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TE Tiers Show Depth and Upside for 2015

James Naddeo RotoExperts Staff May 23, 2015 11:47AM EST
For years, the ideas of value-based drafting and positional scarcity have driven draft day strategy for so many Fantasy Football players. One position where it was thought to be very top-heavy was tight end, with many players pushing their chips to the center of the table by grabbing either Jimmy Graham, or Rob Gronkowski within the first 20-24 picks last season. (Count me among the unfortunate few who selected Mr. Graham near the end of Round 1. Ugh.)

In 2015, it doesn’t appear to be a worry, as the market is now flooded with some very promising talent. According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Gronkowski is the only TE being taken within the first 25 picks, and his stock may take a slight hit depending on how many games Tom Brady misses. If Tom Terrific sits for 25 percent of the season (four games is the current suspension), that’s likely to force Gronk’s stock to tumble. No offense to Jimmy Garoppolo, of course.

So, who else is out there, and at what cost? Let’s look at the TE positional ranks by ADP from FFC.com, separated into tiers by yours truly:

Tier 1:

  1. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots (1.12)

Tier 2:

  1. Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks (3.03)
  2. Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers (5.05)
  3. Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs (5.07)

Tier 3:

  1. Julius Thomas – Jacksonville Jaguars (6.07)
  2. Martellus Bennett – Chicago Bears (6.12)

Tier 4:

  1. Jordan Cameron – Miami Dolphins (7.12)
  2. Owen Daniels – Denver Broncos (7.12)
  3. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers (9.02)
  4. Dwayne Allen – Indianapolis Colts (9.09)
  5. Zach Ertz – Philadelphia (10.09)
  6. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys (11.02)

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Antonio Gates was an after-thought in drafts last season, and finished third in scoring at TE. If it’s not him again, who will do it in 2015? Photo: Nathan Rupert

That’s an interesting list with some higher profile players missing. Vernon Davis, for example, is the 18th TE being taken in the front part of the Round 13. Davis had a very down 2014 after coming off of a thirteen touchdown campaign the season prior. Now a little long in the tooth, is he worth taking a flier on late? If I had a choice between a known commodity like Davis in the Round 13, or grabbing second-year TE Eric Ebron (22nd; 13.11), I would take the sophomore, who has a much more pass-friendly QB and system in which to operate. But that’s not to say that Davis won’t provide some value, I just wouldn’t look at him as a serious answer in anything smaller than a 16-team league. Continuing on the value aspect, let’s do a blind look at two tight ends’ stats from 2014, keeping in mind how difficult it is to bank on scores, and how usage and opportunity are often great indicators of success.

Tight End A – 85 receptions (on 125 targets), 889 yards, and 10 TDs.

Tight End B– 90 receptions (on 128 targets), 906 yards, and six TDs.

Similar stat lines, by and large. Do you think you know who is who? Tight End A is Jimmy Graham, selected around tenth in most leagues last season, and going in the front half of Round 3 this year. Tight End B? That’s Martellus Bennett, selected on average the 118th pick last season, or around Round 9, and currently buoying Tier 3 for us above, being taken just at the end of Round 6 this season. Not much of a difference in stats in standard scoring leagues, and even less in PPR formats. This goes to show that there is so much depth at TE, even if you go into a draft thinking you want one of the top three or four at the position, the difference between them and the guys sitting ranked at 9-13 may only be around 1.5 – 3 points per week.

The Takeaway: Don’t reach for a tight end! Spend the early rounds stocking up on wide receivers and running backs, or even grab Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, or Andrew Luck if you want to round out your roster with a signal caller you can set your watch to. If you’re just a huge fan of a QB, and want to have “your guy” on your team, go for it. The TE position is absolutely flooded with enough guys that streaming is even an option if you truly want to live like a desperado. Of course, there is always the chance that Virgil Green, Jace Amaro, Tyler Eifert, or Austin Sefarian-Jenkins breaks out in a big way a la Travis Kelce in 2014. Have the flexibility to take a chance on one of them by not burning that early pick on Julius Thomas or even Jimmy Graham. Play it cool, wait it out, and know that there is plenty to go around for all. It could be the difference between a championship or another tough season.

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