2015 Tight End Rankings – Pre-Draft
Mike Clay continues his series with rankings, tiers and analysis on his pre-draft Top 70 fantasy tight ends for 2015.
2015 Tight End Rankings – Pre-Draft
Not that these rankings assume non-PPR scoring.
1. Rob Gronkowski – NE
At this time last year, we told you that regardless of Gronkowski’s durability concerns, he was well worth a second-round pick because of his absurd upside. He went on to prove that logic correct, racking up 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns on 82 receptions. He was fantasy’s top-scoring tight end, beating out Antonio Gates by just over 30 points. Gronkowski handled a career-high 22 percent of the Patriots targets. Including the playoffs, Gronkowski has now scored 50 touchdowns in 56 games over the past four seasons. Still in his prime at age 26, and with Tom Brady under center, Gronkowski is, by far, the top fantasy tight end. Jimmy Graham’s value took a pretty significant hit when he was traded to Seattle, which only adds to Gronkowski’s value, and makes him well worth a look in the middle of the first round.
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2. Jimmy Graham – SEA
3. Greg Olsen – CAR
4. Travis Kelce – KC
5. Martellus Bennett – CHI
6. Antonio Gates – SD
With Graham in Seattle, this second tier has tightened up quite a bit. Graham’s resume will make him too expensive and the likes of Kelce and Olsen will cost you a fifth-round pick. Bennett and ageless Gates are better values in the sixth or seventh round.
After catching at least 85 passes, racking up 885 or more yards and scored nine-plus touchdowns in four consecutive seasons with New Orleans, Graham heads to Seattle where he immediately takes over as Russell Wilson’s top target. A top-three fantasy tight end each of those four seasons, Graham’s value certainly takes a hit as he departs a pass-first, high-scoring offense and joins a very run heavy, moderate-scoring unit. The good news is that Graham really stepped up his blocking last season, which will help keep him on the field. The biggest fantasy-relevant tight end in the NFL will be a popular target near the goal line, but overall volume will take a hit. He’s your second best option at the position, but is no longer worth consideration prior to the fourth round.
Olsen has been fantasy relevant for seven years now, but he took his game to a new level in 2014. He reached career highs in targets and receptions, and reached 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. Olsen turned 30 during the offseason and has eclipsed six touchdowns in a season only once, but he and Kelvin Benjamin remain Cam Newton’s go-to targets. A lack of scoring upside is all that keeps Olsen from moving ahead of Seattle-bound Graham.
Still recovering from a knee injury that cost him his entire rookie season, Kelce was on a pitch count early last season, but still managed an eighth-place finish among tight ends in fantasy points. Kelce became an every-down tight end in Week 11 and, although he caught one touchdown the rest of the way, he ranked sixth at the position in fantasy points during the span. About the size of Rob Gronkowski, a dominant blocker and strong receiver, Kelce will be a hot commodity in 2015 drafts. Although he is intriguing and a top-five option at the position, it’s probable that he’ll be overdrafted. A product of Alex Smith, Kelce’s average depth of target was extremely low, but he was able to offset that by averaging an unsustainable 7.5 yards after catch. The 25-year-old will make for a solid TE1 option in 2015, but there will be better values available.
Bennett’s role as a pass catcher has progressively increased over the past four seasons, and it reached what probably is his ceiling in 2014. Bennett easily eclipsed his previous career highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Also a strong blocker, Bennett rarely leaves the field. He’s played at least 90 percent of his team’s snaps each of the past three seasons. Switching from Marc Trestman to Adam Gase, Chicago figures to rely more on three-wide receiver sets. This would mean at least a slight downtick in targets for Bennett. Although Bennett may not match his 2014 numbers, Brandon Marshall’s departure all but guarantees he’ll be busy, especially near the goal line. Bennett is a quality TE1 option and, as noted, won’t be quite as expensive as similar producers Graham, Olsen and Kelce.
Need a case study on the importance of touchdowns in fantasy football? Compare the stat lines put up by Gates over the last two seasons. Compared to 2013, Gates played 199 fewer snaps, ran 26 fewer routes, caught eight fewer balls and managed 51 fewer receiving yards last season. All of that was offset (and then some) by an improvement from four to 12 touchdowns. Gates scored 44 more fantasy points, which allowed a jump from ninth to second among tight ends in fantasy points. Only three players exceeded his 19 end zone targets. Gates hasn’t missed a game since 2012, but turns 35 this year and Ladarius Green remains on his heels for snaps. Gates remains a decent TE1 option, but his age and inevitable touchdown regression makes him a mid-pack option rather than an elite play.
7. Jordan Cameron – MIA
8. Jason Witten – DAL
9. Zach Ertz – PHI
10. Delanie Walker – TEN
11. Larry Donnell – NYG
12. Heath Miller – PIT
Our third tier rounds out your TE1 options in 10- and 12-team leagues. These tight ends are riskier bets than those in our first pair of tiers, but there are a few safe options (Witten, Walker, Miller, Donnell) and others with breakout potential (Cameron, Ertz). These players will start coming off the board in the middle rounds, but you’re likely to be able to land Miller or Donnell fairly late.
Needing a replacement for Charles Clay, the Dolphins signed Cameron to a two-year contract during the offseason. Fantasy’s No. 6 scoring tight end in 2013 has tremendous upside, but has serious durability concerns. In four seasons with Cleveland, he appeared in 46 of a possible 64 games. That includes at least one missed game each season. Of course, if Cameron holds up he has top-five upside in Miami. Standing 6-foot-5, Cameron will be plenty busy near the goal line, especially when you consider that top wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5’11”), Kenny Stills (6’0″) and Rishard Matthews (6’0″) are all on the small side. Despite missing two games last season, incumbent starter Clay ranked fifth at the position in OTD and third in end zone targets. Health concerns make him a risky mid-round investment, but the upside here is massive.
On a bit of a decline over the past few seasons, Witten finished 10th among tight ends in fantasy points 2014 – his worst finish since 2006. Witten scored five touchdowns, which aligned with his usage (4.3 OTD), but was a severe dip from the eight he scored in 2013. Witten turns 33 in May, but remains an elite blocker and a favorite target of Tony Romo in an offense that scores a lot of points. Dallas’ run-heavy philosophy limits Witten’s upside a bit, but he will give you solid TE1 production.
Ertz played 133 more snaps in 2014 than he did as a rookie, but it wasn’t quite enough to allow him what initially seemed like an inevitable breakout season. Ertz did manage a 13th place finish at the position, but he was actually worse than that, posting 18 targets, 15 receptions and 115 yards in one week. Ertz did improve as a run blocker in his second year, but the presence of Brent Celek and Chip Kelly’s preference for three-wide receiver sets has held him back. The team’s loss of Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City can only help Ertz, but most of that impact figures to be offset by a heavier reliance on the run. Ertz has the ability and is on a team that can allow elite fantasy production, but he’ll require a big boost in playing time in order to get over the hump. That upside separates him from other low-end TE1 options.
After posting career highs receptions and yardage during his first season with Tennessee, Walker actually improved in both categories last season. Despite missing one game, Walker racked up 890 receiving yards which trailed only Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and Martellus Bennett at the position. Tennessee’s offense has been a mess the last two seasons, yet Walker has posted a pair of TE1 campaigns and continues to block at an elite level. One of the league’s most underrated tight ends, Walker doesn’t bring a ton of upside to the table, but will provide solid back-end TE1 production and can be had late in drafts.
When Ben McAdoo took over as Giants offense coordinator last offseason, it was no secret that he wanted his tight end plenty involved in the passing game. The question, of course, was who that tight end would be. Donnell, then a 25-year-old journeyman with three career receptions, proved to be the man for the job. Targeted early and often throughout the 2014 season, Donnell racked up 623 yards and six touchdowns on 63 receptions. He finished 11th among tight ends in fantasy points. The Giants offense is going to score plenty of points and Donnell figures to be no worse than third on the target totem pole. Second to only Antonio Gates in end zone targets last season, Donnell will remain plenty busy near the goal line. He’s a great value late in drafts.
His quarterback posted career highs in both the touchdown and passing yard departments last season, which actually makes Miller’s 12th place finish among tight ends a bit underwhelming. Once a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger near the goal line, only four of Miller’s 124 receptions over the past two seasons have ended with a touchdown. In fact, Miller has 16 touchdowns over the past five seasons, but eight came in 2012. Now 32, Miller is nearing the end of his prime and is clearly a poor source of touchdowns. Heavy target volume keeps him in the TE1 discussion, but there isn’t a ton of upside.
13. Owen Daniels – DEN
14. Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TB
15. Julius Thomas – JAX
16. Jordan Reed – WAS
17. Charles Clay – BUF
18. Kyle Rudolph – MIN
19. Jace Amaro – NYJ
20. Vernon Davis – SF
21. Dwayne Allen – IND
22. Tyler Eifert – CIN
23. Eric Ebron – DET
24. Mychal Rivera – OAK
25. Jared Cook – SL
26. Coby Fleener – IND
Our fourth tier of tight ends shows that there isn’t much of a drop from top- to bottom-end TE2 options. Any player on this list could produce back-end TE1 numbers in 2015 without anyone truly being surprised. If you’re looking to add a second tight end, the message here is that you can afford to wait until extremely late in your draft and still end up with a potential breakout player.
Daniels is 32 and hasn’t played a full season since 2008, but his value received a major boost when he signed with Denver during the offseason. Daniels is a bit on the small side relative to the position, and it’s shown up in the box score. In nine years as a pro, he’s failed to eclipse six touchdowns in a single season. Of course, with Gary Kubiak calling the shots and Peyton Manning under center, Daniels’ scoring upside is as high as ever. He’s a fine target in the mid-to-late rounds.
A second-round pick last season, Seferian-Jenkins quickly became an every-down player in an offense badly in need of playmakers. Unfortunately, his progress was derailed by multiple injuries and Tampa Bay’s inept offense. Seferian-Jenkins showed fairly well considering the circumstances. He was outstanding as a blocker and scored on two of his 21 receptions. Seferian-Jenkins is massive (6’5”/262 pounds), fast (4.56 40-yard dash), young (22) and figures to land a major quarterback upgrade in Jameis Winston. Seferian-Jenkins is a great bet for a second-year breakout.
An absolute touchdown machine, Thomas has scored a dozen touchdowns each of the last two regular seasons despite missing five games. A top-notch athlete and Peyton Manning benefactor, Thomas has scored on 18 of 24 targets when in the end zone or within 5 yards of the goal line over the past two seasons. As impressive as Thomas has been, his value took a massive hit when he signed with Jacksonville during the offseason. Denver’s offense averaged 3.7 touchdowns per game over the past two seasons, compared to 1.5 by Jacksonville. Thomas is talented and will be busy when Jacksonville approaches the goal line, but even a big step forward by Blake Bortles won’t put the Jacksonville offense in Denver’s category. Add Thomas’ durability struggles to the mix and no longer is he an ideal TE1 play.
A highly-touted third-round pick back in 2013, Reed has been a force when active, but the key word is “when”. Though two seasons, Reed has missed 12 games. That includes five during the 2014 campaign. Reed failed to find the end zone last season and was mostly limited to underneath routes. He was 0-for-5 on end zone targets, and his 4.7 average depth of target was lowest among tight ends who saw at least 30 targets. The 25 year old has a ton of upside and will be a weekly TE1 option if he stays healthy and Robert Griffin III enjoys a rebound season.
After four strong seasons with Miami, Clay headed to division rival Buffalo during the offseason. A bit of a surprise breakout performer in 2013, Clay caught 69 passes and scored six touchdowns en route to finishing seventh among tight ends in fantasy points. Although Clay missed a pair of games and scored only three times last season, he improved as a blocker, ranked fifth at the position in OTD and finished third in end zone targets. Of course, Clay’s fantasy value takes a hit now that he’ll be operating in Rex Ryan and Greg Roman’s run-heavy offense. Targets will be harder to find and Buffalo’s underwhelming quarterback situation will limit scoring opportunities. Clay is a mid-pack TE2.
Having appeared in 17 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons, Rudolph carries the proverbial injury red flag this offseason. The good news is that he’s only 25 and he’s been fairly busy when active throughout his career. He handled 90 percent Minnesota snaps and ran a route on 82 percent of the team’s pass plays in the seven games he was fully healthy for last season. He caught 24 passes and sat 13th among tight ends in fantasy points during those weeks. Rudolph is young, a strong blocker and a huge target for emerging Teddy Bridgewater. If he can overcome his durability issues, Rudolph will be a value pick in the later rounds of 2015 drafts.
A second-round pick last May, Amaro’s playing time and target volume began to rise in October. That led to a high point of 10 receptions, 68 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets in Week 6. He suffered a concussion in Week 12, however, and played very little down the stretch. Although he blocked well as a rookie, Amaro is more of a receiver than a traditional tight end and thus a nice fit in new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s spread offense. Amaro caught 10 of 11 targets when lined up out wide, and 23 of 32 when in the slot. The Jets quarterback situation remains in flux, but with the Rex Ryan era over, they’re certain to rely more on the pass. The 23-year-old Amaro will be third to only Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall on the target totem pole going forward and is certainly a TE1 sleeper.
Nothing short of an absolute bust last season, Davis amassed 37 fantasy points after racking up 162 in 2013. Despite actually play more snaps and running more routes than he did in 2013, Davis saw his reception total cut in half, accrued 605 fewer yards and scored 11 fewer touchdowns. Davis was fairly dominant in the touchdown department from 2007 to 2013. He caught 36 (or 61 percent) of 59 end zone targets, which is the second highest percentage in the entire league behind only Rob Gronkowski. Davis was inexplicably ignored near the goal line in 2014, catching one of two end zone targets. Now 31, Davis is nearing the end of his prime, but remains one of the most talented tight ends in the league. With Greg Roman out as offense coordinator, Davis is a bounce back candidate. Although there is TE1 upside here, the team’s run-first philosophy and the acquisitions of Torrey Smith and Reggie Bush figure to limit Davis to TE2 production. Still, he’s not a bad late-round flier.
There’s a lot to like about Allen. He’s 25, he’s an elite blocker, he’s a key piece of the Colts pass-heavy, high-scoring offense and he’s coming off a season in which he scored eight touchdowns in 13 games. But, plain and simple, he’s a player you should avoid in the middle rounds of drafts this year. Allen ran a route on 52 percent of the Colts pass plays when active last season, which was dead last among the top 20 fantasy tight ends. He averaged just over four targets per game and OTD suggests he was extremely lucky in the touchdown department. Including the playoffs, Allen caught an extremely unsustainable 6 of 6 end zone targets. Well behind T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson and sharing a relatively equal load the remaining targets with Frank Gore, Dan Herron, Donte Moncrief and, of course, Coby Fleener, opportunity is sure to elude Allen this season. He’s a name to avoid.
Shoulder and elbow injuries limited Eifert to eight snaps last season, but Cincinnati’s 2013 first-round pick remains a breakout candidate as he enters his third pro season. A situational player as a rookie in 2013, Eifert was a top 30 fantasy tight end, but is in for a big promotion this year with Jermaine Gresham out of the mix. Gresham was quietly a top-five fantasy tight end from Week 11 on in 2014, which certainly suggests that the superior Eifert is in a position where he can score plenty of fantasy points. Of course, Eifert is still a bit of an unknown will need to overcome Cincinnati’s extremely run heavy offense while also improving as a blocker. There’s TE1 upside here, which makes Eifert a fine late round flier.
Ebron missed three games due to a hamstring injury last season, but was fairly competent for a 21-year-old rookie tight end. Operating as more of a receiver than a traditional tight end, Ebron lined up out wide or in the slot on 62 percent of his 429 snaps. He failed to erase any concerns about his hands, dropping four passes and catching only 54 percent of his targets. He did fare better than expected as a blocker. A first-round pick last May, Ebron’s role is sure to increase in Year 2, but he’ll still need to beat out Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria for snaps and the Lions offense will need to be much better after it ranked 21st in touchdowns last season. Ebron has a ton of upside, but he’s only 22 and has a long way to go to prove he’s a capable every-down tight end. He’s a fine late-round flier in deeper leagues.
A sixth-round pick in 2013, it didn’t take Rivera long to emerge as Oakland’s top option at the position. He took a big forward during the second half of 2014, catching 45 of 70 targets for 433 yards and four touchdowns after Week 7. He ranked sixth among tight ends in fantasy points during the span. Although Rivera has impressed despite Oakland’s offensive woes, he’s been atrocious as a run blocker, which helps explain why the team signed Lee Smith during the offseason. Rivera remains Oakland’s primary receiving tight end, but he figures to see a dip in snaps with Smith in the fold. Barring major second-year improvement from Derek Carr, Rivera is no more than a pedestrian TE2 option.
Despite a massive frame and a ton of athleticism, Cook has never quite lived up to lofty expectations. He’s been on the field for 70 percent of the Rams offensive snaps since joining the club in 2013, finishing 11th and 15th among tight ends in fantasy points during the two seasons. Cook showed improvement as a blocker and caught a career-high 52 passes last season, but scored only three touchdowns. After catching four of six end zone targets in 2013, Cook inexplicably saw only three end zone looks in 2014. Cook’s fantasy upside is not particularly appealing considering the Rams run-first philosophy.
Because he’s not a very good blocker, Fleener gets a bit of bad rap. He is, however, a competent receiver, as shown by his 774 yards and eight touchdowns on 51 receptions last season. Fleener finished sixth among tight ends in fantasy points, but certainly benefited from the games Dwayne Allen missed due to injury. In the 11 games Allen played in full, Fleener ranked 13th in fantasy points. In the other five games, he ranked first and was a whopping 22 fantasy points ahead of second. The Colts throw the ball a lot and score tons of points, but they also spread the ball around fairly evenly. Fleener is an elite handcuff, but won’t consistently provide TE1 numbers when Allen is healthy.
27. Josh Hill – NO
28. Jacob Tamme – ATL
29. Richard Rodgers – GB
30. Ladarius Green – SD
31. Dennis Pitta – BLT
An unheralded undrafted free-agent signing back in 2013, Hill is on the fantasy radar after New Orleans shipped Jimmy Graham to Seattle during the offseason. Hill isn’t quite as big (or nearly as good) as Graham, but has sat and learned behind the veteran over the past two seasons. Handling 273 snaps primarily in a blocking role last season, Hill scored a touchdown on five of his 14 receptions. Considering the presence of Drew Brees, Hill is worth a late round flier, but keep in mind that New Orleans will run the ball more often and generally likes to spread the ball around. Also, there’s a decent chance the Saints add an impact tight end via the draft.
Making their best effort to replace retired Tony Gonzalez, the Falcons kept 6’8”/265 Levine Toilolo on the field for 87 percent of their offensive snaps last season. Heath Miller, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett were the only tight ends who exceeded Toilolo’s 902 snaps. Despite all that work, which included 456 pass routes, Toilolo was targeted 49 times and finished 39th among tight ends in fantasy points. Enter Tamme, who has spent the past few seasons as a part-time player in Denver, but has much more receiving upside and Toilolo. Now 30, and with Atlanta expected to operate a more balanced offense under Kyle Shanahan, Tamme’s upside is nowhere near where it was when playing with Peyton Manning or where Tony Gonzalez’s was in recent years. Expect back-end TE2 production.
Rodgers projects as more of a possession receiver than a big-play threat, but that doesn’t mean the 2014 third-round pick can’t emerge into a fantasy asset with Aaron Rodgers under center. Rodgers handled a generous 463 snaps as a rookie. Of course, with Andrew Quarless heavily involved and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb soaking up 54 percent of the targets, Rodgers managed only 20 receptions and two scores. Green Bay is in need of a pass-catching tight end, and Rodgers is currently atop the depth chart. His run blocking needs work, but Rodgers is an obvious 2015 breakout candidate.
A popular mid-round flier last year, Green was a major disappointment, missing two games due to injury and failing to score on 19 receptions. He impressed by catching all but four of his 23 targets for 226 yards, but worked just 27 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Green’s projected breakout hinged on expectations that 34-year-old Antonio Gates would drop off. That obviously didn’t happen, but Gates’ durability will remain a concern during his age-35 season. With elite speed for a tight end and standing at 6’6”, 240 pounds, Green remains a strong handcuff. The 25 year old is a post-hype breakout candidate.
Since a breakout 2012 campaign that saw him finish seventh among tight ends in fantasy points, Pitta has appeared in only seven games due to multiple serious hip injuries. Now 30 years old, Pitta’s career is in serious jeopardy. For that reason, he makes for a risky fantasy investment, but isn’t the worst stash in deeper leagues, as we know he has TE1 upside in Baltimore’s offense.
32. Troy Niklas – ARZ
33. Garrett Graham – HST
34. Lance Kendricks – SL
35. Brent Celek – PHI
36. Dion Sims – MIA
37. Joseph Fauria – DET
38. Andrew Quarless – GB
39. Gavin Escobar – DAL
40. Niles Paul – WAS
41. Ben Watson – NO
42. Crockett Gillmore – BLT
43. Virgil Green – DEN
The tight ends in our sixth tier are not worth your attention in most formats, but those of you in deeper and/or dynasty leagues should be familiar with these names.
A pair of ankle injuries limited Niklas to 85 snaps during his rookie season. Last May’s 52nd overall pick is in line for a much bigger role as a sophomore, but his upside will be limited a bit by a Bruce Arians philosophy that doesn’t utilize the tight end much as a receiver. That’s especially the case with Arizona three deep at the wide receiver position. Still, Niklas is a massive specimen at 6’6”/270 pounds and profiles as an every-down, in-line tight end. He’ll get at least a handful of scoring opportunities and will see enough targets to put him on the TE2 radar. He’s a nice sleeper in multiple tight end leagues.
Not including goal line extraordinaire J.J. Watt, the Texans finished dead last in completions to the tight end position last season. Graham was atop Houston’s depth chart for most of the 2014 season, but injuries limited him to 11 games. He managed only 18 receptions and one touchdown on 526 snaps. Houston prefers to run the ball and simply doesn’t call many pass plays for the tight end position. Competing with C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and even Watt, Graham is well off the fantasy radar.
Second on the depth chart on a team that prefers multiple tight end sets, Kendricks has been on the field for just under 60 percent of St. Louis’ snaps over the past two seasons. He’s done well as a blocker, but the limited playing time has allowed only 59 receptions, 517 yards and nine touchdowns. Buried behind Jared Cook in a run-heavy offense, Kendricks has little fantasy upside.
Like Andy Reid years ago, Chip Kelly is a big fan of Celek, but it simply hasn’t converted to much fantasy value. Celek’s usage dipped last season, but he was still on the field for 70 percent of the team’s offensive plays. A strong blocker, Celek ran a route on only 44 percent of the team’s pass plays. Despite similar OTD numbers both seasons, Celek was a bit lucky in the touchdown department in 2013 (six scores), but had the opposite luck in 2015 (one score). Now 30, Celek remains a great run blocker, but will continue deferring targets to up-and-coming Zach Ertz. Celek is well off the fantasy radar.
