How long will the top fantasy TEs be fantasy starters?

Tight ends can take a little longer to be real fantasy forces, but how long will the best ones last? The PFF Fantasy team weighs in on some big names.

| 6 days ago
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

How long will the top fantasy TEs be fantasy starters?


Tight end can be an old man’s game. Despite some recent PFF research that indicates rookie tight ends can be just as productive on a per-target or per-reception basis, rookies aren’t often entrusted with big roles in offenses. It takes time for a tight end to be adept at the pass-catching and blocking skills that make a competent NFL tight end.

So, with the exception of quarterbacks, tight ends tend to skew older than any other position in fantasy. But even then, flash back to 2012, and only three tight ends made the top 10 then and in 2012 — Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, and Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph didn’t make the top-10 list any year between the two, and Graham’s career looked nearly derailed by injury only a year ago, but if you discount them, you should probably give a bit of extra credit to Rob Gronkowski, who wasn’t a top-10 tight end in 2016 because of injury, but nearly single-handedly kept the position afloat for years before 2016.

At the same, time, the position skewing older means there are retirements. From that top-10 list in 2012, Tony Gonzalez, Heath Miller, and Owen Daniels are out of the league, while you’d have to expect Jason Witten is nearing his retirement as well. Identifying how long a starter will be a starter can be a tough ask.

And so, I rounded up our people for another go at the guesswork.

The premise: You can keep Player X for as long as you want, but you have to decide on that duration right now.

The cost: You can keep the player indefinitely at the cost of the last starter at the position. So a quarterback will cost you the draft slot of the 10th quarterback off the board, while a wide receiver will cost you the 20th receiver.

With those rules in place, I solicited the input of three PFF Fantasy writers: Brandon Marianne Lee (@BrandonHerFFB), Michael Moore (@PFF_Moore), and Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL). They gave their answers for a list of names, along with a short explanation. Check the bottom for a full chart of their answers.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Age at start of 2017 season: 26; 2016 statistics: 15 games, 660 receiving yards, 8 receiving TDs, fantasy TE6)

5 years: I think Brate is the real deal no matter where he lands. I say that because the Bucs just re-signed him to a one-year $690,000 contract. Uh… that seems low. He’ll get more next year and will continue to be a force in Tampa Bay, or not. — Brandon Marianne Lee

1 year: Brate came out of nowhere to produce a solid fantasy season but I’d like to see it again before signing up long-term. — Michael Moore

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| Fantasy Editor

Daniel Kelley is the fantasy editor for Pro Football Focus. He has previously appeared at SB Nation.