2017 pre-draft rookie TE fantasy rankings
Heading into the draft, Jeff Ratcliffe ranks his top 25 rookie draft-eligible tight ends in the 2017 NFL draft for fantasy football leagues.
2017 pre-draft rookie TE fantasy rankings
In less than two weeks, the NFL will convene for its annual player selection meeting. To finish out our fantasy prep work for the draft, you’ll find the fantasy scouting reports for the tight ends below. This year’s class is chock full of talent and has the potential to be a legendary group for fantasy purposes.
Remember, ranking players is a process that continuously changes as we get new pieces of information. The biggest piece won’t come until late April, when the player is either drafted, signed as an undrafted free agent, or passed over by the 32 NFL teams. For now, all the incoming players exist in a vacuum without a team and can be compared on even ground.
Don’t forget, you can also check out my fantasy scouting reports for the running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks. In total, 159 offensive skill position players are profiled. The links below are to the PFF scouting reports on the players, when available.
(Subscribe to the 2017 PFF Draft Pass. For just $19.95 you’ll gain access to over 250 player profiles, passing charts on our top QB, WR, TE, and CB prospects, PFF signature stats and much more.)
1. David Njoku, Miami — The top receiving tight end in this year’s class, Njoku is yet another in a long line of Miami tight ends. Off-the-charts athletic, he was the national high-jump champion in high school. Big (6-4, 245) but plays more like a wide receiver. Racked up 11.2 yards after catch per reception in 2016, which led all tight ends. Only played two seasons with Miami and was only a starter for one. Did have drops issue in 2016 with five on 69 targets. Just average as a blocker. His elite athleticism and strong receiving ability will make Njoku a mismatch at the pro level. He’s a bigger version of Jordan Reed. He’s a future TE1 with an elite fantasy ceiling.
2. O.J. Howard, Alabama — Athletic tight end with prototypical size (6-5, 251) for the position. Strong receiver who dropped just six out of 106 targets over the last three years. Even better blocker. Finished 2016 as our top-graded run blocker. Didn’t put up massive numbers – 38 receptions for 602 yards in 2015 and 595 yards on 45 catches last year – but came up huge in the 2015 national championship game (208 yards and two scores). Very similar player to Greg Olsen. Has the skill set to be a long-term TE1 who could end up as an elite option.
3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss — A mismatch with receiver skills but move tight end size (6-3, 235). Engram led all tight ends in yards (926) and finished second in catches (65) last year. Struggles as a blocker, but is a good route-runner who ran a diverse route tree in college. Has the ability to get deep, with seven catches on 13 deep-ball targets for 262 yards and three scores in 2016. Did drop seven balls in 2016. Ran a blazing-fast 4.42 40 time at the combine. Another player with a similar skillset to Jordan Reed. A move tight end who will be a fantasy factor, and could surface as an elite option down the road.
4. Gerald Everett, South Alabama — Converted basketball player who played just one year of high school football and then played at Hutchinson Community College. Was at UAB for one season before the program folded. Put up strong numbers over the last two years with 41 catches for 575 yards and eight scores in 2015 and 49 catches for 717 yards and four scores last year. Excellent after the catch. He forced a nation high 24 missed tackles (nine more than Njoku in second) and averaged 9.1 YAC. Saw 14 deep-ball targets, which tied for third among tight ends. Not huge (6-3, 227) and still raw. Oozing with upside though. Our team comps him to Antonio Gates as an athletic former basketball player who enters the league with limited football experience. Has a TE1 ceiling.
5. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech — Massive (6-6, 257), but plays more like a receiver. Posted a productive 48 catches for 691 yards and seven scores last year. Saw 22 deep-ball targets, catching 12 for 342 yards and three scores. Did very little after the catch with a YAC of just 3.0 and only two forced missed tackles. Limited run-blocker who isn’t likely to play much in-line. Converted quarterback, he’s still very green at the position. Comps to Jimmy Graham. Like Graham, Hodges has size, athleticism, and versatility. Hodges will surface on the fantasy radar, but may not pay immediate dividends.
