Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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Franchise Analysis – Kansas City Chiefs

Since 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs have consistently gotten better. After recording nine wins in 2014, 11 wins in 2015, and 12 wins in 2016, what more could a fan base ask for? The answer is simple, win in the playoffs. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993 and haven’t won the conference championship since 1969. So the question remains, what must happen to snap the Chiefs championship drought?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

This offense, like those in previous seasons, was predicated on not making mistakes. Kansas City finished in the top 10 in terms of giveaways by only committing 17 on the season. Given they had 15 giveaways in 2015 and 17 in 2014, it’s clear that their number one priority is taking care of the football.

Just because a team doesn’t accumulate turnovers doesn’t mean they are a great offense. The Chiefs finished 13th in points and 20th in yards, according to Pro Football Reference. I often talk about how an offense can skew a defenses ranking in points allowed; however, the Chiefs benefited from the opposite. Their defense was able to put them in great field position by creating a league high 33 turnovers.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Alex Smith became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose a playoff game when scoring two or more touchdowns than their opponent. (Courtesy of; Kansas City Star)

With any NFL offense, the focus is on the signal caller. One stat most people don’t know about Smith is that since 2011, only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have won more games. However, despite what most people think, winning isn’t everything. At this point how Alex Smith performs in the regular season is irrelevant to Chiefs’ fans, as long as he plays well enough to get them to the postseason.

Since 2013, his adjusted yards per attempt in his postseason campaigns has declined from 10 yards, to 4.3 yards. This was never more apparent than against the Steelers. Smith failed to connect with Tyreke Hill on two occasions, one of which was a guaranteed touchdown.

At this point in his career, it would be unfair to ask Alex Smith to start attacking downfield. His style of play is one that you either take or leave, and in all fairness, is one the Chiefs should leave by 2018 at the latest. You won’t lose a Super Bowl with a quarterback who doesn’t take chances, but you can’t end the Chiefs’ championship drought with one either.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

2016 was great for this defense. With four Pro-Bowlers, two of which earned All-Pro honors, this defense was electrifying. While they may have had lapses against the oppositions running attack, there was one constant that remained. Turnovers. As stated earlier, the Chiefs were first in creating turnovers, with 33. This defense was also tied for the most interceptions caused with 18 and were first in fumbles with 15.

There’s no doubt that this team’s strength lies in the secondary. With All-Pro safety, Eric Berry, and corner, Marcus Peters, teams struggled to find favorable match ups in the passing game. Berry was the single best pass defender in terms of covering tight ends and no one has more interceptions than Peters since he entered the league.

Sadly, this team did struggle when trying to stop the run. The Chiefs finished the season as the 26th ranked run defense, something they have to improve on for next year. In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the most important player in terms of defending the run. The nose tackle has to occupy double teams and not give up ground.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Dontari Poe has unique pass rushing skills as a 3-4 nose tackle, but will Chiefs wind up making him one of the most overpaid free agents of 2017? (Courtesy of; Arrowhead Addict)

Who plays nose tackle for the Chiefs? None other than, Dontari Poe. Yes, Poe has a lot of notoriety for what he does in goal line formations. However, Pro Football Focus rated Poe as the 90th best interior defender against the run. On the other hand, Poe has an uncanny ability to rush the passer from the nose tackle position, making him a unique player at that position.

It’s not entirely Poe’s fault. Other players who were liabilities against the run included defensive end Rakeem Nunez-Roches and linebacker Terrence Smith, who filled in the for the injured Derrick Johnson. This triangle of ineptitude made one side of the defense especially susceptible to the run.

If this defense plans to be the one to end the Chiefs championship drought in 2017, they must become at least an average rush defense.

Divisional Analysis

Clearly, Kansas City has everything they need to win the AFC West. However, this team is far from perfect. The Chiefs have a large decision looming this offseason, as both Eric Berry and Dontari Poe become free agents. I think the choice is simple. Let Poe walk and resign Berry.

In this situation, the Chiefs have to address their run defense by finding a new nose tackle. Brandon Williams and Kawann Short, while he played in a 4-3 scheme in Carolina, could be suitable replacements. On the other hand, it’s likely they’ll want to address such a pivotal position in the 2017 NFL Draft.

As of January 24th, our own Joe DiTullio has the Chiefs selecting Corey Davis, the wide receiver from Western Michigan. I’m not so sure. Davis would be a good fit on an offense that wants to attack down the field, but we’ve clearly outlined that isn’t what Alex Smith does.

Instead, they would likely replace Dontari Poe with Caleb Brantley, a top nose tackle prospect from Florida. They could however wait to fill this need by selecting Carlos Watkins from Clemson, or Elijah Qualls from Washington in the later rounds.

Offensively, the Chiefs don’t have a glaring need. They could bolster their receiving core, or, they could look to upgrade their running game. Jamaal Charles’ health will be questioned for the rest of his career and Spencer Ware proved he can handle a starters workload. However, Christian McCaffery would be a great addition for Alex Smith and this conservative passing attack.

Postseason Prospects

The Chiefs not only won the AFC West, but were also able to claim a first round bye. So clearly, they must be doing something right. Here are the following relevant offensive and defensive statistics that serve as good predictors for postseason success.

Chiefs Championship Drought

A good barometer for postseason teams is to have two or more categories inside the top 15 and usually one or two inside the top ten. For the Chiefs, they are top 15 in both points scored and sacks allowed. However, they are largely mediocre in the other metrics. Remember, mediocre isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good enough to win multiple playoff games.

Of these statistics, the two most telling is 3rd down conversion rate. Why? Because it gives you an idea about how effective this team is on first and second down. Teams with a high 3rd down conversion rate are successful early on first and second down, making their third down attempts less difficult.

 

Chiefs Championship Drought

The Chiefs defense suffers from an all or nothing problem. They finished top ten in points allowed and number one in turnovers. But, they were bottom third in the other defensive metrics. When Justin Houston is able to play a full season, their sack numbers will no doubt improve.

We outlined the Chiefs’ struggles against the run earlier and those struggles led to a poor production on third down. The Chiefs have to improve against the run in 2017 in order to record more sacks and get offenses off the field.

2017 Prediction

The Kansas City Chiefs are in a great position to end their championship drought in 2017. Unless Andy Reid is able to transform Alex Smith in the offseason, this team has reached their ceiling. The Chiefs will take a step back next year and will miss the playoffs after finishing 9-7.

 

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2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Top 20 Quarterbacks: Brady falls due to suspension, but how far?

Top 20 Running Backs: Lack of bellcows causes top RBs to be pivatol

Top 30 Wide Receivers: Brown, Jones lead the way

Top 15 Tight Ends: Who’s after Gronk?

All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to a Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football tight end rankings.

1. Rob Gronkowski

From Surefire Tight Ends: “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.

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

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

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

From Surefire Tight Ends: “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.

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. Delanie Walker

From Surefire Tight Ends: “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.”

4. Jordan Reed

From Surefire Tight Ends: “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.

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.”

5. Coby Fleener

Now a member of the New Orleans Saints, Coby Fleener could have a huge 2016 season. We know Drew Brees knows how to utilize tight ends. He helped Jimmy Graham become a star and even allowed Benjamin Watson to have a good season last year. Fleener is a pure receiving tight end. He’s a great fit to the Saints’ system, and is in line for a 65/900/6 statline by the time this season is over. Yes, Fleener hasn’t produced TE5 numbers in his career, but this season could very well be his first season doing so.

6. Ladarius Green

At this point, the common reader will blow me off, call me an idiot, and not read my reasoning on why Ladarius Green should be number six. Per Green’s first six games of the season, he was on pace to finish with 64 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns. In my book, that’s a solid season. Now getting all the starting reps in Pittsburgh, Green is poised to breakout. We saw how much Ben Roethlisberger loved Heath Miller, and it’s now Green’s turn to take over that role. In a pass heavy offense, look for Ladarius Green to break out this season.

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Tyler Eifert’s inconsistency and high ADP scares me away. Regardless, he’s still a good tight end if it’s late enough in the draft. (Photo: AP/Gary Landers)

7. Tyler Eifert

Tyler Eifert is the most risky player that you can draft at any position right now. Being taken as the number four tight end right now, his asking price is way too high. The first red flag with Eifert is that he was incredibly touchdown dependent last season. He scored 13 touchdowns last season, which is great. However, if someone told you that Eifert had less catches and yards than Jacob Tamme and Benjamin Watson, I don’t think you’d believe it. Well, that stat is true. If you take out Tyler Eifert’s best two games (a combined 17/194/4), Eifert’s stats aren’t appealing at all. The most catches he had in a game was five, and the most yards he had was 69.

I cannot stress enough that you should buy into a player if a high volume of his stats came in two games or less. I’m passing on Eifert right now, as his asking price is too high.

8. Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce was the most consistent tight end last season. In an astounding 75 percent of the games Kelce played, he had 4-6 catches. However, the yards totals were’t as high as you’d like to see. Kelce also found the end zone just five times, and only three times if you take out the first game of the season. The University of Cincinnati product is the best tight end after the catch, as he averaged 12.15 yards per reception last season. Kelce will be a consistent but low level TE1 this season.

9. Julius Thomas

In his first season in Jacksonville, Julius Thomas battled injuries while trying to learn a brand new offense. That doesn’t add up to a great season. Thomas had 46 catches for 455 yards and five score last season. Jacksonville’s offense is turning into a fantasy relevant team at every position, including tight end. Thomas will be better this season, but he still probably won’t get much better than a middling TE1 this season.

10. Zach Ertz

Go ahead and light me up for this ranking too. Zach Ertz had 75 receptions last season- 75 in six games started. Ertz also had 853 receiving yards. Ertz would’ve been a solid TE1 last season, had he caught more than a mere two touchdowns. I’m all for guys who aren’t touchdown dependent. Ertz was far from it, and because of that, he has tremendous upside for this season.

11. Gary Barnridge

Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Duke Johnson, Isaiah Crowell- those are the players Gary Barnridge has to battle with this season for touches. With his breakout season coming at age 30, I don’t trust Barnridge has much left in the tank. He also won’t be the one of two respectable targets on the team like last season. His numbers will go down, so don’t overestimate Gary Barnridge this season.

12. Jimmy Graham

Healthy again, Jimmy Graham could be ready to get back to his old ways. A superstar in New Orleans, Graham started slow last season. Graham missed nearly half the season thanks to a torn patellar tendon, which ended an already disappointing 2015 season. The Seahawks will be passing more this season, which means Graham will have more opportunities. Still,  I’m not trusting Graham to be anything more than my backup.

2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Zach Miller’s upside is enticing for 2016. (Photo: Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

13. Zach Miller

Zach Miller is one of the few non-TE1s with upside. He’s taking over for Martellus Bennett this season, and Bennett did well in his time with the Bears. I think Miller can pick up where Bennett left off, as he hauled in 29 passes for 389 yards and four touchdowns in his final seven games last season. I like Miller’s situation and end to 2015, which paves way for him to have some upside for this season.

14. Jason Witten

Jason Witten has never finished worse than the TE13 since 2004. Witten will always have fantasy relevance as long as he plays, but he is trending downwards. He’s finished 11th and 12th in the past two seasons, and it’s hard to believe he’ll get much better this season. Witten is a great backup option, but I’m not trusting him to start for my team.

15. Antonio Gates

Somehow the Chargers let Ladarius Green walk, who I thought was the future of their franchise at tight end. San Diego must trust that Antonio Gates will be around for at least a few more seasons. Like Witten, as long as he’s around, Gates will be a fantasy producer. However, finishing no better than eighth in three of the last four seasons proves Gates is trending down.