Featured Image by: The Boston Globe
Written by Sam Gubner
The tight end position is filled with talent this year. Even though there are a lot of good tight ends you can insert into your fantasy lineups, picking the right or wrong one can make or break a season.
1. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Gronk is by far the best tight end in the National Football league, and is the only tight end you can legitimately take in the first round. Using his size and agility, Gronk had 1,176 receiving yards (1st among TEs) and 11 touchdowns (2nd among TEs) last season. And in a high powered Patriots offense featuring Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Gronk will always have the opportunity to put up big numbers. Even though the new addition of Martellus Bennett and the injury issues are always surrounding him, look for Gronk to spike that ball at least a couple more times in 2016.
2. Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
The only tight end to have more touchdowns than Gronk? Yes you guessed it, Tyler Eifert had 13 touchdowns last season which was two more than the Gronkinator. This was bound to happen as Eifert is arguably the best tight end in traffic utilizing his size, agility, and foot work to snag the football over defenders. Everyone had been waiting for this breakout year, but Eifert had suffered two consecutive season-ending injuries in 2013 and 2014. This injury issue is the main reason you should proceed with caution when acquiring Eifert in fantasy. But as the main red zone target of the potent Bengals offense, look for Eifert to have another productive season.
3. Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
Reed has shown flashes of greatness before, but would always be stopped short by injuries. In his career Jordan Reed has been marred by these injuries, and probably more so than Eifert and Gronkowski, missing 17 games in his last three seasons. But last season Reed garnered 952 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns and only missed two games. Reed did this with his rare blend of speed, agility, and power allowing him to run almost perfect routes and be a dangerous threat after the catch. Watch out for Jordan Reed in 2016.
3. Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
Out of all these tight ends, Delanie is the safest bet to finish top five by the end of the season. And it is not because he is more talented, but because he is the least likely to get injured never missing more than two games in a season since 2007. And what makes Delanie even more exciting is that he is on a team in the Tennessee Titans that has no other solid receiving options besides himself. So the extremely talented Marcus Mariota’s main target is Delanie, giving him immense fantasy value. Being the focal point of his offense and arguably the most consistent tight end in the NFL, expect big things from Delanie Walker.
5. Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
If it weren’t for the imminent return of star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin Olsen would be much higher on this list, but that is simply not the case. Being the prime target of Cam Newton last year Olsen shined, having 1,104 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Greg Olsen’s footwork and concentration allowed him to make decisive cuts on defenders as to get separation and make tough catches. In addition, Olsen has arguably the best quarterback in the NFL with Cam Newton throwing him the pig skin. But with Benjamin back, look for Olsen to have good but not great fantasy year.
6. Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Kelce is by the far the biggest threat after the catch out of all the tight ends on this list, and whats even better is quarterback Alex Smith loves throwing underneath; just where Kelce likes it. This connection has allowed Kelce to flourish having two consecutive 800 yards 5 touchdown seasons. In addition, Kelce is a good bet not to get injured not missing any games these past two seasons. He is also in a balanced offensive attack in the Kansas City Chiefs that features the likes of Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin. So with very little attention from opposing defenses keyed on him, his consistency, and the almost harmonious chemistry he has with his quarterback; Kelce holds tremendous fantasy value.
7. Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks
Graham is arguably the most talented tight end in the National Football League, but injury concerns and his situation in Seattle have caused him to slide down the list. Graham suffered a season ending knee injury last season, but even without the injury he was still mediocre. In the eleven games he did play with the Seattle Seahawks, Graham had a meager 605 yards and 2 touchdowns. But with his rare combination of size, speed, and hands; Graham’s talent is hard to ignore. Look for Graham to bounce back and be a steal in most fantasy drafts.
8. Gary Barnidge
Barnidge came from being a backup tight end on the Cleveland Browns, to being a top five fantasy tight end. Even with poor quarterback play, Barnidge flourished receiving for 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns. He did this by using his size and reliable hands to snag heavily contested catches. But remember, most of his big games occurred when Josh McCown was at the helm. And with the new arrival of Robert Griffin III, McCown’s starting job is in jeopardy. Barnidge’s value depends heavily on who is at the center, so watch how the quarterback battle in Cleveland unfolds.
9. Ladarius Green – Pittsburgh Steelers
Green never had a true breakout season in San Diego, but that was because he was playing behind surefire Hall of Famer Antonio Gates. Signing with Pittsburgh after the retirement of their longtime tight end Heath Miller, Green is in for that long awaited breakout year. With arguably the best offense in football featuring stars such as Le’Veon Bell, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Brown Green will have many opportunities to succeed. And with his ridiculous size, body-control, and catching ability look out for Green to be one of the top red zone options for the Steelers.
10. Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz has always had the potential to become an top-tier tight end, but has just never come through. He has always been a great route-runner and been great at making contested catches, but has just not put it together. In an underrated Eagles offense, Ertz will have another chance to join the fantasy elites this year. In addition, Ertz will be the Eagle’s number one option in the red zone, so if you can snag Ertz in one of the later rounds and stash him on your bench you’re in for a hell of a year.
Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions
Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
Austin-Seferian Jenkins – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Zach Miller – Chicago Bears
Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars