This week, I conclude my four-part series looking at player value one position at a time. I’ve left the volatile, and often confusing tight end position, for the finale. Tight end was traditionally an overlooked position in fantasy football. In fact, it was not uncommon to find dynasty leagues that didn’t even require teams to use a tight end. Now, thanks to some athletic freaks that have entered the league in recent years, combined with the rising popularity of tight end premium leagues, tight ends are becoming more of a priority for dynasty owners building teams.
Here are my current dynasty tight end rankings, broken down by tiers.
TE1 Rob Gronkowski, NE
There’s not much to talk about here. Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski is easily in his own tier atop all other tight ends. In fact, he puts up numbers that would place him in the top tier of wide receivers as well, giving his dynasty owners a huge positional advantage over their competitors. While the overall top tier of dynasty players is getting crowded, Gronkowski should have a place in the first round of most startup dynasty drafts this off-season.
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TE2 Tyler Eifert, CIN
TE3 Jordan Reed, WAS
TE4 Travis Kelce, KC
TE5 Greg Olsen, CAR
This second group is led by a pair of young tight ends who have really made their mark on the league this season. In the early part of the season, Bengals’ tight end Tyler Eifert was a dominant force, gaining value by the week. After an average rookie season, Eifert’s second year was cut way short as he was injured early in week one of 2014 and never played again that season. That obviously affected his value, but he more than made up for it this year. Eifert’s performance in the first half of the season has him firmly in my second tier. It’s a similar story for Redskins’ tight end Jordan Reed, who battled injuries early this season, but has been on fire as of late. Reed’s concussion history is a huge concern, but he is proving he is worth the risk when he’s on the field. He’s behind only Gronkowski on a per game fantasy scoring basis. Eifert and Reed have been what many expected Travis Kelce to be this year, a dynasty riser with huge upside. He still has that upside, but there has to be some doubt about how the Chiefs use Kelce on a weekly basis. That is limiting his fantasy upside and dynasty value. Finally, Greg Olsen has been the old reliable, and with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin out for the year, he’s been the first look for Cam Newton. This overall group of five top tight ends seems pretty set, even if you disagree about the order, but that all changes soon.
TE6 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB
TE7 Eric Ebron, DET
TE8 Ladarius Green, SD
TE9 Maxx Williams, BAL
TE10 Zach Ertz, PHI
TE11 Julius Thomas, JAX
TE12 Delanie Walker, TEN
TE13 Gary Barnidge, CLE
TE14 Jimmy Graham, SEA
TE15 Martellus Bennett, CHI
This large third tier has a little bit of everything. There are young players who have yet to really establish themselves, but still have that promise. This would include first and second year players like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron and Maxx Williams, as well as the Chargers’ backup, soon to be free agent Ladarius Green. Each of these will be trade targets for me this off-season.
This tier also includes a unique mixture of veterans, some losing value as you might expect, while a pair of AFC tight ends are showing that it’s never too late to enjoy a breakout season. While Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett have suffered with both poor play on the field as well as injuries cutting short their seasons, Delanie Walker and Gary Barnidge have stepped up as consistent weekly producers. The long-term upside of both is limited since they are already over 30 years old, but there’s no reason they can’t have similar production in 2016. If I’m seeing age scare some dynasty owners away from these guys in the coming months, I’ll be glad to add them to my roster as my starting tight end. As for Graham and Bennett, the future of each is uncertain. Graham has a very serious injury to recover from and it’s not a stretch to say he’ll never be the same player. Bennett’s injury is not nearly as serious, but there’s an expectation that he’ll be searching for a new team this off-season and that uncertainly is one key aspect leading to his drop in value.
TE16 Clive Walford, OAK
TE17 Kyle Rudolph, MIN
TE18 Antonio Gates, SD
TE19 Dwayne Allen, IND
TE20 Coby Fleener, IND
TE21 Richard Rodgers, GB
TE22 Jace Amaro, NYJ
TE23 Jordan Cameron, MIA
TE24 Charles Clay, BUF
TE25 Crockett Gillmore, BAL
TE26 Jason Witten, DAL
To be honest, I’m not very interested in many of the tight ends in this tier. There are some interesting prospects, such as Raiders’ rookie Clive Walford, but in general, I want the two tight ends on my dynasty rosters to come from my top three tiers. Players like Antonio Gates present dynasty owners with a difficult task, as he continues to produce, but his age hinders his overall dynasty value. Just as in the past couple of years, Gates should be very inexpensive to acquire, and should be a target for contending teams. One interesting player from this group is tight end Jace Amaro. Much like Eifert, who I mentioned earlier, Amaro had an average rookie season and missed the entire second season with an injury. I don’t expect Amaro to post the same range of numbers we saw from the Bengals’ tight end this season, but he could certainly claim the Jets’ starting job in 2016.
My fifth tier of tight ends carries to the end of the rankings, through the TE50 (Vance McDonald.) I won’t list them all, but there are a handful of rookies I am interested in as stashes this off-season. These are not players I would highly value or even trade for, but if they are on the waiver wire, I am adding them to monitor the events of the off-season. This group would include Jesse James, Will Tye, Tyler Kroft, Blake Bell and Cameron Brate.
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