The Tight End position is often a hard one to strategize for, and particularly hard to forecast. The TFA 5oth podcast recently discussed tight end rankings for the upcoming season. Every year there seems to be a tight end of the moment, someone, the fantasy community hypes up endlessly. The past few years, that was Cincinnati TE Tyler Eifert, who finally broke out this year as we all know. Some drafters subscribe to a strategy that is to take Gronk, or be one of the last teams to take a tight end. I’ve certainly used that strategy in past seasons where I didn’t like the value of the mid-tier tight ends.
Gronk is a superstar, and the top tight end according to a vast majority of both fantasy and real-life pundits. But his price is steep, coming off the board around the 10th or 11th pick according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com. So it’s possible if you draft in the back half of a 12 man league, that you won’t even have a chance to take Gronk. Or perhaps spending a first rounder on a tight end seems crazy to you. Whatever the case, what do you do if you don’t end up with Gronkowski?
The tight ends after Gronk are a lot more open for debate. Many have the Redskins’ Jordan Reed as their number two, but he has yet to play more than 14 games in a single season in his three-year career, so there is some cause for concern there. When on the field, Reed was fantastic in 2015. But with no way of knowing how many games he will play, the uncertainty around Reed is significant.
Mid Round Options
There are a few tight ends that I find myself drafting fairly often. One of which is new Saints tight end Coby Fleener. Last year, 34-year-old Benjamin Watson finished as the seventh highest scoring tight end in the league, on 110 targets. While Fleener has frustrated Colts fans with occasional drops, it’s a very fair to assume that the 27-year-old Fleener offers as much, or likely more, than Watson. And as previous years have shown us, it never hurts to own a tight end in a Drew Brees lead offense. After splitting time with Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis, Fleener will now get the chance to be the lone TE on a team that loves to throw to them.
The second tight end I have taken in a variety of mocks is the Jaguars’ Julius Thomas. He is being drafted as the 10th tight end according to FantasyFootballCalculator. While I wouldn’t be surprised if this price rises following the positive words out of OTA’s, I still think Thomas is an excellent value at TE if you don’t end up with, or choose not to draft Rob Gronkowski. The Jaguars were a high-volume passing offense last year, and while it’s likely their attempts go down with the addition of Chris Ivory as well as an improved defense, there still should be more than enough targets for Thomas to succeed. In the last 7 games of the Jags season, Thomas caught 4 touchdowns, a pace which he should be able to sustain, and perhaps even exceed in this coming season. Some reports have already expressed optimism that Thomas will reach double-digit touchdowns, which would nearly guarantee him a top 5 finish at the position, and likely more.
While the “Gronk or Bust” strategy at tight end may still be quite common, and many drafters will wait until the later rounds to grab their starting TE, I think that this year the Tight End group actually has quite a few solid players, who possess a significant chance to make an impact, and actually be well worth a roster spot. It’s important to keep in mind that the TE group isn’t as barren this year as it has seemingly been in the past five years. The “Gronk or Bust” method will continue to be used, but in 2016, I see no problem grabbing the mid-round tight end of your choosing, particularly guys like Fleener, Thomas or even someone like Eric Ebron.