he could finish in the top five after being drafted outside the top 10 due to his lackluster 2018. He would for sure be one of my leading candidates for a buy-low option at tight end with high upside.
Delanie Walker (8) – Jared Cook (Despite the gruesome injury suffered very early in the season it is hard to not have Walker in the rankings. He has shown a real connection with Marcus Mariota and when he is on the field the offense is entirely different than when he is missing. Another player who will be undervalued in drafts, Walker is the type of tight end who could win games for you in fantasy and should not be overlooked when you are making your list of draft targets.
Jordan Reed (9) – When healthy Reed is a top-five tight end. But he is hardly ever healthy making him a risk even at number nine. I would much rather have players on this list who are even ranked lower because with Reed, you will have to supplement him with a second tight end and this is never a good thing to do. Much like carrying two quarterbacks, you never want t to carry an extra tight end. Leave Reed for someone else to worry about when it comes to draft time but don’t be surprised if he has a great season.
Kyle Rudolph (10) – Coming into 2018, with Kirk Cousins coming in, Rudolph was a top tight end in many people’s minds. After a terrible season, for both Rudolph and the Vikings he has slid. Maybe not even far enough. Despite his solid Week 16 game with two touchdowns, this does not make up for the rest of the season which can not be blamed on an injury to himself or the quarterback. It was simply just bad play and a lack of connection. Hopefully, a connection which can be established over an offseason of working together as Minnesota looks to get back to the top of the NFC in what has become the toughest division in football with the rise of Chicago.
Jimmy Graham (11) – He might be done, he might not be. He still has talent and is a great red zone threat but is this enough in an offense that does not use the tight end in a consistent manner. I don’t know. Aaron Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL and Devonte Adams is quite possibly the best receiver in the NFL making it more than likely Graham will have an even lesser role in the offense in 2019. If this happens and Aaron Jones comes back to his mid-season form from this season, Graham will be a total bust. If the Packers make an effort to get him involved in the offense, he could finish much higher than his current rank. But let us wait through the offseason and find out together.
Trey Burton (12) – The only thing we learned about Trey Burton in 2018 is he may not be the best quarterback on the Bears. Other than this, his season was not up to what many thought it would be and with Adam Shaheen coming on healthy in the second half, he will not be a great tight end going forward. After getting an over-inflated contract for little production in Philadelphia, he is not going to be going anywhere, but don’t expect him to have a sudden break out in this offense either. An offense which relies heavily on Allen Robinson Tarik Cohen and Mitch Trubisky to not mess things up for the defense. I was not high on him in 2018 and the feeling has not changed for 2019. Look for better values, including some players higher in this list who will surely be taken behind Burton in fantasy drafts.
Christopher Herndon (13) – Wait, the Jets are actually using a tight end? I know, it has surprised everyone just as much as you. Herndon though has been a great addition to an offense severely lacking in playmakers. In Week 16 he accounted for 82 yards and a touchdown on six receptions and this is a sign of things to come with Sam Darnold at quarterback. Yes, it will most likely be an entirely new coaching staff but knowing who your weapons are and how to use them is part of being an NFL head coach or coordinator. Herndon will be severely undervalued in drafts and I would much rather draft him at his price than the price you would need to pay for Jimmy Graham or Trey Burton.