6. Adam Shaheen, Ashland — Former basketball player who has been a fast riser in the pre-draft process. Transferred to Ashland in 2014 and had a record-setting year in 2015 with 70 catches for 803 yards and 10 scores. Found the end zone 16 times last year on 57 catches for 867 yards. Massive frame (6-6, 278) and strength to match (24 reps on the bench at the combine). Dominated weaker competition, but his size and athleticism bode well for Shaheen’s future fantasy outlook. He has long-term TE1 upside.
7. Jake Butt, Michigan — In-line tight end who has prototype size (6-6, 250). Capable receiver who caught 46 balls for 546 yards and four scores in 2016. Graded out as the No. 3 receiving tight end in the nation in 2015. Not an elite level athlete, but is an all-around solid football player. Coming off a torn ACL in December. Could struggle as a run-blocker and doesn’t have a lot of experience as a pass-blocker. More of the catch-and-fall-down type, but has the potential to see a solid volume of targets at the pro level. He profiles as a high-floor, low-ceiling long-term fantasy option.
8. Michael Roberts, Toledo — In-line player who graded out as our top tight end in 2016. Scored 16 touchdowns and only dropped three balls in last year. Has the ability separate from linebackers and safeties in coverage. Wasn’t particularly effective after the catch with an average of just 3.7 yards last season, but did notch 533 yards on 45 catches. Moves well for his size (6-4, 270) with a 7.05 3-cone drill. A one-hit wonder in college, but his upside is appealing for fantasy purposes.
9. Jonnu Smith, FIU — Athletic player who is capable of playing in-line, but has more of a move body type (6-3, 248). Led all tight ends in receiving in 2014 with 710 yards and eight scores on 61 catches. Missed four games due to a knee injury in 2015 and also missed the end of last season after his pregnant girlfriend threw boiling water on him in an argument. Combine top performer in the vert (38-inch), broad jump (10’7″), and both shuttle runs. Also ran 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. Has drawn comps to Delanie Walker. Strong after the catch with a YAC of 7.0 and 11 forced missed tackles in 2016. Has the upside and athleticism to surface on the fantasy radar.
10. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas — An in-line or move option with good size (6-5, 252). Great hands. Only dropped five balls over the last three years. Can struggle at times as a blocker especially on run plays. Didn’t put up massive receiving yards in college. Posted 380 yards and four scores on 33 catches last year. Cited for shoplifting and was suspended for last year’s bowl game. Comps to Julius Thomas. Like Thomas, Sprinkle isn’t the best blocker, but has the potential to be a strong red-zone asset. Profiles more as a TE2 fantasy option in the long term.
11. George Kittle, Iowa — An H-back with decent size (6-4, 247) and impressive speed (4.52 40 time at the combine). Strong blocker who only allowed one QB pressure over the last two seasons. Averaged 7.1 yards after catch per reception over the last three years. Missed seven games due to injury over the last two years. Similar player to Chris Cooley, as his versatility allows him to line up in multiple spots. Doesn’t have the highest fantasy ceiling in this year’s class, but his all-around ability bodes well for future fantasy relevance.
12. Jordan Leggett, Clemson — A big player (6-5, 258) who is capable of playing move or inline. Put up 46 catches for 736 yards and seven scores in 2016. Only dropped nine balls over the last three years. More of a plodding runner. Struggles as a run blocker. Comps to Richard Rodgers, which leaves something to be desired for fantasy purposes. Unlikely to be a high-ceiling option.
13. Pharaoh Brown, Oregon — Strong receiver who has the ability to stretch the middle of the field. Has impressive size (6-6, 255) and was productive at Oregon with 426 yards and five scores on 33 catches in nine games. Able to play in-line or move. Drops were an issue in 2016 with four on 45 targets. Suffered a devastating leg injury that nearly resulted in amputation in 2014. Similar to Jared Cook. Has appealing size and upside, but isn’t the most athletic tight end in the class. Still, Brown has a good chance of surfacing as a viable fantasy option as a pro.
14. Darrell Daniels, Washington — A move tight end who converted from wide receiver. On the smaller side for the position (6-3, 247), but freakishly athletic. Ran a 4.55 40 at the combine. Didn’t put up big numbers with just 17 catches for 307 yards and three scores. Dropped two balls on 65 targets over the last three years. Very limited data in pass pro with only five snaps in 2016. Unlikely to be a three-down option. Though he has upside, Daniels is raw and may never surface on the fantasy radar.
15. Robert Tonyan, Indiana St. — Former quarterback turned wide receiver who is a tad on the smaller side for the position measuring in 6-4, 236 pounds at his pro day. Athletic, but extremely green for the position. Won’t factor much as a blocker, but his abilities as a receiver are intriguing. He’s a name to file away in deep dynasty leagues.
16. Cole Hikutini, Louisville — Move tight end who posted strong numbers in 2016 with 688 yards and eight scores on 50 catches. Went the small-school route initially, playing at Sacramento State and then the City College of San Francisco. Transferred to Louisville in 2015. Dropped five balls on 65 targets in 2016. Average size for a move (6-4, 247). Not the best bet to be a long-term fantasy option.
17. Eric Saubert, Drake — Small-schooler with good size (6-5, 253) and speed. Led his team in receiving in each of the last two years with 55 catches for 580 yards and seven scores in 2015 and 776 yards and 10 touchdowns on 56 catches last year. Despite the production, his play was inconsistent. He’s much closer to his floor than his ceiling at this point, and may never come to fruition for fantasy purposes.
18. Jonathan Dorsey, Alabama A&M — A four-year small-schooler who notched 77 catches for 1,411 yards and 17 scores in his career. Not a high-volume receiver, but did averaged 18.3 yards per reception. Tall and lean (6-6, 225). Doesn’t figure to do much as a blocker, but his athleticism is a plus. He’s an upside player who has an outside chance of surfacing as a fantasy option.
19. Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh — An in-line option who wasn’t a prolific receiver, but did manage 35 catches for 579 yards and five scores in 2016. Struggled at times as a run blocker in 2016, but still projects to be more of a blocking option at the pro level. That sort of profile means inconsistent fantasy production at best.
20. Hayden Plinke, UTEP — A possession receiver type who can play move or in-line. Has good size (6-4, 264). Started at Boise State and then transferred to Portland State. Finally landed in UTEP after sitting out the 2014 season. Posted 37 catches for 405 yards in 2015 and then racked up 456 yards and eight scores on 38 receptions last year. Struggled as a run-blocker last year. Doesn’t offer a high long-term fantasy ceiling.
21. Antony Auclair, Laval — Canadian player who has prototype size (6-6, 254) but minimal experience against high-end competition. Appealing profile, but he’s his outlook is difficult to project. He’s worth monitoring for fantasy purposes, but that’s about it.
22. Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State — A hybrid tight end/fullback at OSU. Didn’t put up major numbers with 17 catches for 200 yards and two scores in 2015 and 309 yards and two scores on 19 receptions last year. Has an NFL frame (6-5, 248) and is capable of playing all over the formation. His lack of production at the college level bodes poorly for future fantasy success.
23. Cethan Carter, Nebraska — A strong run-blocking move tight end who lacks the size (6-3, 241) to play in-line at the pro level. Missed time due to an elbow injury in 2016 and managed 19 catches for 190 yards and a score. Lacks the athleticism of the better move options in this year’s class. Isn’t likely to surface as a fantasy option as a pro.
24. Brandon Barnes, Alabama State — Raw prospect who has NFL size (6-5, 255) but did very little at the college level. Only managed 29 catches for 436 yards and six scores in 38 games played. There’s upside based on his size and athleticism, but Barns is unlikely to ever surface on the fantasy radar.
25. Taylor McNamara, USC — Move tight end who originally played at Oklahoma and then spent two years at USC as a grad transfer. Not the biggest producer with 12 catches for 83 yards and four scores in 2015 and 12 receptions for 111 yards and one score last year. Good size (6-5, 247) and athleticism. Limited resume doesn’t bode well for his future fantasy outlook.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.