Surefire Tight Ends for Your Fantasy Football Team

It’s July, so it’s time to really dive into the world of fantasy football. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you a healthy dose of fantasy football knowledge. To start, I’ll provide you with the most safe picks you can make at each position in order to steer your team to a championship.

Quarterbacks: ARodg, Brees control consistency, but does Brady make it?

Running Backs: Fresh faces accompany AP and Bell

Wide Receivers: Brown, Jones lead the pack, but who else gets the nod?

 

Consistency and tight ends are not synonymous in the NFL. If you look at the best tight ends in terms of fantasy points in the last five years, you’ll see around four names that consistently are among the league’s greatest. Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, and Jason Witten are usually among the ten best tight ends in the league. Other than that, there’s different names all over the top tight end rankings every season.

That being said, predicting which tight ends will be the best is very hard to do. However, there are a few that have potential to average quality numbers week in and week out. The ones I feel most confident about are listed below.

1. Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is head and shoulders above the rest of the tight end crop. In the four seasons in which Gronk’s played 15 or more games or more, he’s finished first in points among tight ends three times; the only time he didn’t finish first was his rookie campaign.

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Rob Gronkowski has already started a Hall of Fame worthy career. (Photo: Sporting News)

It seems to me that fantasy players are overly-concerned with Rob Gronkowski’s health. He’s only had two seasons in which he hasn’t played 15 games. The root of the concern seems to stem from the fact that the two seasons Gronk missed more than one game came back-to-back (11 games in 2012, 7 games in 2013). Sure, he’s had some minor issues in each season, but none of them have been severe enough to hurt his numbers.

Gronk has proved pretty durable since the start of 2014. He’s also enjoyed three huge years with his New England Patriots while he’s been a starter and stayed healthy. Looking at the table below shows just how explosive the Arizona product has been.

2011 90 REC, 1,327 yards, 17 TD (1 rushing)
2014 82 REC, 1,124 yards, 12 TD
2015 72 REC, 1,176 yards, 11 TD

There’s not really much that needs to be said about Rob Gronkowski. Barring injury, he’ll finish as the best tight end in football yet again this season. I still refuse to take him before the twelfth(ish) pick. However, grabbing a player with the Surefire Stamp of Approval (patent pending), and then picking Gronkowski will be huge for your team this season.

2. Greg Olsen

Greg Olsen has blossomed since joining Carolina five seasons ago. He’s stepped into the role of being Cam Newton’s primary pass catcher, which isn’t something tight ends normally do. Olsen will be a great tight end this season.

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Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s favorite player to throw to. (Photo: buccaneers.com)

There are no question marks surrounding Greg Olsen’s durability. Olsen has been a pro for eight years, and in each of the last seven, Olsen has played in all 16 games. To add to his toughness, Olsen has started all 16 games in each of his last four seasons.

Greg Olsen is also Cam Newton’s favorite face to throw to. Last season, Olsen reached his career mark in targets with 129. Two seasons ago, he had 126, even with Kelvin Benjamin playing in all 16 games. The Miami (FL) product has led the Panthers in receptions in each of the last three seasons, proving he’ll get a high volume of targets this season.

The most exciting and safe argument for Greg Olsen has been his consistency. Consistency is the name of the game when I select players to receive the Surefire Stamp of Approval, and Olsen fits the bill. Olsen’s best seasons have been in each of his last four. In those seasons, he’s finished as the eighth-highest scoring tight end or better, including being the fourth-best tight end for two seasons in a row.

2013 69 REC, 843 yards, 5 TD
2014 73 REC, 816 yards, 6 TD
2015 77 REC, 1,104 yards, 7 TD

I would suggest drafting Olsen over Rob Gronkowski as your starting tight end. He’s got a lot better value in terms of ADP, being selected at the 41st pick on nfl.com and espn.com. You’ll be able to stock up on other positions before selecting Olsen with your fourth(ish) pick.

3. Jordan Reed

Jordan Reed celebrated this offseason by signing a 5-year, $47M extension. Washington hasn’t thrown around money like it grows on trees either, as they’ve been stingy with paying Kirk Cousins top dollar. This shows that the front office in Washington is confident in Reed leading the tight end position for years to come for the Redskins.

The money Reed received is likely due to his breakout season in 2015. He finished with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Reed looks to use 2016 as a springboard to elite status. After finishing with the third-most points among tight ends last season, Reed can cement himself as a top tight end with another big year.

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Don’t be surprised to see Jordan Reed get a lot of red zone targets. (Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The fun part about Reed is his touchdown scoring potential. He had the third-most red zone targets last season, totaling 23. Brandon Marshall (25), Antonio Brown (24), and Gary Barnidge (24), were the only players who had more targets, and Marshall was the only one with more touchdowns (14). Reed reached paydirt 11 times, which was tied for first among tight ends.

There is some concern with his ankle issues, but other than that, Reed will be a high-quality and safe draft pick. The University of Florida product will always be Kirk Cousins’ favorite red zone target, which gives him ample opportunities to have consistent and quality fantasy performances.

4. Delanie Walker

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Delanie Walker is the only consistent receiver in Tennessee. (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

The last player to earn the Surefire Stamp of Approval in our Surefire series is Delanie Walker. Walker’s career has taken off since joining the Tennessee Titans three seasons ago. He’s played in 15 games in each of his three seasons as a Titan, and his playing time has amassed strong numbers for the Central Missouri State product (go fighting Mules?).

With Walker consistently staying off the injury report, he’s been able to accrue at least 14 games in every season except for his rookie season. That said, he’s been able to finished as the 12th, 8th, and 5th tight end in 2013,2014, and 2015, respectively.

Walker also dominates red zone targets on his team. He saw 17 red zone targets last season, seven more than the second-highest target receiver. Walker also caught 14 passes in the red zone, an astounding 10 more than the second-highest receiver.

2013 60 REC, 571 yards, 6 TD
2014 63 REC, 890 yards, 4 TD
2015 94 REC, 1,088 yards, 6 TD

A starter for the last three seasons, Walker has also seen his best three career seasons each year since 2013. Last year, he caught 94 balls. That was first among tight ends, and more than Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Allen Robinson. Walker’s 1,088 yards were more than Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, or Eric Decker. Walker simply needs to maintain the numbers he’s put up in recent years, and just add a few touchdowns to his statline.

Walker is a less talked about and less drafted tight end. He’ll still be taken in every draft, but he won’t be taken as high as the aforementioned tight ends. He’s being taken as a low TE1 right now, which is great value. If you want to wait on a tight end until Walker, it could be a great plan. You’ll be able to really pad your other position groups before going tight end.

 

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