Swing for the fences: The highest-upside TEs at every ADP
For the past few weeks we’ve taken a position-by-position look at some upside players at every ADP spot in the draft.
Unlike the previous positions, we will not exclude the top-tier players at tight end due to the smaller sample size. Plus, the upside guys at tight end are the ones going early in fantasy drafts and boast a much higher ceiling than most of their peers at the position.
Add to it the fact that last season was one of the most brutal fantasy seasons at tight end in some time. The 188 tight end touchdowns across the league were the fewest scored since 2008. It was the first time since 1998 that not a single player at the position broke 140 fantasy points in a season.
With that in mind, we should expect a bit of a bounce back in the year ahead. Here’s a look at the players with the highest potential at tight end:
(All ADP data from FantasyFootballCalculator.com.)
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (ADP: 2.08/TE1)
Still just 28, Gronkowski is coming off his third back surgery and a season in which he played in just eight games. The good news is that he appears to be near 100 percent. The bad news is history suggests he could miss more time. When on the field there is no better tight end in fantasy, but due to myriad injuries Gronk has only started in 54 of his team’s last 80 games. His current late-second-round price tag makes it hard to pull the trigger, but if he stays healthy he can carry a fantasy team like few other players can.
If you tally up all his fantasy points over the past three seasons, he’s outscored the next closest tight end on the list by more than 3.0 fantasy points per game. Gronkowski dominates in the red zone and his size makes him a difficult matchup when the Patriots move him around to go on longer routes in the middle of the field.
Touchdowns come in bunches, with at least 10 scores in each of the five seasons he’s played in double-digit games. Gronk has averaged 17.7 yards per catch over the last two years. Last season his 15.1-yard average depth of target was three yards more than any other player at the position.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (5.08/TE4)
Like Gronkowski, Reed carries some big-time fantasy potential but comes with a high risk of injury. Despite missing four games due to a concussion and shoulder injury, Reed still finished as TE7 with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns. A year earlier he was TE2 despite playing in just 14 games. In four seasons Reed has never played in 16 games and his long history of concussions only makes his durability a bigger concern.
However, Reed averages more than 86 receptions per 16 games played in his career, so the potential only rises the more he is able to stay on the field. He’s already dinged up with a toe issue in camp right now that appears to be lingering. The concern has led to his ADP dropping by round over the past month though so it could help him start coming at a bit more of a value.
With the changeovers in the receiving corps there is a level of familiarity Reed will have with quarterback Kirk Cousins that makes him even more appealing. Reed is a beast in the red zone, especially inside the 10-yard line. He’s pulled in 14 of 20 targets since the start of 2015 within that range with 10 of those catches resulting in a touchdown.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (6.10/TE6)
When it comes to touchdowns, no tight end in football has been more productive with their opportunities than Eifert. He has 18 scores over his last 20 games. If you stretch his career averages out over 16 games, the Bengals tight end scores 9.4 times every 16 games. Eifert led all NFL tight ends with 13 touchdowns in 2015 despite playing in just 13 games. Like others before him on the list the Bengals tight end has been bit hard by the injury bug, missing 26 of 48 games.
As good as Eifert has been in the red zone, the team hasn’t utilized him as much in other parts of the field when he has been healthy, but the coaching staff has expressed a desire to get Eifert more involved this season. If he can grow his role here and stay on the field, the contract-year tight end could be poised for a big 2017 season.
The Eagles’ passing attack is making some big strides this offseason, and that could help propel Ertz up the board nicely in fantasy. He’s caught 75 or more passes in each of the last two years and the improvements on the offensive side of the ball there should be more red-zone chances ahead in 2017.
From Week 9 on last season he led all players at the position in fantasy points (154 PPR/91 standard), targets (83) and receptions (63) and tied for second in touchdowns (4) and receiving yards (666). The Eagles don’t want to have pass too much this season and have more weapons to eat up the targets, but Ertz is very capable of taking a step up and stretching out this type of performance across a full season. His current ADP is a bit baffling.
With Anquan Boldin no longer in Detroit, there are plenty of red-zone opportunities for the taking in the Lions’ offense and the expectation is that Ebron is most likely to be the biggest benefactor. He posted career highs in receptions (61) and receiving yards (711) in 2016 and he possesses natural speed and athleticism despite his larger frame (6-foot-4, 253 pounds).
He has had some issues with drops early in his career, but still just 24 years old, the potential is still there for a bigger breakout. The Lions must be happy with where he’s at so far in his development as they picked up a fifth-year option this offseason moving his 2018 salary up $8.3 million.
Hooper is one of the second-year tight ends drawing some buzz in fantasy circles this summer, joining Hunter Henry of the Chargers. Hooper has two things playing in his favor though that make him more appealing than Henry – he’s going off draft boards five rounds later and he doesn’t have much competition on depth chart since Antonio Gates decided not to retire.
Atlanta seems to be ready to give Hooper a bigger role in the season ahead. Over the past two years only three teams have thrown fewer passes to tight ends, but part of that was Kyle Shanahan and part of that was the Falcons had little talent at the position. There won’t be a huge spike in targets, but a tick up appears to be a certainty. He caught only 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie, but came on late during the team’s Super Bowl run. With veteran Jacob Tamme out of the picture, Hooper’s stock is on the rise.