This article marks the halfway point of our trip around the four main fantasy positions. We started with running backs to buy and sell before shifting our focus to tight ends. We’ve already looked at four tight ends to buy, so let’s turn the tables and check out four tight ends who you may want to move this off-season.
Admittedly, with tight ends, the position isn’t that deep, so it’s not easy to find players who are good enough to net you a good return while still being players you’d be open to dealing. After all, there are only five tight ends among the top 60 players, according to our January 2018 ADP data.
But here are four players whose value may take a dip over the next 12 months.
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JIMMY GRAHAM, TE SEA
Going into his age-32 season, Graham is fresh off his worst year since 2010, his rookie debut with the New Orleans Saints, but the fact that he caught ten touchdowns in 2017 and finished as the TE6 in PPR formats may be masking how bad his season actually was. Not counting his rookie year, Graham posted career-worst marks in catches per game (3.6), yards per game (32.5), catch rate (59.4 percent) and yards per reception (9.1).
Here’s a little blind player comparison for fun.
Player A is Ben Watson. Outside of touchdowns, their stats are pretty darn similar.
Obviously, we can’t just pretend Graham’s ten touchdowns don’t count – those happened. At a position like tight end, where high yardage totals are rare, touchdowns are crucial, and Graham led tight ends in trips to the end zone. But he’s almost guaranteed to regress in the scoring department. Prior to last year, Graham had averaged a receiving touchdown once every 106.4 yards for his career. In 2017, he caught a touchdown once every 52.0 yards. That’s going to be tough to sustain moving forward.
Graham also lost any semblance of big-play ability, evidenced by his career-low 9.1 yards per grab – which ranked 55th among all tight ends to catch at least ten passes in 2017 – and the fact he didn’t have a single play of 40-plus yards. All that is despite playing with Russell Wilson, one of the game’s best quarterbacks.
Maybe the Seattle Seahawks never figured out how to use Graham properly – something he may not have to deal with anymore as he’s not expected to land back with the ‘Hawks in free agency, per the Seattle Times — or maybe Graham is a player who is past his prime and was more of a byproduct of Drew Brees and New Orleans Head Coach Sean Payton than we assumed.
Whatever it is, I don’t have much faith in Graham delivering big-time numbers down the road, and with as many appealing young tight ends as there are right now across the dynasty landscape, this off-season may be a great time to move Graham. He is still valued highly – the TE10, per our January ADP, just outside the top 100 overall players – so you can get a decent return.
GREG OLSEN, TE CAR
Prior to 2017, Olsen was a pillar of consistency at the tight end position, playing all 16 games in nine consecutive seasons while going for at least 69 catches and 800 yards in five straight campaigns. The wheels fell off in 2017, though, as he struggled with injuries and then failed to do much when he was on the field, although he may have been playing at less than 100 percent.
The sample size is small, but across seven games this past year, Olsen racked up a meager 17 catches, 191 yards and one touchdown on 38 targets. His yards per reception (11.2), catches per game (2.6) and yards per game (27.3) were his lowest clips since 2010. Olsen had a nine-catch, 116-yard day against the Green Bay Packers late in the year, so outside of that one game, he had a mere eight receptions for 75 yards in his other six contests.
Olsen is a really good football player – even if he is getting old – so he will likely pick up the pace next year if he can stay healthy, but it’s fair to wonder if the volume will be there like it was during his run of dominance. From 2012 to 2016, Olsen averaged 118.2 targets per season, but those Carolina Panthers teams didn’t have much else in the way of reliable pass-game options. Now, Carolina has Christian McCaffrey (113 targets) and Devin Funchess (111), two young players they can build their passing game around, so Olsen may not see the necessary looks to put up high-to-midrange TE1 (top-12) numbers again. Simply put – Cam Newton doesn’t have to rely on his veteran tight end the way he used to.
To me, if a player headed into his age-33 season is right on the doorstep of being valued as a top-ten tight end (he’s the TE11), that means dynasty owners are willing to stomach the player’s age because they think he can still produce high-end numbers. Olsen did that in the past, putting up two straight elite seasons after turning 30, but I don’t have much confidence in him doing it again in a revamped Carolina offense. If you can find someone who values Olsen as a TE1, pull the trigger.
DELANIE WALKER, TE TEN
As an older tight end, Walker fits a similar mold to Olsen and Graham. He has been excellent since coming to the Tennessee Titans, producing a TE1 (top-12) season in all five of his years in Nashville. Walker has gone for at least 60 catches and 800 yards in each of the last four campaigns.
But Walker is entering his age-34 season next fall, and he lost some explosiveness in 2017. Outside of his first year in Tennessee, Walker’s 50.4 yards per game and 10.9 yards per grab from 2017 were the lowest marks of his Titans tenure. As a result, his upside started to deteriorate as he failed to log a 100-yard game in a season for the first time since 2013, and he put up double-digit standard-league fantasy points in just three games in 2017.
To maintain his streak of at least 60 catches and 800 yards for another year, Walker will have to be a pretty extreme outlier. Since 1990, there have been only five seasons of 60 receptions and 800 yards by a tight end who was at least 34 years old, and Tony Gonzalez accounts for three of them. Heck, since 1990, there have been just 13 seasons of at least 50 catches by a tight end who was 34 years of age or older.
In addition to that, Walker may not see the same kind of volume in 2018 and beyond. Tennessee took three pass catchers – Corey Davis (fifth overall), Taywan Taylor (72nd) and Jonnu Smith (100) – in the first 100 picks of the 2017 draft. Those three combined for just 123 targets last year, a number that will almost surely go up moving forward, meaning Walker could see his target total dip below triple digits for the first time since 2013.
Going by the ADP data, I’m not saying anything most of you don’t already know. Despite the solid 2017 campaign, Walker’s value has already taken a downturn as he’s the TE15 right now after being the TE10 in January of 2017. This off-season may be the last time you can move Walker while he still holds decent value.
AUSTIN HOOPER, TE ATL
Heading into 2017, Hooper was a breakout pick in a lot of circles. The thinking made sense, too. It seemed like Hooper had a chance to carve out a big role in a high-octane passing game as the Atlanta Falcons didn’t have much else at wideout or tight end outside of Julio Jones. On top of that, Hooper appeared to be coming on late the year prior, leading Atlanta in targets in the Super Bowl.
Well, Hooper disappointed this past season, finishing with 49 catches for 526 yards and three scores. He broke off an 88-yard touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the season’s opening game, but that big play wasn’t a sign of things to come. It also inflated his numbers quite a bit as he would’ve had 48 receptions, 440 yards, and two touchdowns without that 88-yard score.
The problems here were two-fold. After a historically great season in 2016, Atlanta’s offense was always bound to regress a bit. Instead, they regressed a lot as Matt Ryan’s touchdown rate went from 7.1 percent in 2016 to 3.8 percent in 2017. Secondly, while Hooper’s role grew – he saw 38 more targets in his second season – he was unable to seize enough of a high-volume role in an offense that spread the ball around a lot, with six players seeing at least 39 targets. Hooper had three catches or less in 12 of his 16 games, and he had just two games of 50-plus yards.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is coming back for 2018, and while Hooper likely has a somewhat valuable role as a tight end who should see decent volume in a quality offense, he doesn’t have enough weekly upside to make a big impact in fantasy unless he becomes a red-zone machine.
Over the last 12 months, Hooper’s value has held steady despite his mundane 2017 campaign. He was the TE14 and 138th overall player a year ago, and Hooper is being valued as the TE14 right now. There are a few tight ends in that price range who have similar floors in addition to a better ceiling – Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, and George Kittle – so it’s hard for me to get behind Hooper at his current cost.