The tight end position was difficult for fantasy football owners in 2017. Some of the top tight ends drafted were disappointments and finding a replacement was difficult.
Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed and Martellus Bennett were drafted as TE1s and fantasy owners had to find other options as the season progressed. Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski (right) were the top tight ends drafted, and both ended the season well (they were the top two in terms of fantasy points), so there were some things that went according to plan.
While at the end of the day, fantasy owners are looking at total points. However, those in PPR formats should also keep an eye on the targets (and receptions) as those can add up to points. Touchdowns are fluky and may vary from year to year so watch the targets. In 2017 here are the top 10 target leaders at the tight end position:
Travis Kelce, KC
Evan Engram, NYG
Delanie Walker, TEN
Zach Ertz, PHI
Jack Doyle, IND
Rob Gronkowski, NE
Jimmy Graham, SEA
Jason Witten, DAL
Eric Ebron, DET
Jared Cook, OAK
Gronkowski and Kelce were the only two tight ends that posted more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2017. They each had eight touchdown catches, as did Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph, which tied them for second behind Jimmy Graham (10).
Interestingly enough, Graham had half the receiving yards as Gronkowski (520 to 1,084). In looking at the numbers, it seems that the two players were targeted about the same and had roughly the same number of receptions. Gronkowski was just able to add more yards after the catch or post longer receptions whereas Graham did much of his damage in the red zone.
When looking at drafting a tight end in the future, always look at how the position is utilized on the team. Some teams don’t use a tight end and others try to get the ball to the tight end. When looking at all fantasy points scored by all tight ends, the teams with the fewest points were Green Bay and Denver. While Green Bay did have to figure out how to get through the season without Aaron Rodgers, the tight end hasn’t been a key position in that offense in years.
Heading into the 2017 season, fantasy owners knew of the injury risks associated with many of the top tight ends. Gronkowski hasn’t played 16 games in years. Reed came into the season injured. Eifert started the season healthy, but suffered yet another back injury that required surgery, ending his season after two weeks. However, more injuries cropped up – Olsen, Zach Miller, C.J. Fiedorowicz. It was a tough year for a position that seemed deep, but turned out to be quite shallow.
A couple of tight ends to watch for next year are Evan Engram (right) and Hunter Henry. Typically rookie tight ends don’t perform well in the league their first year. However, Engram finished the year with the fourth-most fantasy points among tight ends. This was somewhat due to the fact that Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall got hurt and missed most of the season. However, Engram showed that he was a solid pass catcher on a team that needs weapons. He had 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns (five of which came in games where Beckham was not playing). He’s in the TE1 conversation for 2018.
Henry has played behind Antonio Gates for the past two years. In each of the past two seasons he has yet to have more than 50 receptions or 600 receiving yards. In 2016, he had eight touchdowns; he had half of that in 2017. However, Gates is a free agent. He’s going to be 38 years old and although he has expressed his desire to continue playing, it’s not clear if the Chargers are going to sign him again, knowing they have Henry. If Gates returns, Henry is still a low TE1. If Gates is gone, Henry is a solid TE1.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.