Fantasy Strategy: Waiting On A Tight End
Nine tight ends produced over 100 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues last season. If you have an elite tight end, like New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski, your fantasy team has a significant advantage on a week-by-week basis. Gronk led all tight ends in 2014 with 178 fantasy points in standard leagues.
Many owners have one of three schools of thought when it comes to tight ends in fantasy football:
- Draft an “Elite” tight end early
- Draft an “Established” tight end in the middle rounds
- Draft two “Breakout” tight ends later in the draft that you can play matchups with
The three “Elite” tight ends heading into the 2015 fantasy draft season are Gronk, Seattle Seahawks Jimmy Graham, and Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce.
The “established” tight ends are players like Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears Martellus Bennett, or Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten. Players that fall into the “Breakout” group are Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, Washington Redskins Jordan Reed, and Minnesota Vikings Kyle Rudolph.
Hope is not a fantasy football strategy when building a juggernaut. If you select a tight end in the middle rounds of your draft think about what running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers you are passing up on that can bolster your roster.
Outside of Gronkowski, there is a lot of uncertainty with tight ends heading into 2015. I prefer to draft tight ends late that are in a great offensive situation and have upside. The top-12 tight ends averaged 7.4 fantasy points per game in 2014. That provides you with proper expectations when evaluating your tight ends throughout the season. I would like to share with you five productive tight ends, not named Gronk, you can target in the later rounds of your draft this summer.
1. Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers second-round draft pick tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a great bet for a second-year breakout. He has the height, frame, and athletic ability to become a genuine NFL tight end. Seferian-Jenkins spent time on the University of Washington basketball team and I could see the Buccaneers having him post up in the red zone this season. He improved as a blocker his rookie season, but doesn’t have the speed to separate from defenders in space in order to generate a ton of yards after the catch. His rookie season was hindered by suspect quarterback play, injuries, and the offensive coordinator Jed Tedford’s health woes. The Buccaneers brought in former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. His offense is built on the principles of ball security, creating big plays, avoiding sacks, and converting third downs. Koetter worked wonders with future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez in the final two season of his career.
Gonzalez finished as the number three fantasy football tight end in 2012 and number four in 2013. The only two tight ends with more targets than him over that two-year time frame were Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten and New Orleans Saints Jimmy Graham.
2. Rob Housler
Housler has the potential to be a late round tight end you draft that could be a difference maker on your fantasy team. He was criminally underused in Arizona with the Cardinals in Bruce Arians’ offensive scheme. Housler has been limited to 105 receptions, 1,133 receiving yards, and one touchdown in his four-year NFL career. He has been called “a wide receiver in a tight end’s body.” Housler finds himself with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. A team that lost Jordan Cameron to the Miami Dolphins via free agency and plans to start Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, and Andrew Hawkins as its top-three wide receivers. Bowe, Hartline, and Hawkins combined for only four touchdowns during the 2014 season.
Housler will be used by the Browns as a vertical threat in the middle of the field. Housler is like a stock that exhibited strong fundamentals heading into the 2011 draft that NFL scouts recommended teams to add to their rosters. Even though a stock is fundamentally sound, the technicals can give you a better indicator on when to buy that stock. The Cardinals were not the best fit for Housler. The moment he signed with the Browns was the technical buy signal fantasy owners have been looking for. Are you willing to invest a late round fantasy draft pick in Housler?
3. Zach Ertz
Zach Ertz gave fantasy owners a taste of what he is capable of in week 16 of the 2014 season against the Washington Redskins. He had 18 targets, 15 receptions, and 115 receiving yards. Ertz finished last season as the 14th best fantasy tight end. The biggest hurdle he has faced in his career has been the number of snaps he has been on the field. Ertz played 459 snaps his rookie season and 603 in 2014 splitting time with Brent Celek. It would be ideal if he could increase his snap count near 800 in 2015. The top five fantasy football tight ends played greater than 787 snaps.
The biggest advantages Ertz has in 2015 is that the Eagles wide receiver core doesn’t have a great deal of NFL experience, he consulted future hall of famer Tony Gonzalez, and he has been developing a rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford who excels at attacking the middle of the field. Ertz has an opportunity to break out in one of the league’s most fantasy friendly offensive schemes. Someone has to replace the 180 targets available by the departure of former Eagles LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin this offseason.
4. Ladarius Green
San Diego Chargers
Update: The has NFL suspended Chargers TE Antonio Gates four games for violating the league’s PED policy
Gates finished last season as the 2nd best tight end in fantasy football. He tied Rob Gronkowski and Julius Thomas for the most touchdowns in 2014 and had 19 red zone targets. Gates is at the tail end of his NFL career and his recent four game suspension does nothing but open the door for Ladarius Green.
“There are things we can do more with him,” McCoy said. “He worked extremely hard. I don’t think it was anything he was physically doing out there. I think it was a matter of philosophically what we were doing with the players we had. We got into the 11 personnel game a lot, three receivers and a tight end. When you have the three receivers we had, and you’ve got (tight end) Antonio Gates, (you’d have to) take the back out of the game. We need to use him more.”
Gates has been in Ladarius Green’s way for some time. Green is 6’6, 240lbs and has far better speed than the old veteran. Considering the role is already carved out, Green should slip into Gate’s spot and has the potential to keep it if he proves to be a valuable asset in the first four games. He’s a gamble worth taking in fantasy football this season.
5. Larry Donnell
New York Giants
Donnell exploded onto the fantasy radar week 4 of the 2014 season against the Redskins with seven receptions, 54 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. He quietly finished as the 11th best tight end in fantasy football as Odell Beckham Jr. emerged a fantasy difference maker. Donnell’s fantasy value is tied to the red zone where he had 20 targets in 2014. Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s scheme does like to target the tight end. Donnell will have a ton of opportunities to score touchdowns in 2015. He is another value late in your fantasy football drafts.
Seferian-Jenkins, Housler, Ertz, Gates, and Donnell are all players who will be part of solid offenses in 2015. With maybe the exception of Ertz, I feel you can draft one (even two) of these tight ends fairly late and they’ll be productive weekly starters for your fantasy team. Ertz’s fantasy stock is rising but he is still a bargain overall. If waiting on a TE is your kind of fantasy draft strategy try to add another low tier player to add depth to your team. The following are a few other TE’s that you can add late that I like heading into the season:
- Falcons tight end Jacob Tamme could emerge as a matchup play.
- Saints Josh Hill is in a rumored camp battle but should emerge as a starter
- Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers has a ton of potential.
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