Rob Gronkowski is clearly the top choice at tight end, but after Gronk, there is a lot of depth at the position.
When it comes to drafting a tight end in your league, it’s a lot like drafting a quarterback. Either be the first or one of the last ones to do it. If a top-three tight end isn’t available, wait until at least round nine or 10 to fill the position. Here are the top 15 tight ends heading into the 2018 season.
15. Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saints
Benjamin Watson had six games with double-digit points in PPR scoring. He led all tight ends in catch rate (78 percent) with over 50 targets. He’s catching passes from Drew Brees and will be in one of the best offenses in football. He finished as the number 11 tight end in fantasy last year and should be a border-line top 10 option for the year.
14. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
O.J. Howard is the biggest mystery at the tight end position. He showed his upside by scoring 27 fantasy points in a game. However, he had six games with only one catch. He is splitting time at the position with Cameron Brate but his upside is finishing the season inside the top five. There is a big risk in drafting Howard but he’s a former first-round pick in the NFL Draft and they will try to get him more involved in the offense. He’s a freak athletically and could be the breakout player at the position in 2018.
13. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
In the final three games last season with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, George Kittle averaged 12 fantasy points a game. If he kept that up for the season he would have finished as a top five tight end. San Francisco lacks another red zone threat and Kittle could be Jimmy G’s best option once they get close.
12. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
David Njoku is everything you want in a tight end. He’s big, fast, strong and can out jump anyone for a jump ball. The quarterback play will be greatly improved and so should Njoku’s consistency. He would get a big boost if Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback because of how often he targets the tight end. He has the talent to finish inside the top five and could finish there for the next decade, that’s how good he is. He’s a great pick in dynasty leagues with his upside.
11. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
The days of Jordan Reed being a top five pick at tight end are over. His games played have gone down every year since 2015 (14, 12, 6). Jordan Reed has great potential but if you draft him this year, make sure you have a backup on your roster. He’s feeling close to 100 percent after having two surgeries on his toes in the offseason. In 2015, he finished as the second-best tight end in fantasy but the downside is last season where he only plays in six games.
10. Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
Trey Burton has more Super Bowl passing touchdowns then the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars organizations combined! However, that’s not the reason why you are drafting him. He will be the second option in Chicago’s passing offense and he showed last year in Philadelphia that he can find the end zone with five touchdowns as the back up to Zach Ertz. If you wait on tight end this year, Trey Burton should have no problem finishing inside the top ten at the position.
9. Evan Engram, New York Giants
Last season everything fell into place for Evan Engram to have a break-out rookie season. Odell Beckham Jr. was hurt and Sterling Shepard was battling injuries for most of the season. Engram is an athletic freak, but he still needs to learn how to play the position better before he can jump into the top tier. His 64 receptions were third all time for rookie tight ends in NFL history but with the return of OBJ and with Saquon Barkley joining the team, he will lose some targets. He’s still a top ten player at the position with the upside to finish inside the top five (again).
8. Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers
If you draft Jimmy Graham this year, don’t expect the same player who he was on the Saints. He led all tight ends in touchdowns last season with 10 but he also had four games where he had less then 10 receiving yards. He’s a touchdown dependent player and has more value in non-PPR leagues. He won’t end up on many of my teams because of where he is being drafted but he should be near the touchdown leaders once again.
7. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Delanie Walker finished as fourth highest scoring tight end in PPR leagues last season while only scoring three touchdowns. For tight ends last season, he was tied for third with 74 receptions and was fourth in receiving yards with 807. The touchdowns should go up and he should have no problem finishing within the top eight. The biggest concern with Walker is his age (34), but when he’s healthy he is as consistent as they come.
6. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Kyle Rudolph and the entire Minnesota Vikings offense got an upgrade at quarterback with Kirk Cousins. From 2015-2017, with two tight ends on the field, Cousins averaged the highest yards per attempt with 10.24 (the second highest was Matthew Stafford with 9.37). If you combine targets for both of his tight ends last season (Vernon Davis — 68 and Jordan Reed — 27) they would have combined for the seventh most targets at tight end. The man loves throwing to the tight end and Rudolph could be in for a career year this season.
5. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
2017 was the first time Greg Olsen has missed a game since his rookie season back in 2007. He is healthy heading into the season and will be the first or second option in the passing attack for Cam Newton. In the previous three seasons, he had over 77 receptions and 1,000 yards and he finished as a top-four tight end each year. He’s slipping in drafts this season, but he should have no problem finishing inside the top six in 2018.
4. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
I am the conductor of the Jack Doyle fan club this season. He finished second in the league (for tight ends) in receptions (80) and that was without Andrew Luck. In Luck’s last healthy season in 2016, he targeted the tight end on 23.8 percent of his passes (in 2017 that would have been the second highest in the league). Doyle was targeted on 22 percent of his routes in 2017, the fourth most among tight ends. His new head coach, Frank Reich (Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator last season), targeted Zach Ertz on the most routes ran for tight ends and now should do the same with Jack Doyle. He’s going outside the top ten at tight end in drafts and he will be the steal of the draft if you get him there.
3. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
Travis Kelce has finished as the top scoring tight end for the past two seasons. The biggest concern heading into the season is the change at quarterback. Patrick Mahomes can throw the ball a country mile but on his short to medium routes, he could struggle. Kelce is as consistent as them come and last season he averaged more fantasy points per game then A.J. Green and Mike Evans. He should be the security blanket for his new quarterback which could lead to more receptions.
2. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
With Carson Wentz throwing him the ball, Zach Ertz averaged 14.8 fantasy points per game, which would have made him the highest scoring tight end in fantasy. Over the past two seasons, Ertz has finished in the top five for tight ends in targets, receptions, receiving yards and end zone targets. With Alshon Jefferey missing at least the first two games of the season, he could get more targets and red zone looks to start off the season.
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
When Rob Gronkowski is healthy, there hasn’t been a more productive tight end in NFL history. He’s missed 10 games over the past two seasons and injury risk is the biggest concern heading into the season with Gronk as your starting tight end. If you draft him, make sure you have a legitimate backup because chances are that he will miss some games. Jack Doyle, Benjamin Watson and Trey Burton are great players to have as insurance.