Every draft is different, but for the most part you’ll see only a handful of tight ends taken in the first six or so rounds. Rob Gronkowski will go in the second, followed by likely Travis Kelce and then some combination of Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert.
Then all hell breaks lose.
Based on ADP, more than half of all tight ends are taken from the 10th round onward. Six tight ends are going in the 13th round alone. Needless to say, once you get to the second half of the draft, tight ends start selling like hot cakes and it’s important to know which ones you want to target ahead of time, otherwise you might get stuck with Coby Fleener. And let me tell you, as a Coby Fleener owner last year (my team name was Coby Wan Kenobi), you don’t want Coby Fleener as your starting tight end.
Here are five tight ends from the 10th round on down who you should remember for when the proverbial poo hits the fan.
Zach Ertz (10.11 ADP, TE12)
There might not have been anyone who benefited more from the insane Sammy Watkins to LA/Jordan Matthews to Buffalo flurry of trades that concluded the week last week than Zach Ertz. Ertz was already a major player in the Eagles offense last year, leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. He was also second in targets, just behind the aforementioned Jordan Matthews. He finished TE8 in standard scoring and TE6 in PPR.
It’s clear that in his first year in the league, Carson Wentz quickly found Ertz as his safety blanket and took full advantage of the tight end’s skills. Now, the addition of Alshon Jeffery will certainly make a difference but there are 117 targets up for grabs now that Matthews is in the frigid tundra of Buffalo. Suddenly Ertz doesn’t have to share an offense with Jeffery and Matthews (and Torrey Smith I guess) so I wouldn’t expect his targets to take a substantial hit, especially when the Eagles led the NFL last year in tight end targets.
Dwayne Allen (13.07 ADP, TE16)
But Pete, don’t the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, the greatest tight end to ever play the game, on their team? Won’t that just hinder Allen’s fantasy value?
Both fair questions but I’d like to direct your attention to the Patriots’ 2nd string tight end last year: Martellus Bennett. Bennett finished TE7 last year in standard leagues, catching 55 balls for 701 yards on 73 targets, plus seven touchdowns. These numbers were obviously helped by Gronk being injured for the back half of the season, which, despite his greatestness, is something that happens to Gronk more than any of us would care for. Even when Bennett and Gronk shared the field, Tom Brady actually targeted Bennett seven times more than he did Gronk.
I don’t think Allen is as good as Bennett but I do think that he certainly brings a similar red zone skillset that Brady already has taken advantage of. Last year, Allen caught six of nine red-zone targets, four going for touchdowns. With Gronk’s health always up in the air and two tight ends being the Patriots go-to-offense, I like Allen’s upside.
Julius Thomas (13.11 ADP, TE20)
I might be the lone person in the world who likes Julius Thomas in fantasy this year. And I’m ok with that. My admiration for Thomas late in drafts has solely to do with his reuniting with Adam Gase, who was the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos when Thomas became a touchdown machine and a household name.
Do I think he can rekindle his Denver magic? No. He was catching passes from Peyton Manning (good Peyton Manning) then. Now he’ll be catching passes from Jay Cutler. That being said, Cutler also has played under Gase and was his best playing in Gase’s offense as well. Maybe lighting can strike again and stashing Thomas in the 14th round to me is a solid investment.
Austin Hooper (14.01 ADP, TE21)
While I may be alone on the Julius Thomas bandwagon, I know I’m not alone when it comes to Austin Hooper. In fact, I hadn’t really even considered him until I started doing some research and seeing how much is being written about him.
The biggest thing going for Hooper is that he is now the number one tight end in Atlanta. The team released Jacoby Tamme who was third on the team in red zone targets (tied with Tevin Coleman). Hooper showed flashes of what he could do and his chemistry with Matt Ryan his rookie year. If that chemistry continues to develop and Hooper takes at least a handful of Tamme’s red zone targets, he could be in for a breakout year.
Kyle Rudolph (9.03 ADP, TE10)
Ok, yes I said this list was for tight ends in the 10th round and later, but come on. How is Kyle Rudolph getting drafted in the ninth round after finishing last year as TE3 in standard and TE2 in PPR. It’s just reckless.
If you’re looking for more than just the “he was really good last year and he’s going super late” argument, you can take a look at his production under Vikings’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur took over the Vikings’ offense middle of last year when Norv Turner suddenly decided to retire. During the first seven weeks of the year (under Turner), Rudolph averaged 11.7 points per game (PPR). He averaged 14.7 FPPG in his last seven games (under Shurmur). I’m sold.
Which late round tight end are you targeting?
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