Generally rookie tight ends do not produce much and are often overlooked by fantasy owners. Does that mean it is impossible, though? Let’s take a look at this year’s rookie class and see if there is potential value to be had:
1) Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals appear to be taking a page out of the Patriots play book, pairing Eifert with Jermaine Gresham to form a potentially dynamic 1-2 tight end punch. Of course A.J. Green is going to be the first option, but this clearly is becoming a pass first offense (does anyone trust BenJarvus Green-Ellis running the football and Giovani Bernard figures to be a major presence out of the backfield on passing downs).
Eifert should get moved around the formation and see ample opportunities to produce. Over the past two years at Notre Dame he totaled 113 receptions for 1,488 yards and 9 TD. Given the competition for touches it is hard to imagine him making a major impact, but the 21st overall selection in this year’s draft should get more chances than anyone in the draft class to produce.
Consider him a high-end TE2 on draft day.
2) Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
Sure they signed Anthony Fasano, but he’s never had more than 41 receptions or 528 yards in a season. While he may get more opportunities than he did in Miami, it’s hard to depend on him. They also have Tony Moeaki, but he had knee surgery and has actually been rumored as a possible trade target for the Patriots.
Either way, despite the seeming depth in KC, Kelce should get an opportunity. Playing for the Cincinnati Bearcats he had 45 receptions for 722 yards and 8 TD in 2012. According to nfl.com prior to the draft:
STRENGTHS Kelce has an ideal tight end frame. Athletic for his size, with great strength, and the ability to stretch the field vertically. Very physical run blocker, generates power from the lower half, and will move defenders off the ball. Plays with leverage. Wide catching radius, can adjust and make the difficult catch. Tough to bring down after the catch. Light feet, and has lined up in numerous different positions.
He did miss a full season due to suspension, which is a concern, but his ability to block should get him on the field. That’s half the battle and he’s a name to keep in mind.
3) Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
He assumed Colby Fleener’s role at Stanford last season and flourished with 69 receptions for 898 yards and 6 TD. The problem is the depth chart, with Brent Celek and James Casey ahead of him. There also is concerns with his blocking ability, according to nfl.com’s pre-draft scouting report:
Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging at targets instead of getting position.
The offensive potential is there, but if he can’t block he may not be able to get on the field much given the other options.
4) Vance McDonald – San Francisco 49ers
He will assume Delanie Walker’s role behind Vernon Davis. Walker had 21 receptions for 344 yards and 3 TD last season, but we also have to remember that the team will be without Michael Crabtree (potentially opening up a bit more of an opportunity). Plus, McDonald simply has more offensive potential than Walker did and with Colin Kaepernick under center the team could look to take advantage of it.
5) Gavin Escobar – Dallas Cowboys
Listed at 6’6″, 249 lbs., he has the size and potential to flourish in the NFL. Unfortunately that is likely a few years away as he will learn and develop behind Jason Witten in 2013. Consider him a much better selection in dynasty formats.
Make sure to check out all of our 2013 Rookie Rankings: