Pre-free agency tight end fantasy landscape
It's an unexciting tight end crop in free agency this year, but Tyler Loechner notes there are spots with plenty of fantasy intrigue.
Pre-free agency tight end fantasy landscape
We’ve explored the pre-free agency landscape for running backs, wideouts and quarterbacks, and we’re wrapping up this series with a look at tight ends — and the potential impact this year’s crop of free agents could have for your fantasy squads, depending on where they land.
There are a few fantasy-relevant tight ends set to hit free agency, led by Martellus Bennett, but the position is not loaded with talent this year. Let’s run through some of the potential high, medium and low impact landing spots for Bennett and the others.
High impact potential
A free agent tight end has high potential to become a viable fantasy player in 2017 if they sign here via free agency.
New England Patriots — Bennett was with the Patriots in 2016, and even though Rob Gronkowski missed time with injury, Bennett was an inconsistent fantasy player with a high ceiling but low floor. The Patriots could go the “boring” route and sign someone like Anthony Fasano, but if they re-sign Bennett or make a run at someone like Jared Cook, Jack Doyle or even Vernon Davis, the fantasy potential could be high. Even with Gronkowski back on the field, the Patriots have displayed an ability to make two tight ends relevant in fantasy at the same time.
Green Bay Packers — Jared Cook is hitting free agency, and while it’s certainly possible the Packers re-sign him after his impressive postseason performances, the Packers could also go in another direction. A tight end is not guaranteed to generate in Green Bay, but with Aaron Rodgers under center, it’s impossible not to place the Packers in the “high impact potential” category.
Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons are losing Jacob Tamme and Levine Toilolo to free agency, and while the team already has young Austin Hooper on the roster, it’s not unreasonable to think they’d make a play for another tight end via free agency. Tamme, Toilolo and Hooper combined for 745 yards and eight touchdowns last year. That’s not groundbreaking, but with Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense firing on all cylinders, the potential here is undoubtedly high — especially if Hooper doesn’t improve in year two.
Indianapolis Colts — Jack Doyle is set to become a free agent, and he led all Colts tight ends last year with 72 targets, 59 receptions and 584 yards. He also caught five touchdowns, just behind Dwayne Allen for the team lead (six). Even with Allen still in town, the Colts could look to replace Doyle’s production with another tight end. The right tight end in this high-scoring offense could immediately become a fantasy factor.
Medium impact potential
A free agent tight end has mild potential to become a viable fantasy player in 2017 if they sign here via free agency.
Miami Dolphins — Dion Sims and Jordan Cameron are free agents, so the Dolphins will be in the market for a tight end. However, the team rarely used its tight ends last year, and with most (or all) of their other skill position players returning in 2017, it’s difficult to envision tight ends becoming a big part of their offense.
New York Jets — If the Dolphins “rarely used” their tight ends, then the Jets never used theirs. Jets tight ends caught just 18 passes last season. With that said, there’s almost no competition here, so if a tight end signs here in free agency, they could show up on the fantasy radar by default. The ceiling isn’t too high, though.
Arizona Cardinals — Jermaine Gresham led all Arizona tight ends with 37 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns last year, and he’s about to hit the open market, leaving Arizona open for a new name. I would have put the Cardinals in the “high impact potential” group if Gresham’s team-leading stats — over the course of a full 16-game season — weren’t so underwhelming in 2016. David Johnson dominated those short routes, and there’s no reason to think that won’t be the case again in 2017.
Denver Broncos — The Broncos aren’t losing any tight ends to free agency, but they also don’t really have an answer at the position currently on the roster. Virgin Green caught just 22 passes for 237 yards and a score in 10 games last year. The fantasy potential for a free agent tight end here is middling; most of the passing game figures to flow through Denver’s outside weapons.
Jacksonville Jaguars — After agreeing to trade Julius Thomas to the Dolphins, Jacksonville now has a vacancy at tight end. Blake Bortles and the Jaguars figure to be playing garbage-time catch-up enough again in 2017 to make whomever they roll with at tight end a mildly appealing fantasy option.
Low impact potential
A free agent tight end is unlikely to become a viable fantasy player in 2017 if they sign here via free agency.
Every other team — All other teams are either unlikely to make a move for a tight end this free agency — and even if they did, it wouldn’t have much, if any, fantasy impact.
Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.