Breaking Down the ADP: Tight Ends

Jeff Miller

One of the most common comments/compliments commented commonly to me is our reader’s love of the player comments in our rankings. I appreciate people taking notice because I think they are very often more helpful than the ranking itself. They do have a rather pesky length limitation, though. It was with that in mind that Mr. Dan Sainio and I set out to craft expanded comments for the top-10 quarterbacks and tight ends and top-20 running backs and wide receivers from our February startup ADP.

We each pitched in about 100 words per player to give you two different viewpoints. No notes were compared, so while some comments may be similar, there are plenty of differences as well. This series will be stretched out over six parts, with each pushing into the 2,000 word territory. While longer than most articles released here, we think the short, consumable, blurbish nature of the format will make it pretty easy to digest while still being very informational.

TE1 – Rob Gronkowski (ADP 21)

Jeff: There is zero question who belongs in this spot. The bigger discussion revolves around the 21st overall thing. In June of 2015, Gronk was the number three player in all of dynasty ADP. By June of last year, he slid to tenth. Here we are less than a year later and he sits at 21. Still only 27-years-old, this is all about the injuries, which is weird, because we knew that was a thing when he was third and tenth. For my money, Gronk is a steal at his current price. By the time the season rolls around and he is hanging fat numbers, the rest of the world will agree.

Dan: Gronk is still likely to be the obvious choice as TE1 for most, but I believe it’s significantly closer than ADP leads us to believe. While he is finally sliding into a range where I’m slightly more comfortable taking him (I still wouldn’t), there’s a lot of risk incorporated with arguably the best TE to ever play the game. Gronk hasn’t played a healthy season since his sophomore season, which was coincidentally his best year. He has played 16 games just two times, and they were his first two seasons in the NFL. While he is still a fantasy superstar when he’s on the field, his price is far too high to consider knowing he isn’t going to play a full season. He’s like your favorite pair of underwear that you’ve had for 15 years but are literally hanging on by a thread. Then, one day, you sit down wrong and poof, they’re destroyed.

[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]

TE2 – Travis Kelce (ADP 39)

Jeff: After two years of kicking and screaming from the world at large, it seems Andy Reid and Alex Smith finally figured out what literally every other person on Earth with eyes already knew, that Kelce is the best offensive player on the Chiefs’ roster. It took a down year from Jeremy Maclin to do it, but Kelce exploded for 15.4 PPG from weeks 8-17. It isn’t quite Gronkian, but he has proven to be healthier than Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed and younger than and just as productive as Greg Olsen. For the first time in years, there is a consensus TE2.

Dan: Being taken a round and half later than the broken Gronk, Kelce continues his consistent play in a subpar offense. After a solid 85 catch, 1125 yard season, Kelce had his best year yet. Guess what? He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons. Also, Kelce’s floor is incredibly high as his worst season went for 67/862/5. We like to question his TD production since he has yet to score more than five TDs in any season, but I think it’s kind of a silly question with an obvious answer: Alex Smith. With the game-manager extraordinaire at the helm, Kelce doesn’t have big time TD upside, so his ceiling is limited. Limitations aside, give me the consistent producer every day of the week.

TE3 – Jordan Reed (ADP 52)

Jeff: I am going to do my best not to yell here, but it is going to be difficult. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?!?!? OK, so I lack self-control. Do you know what else I lack? The ability to understand how a player with 700 concussions and more joint and soft tissue injuries than career games played could have such a high ADP. Reed is what people think Keenan Allen is, except way worse. I get that TE isn’t exactly the gift that keeps on giving, but sheesh y’all, Reed has missed seven, five, two, and three games respectively from 2013-2016. That is over an entire season’s worth of inaction in a four year career. At this point, I would be shocked if the concussions didn’t cut his career short. I love Reed the player, but I can’t come close to owning him at this price with the risk associated.

Dan: Here again, we have a broken asset. While I am a big fan of Reed’s ability and on-field performance, he misses a lot of time. In four seasons, Reed has missed 18 of 64 possible games. That’s what you would call not ideal. However, he has finished as the TE1 in PPR PPG over the last two seasons. So even though Reed has an immense amount of risk due to his concussion history, his on-field production makes him very worthy of a top three spot. He’s basically Gronk. Now I don’t know how to feel…

TE4 – Tyler Eifert (ADP 54)

Jeff: I’m not sure what it is with tight ends, but they sure do seem be hurt a lot. It is unfortunate, too, as Eifert has looked the part of a high-end TE1 the past two years when on the field. If you remove his two unhealthy 2016 games and add in all of 2015, the former Fighting Irish tight end scored a titch over 15 PPG. That sort of production is second only to Gronk and gives credence to Eifert’s TE4 status.

Dan: I’m sensing a theme here in regards to high upside TEs. Eifert is yet another potential superstar that can’t seem to stay on the field. Like Reed, Eifert has yet to play a full season in four tries, missing 27 of a possible 64 games. How is he not considered the scariest TE ever? With a huge 2015 season, where he had 13 TDs in 13 games on just 52 receptions, Eifert showed us his true potential as a red zone threat. That alone creates the appeal of having him as the TE4. I, however, have soured on him quite a bit. He truly cannot stay on the field and seems to be the most valuable in best-ball leagues. He’s a pass for me at this price, even with the huge upside.henry 1

TE5 – Hunter Henry (ADP 68)

Jeff: This is extraordinarily high for a guy with 36 career receptions. That eight of those were caught for touchdowns is impressive and probably help drive his cost. Also helping things along is the almost certain retirement of Antonio Gates after the coming season. Even with Gates still in tow, most expect Henry to take over the lion’s share of work at tight end for the Chargers this year. With Captain Rivers calling the shots, Danny Woodhead off to the Ravens, and only Tyrell Williams to compete with behind Keenan Allen, there is a ton of opportunity for the youngster. If he can capitalize, we may soon have ourselves the new TE3.

Dan: Hey, look, it’s a TE with rookie production! Let’s overvalue him since he has to be Gronk! Actually, on second thought, let us cool the jets just a bit. Yes, he scored eight TDs on 53 targets and looked pretty good doing it, but there’s some reasons for that. The Chargers were missing their top option, Keenan Allen, and didn’t have a true “number one” even with the emergence of Tyrell Williams. Antonio Gates, who is somewhere around 1,000 years old, wasn’t healthy for most of the season but he’s still around, still drawing targets, and happens to be under contract through 2017. Henry’s production seems a bit fluky to me. TE5 looks incredibly high, but it’s possible that we are running out of good options and he just defaults to this spot.

TE6 – Greg Olsen (ADP 82)

Jeff: Boring doesn’t mean bad. Olsen is case in point. For five years he has been the model of consistency at the position, taking over where Jason Witten left off. Olsen hasn’t missed a game since 2007 and hasn’t scored under 11.5 PPG since 2011. Sure, he is 32, but tight ends can play forever. As the de facto number one target in Carolina, Olsen, who is my TE4, could produce forever too.

Dan: At TE6, we have one of the all-time great fantasy TEs, Greg Olsen. Olsen has consistent production to fall back on, as he has five straight seasons of at least 104 targets, 69 catches and 816 yards. Only three TEs since 1992 have more seasons meeting that threshold. While he is getting older, Olsen’s production hasn’t taken a hit. In eight of his ten seasons, Olsen has scored at least five TDs, which is third all-time behind Tony Gonzalez (14) and Antonio Gates (12). While he might not be the most attractive from an upside point-of-view, Olsen has one of the highest floors of any TE in the NFL.

TE7 – O.J. Howard (ADP 94)

Jeff: Howard is the head of what is expected to be the best tight end class in ages. He is massive, incredibly athletic (86th percentile SPARQ), and ready to contribute out of the gate. There are concerns over a discrepancy between big play output and what we expect from a player of his traits, but it isn’t enough to keep him out of the top-seven in ADP.

Dan: Here we find our first rookie of what might turn out to be one of the most impressive rookie TE classes we have ever seen. Howard is NFL ready, and can do anything you ask him to do. He’s an able and willing blocker, which will keep him on the field. But that’s not what we are here for. Howard is an incredible athlete, and showed that at the NFL Combine, as well as a very gifted pass catcher. With his WR-like traits and 6’6”/251 pound frame, Howard is set to be a force in the NFL. It may be surprising but I’m actually pretty comfortable having him here, and truly believe he’ll be a fantasy contributor from day one.

TE8 – Eric Ebron (ADP 100)

Jeff: Ebron has never quite become what many hoped, but he is a solid player in his own right. As with nearly everybody on this list, there are injury issues, but his output has increased every year, helping owners ignore those eight pesky missed games in three years. His value going forward is difficult to pin down, as there are the persistent rumors Detroit wants to add a tight end, possibly in the draft. Ebron will never be a great player, but the Lions could take away his chance to be a very good fantasy producer. With that in mind, TE8 is probably optimistic.

Dan: Former top-ten NFL draft pick, and dynasty darling, Eric Ebron has had a lot to live up to in his three year career. While he has improved each season, and continues to learn what it takes to play at a high level in the NFL, Ebron hasn’t reached the high bar that was set for him. However, he turns just 24-years-old in 2017 and is coming off of his best season as a pro. The Lions seem primed to take the reins off of Ebron this season, and get him a target share worth having. Here’s to hoping for a true breakout season, and demolishing his ADP.

TE9 – Zach Ertz (ADP 101)

Jeff: Ertz has improved his production every season, starting at 7.1 PPG his rookie year and climbing to 9.0, 11.4, and finally, 13.1 in 2016. The problem here is the Eagles added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, solving their wide receiver woes. There will only be so many targets to go around, making it hard to imagine Ertz gives us another season of massive improvement. Still, 100 targets is a realistic expectation and the 112 and 106 he received in 2015 and 2016 were enough for him to be the TE9 and TE6, respectively. I don’t see any reason he can’t be in that range again.

Dan: Here we have what I see as the first real surprise in the TE ranks, as Ertz is closer to TE5/6 for me. Coming off of back-to-back 100+ target seasons, he had at least 75 catches and over 800 yards in each. This seems pretty low for a guy with a Kelce-like floor who is in an offense that is starting to put it together. The TD production is a little low, but in PPR leagues the catches and yards are what truly matter. Ertz finished as the TE4 in PPG during the 2016 season, and TE10 in 2015. He’s getting better, and hopefully with time the TDs will come.

TE10 – David Njoku (ADP 112)

Jeff: The Miami Hurricane is another big, hyper athletic tight end in this year’s rookie class. He is a step below Howard in most of the workout metrics, but still posted a 78th percentile SPARQ, a 96th percentile burst, and a 92nd percentile catch radius. He is also a bit behind Howard in terms of polish. His hands, routes, and blocking are all a work in progress (especially the blocking part). Players like him don’t come down the pike often, and this area of tight end ADP becomes a bit of a mish-mosh, so the top-ten designation isn’t far off, even if I’d would rather see Delanie Walker here. 

Dan: A physical freak and metric all-star, here we find our second rookie in the top 10. This looks incredibly high for a guy that seems entirely reliant on his potential, but it could pay huge dividends. He’s an incredible athlete, who can really stretch the field, and has an NFL body. But he is a relatively raw prospect who has a lot of work to do before he takes it to the next level. He could be Greg Olsen, or he could be Virgil Green. Let’s hope he puts in the work to become the former, rather than the latter.


jeff miller