by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Tight end is often a frustrating position to fill, as we see week-to-week inconsistency (outside of the elite in the game). While that makes it more difficult to stream an option, the idea of owning one of the top options who you know you can count on becomes that much more important. We all know that a healthy Rob Gronkowski is among that group, but who joins him? The potential candidates have grown, so let’s take a look at our early rankings and see who it is that we’d be targeting:
- Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
- Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
- Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
- Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
- Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
- Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
- Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
- Martellus Bennett – Green Bay Packers
- Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks
- Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts
- Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
- Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers
- Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings
- O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- C.J. Fiedorowicz – Houston Texans
- Travis Kelce was already the leading receiver for Kansas City, turning 117 targets into 85 catches, 1,125 yards and 4 TD in ’16. Regardless of if Alex Smith keeps the QB job, or if first round pick Patrick Mahomes takes over, you know Kelce will remain the safety valve/go-to target (especially with Jeremy Maclin cut late in the offseason). He’s gotten better in each of his three seasons and could see his red zone role rise.
- If Jordan Reed could stay healthy he’d likely be a Top 3 option, but he has only played in more than 12 games once in his four NFL seasons (with his high being 14 games in ’15). He should continue to be one of the best options, when he’s on the field, but that’s an important caveat that can’t be ignored. That said, once he comes off the board the questions really start to mount and the rankings grow somewhat cloudy.
- While Zach Ertz has struggled with some missed time himself, he’s been targeted over 100 times in each of the past two seasons. That type of opportunity can’t be ignored, and the offseason acquisition of Alshon Jeffrey should help to take the attention away from Ertz and open things up. Injury likely helped slow him down early, as over the final 9 games of the season he racked up 63 catches for 666 yards (74 yards/game) and 4 TD. While it’s not as simple as projecting that out for a full season, if he can maintain that you are looking at 112 catches for 1,184 yards. In other words, he has the upside to be one of the elite in the game.
- Hunter Henry showed that rookie tight ends can make an instant impact, delivering 36 catches for 478 yards and 8 TD in ’16. The second round pick should only take on more of the workload, as Antonio Gates (53 catches, 548 yards, 7 TD) is another year older. A healthy receiving corps should cut into the opportunities for the tight ends, but as far as high upside gambles there’s a lot to like with Henry.
- While Coby Fleener disappointed in his first season in New Orleans, the trade of Brandin Cooks should open up some opportunities. The upside is still there, so don’t ignore him.
Make sure to check out our early 2017 Rankings: