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Consensus Dynasty Tight End Rankings, 2017

After releasing our consensus dynasty quarterback, running back, and wide receiver off-season rankings, we will now close the positions out with our consensus tight end rankings. The culmination of these rankings will be our consensus rookie rankings.  All of these off-season lists will finally be capped off with our #TDG250.  This list will include rookies and give a good overall picture of player values entering the 2017 season.

As we look at all of these rankings, but especially tight end, one of the more interesting stats that have been thrown around this off-season as a dynasty player has to come from Jeff Ratcliffe of ProFootballFocus. He shared the peak ages by position on a yards per basis over the last ten seasons. Running back was young at 24, as expected. Wide receiver was at 26, also around expectation. Quarterback was 33, but most interesting was tight end at 29. These are not locked in stone peak ages, but something to consider as you look through all your ranks and prepare yourself for the upcoming season.

As usual, we assume 0.5 PPR scoring, but feel free to leave a comment on here, Twitter, or Facebook for more specific questions for different formats. We would also love to hear any of your comments, thoughts, or suggestions!

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 Tier 1: God Tier Points Per Game

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
1 Rob Gronkowski 1 5 2.0 28.3
2 Travis Kelce 1 4 2.3 27.9
3 Jordan Reed 3 4 3.3 27.2

If you woke up in a daze this off season, it just might be because of how disorienting it is to live in a world where Rob Gronkowski isn’t the consensus top dynasty tight end. Since 2011 Gronk has been a no-doubt mainstay atop pretty much everyone’s big board. This year, when the pre-discussion ranks came in Travis Kelce landed at first overall. It took some arguing to keep Gronk atop the list.

When healthy… you know the drill. Gronk is still Hall-of-Fame amazing and even after a third (third known!) back surgery, we don’t expect him to slow down when he’s on the field. From a dynasty perspective, it’s time to start wondering if Gronk can have the longevity of other all-time tight ends such as Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.

Pro Football Focus’ top graded tight end overall (2nd in receiving-specific grade behind Gronk) was Travis Kelce. We’ll be the first to admit that we believed Kelce had settled into the “very good, not great” option as a tight end heading into 2016. Then he went on to post his first 1,000-yard campaign in his typical full 16 games. We’ll forgive anyone who feels better about drafting Kelce ahead of Gronk due to the reliability and extra gear.

At 26 (he’ll be 27 when the season starts), Jordan Reed is the youngest player in this tier. His unfortunate, troubling history of concussions makes us wonder whether that age is an appropriate indicator of his future in the league, however. For the record, Reed has publicly stated he isn’t even thinking about the “R” word on account of the concussions. His ailments haven’t been limited to head injuries and Reed has yet to surpass 14 games in any one season. Add to it the recent signing of Terrelle Pryor in Washington and it’s fair to wonder whether Reed doesn’t below in tier two.

That said, Reed has locked himself in as a seven-plus target per game option and is highly differentiated from the blob of average at this position.

Tier 2: Reliable Starters and Breakout Talents

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
4 Hunter Henry 2 11 5.0 22.8
5 Zach Ertz 2 9 5.3 26.8
6 Tyler Eifert 5 7 6.3 27.0
7 Eric Ebron 4 8 6.8 24.4
8 Greg Olsen 6 10 7.5 32.5
9 Jimmy Graham 7 9 8.3 30.8

Hunter Henry was the top tight end drafted in 2016 and showed superstar ability in a limited role. Assuming 2017 is Antonio Gates’ retirement tour, we are excited to see Henry assume a larger role with a quarterback who has consistently produced top-tier fantasy tight ends. He could be the top non-Gronk option at the position as soon as 2018.

Zach Ertz had a strong end of the season, averaging 11 targets and 89 yards over the final five games of 2016. Some feel that his finish suggests a Kelce-esque breakout on the horizon. With the Eagles bringing in some more experienced receivers, Ertz will settle in as a solid second tier option.

Tyler Eifert has a first round pedigree, is locked in as the second receiving option in Cincinnati, and profiles as a top tier Tight End… when healthy. Sadly, he has only managed to play 58 percent of his career games due to various serious injuries (dislocated elbow in 2014, concussion in 2015, ankle injury in 2016). Sell high if he strings together a few healthy games.

Eric Ebron is seen as a disappointment due to his top ten pick pedigree. His numbers and role have gradually increased every year (49 targets and 248 yards in 2014, 69 and 537 in 2015, 86 and 711 in 2016) so it could be a case of owners expecting too much too soon. Entering his prime seasons he could finally break the 100 target barrier and become a top five Tight End option.

After being considered a bust during his Chicago years (Ebron owners have faith!) Greg Olsen has been remarkably consistent in Carolina, averaging 80 receptions on 124 targets for 1,061 yards during the 2014 to 2016 seasons. We expect his decline to be gradual as he continues to be Cam Newton’s favorite target.

After an injury plagued 2015 it looked like Jimmy Graham was going to join Percy Harvin as a Seattle trade bust. His solid comeback season has renewed faith that he can maintain his top 10 status in a less prolific passing offense. As long as you aren’t expecting a return to his New Orleans form you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Tier 3: QB Reliant Movers and Shakers

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
10 Kyle Rudolph 10 12 10.8 27.8
11 Ladarius Green 9 15 12.3 27.3
12 Austin Hooper 6 21 12.8 22.9
13 Cameron Brate 11 16 13.0 26.2
14 Martellus Bennett 12 15 14.0 30.5
15 C.J. Fiedorowicz 13 16 14.5 25.9
16 Delanie Walker 12 22 16.0 33.1
17 Coby Fleener 14 20 16.5 29.0

Kyle Rudolph leads this tier and has the potential to jump up a tier if he can replicate last season. After starting just half of his games in 2013-2014, he has now had back to back seasons without missing a game. Last year with the Vikings he saw a career high in targets (132), Receptions (83), and yards (840). With so many question marks around Teddy Bridgewater, one should assume Sam Bradford will enter the season as the Vikings starting quarterback. After this breakout from Rudolph, even a Bridgewater comeback shouldn’t dramatically reduce the number of targets as this Vikings team begins is post-Peterson era.

Ladarius Green seems to be the least deserving of this tier. He’s not especially young (will be 27 when the season begins), he has no strong season performances or standout red zone threat statistically. The potential and athleticism are there, and the situation is nice. Those two alone put him as high as he is. If you need more convincing than that, there’s one statistic that might get you to turn the corner. Since his entrance to the league in 2012, only one tight end has more yards per reception than Ladarius Green (14.6 Y/R). That player is Rob Gronkowski (15.5 Y/R). The next highest is Vernon Davis with 13.

Austin Hooper is a high upside guy on the NFL’s best offense. While it may be awhile before he starts loading up on the targets (Just 27 targets in three starts in 2016), he has the ability to respond well to an increase in targets. While the Falcons did just sign Levine Toilolo to a three-year deal, he is a blocking tight end that will compliment Hooper. Jacob Tamme’s exit from Atlanta all but assures a full season as the top tight end passing option for Hooper and he has the potential to become a top five tight end with this offense.

Cameron Brate took advantage of a training camp battle with the troubled Austin Seferian-Jenkins and never looked back. Seferian-Jenkins was let go and scooped up by the Jets, while Brate posted excellent numbers in ten starts for the Buccaneers. At 6’5” he showed that Mike Evans does not have to be the only red zone option for Jameis Winston as the two connected for eight touchdowns.

Martellus Bennett could see a decent boost from these offseason rankings to the preseason ones, as he has just signed with the Green Bay Packers, giving them their first real tight end threat since Jermichael Finley. Leaving Tom Brady seems like a bad thing for a pass catcher, but for Bennett it could lead to a career year.

C.J. Fiedorowicz probably doesn’t have a ton of room to move up these rankings, even if they were to acquire Tony Romo. While Romo would be great news for the 25 year old tight end, the names ahead of him on this list all have similar upside with much less volatile quarterback situations. Ryan Griffin also just inked a three-year extension that isn’t a threat to targets as much as it is to playing time. This is one to keep an eye on as the situation in Houston progresses.

The Titans will certainly consider taking a tight end, some have even linked them to O.J. Howard in an insurance move given Delanie Walkers age. As a dynasty owner, this is the same line of thinking that should be used if one were to own Walker. The targets should still be there as the Titans continue to rebuild as he remains a reliable possession player in the middle of the field. Just be sure to have an insurance policy for him as he will be 33 when the season begins.

Coby Fleener gets a boost to his stock thanks to the trade that sent Brandin Cooks to the Super Bowl Champions. While Fleener wasn’t the breakout that many expected last year, another year in the offense and Drew Brees still leading the offense keep his floor respectable with room for upside.

Tier 4: Aging Talent, Potential Diamonds, Potential Duds

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
18 Jack Doyle 17 23 20.0 27.4
19 Julius Thomas 19 23 20.8 29.2
20 Jason Witten 19 24 22.0 35.4
21 Dennis Pitta 17 29 24.5 32.2
22 Zach Miller 18 32 25.3 32.9
23 Dwayne Allen 19 29 25.3 27.6
24 Clive Walford 21 30 26.0 25.9
25 Jared Cook 24 30 26.3 30.4
26 Vance McDonald 18 51 27.0 27.3
27 Gary Barnidge 23 31 27.3 32.0

Jack Doyle emerged on the scene as Andrew Luck’s go to tight end in 2016, turning 75 targets into 59 catches for 584 yards and five scores, and was awarded with a new contract as a result. He could easily post top-12 production as the primary tight end in the Colts’ offense with Dwayne Allen being dealt to New England.

The 2016 campaign turned in by Julius Thomas was a disappointment, as injuries once again hindered his season. He is the ultimate boom or bust play at the position, having hauled in 24 touchdowns between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but only hit pay dirt nine times in his two seasons with Jacksonville. Thomas now moves onto Miami, where he’ll be reunited with his former offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Proceed with caution here, especially with Anthony Fasano back in the fold with a new contract.

Jason Witten is the aging veteran of this tier, but provides more certainty than the other tight ends in this group. He’s averaged 70 catches over the past three seasons, while averaging 96 targets over that time. Witten’s value in a PPR format is enhanced because of these numbers, but his lack of touchdowns caps his value in standard leagues. His durability is second to none, as he hasn’t missed a game in over a decade.

Dennis Pitta has been a consistent producer when on the field, but the key is him actually being on the field. After playing in just seven games total across the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Pitta played in all 16 games in 2016, hauling in a career high 86 passes. However, the big reception numbers yielded just 729 yards and a pair of scores.

Zach Miller posted career-best numbers in 2016 despite his season ending early due to a broken foot that required surgery. He averaged 6.4 targets a game and scored four touchdowns in his ten games of action, and it’s reasonable to think that similar numbers are attainable in 2017 with Mike Glennon now slinging passes in Chicago.

Dwayne Allen’s stock will be interesting to watch over the next few months as he now finds himself in New England. While his value is capped with the presence of Gronkowski, he could see a significant boost in production if he’s thrust into the leading role at the position due to injury.

Entering his third season, Clive Walford is the youngest of the tight ends in this tier and presents the most upside as a cog in what is a rising young offense in Oakland. He’s averaged 30 catches, 344 yards, and three touchdowns in his first two seasons, numbers that could all see an uptick in 2017. Walford’s situation should be monitored, however, as the Raiders could target a veteran to slot in at this spot, which would relegate his status to backup and significantly cap his value.

Ninth year vet Jared Cook’s value will be tied to his next landing spot. If he finds his way back to Green Bay, he could build on his stat line of 30 catches and 377 yards with one touchdown (on 51 targets) over 10 games.

Vance McDonald’s 2016 season ended with a shoulder injury after appearing in 11 games. The fifth-year pro could see a bump in production with Kyle Shanahan now in charge in San Francisco, but his value is likely to be tied to his quarterback situation, and the newly signed duo of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley doesn’t spark much hope.

Gary Barnidge burst on the fantasy scene in 2015, leaving owners cautiously optimistic that the veteran tight end could come close to matching a repeat of his 79-catch, 1,043 yard season that included nine scores (on a career-high 125 targets, which exceeded his previous career high by 100). As expected, however, Barnidge struggled to come close to matching that level of production, as he saw dramatic drops in all areas in 2016. It’s safe to say his 2015 season is an outlier, but if he can produce at levels similar to last season, he could fill the role of bye-week filler.

Tier 5: Opportunity Upside

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
28 Maxx Williams 17 41 28.3 23.4
29 Tyler Higbee 17 48 28.5 24.7
30 Austin Seferian-Jenkins 20 36 28.5 25
31 Charles Clay 22 46 31.3 28.6
32 Jesse James 30 37 33.8 23.3
33 Stephen Anderson 26 51 38.3 24.6
34 Jordan Cameron Retired 32 50 39.8 29.1

This tier features mostly young talent with upside and a few veterans. One of those veterans is the now retired Jordan Cameron who will obviously be removed from the list come pre-season rankings.

Maxx Williams leads this tier as he seems poised to take over whenever Dennis Pitta’s injury riddled career comes to an end. Pitta has his best football season just last year at the age of 32 but does not have a history of holding up well. Williams could see his stock rise very quickly if something happened to Pitta. Even if Pitta hangs around, Williams is a nice stash as he is still very young and should eventually find himself as the full-time starter.

Tyler Higbee has the youth (24), the size (6’6”), and the on-field tools to be a real threat at the tight end position. The most promising news for Higbee and the young Rams offense is that Sean McVay takes over as the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. McVay was formerly the Redskins offensive coordinator that has a history of getting the ball to the tight end.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins is currently the only rostered tight end on the New York Jets and has the talent to burst into the higher tiers. His main issue is his off-field issues and his personality issues. He should receive every opportunity to perform on a poor Jets offense.

Charles Clay doesn’t have a ton of upside but remains a decent spot starter with potential for a decent floor as he is still the top tight end in Buffalo and Tyrod Taylor is set to return.

Jesse James had a decent showing for the Steelers when Ladarius Green wasn’t on the field. While his upside is limited to Green’s health, he is still young and isn’t the worst stash (or even handcuff) on a deep roster.

Stephen Anderson is a little older than Jesse James and even further down on the depth chart. This ranking may change dramatically with the new contract the Texans gave to Ryan Griffin.

Tier 6: The Rest

Rank Name High Low AVG Rank Season Age 2017
35 Erik Swoope 32 51 40.3 25.4
36 Seth DeValve 31 51 41.3 24.6
37 A.J. Derby 37 47 41.3 26.0
38 Lance Kendricks 39 46 42.5 29.6
39 Richard Rodgers 38 51 42.5 25.6
40 Will Tye 39 45 42.8 25.9
41 Jerell Adams 35 51 44.3 24.7
42 Antonio Gates 33 51 44.8 37.2
43 Josh Hill 26 51 44.8 27.3
44 Jace Amaro 36 51 45.3 25.2
45 Trey Burton 30 51 45.8 25.9
46 Xavier Grimble 31 51 46.0 25.0
47 Gavin Escobar 36 51 46.3 26.6
48 Larry Donnell 35 51 47.0 28.9
49 Virgil Green 38 51 47.3 29.1
50 Garrett Celek 37 51 47.5 29.3

Swoope, DeValve, Derby, Amaro, Hill, and Burton are all second tight ends who could work their way into a bigger role if things go right. Tight ends can take a while to develop so all are worthwhile stashes at the end of your bench.

Lance Kendricks and Virgil Green were sleepers that never hit. At 29 we expect the Rams and Broncos will look at younger options.

Rodgers saw Jared Cook steal his opportunity after a solid 2015 season (58 catches 510 yards eight touchdowns). At 25 he has time to emerge, but it appears the Packers don’t trust him, and he is again stuck behind a more established option. With Bennett getting a three year deal, Rodgers needs a change of scenery (Free Agent in 2018) to provide fantasy value.

All of the New York Giants tight ends (Tye, Adams, and Donnell) are in this tier, but if the Giants decide to feature one option each could be a sleeper. Tye led the team in tight end targets but keep an eye on 2016 sixth round pick Jerell Adams due to his 4.6 speed.

Antonio Gates looks like he will return for 2017 but we don’t see him sticking around much longer. Unless you’re a contender and don’t have anyone else we’d recommend selling for a better upside option.

Xavier Grimble has a superstar name and USC pedigree. There are worse reasons to stash a guy.

After being drafted in the second round it appeared Gavin Escobar could find a larger role, but it hasn’t happened yet. Even if Jason Witten retires Dallas will probably find a tight end with a better track record.

As the second tight end in an awful offense I doubt Garrett (brother of Brent) even gets drafted in the Celek family fantasy football league.

 

The Author

Matt Mesisca

Matt Mesisca

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