Sims played a hefty 478 snaps as Miami’s No. 2 tight end last season, but the team’s preference for three wide receiver sets on passing downs allowed him only 34 targets. Profiling more as a blocker than a receiver when selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, Sims will settle in as Miami’s blocking complement to newcomer Jordan Cameron. Of course, Cameron has had his share of durability issues, which makes Sims a noteworthy handcuff in multiple tight end leagues.
After scoring seven touchdowns in a situational role as a rookie, Fauria was again heavily involved near the goal line last season. Despite missing nine games, Fauria finished tied for 15th at the position with five end zone targets. He trailed only Vernon Davis in the category in 2013. Competing with Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron, Fauria will continue to play a situational role, but it’s clear the team will put his 6’7”/267 frame to heavy use near the goal line. His production will be too inconsistent to warrant a draft pick.
He wasn’t Plan A, but Quarless has held his own as Green Bay’s starting tight and over the past two seasons. Quarless played a very similar number of snaps and his receiving lines were almost identical over the past two campaigns. Despite working in Green Bay’s high-scoring offense, he managed only five touchdowns, and has yet to emerge into fantasy relevance. Quarless was better as a blocker last season, but will still need to fend off emerging Richard Rodgers for playing time. Either way, Quarless is well off the fantasy radar.
Nearly the exact same height and weight and profiling as a pass catching tight end who primarily lines up in the slot, Escobar fits the bill as a potential replacement for Jason Witten. Witten, of course, isn’t going anywhere just yet, but turned 33 during the offseason and will eventually be out of the picture. Escobar has zero stand-alone value, as shown by his 18 receptions over two seasons, but would certainly be on the TE1 radar in the event of a Witten injury.
Drafted as a wide receiver in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, Paul was converted to tight end in 2012 and finally seemed to turn the corner last season. Although he scored only once, Paul sat 11th among tight ends in fantasy points during the six weeks Jordan Reed was out or limited. He averaged 15 percent of Washington’s targets in those games, but only 6 percent when Reed was active. Paul is one of the better tight end handcuffs on the market, but has little to no stand-alone value.
Watson, Gillmore and Green barely make the cut, but are worth a brief discussion. If the Saints don’t add an impact tight end during the draft, Watson will play a significant role behind (or alongside) Josh Hill in 2015. Now 34, he won’t see many targets. A third-round pick last season, Gillmore will see a boost in targets as a result of Pitta’s injury and Daniels’ departure. He doesn’t figure to be heavily involved as a receiver, but could score enough to flirt with TE2 numbers…Green will see an expanded role as a receiver after Thomas fled to Jacksonville and Tamme to Atlanta. Utilized primarily as a blocker and with Daniels handling passing-down duties, Green’s fantasy ceiling is low.
44. Gary Barnidge – CLV
45. Marcedes Lewis – JAX
46. Luke Willson – SEA
47. John Carlson – ARZ
48. C.J. Fiedorowicz – HST
49. Scott Chandler – NE
50. Brandon Pettigrew – DET
51. Jermaine Gresham – FA
52. Rob Housler – FA
53. Tony Moeaki – ATL
54. Jack Doyle – IND
55. Ryan Griffin – HST
56. Jim Dray – CLV
57. Jeff Cumberland – NYJ
58. Levine Toilolo – ATL
59. Timothy Wright – NE
60. Demetrius Harris – KC
61. Ryan Hewitt – CIN
62. Anthony McCoy – SEA
63. Ed Dickson – CAR
64. Anthony Fasano – TEN
65. Chase Ford – MIN
66. James Casey – FA
67. Zach J. Miller – FA
68. Daniel Fells – NYG
69. Rhett Ellison – MIN
70. Vance McDonald – SF
Note: Updated versions of these player capsules will be available in the 2015 PFF Fantasy Draft Guide, which will be for sale in late May and updated monthly through late August.
Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL