Tight End Premium: Are you a Contender?

Josh Brickner

The tight end position was a wasteland for fantasy points in 2017 as Travis Kelce (32) and Rob Gronkowski (36) were the only two to finish inside the top 50 in PPR scoring. Fortunately, a dynasty owner doesn’t need to spend a high startup pick or valuable trade assets to acquire a starting tight end.

Of all of the players to finish as a PPR TE1 in 2017, seven of the twelve (57%) had an August 2017 DLF startup ADP over 100 while (33%) were being drafted after the 175th pick late last Summer. Finding value is as important now more than ever as a growing trend in the dynasty community is the tight end premium league. In this format, owners are either given an extra half PPR point for receptions and/or forced to start two players at the position. Thus, the walls are closing in on those dynasty owners who choose to punt on tight end.

This bi-weekly article series will focus on giving savvy dynasty participants a leg up in identifying both undervalued tight ends you should buy right now and overrated players whom you should sell at their maximum value. All of the trade examples are courtesy of the DLF Trade Finder, but please remember these are just examples. The specific market value of any player will be determined by the competitiveness of your league and the intelligence of the opposing owner in your negotiations. The price to acquire David Njoku in the DLF Staff League will more than likely be much different (read: higher) than in your home league with a few inexperienced players.

In this week’s edition, I discuss four tight ends I’d want on my dynasty roster (though a few may be sell-high candidates for those rebuilding) and check in on a tight end whose dynasty value is slowly circling the drain.

Tight Ends I Want on my Dynasty Roster

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David Njoku, CLE

If you ignored the advice of my friend Derek Brown on October 9th to trade for David Njoku, then you missed the boat to acquire the Browns tight end at a value. Bakermania has not only engulfed the entire Browns’ fan base, but it has greatly improved the fantasy fortunes of Njoku. In the last four games since Baker Mayfield took over at starting quarterback, the University of Miami product has converted 36 targets into 22 receptions for 228 yards.

The best news for Njoku is he’s now being properly utilized as a weapon near the goal line. The 6-4, 246-lb tight end was a ghost through the first five weeks of the season garnering zero (!) targets inside the opponent’s twenty. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has rectified this situation targeting Njoku three times in the red zone over the last two weeks resulting in two touchdowns.

As a Browns fan, I can tell you with utmost certainty as long as Hue is the head coach this offense will not reach its full potential. This is standard operating procedure for the Browns under the incompetent ownership of Jimmy Haslam and it should keep Njoku’s price somewhat affordable… for now! The Cleveland tight end has been acquired in the last few weeks for a package of Hayden Hurst along with a 2019 second and third round rookie pick as well while being included in a trade with a 2019 fourth round pick for O.J. Howard and a 2019 third.

I have no issue including rookie picks and overvalued tight ends to secure Njoku’s services on my dynasty roster. The upsides of both Howard and Hurst are capped by Cameron Brate and Mark Andrews, respectively, where no such player exists in Cleveland’s tight end room (sorry, Seth DeValve). The price point of the former Hurricane may go down slightly with the news Hue Jackson may take over the play-calling duties from Todd Haley (sometimes I think the Browns sole mission is to troll us fans). Whether you’re a contender or reshaping your entire roster from scratch, you want Njoku to be part of your dynasty team regardless of Hue Jackson’s inevitable gross mismanagement of the offense – with Jackson as a play-caller, they finished 30th and 24th in offense in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Austin Hooper, ATL

Entering Monday night’s home tilt with the Giants, Austin Hooper was second on the team in both targets (28) and receptions (22) over the last four games. In better news, the Atlanta tight end has seen double-digit targets (12, 10) in each of his last two contests leading to 18 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. Additionally, Hooper has six red zone targets on the season and should continue to get Matt Ryan’s attention near the end zone. The Falcons are ranked 29th in total team defense meaning there will be ample opportunities for volume for all Atlanta pass-catchers, specifically Hooper.

According to the DLF trade finder, here are some of the deals including Austin Hooper in the last two weeks:

His price tag is not cheap and, while I’d still love to have Hooper on my dynasty roster, my next transaction regarding the Falcon tight end depends on my specific standing in the league. If you’re making a serious run at the championship, then I’m more than willing to give up a young, upside player or an early round rookie pick (read: second round) to acquire a tight end like Hooper given the scarcity of the position. The Stanford product will see a massive uptick in production this whole season as Atlanta’s defense is ravaged by injuries and outscoring opponents is their only path to victory each week.

The rebuilding roster including Hooper must capitalize on this one-year only value spike and reap the benefits of either a 2019/2020 first round rookie pick and/or a player on the verge of a breakout like Godwin. If you’re unsure whether your squad is a contender or a member of the latter group, then you need to do some dynasty soul-searching immediately!

(Tuesday morning update: Hooper caught three of four targets for 48 scoreless yards on Monday Night Football against the Giants making a spectacular contested catch in the second quarter. While it wasn’t his best performance, it shouldn’t move the needle of his value one way or the other.)

C.J. Uzomah, CIN

Ever since C.J. Uzomah became the last man standing in the Bengals tight end room three weeks ago, he’s played 92.2% of the offensive snaps being targeted 11 times resulting in 110 receiving yards and a touchdown. Someone please find both offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and head coach Marvin Lewis and implore them to target Uzomah more near the end zone as he’s caught both of his red zone looks for touchdowns.

The only remaining healthy, fantasy-relevant Cincy tight end has been recently traded straight up for a 2019 fourth round pick and for a package of future 2020 third and fourth round picks. Given the Bengals’ offensive dumpster fire primetime performance on Sunday evening, you might be able to retain Uzomah’s services for only a 2020 fourth round pick. Whether you are contending or “trusting the process,” Uzomah makes for a solid TE2 with streaming capabilities given the dire outlook of the position in fantasy football.

Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI

You really didn’t think I’d take the time to write this column and not include Ricky Seals-Jones, did you?! The insertion of Josh Rosen at quarterback for the Cardinals has been positive for RSJ’s fantasy value as he’s converted 20 targets into nine receptions for 133 scoreless yards over the UCLA’s rookie’s first four starts. While Seals-Jones isn’t playing over 95% of the offensive snaps like the first two weeks with Jermaine Gresham sidelined, he’s both out-snapped (141-130) and outproduced (Gresham: 2/37) the generous former Bengal over the last four games.

The firing of Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator following the nationally televised groin kick against Denver should benefit the former Aggie as well. Once Byron Leftwich takes over the position and starts properly utilizing the skill set of David Johnson (read: throw him the damn ball!) it should open up the Cardinals’ offense for all skill players.

The complete ineptitude of the Arizona offensive attack has stunted the dynasty value of the young tight end as he can now be acquired for as little as a 2019 fifth round pick or Ty Montgomery. The changing of guard at the OC position might increase RSJ’s value had he not left the Thursday Night Football quagmire with what appeared to be a serious forearm injury. Luckily it was just a bruise, but the “Q” by his name on your opponent’s roster may help keep his price affordable. The Texas A&M product is a TE2 stash with high upside for the future; that future being next season or several weeks from now.

Tight Ends Who Must be Traded Immediately before Being Exposed as a TE1 Fraud

Eric Ebron, IND

Eric Ebron as a top five (TE3) scoring tight end in fantasy football through seven weeks of the season is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse. Sorry doomsday preppers, but the clock is nearing midnight on the Colt tight end’s Cinderella fantasy run. Ebron, and his dynasty owners, were hit with a dose of reality on Sunday as he began his transition back into a pumpkin (read: TD dependent TE2) with the return of star wideout T.Y. Hilton (4/25/2). The former Lion produced a very Ebronesque stat line converting seven targets into three receptions for 31 yards.

I might sound like a broken record or be labeled an Ebron hater, but to quote Gone with the Wind, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” There looks to be a great chance Doyle returns after the week nine bye meaning you have one week to sell the Indy tight end at peak value. As a fantasy analyst, I care about your dynasty teams (almost) as much as my own and Ebron won’t be stuck on any of my rosters once Doyle returns. Unless news comes out Doyle is done for the season, contenders and pretenders alike should study the recent trades above and get something of value in return for Ebron before it’s too late!

Were you involved in a trade for one of these players? Disagree with any of my assessments? Want me to profile a specific player for the next article? Reach out and/or give me a follow on Twitter and I’d be happy to chat with you.


josh brickner