We Take an Early Look at Some Interesting TE Storylines for 2018
The Fantasy Tight End position is very top heavy at the moment, but some lower ranked players have the upside to make it much more balanced. We still have our similar faces at the top of the Tight End ranks in Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz, but new younger talent has emerged, such as Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, and others. I outline some TEs that have changing Fantasy outlooks this season, and those that have opportunities to be great values.
The Hunter Henry Era is Here
With the Chargers moving on from Antonio Gates, we can finally see the true upside and potential of Hunter Henry. In his first two seasons as a pro, we have seen the flashes of talent, but the presence of Gates really limited his targets and opportunities. Looking at 2017, Henry only received 65% of the snaps and ran the 29th most routes among all TEs. With that in mind, you would figure Henry wouldn’t have been Fantasy relevant at all, but his extreme talent kept him on the Fantasy radar. He made the most out of every opportunity, finishing second in yards per route run, and tied for seventh in Fantasy points per snap among TEs. Now with Gates out the picture, I am a big believer in his ability and think he will finish third in Fantasy scoring behind Gronkowski and Kelce.
Coby Fleener Released — Is Benjamin Watson the Replacement?
The Coby Fleener experiment has come to an end for the Saints. They have decided to go back to steady Benjamin Watson, who looks primed to be the number one tight end on the team. The only competition that he will face for passing down duties is Josh Hill, who has been primarily a backup for the Saints. In 2015, Watson actually had his best season as a pro with the Saints, racking up 800 yards and six scores. Since then, the offense has completely reshaped itself, becoming more run-oriented, leading Drew Brees to have nearly 100 less pass attempts than in 2015. Also, it is going to be harder for Watson to see many targets with the likes of Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Cameron Meredith, and Ted Ginn Jr. all ahead of him in the pecking order. However, if Watson can receive the majority of the passing down snaps over Hill, he could find himself in the end zone in their high-powered enough to be a Fantasy plugger. He is not someone to draft in your Fantasy leagues, but a name to remember if you suffer an injury at the position or need a bye week fill-in.
Cardinals Did Not Draft Competition for Ricky Seals-Jones
A TE2 prospect that has upside for a Top 10 finish at the position is Ricky Seals-Jones. Seals-Jones is an interesting Fantasy player, as he was a five-star receiver recruit heading into college, but really struggled after suffering an injury his first season. That led him to go undrafted, and he winded up signing with the Cardinals last season. The Cardinals ended up giving him a look in Week 11. Seals-Jones took the opportunity and ran with it, as he really impressed for a three-week stretch thereafter. He compiled nine catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns in that span and showed off his great athleticism. Based on his small window of opportunity, Seals-Jones ranked first among all TEs in Fantasy points per opportunity in 2017, which entails the amount he scored per route run. Heading into this year, the Cardinals didn’t take a Tight End in the draft and Jermaine Gresham is coming off a torn Achilles in Week 17, leaving him highly questionable for Week 1. That means Seals-Jones should be the number one tight end for the Cardinals in training camp and can run away with the position if he can impress yet again. Cardinals reporter Mike Jurecki of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM has said he expects Seals-Jones to have an “expanded role” in 2018. Seals-Jones is one of my favorite Tight End flyers that carries good upside this year.
— Mike Jurecki (@mikejurecki) May 12, 2018
Eric Ebron’s Fresh Start
A change of scenery and fresh start should be great for Eric Ebron. Similar to many other young tight ends, Ebron had growing pains in his first few years. He had a bad case of the drops and the Lions’ offensive scheme did him no favors. Now with the Colts, he will be given more mismatches and will be featured in their offensive game plan. After being signed new head coach for the Colts, Frank Reich, was already thinking of ways to utilize Ebron telling the Indianapolis Star, “There is a lot of man coverage in this league — the league is going more and more man coverage — so, now you put an elite tight end on the backside, it’s like clearing it out for LeBron (James), or something, in basketball.” By the start of the season Reich should have a whole playbook ready to get Ebron in mismatches. Also, Reich is no stranger to peppering his tight ends, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles. Ertz wound up having his best Fantasy season yet, finishing as the number three tight end in 2017. With Reich’s offensive scheme and a lot of money allocated to Ebron and Jack Doyle, the Colts will utilize a lot of two tight end sets. That means more consistent playing time for Ebron after only seeing 52% of snaps last year, and he is a much more talented player compared to Doyle. He also benefits from the Colts having below-average WR talent behind T.Y. Hilton and no true red zone threat. I expect him to finish second in targets behind Hilton, and be looked to a lot in the red zone. The Lions might regret letting Ebron go, but as a Fantasy owner you will not regret drafting him, as he will finish a Top 10 Tight end.
Less Risk with Jordan Reed
With a high draft price last year, Jordan Reed burned Fantasy owners who drafted him. He suffered through another injury-riddled season, playing only six games and was never 100% healthy even when he was playing. Now with an offseason to heal up, we enter 2018 with a much cheaper cost for him. You could even draft Vernon Davis alongside him to handcuff Reed if he misses games again. When healthy, though, Reed has the upside to be Fantasy’s number one tight end, as we saw in 2015. He played 14 games and averaged 17.4 Fantasy points per game which was first among all tight ends. Reed will also have a new QB throwing to him in Alex Smith. Smith has great familiarity throwing to elite tight ends in his career playing with Vernon Davis and Kelce most recently. This should lead Reed to get even more targets, as Smith is more of a short yardage passer compared to Kirk Cousins. Reed is a great lottery ticket at TE that can lead you to a Fantasy championship if he stays healthy. If Reed stays on the field this season, he will be a Top 5 Fantasy TE.
Featured Image: (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)