Saturday, August 19, 2017

2017 Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 40 Tight Ends

Earlier today, we updated our 2017 Fantasy Football Rankings and here our updated fantasy tight end rankings (standard scoring):

1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

When healthy, Gronkowski is as good as it gets. Unfortunately, the 28-year-old tight end has missed five-plus games in three of the past five seasons. That said, Gronk has averaged nearly 70 yards per game with a total of 69 touchdowns in 88 career games.

2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Kelce set career highs in receptions (85), yards (1,125) and 100-yard games (six) and led the position in fantasy points scored despite scoring only four touchdowns. While Kelce has never scored more than five touchdowns in a season, he was targeted 16 times in the red zone last season -- only three TEs were targeted more inside the 20. With Jeremy Maclin now in Baltimore, Kelce should be even more of a focal point of the passing offense and has a chance to finish as fantasy's TE1 even if Rob Gronkowski plays a full season.

3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Missing multiple regular-season games every year, Reed missed another four games last season and durability is obviously the main concern with Reed. Recently visiting renowned foot specialist Dr. Anderson, there was "nothing earth-shattering" as a result of the visit, but it's unclear how long Reed (toe/ankle, active/PUP) will be sidelined. Since Kirk Cousins became the team's starting quarterback in 2015, Reed has averaged the equivalent to a 16-game pace of 94/1,008/10.

4. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

Olsen scored only three touchdowns, his lowest since his rookie season (2007). As steady as it gets, Olsen has three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and has played all 16 games every year except his rookie season. Olsen has finished as a top-seven fantasy tight end in five consecutive seasons and only Travis Kelce scored more last season.

5. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks

In his comeback from a torn patellar tendon, Graham had 65 catches for 923 yards and six touchdowns. All three of his 100-yard games occurred in the first half of the season with a 38/545/3 split (compared to 27/378/3 over the final eight games). One more year removed from the injury, Graham has a chance to post similar (or even better) numbers in 2017.

6. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

The good news: 18 touchdowns. The bad news: 22 games. Unfortunately, Eifert has missed more games (26) than he has played (22) over the past three seasons, but he has been a dominant red-zone target, when healthy, with 18 touchdowns during that stretch.

7. Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers

Going from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers won't hurt Bennett's fantasy value. In fact, his outlook has improved. Not that Rodgers doesn't spread the ball around, but I'd expect Bennett to see a larger share of targets in Green Bay than he saw in New England (13.27 percent) last season. And considering Rob Gronkowski missed half of the season and the Patriots added Brandin Cooks this offseason, Bennett would have been lucky to get 13 percent of the targets from Brady this season.

8. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Rudolph shattered previous career highs with 83 receptions (previous career high: 53) and 840 yards (previous: 495) while scoring seven touchdowns. Rudolph should come close to those numbers once again in 2017.

9. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

Over the past two seasons, Ertz has a minimum of 75 catches and 816 yards each season and he once again closed the season strong. Over his final five games last season, Ertz caught 40 of 54 targets for 443 yards and three touchdowns. Even though the Eagles have added Alshon Jeffery (and Torrey Smith) to the receiving corps, trading away Jordan Matthews is a positive for Ertz's fantasy outlook.

10. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

With more than 100 targets in each of the past three seasons, Walker has a minimum of 800 receiving yards each season with a total of 222/2,778/17 over that span. Going into his age-33 season, Walker may not post similar numbers to what he's put up over the past few seasons with more weapons for Marcus Mariota, but he remains a viable TE1 for fantasy owners in 2017.

11. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Henry finished his rookie campaign with 36/478/8 and he was especially productive during a four-game stretch early in the season (18/290/3 from Weeks 3 to 6). Even with Antonio Gates back, it's likely that Henry leads the position group in targets and production. Worst-case scenario: Henry should build upon his rookie numbers and remain a red-zone force, but he has top-10 upside in Year 2. In fact, Gates (TE10) and Henry (TE11) both performed as top-12 fantasy tight ends in 2016. (Henry finished as the TE18 in PPR formats.)

12. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions

With at least four catches in 11 of his 13 games played, Ebron set career highs in his age-23 season with 61 catches for 711 yards although he scored just two touchdowns -- one receiving and one "rushing." Going into his fourth NFL season, Ebron has missed multiple games every season, but he has a chance to take another step forward in 2017, especially if he can stay healthy for the full season.

13. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

Finishing just outside the top-12 in fantasy points scored, Doyle signed a three-year deal worth $19 million with the Colts this offseason as the team traded away Dwayne Allen. Doyle's 59 catches, 75 targets and 584 yards were all second on the team to only T.Y. Hilton, who led the NFL in receiving yardage in 2016.

14. Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints

In his first season in New Orleans, Fleener set four-year lows in both receptions (50) and targets (81), but his 631 receiving yards and four touchdowns (three receiving and one rushing) were the second-most of his career. While he disappointed fantasy owners (compared to his ADP), Fleener scored the 12th-most fantasy points (15th-most in PPR) in 2016.

15. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brate broke out in his third NFL season with 57 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns, second on the team to only Mike Evans. Not only did the Bucs upgrade their No. 2 wide receiver by adding DeSean Jackson in free agency, the team used its first-round pick on tight end O.J. Howard. Even though rookie tight ends tend to struggle and I project Brate to score more fantasy points than Howard, Howard has an elite skill set and his presence puts a damper on Brate's outlook.

16. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston Texans

As much as Houston's offense struggled last season, Fiedorowicz had an 11-game stretch with three-plus catches starting in Week 4 and set career highs across the board (54/559/4) in his third season. I could see similar steady production for the 25-year-old in 2017.

17. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys

With the exception of his rookie season (2003), Witten has a minimum of 64 catches every year without missing a game during that span. Better in PPR formats, however, the 35-year-old tight end has averaged less than 10.0 Y/R in three of five years, less than 45.0 YPG in three consecutive years and scored just three touchdowns in back-to-back seasons.

18. Julius Thomas, Miami Dolphins

After two disappointing seasons in Jacksonville, the reunion with Adam Gase is certainly a positive for Thomas, who had 12 touchdowns in each of his final two seasons with Denver and Adam Gase (and Peyton Manning). In fact, Thomas (33) has the eighth-most receiving touchdowns over the past four seasons.

19. Antonio Gates, Los Angeles Chargers

With his next touchdown, Gates will break the all-time TD record for tight ends that he shares with Tony Gonzalez. Going into his age-37 season, however, the future Hall-of-Famer isn't even the best fantasy tight end on his own roster, but he should remain one of Philip Rivers' favorite targets in the red zone.

20. Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders

Cook goes from Aaron Rodgers and the high-powered Packers offense to Derek Carr and the high-powered Raiders offense. A mismatch waiting to happen with freakish athletic ability, Cook can also frustrate fantasy owners with his week-to-week inconsistency.

21. Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

There is some breakout potential for Hooper, who should be able to build upon his rookie production (19/271/3). But by how much?

22. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Slipping further than expected to 19th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, Howard excels as both a blocker and a receiver although he was under-utilized in the passing game at Alabama. Testing well in Indy, Howard ran a 4.51 forty at the NFL Scouting Combine and should develop into one of the top fantasy tight ends for years to come. That said, it's rare for rookie tight ends to make an immediate impact so it's likely that 2018 (and beyond) production vastly exceeds his 2017 numbers.

23. Jesse James, Pittsburgh Steelers

James had a 39/338/3 slash line in his second season, but he should see more looks in 2017 given the offseason release of Ladarius Green. In two playoff games last season, James had 10 catches for 131 yards and the 6-foot-7 tight end has the potential to make a big jump in the red zone.

24. Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills

In his two seasons with the Bills, Clay has averaged 3.9/38.6/0.25 per game. While he's finished both seasons as a top-20 fantasy performer, he's nothing more than a low-end TE2 going into 2017.

25. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

Higbee had just 11 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, but he's a strong candidate for a breakout season in 2017. GM Les Snead is among those expecting "big things" from Higbee this year.

Here are the best of the rest:

26. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
27. Evan Engram, New York Giants
28. Zach Miller, Chicago Bears
29. Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams
30. Erik Swoope, Indianapolis Colts
31. Benjamin Watson, Baltimore Ravens
32. Dwayne Allen, New England Patriots
33. Vance McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
34. Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins
35. Adam Shaheen, Chicago Bears
36. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets
37. Seth Devalve, Cleveland Browns
38. Ryan Griffin, Houston Texans
39. Richard Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
40. Maxx Williams, Baltimore Ravens

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Good luck in your 2017 fantasy football league(s)!