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Fantasy football 2018: Undervalued tight ends

Fantasy Football 2018 Tight Ends

The average draft position, or ADP, is a major determinate of when a player will be drafted. In this article, I will be identifying three tight ends whose average ADP’s are low compared to their expected fantasy return.

All ADPs, including the average (AVG), are located on fantasypros.com.

George Kittle

Fantasy Football 2018 Tight Ends
San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle (85) reaches to catch a pass in front of Jacksonville Jaguars’ Barry Church (42) during the first quarter of their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

Many fantasy owners may not be aware of George Kittle and his unique skill set. The San Francisco 49ers primary tight end measures in at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds, while ranking in the 89th percentile or above in all of the following metrics; 40-yard dash (96th), weight-adjusted speed score (94th), weight-adjusted burst score (89th), agility score (100th) and catch radius (95th). With the 49ers leading the NFL in pass attempts in 2017, all signs point to Kittle being more heavily targeted this upcoming season.

Since Jimmy Garoppolo’s arrival in San Francisco, Kittle managed to receive 21 targets, which he turned into a 76 percent catch rate, 238 yards and one touchdown. Over the course of 16-games, this would put Kittle on pace to have an underwhelming 56 targets, 43 catches and just three touchdowns, although with a year in the NFL under his belt, as well as a full off-season to gain rapport with his new franchise quarterback, a breakout season for Kittle may be imminent.

One thing holding Kittle back is Garrett Celek, who, like Kittle, played over 50 percent of the offensive snaps in 2017. With this in mind, it is clear the 49ers will be running two tight-end sets as well as rotating, which clearly diminishes Kittle’s value, although because of the vast difference in skill set, it is fair to assume Kittle will be one of San Francisco’s most heavily target players.

Kittle’s current average ADP has him being selected as the TE12, behind Trey Burton (TE9) and Evan Engram (TE5). With the abundance of weapons in both Chicago and New York, and the lack of weapons in San Francisco, I believe Kittle has a legitimate chance to outscore both fellow tight ends, while being selected two-to-five rounds later.

Average Draft Position 

AVG ADP: TE12

ESPN ADP: TE13

NFL ADP: TE13

FANTRAX: TE11

Jack Doyle

Some fantasy owners may be put off by the signing of tight end Eric Ebron, although I will not be one of them. Doyle managed to turn his 108 targets, fifth-most by a tight end, into 80 receptions and four touchdowns, making him a top-10 tight end in 2017. His new head coach, and play caller, Frank Reich, is coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished third and fifth respectively in “12” and “13” personnel sets (“12” personnel refers to two tight-end sets, where “13” refers to three tight-end sets). Another interesting piece to this puzzle is that the Indianapolis Colts ranked first in percentage of plays ran in a “12” personnel set at 85 percent.

With all of this in consideration, it seems fair to assume that Ebron’s arrival will have nearly no negative impact on the 2017 Pro Bowler. Also, we can’t forget to mention the return of former first overall pick Andrew Luck, who since 2012, has targeted his tight end 22 percent of the time, including 29 percent in the red zone, making Jack Doyle a major touchdown threat. Doyle is currently being selected on average as the TE13, despite being a top-10 tight end last season, Andrew Luck’s return and Frank Reich’s arrival.

Average Draft Position

AVG ADP: TE13

ESPN ADP: TE16

NFL ADP: TE10

FANTRAX: TE13

Hayden Hurst

Fantasy Football 2018 Tight Ends
Hayden Hurst (81) catches a pass in the Hall of Fame game against the Chicago Bears. (Photo by NewsOK.com)

Hurst was the first of the Baltimore Ravens two first-round picks in the 2018 NFL draft. He is positioned to be the primary tight end in Baltimore, with fellow rookie Mark Andrews, a third-round pick, poised to be a secondary receiving tight end. Hurst will play a similar role to former Ravens tight ends, Ben Watson and Dennis Pitta, who were able to see upwards of 79 targets in each full season.

The 25-year-old rookie will presumably see around 80 targets in 2018, which only 11 tight ends were able to see in 2017, making him well worth a selection as the TE19. Hurst is being taken around fellow tight ends Mike Gesicki, Eric Ebron and Jared Cook, who will all have significantly more competition for targets.

Average Draft Position

AVG ADP: TE19

ESPN ADP: TE19

NFL ADP: TE17

FANTRAX: TE19

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