Now we’re getting into the thick of things. The tight end position is very crucial in fantasy football. Many times, it can be the deciding factor in a close match up. For example, if two teams are caught in the middle of an epic game, matching each other point for point, and each team has only a tight end left going into “Monday Night,” then the team with Gronk has the advantage over the team with Coby Fleener.
The big problem with tight ends is depth. The position is so barren, that after the top 6 or 7 are gone, you’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sure, one of the guys you draft late might have a breakout year, like Tyler Eifert in 2015, but those are long odds. It’s so hard to predict which tight ends are going to score big on any given week, that some fantasy owners opt to stream tight ends throughout the season, rather than hold on to any specific one for the year.
So without any more delay, here’s my top 15 TEs for 2017. Pay close attention. It could be the difference between a championship season, and “there’s always next year.”
15. Charles Clay
We kick our rankings off with a guy that could be a solid streaming option throughout the year. Last season, Clay had 562 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and a total of. 136.2 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He did most of his damage during the fantasy playoffs. Between weeks 14-16, Clay scored 62.7 fantasy points. That’s not his typical output, but at least he’s shown he can score big at times. He’ll be worth streaming a couple of times.
Where I’d draft him: I wouldn’t. He’s a solid streaming option, but he’s not worth rostering. He’ll be in a new offense this season, and the possibility of seeing fewer snaps is a real one.
14. Antonio Gates
In his prime, Gates was a fixture in the upper echelon of TEs. Now in the twilight of his career though, Gates is no longer an elite TE option. Last season, Gates had 548 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 147.8 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. It all boils down to health for Gates. He’s got a QB that isn’t afraid to force the ball to his receivers, he’s just got to be on the field more. That’s easier said than done at this point tho.
Where I’d draft him: As late as possible. Gates is tricky. He’s going to have at least one monster game during the season, but it’ll be impossible to predict. If you do decide to draft him, keep a close watch on Hunter Henry. I never advocate handcuffing a TE, but Gates/Henry are an exception.
13. Jason Witten
Another guy who’s passed his prime, but can still contribute. Last season, Witten had 673 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and a total of 152.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Witten has the benefit of being in efficient offenses, having a solid QB, and he rarely misses games. This could finally be the season when his production dips significantly, but I’d have to see before I believe it.
Where I’d draft him: 13th round. He’s no longer going to produce like he once did, but he’s going to make sure you don’t get a zero from your TE. Sometimes that’s all you need to squeeze out a win.
12. Jack Doyle
I’m very excited about Jack Doyle. I plan on drafting him as my TE this season. Although, now that I’ve said that, someone in my league will probably draft him early, and try to trade him to me. Doyle was a revelation last season, totaling 584 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, and 145.4 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He wasn’t even the starter at the beginning of the season. This year, with a full off season to prepare, Doyle should be even better.
Where I’d draft him: 12th or 13th round. Now that Dwayne Allen has been traded to the Patriots, Doyle is the top TE for the Colts. The added snaps should make for a bigger fantasy season for Doyle. He’s a solid option, especially later on in drafts.
11. Eric Ebron
Ebron has the potential to be a top fantasy TE. The problem is, he’s had that potential ever since he entered the league in 2014, and has yet to fulfill it. Last season, Ebron had 711 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, and totaled 144.2 fantasy points. The reason Ebron keeps getting the benefit of the doubt is that we keep hoping one of these years everything will click, and he’ll become more productive. Here’s hoping for the best.
Where I’d draft him: 12th round. Matthew Stafford is a gun slinger. A QB like that can make a star out of a player like Ebron. Megatron’s shoes still haven’t been filled. Maybe this is the year Ebron fills them. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll be able to help you out during a few weeks of the season.
10. Kyle Rudolph
Some people will think I’m way too low on Rudolph, but I’ve never been much a believer in him. He had an amazing 2016 season, totaling 840 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and 209 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. I won’t go too far and call his season a fluke, but I will say he massively over achieved. I expect him to come back down to Earth this season.
Where I’d draft him: 10th round. If he ends the season as the #2 scoring TE in fantasy again, I’ll look really dumb. Luckily, I have supreme confidence that lightning won’t strike twice for Rudolph. He is a legit TE option tho. Sam Bradford has always favored his TE’s, and I see that trend continuing this season. Just temper your expectations a bit.
9. Cameron Brate
The TE’s start getting a bit more efficient now that we’re in the top 10. When the Buccaneers released Austin Seferian-Jenkins 2 games into the 2016 season, I didn’t think they’d find such a suitable replacement, especially so quickly. However, Cameron Brate stepped up and had a breakout year. Last season, Brate had 660 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and a total of 171 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The entire Tampa Bay offense is poised for a big season. That includes Brate.
Where I’d draft him: 8th round. With all the defensive attention Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson are going to attract this season, Brate should find himself open plenty. I see Jameis Winston throwing a lot of touchdowns this season, and Cameron Brate should be the recipient of a few of those. Potential steal in the later rounds.
8. Jimmy Graham
If Jimmy Graham is back to full speed, I could see him getting close to his old elite status. Last season, Graham had 923 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and totaled 189.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. The Seahawks could always use some help for Russell Wilson, and Graham gives him a big target to aim for in the red zone.
Where I’d draft him: 7th or 8th round. He’ll probably go much higher solely based on name recognition, but the earlier he’s taken, the bigger risk he is. I believe he’s still got the shot to be an elite fantasy TE, but just don’t reach for him too early.
7. Tyler Eifert
Eifert was one of fantasy football’s biggest breakout stars in 2015. 2016 however, was an injury plagued let down. Last season, Eifert had 394 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, and totaled 189.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Assuming he’s healthy, Eifert should be back to his old efficient ways. The Bengals will be glad to get such a big weapon back.
Where I’d draft him: 7th round. If he’s healthy, he’s got elite potential. That’s proven to be a big “if” lately though. I like his chances, but not enough to burn an early pick on him.
6. Delanie Walker
Walker is one of the safest, and most consistent, TEs in fantasy. Last season, he had 800 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 188.1 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He’s been carrying the majority of the Titan’s receiving load for the last two seasons. This year he’ll get some help in the form of Eric Decker. I expect Walker to keep being consistent.
Where I’d draft him: 5th round. Not going to get many zeros or 1’s from Walker, he kicks off the portion of the rankings where you can start to reach for a TE. If being strong in that position is important to you, I wouldn’t mind reaching for Walker if you have to.
5. Greg Olsen
The TE’s really start getting good now. Last season, Olsen had 1073 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and 207.3 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. Carolina was suffering from a SuperBowl hangover last season, and Olsen still managed to be dominant. Cam might not be 100% this season, but that shouldn’t slow Olsen down too much.
Where I’d draft him: 3rd or 4th round. Like I said above, Cam Newton probably won’t be fully healthy this season, but that might actually benefit Olsen. If Cam’s arm isn’t up for throwing deep, it could mean frequent dump offs to his running backs, and especially Olsen.
4. Jordan Reed
I really like Reed as a player. He’s got great hands, and he’s Kirk Cousin’s favorite red zone target. The only problem is he’s quite injury prone. Last season, Reed had 686 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and a total of 168.6 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. His season would’ve been even better had he not missed 5 games. That’s Reed’s whole career in a nutshell though. If he plays he’ll be great. Just be wary of his injury risk.
Where I’d draft him: 3rd round. This one is very tricky. If Reed was 100%, he would be a challenge for the top spot in these rankings. However, Reed is already a question mark to start the season. He’s got a toe injury and is seeking further opinions on it. He might be too good for you to pass up. If you do draft him though, for God’s sake, be smart and handcuff Vernon Davis to him. You’ll thank me later.
3. Rob Gronkowski
I’m saying it right now, Gronk’s days as the unrivaled #1 TE are over. I mean how many games does he have to miss before we brand him as injury prone? Last season, Gronk had 540 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, and totaled just 97 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He’s been one of my pet peeves for a couple of seasons now, I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing him on the sidelines year after year with an injury.
Where I’d take him: 3rd round. He’s not playing all 16 games this season. Hell, he’s not even going to play the 13 games that most fantasy seasons consist of. Don’t burn an early pick on him, if you do, take Dwayne Allen too as insurance. You’re going to regret it if you don’t have some sort of back up plan in place.
2. Martellus Bennett
If I had more guts, he’d be #1 on this list. Last season, Bennett had 701 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, and a total of 168.1 fantasy points, per week ESPN standard scoring. He’s going from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers, so it’s not crazy to think he’s due for an even bigger season. Bennett is the total package at TE, and Aaron Rodgers has always loved targeting his TE’s. This is going to be an amazing pairing.
Where I’d draft him: 2nd round. There’s too much talent out there to take many TEs before the 2nd round. I wouldn’t hate it if you took Bennett earlier though. He’s going to be consistently good all year long. Draft him and enjoy the move.
1. Travis Kelce
Here’s the new top TE in fantasy football. Last season, Kelce had 1,125 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns, and a total of 223 fantasy points, per ESPN standard scoring. He could use a few more touchdowns, but other than that, he’s great. I expect him to follow up his 2016 season with another top TE performance. The only one who I could see stopping that would be Martellus Bennett. Let’s just hope he’s done recording reality dating shows.
Where I’d draft him: 1st round. Like I said before, I don’t usually agree with taking a TE early, but Kelce is the one exception. Alex Smith loves throwing to the middle of the field, and that’s where Kelce operates. Plus, he’s got incredible speed, and agility, to add yards after any catch. He’s going to be the deciding factor in many fantasy games this season. If you get the chance to draft him, do it. He’s hands down your best option at this position.
Baseline Times NFL Contributor
More 2017 Fantasy position rankings