TE Rankings Report

published 07/29/19 11:11:50 PM EDT
by Tom Brolley

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We did it again! Our draft rankings were once again the most accurate in the industry last season. We now have two first-place titles (2015 and 2018), a runner-up finish (2016), and an 18th-place finish (2017) over the last four years. It’s no surprise then that we’re at the top of the heap when it comes to draft rankings over the last four years. Make sure to check out our full rankings here. In this article, I’ll highlight a few players that we’re higher on and lower on compared to their current average draft position (ADP).

NOTE:* PPR ADP data courtesy of *Fantasy Football Calculator.

Players we’re higher on compared to ADP

Trey Burton (TFFA TE13, ADP TE15) — Burton went off draft boards as the TE6 last summer, and he managed to go down as a disappointment despite finishing the season as the TE8. He failed to top 40 receiving yards in his final 10 games with just 2 TDs in that span. Burton’s situation hasn’t changed much with the top of this Bears’ receiving corps remaining untouched, but he’s now going off the board as the TE13. It looks like a potential buy-low opportunity for a player that left his fantasy owners a bit scorned. Last year was the first time Burton worked as a full-time starting tight end at any point in his playing career. He also gained experience with inconsistent second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky, who contributed to Burton’s disappointing performance. A healthy Adam Shaheen could cut into Burton’s playing time as he did in the final couple games of last season, but it could also allow HC Matt Nagy to get more creative with Burton. Nagy targeted Burton in free agency last season, but they used him like an inline stiff with an average depth of target of just 7.7 yards. Both Trubisky and Nagy should improve with their usage of Burton, which gives him some post-hype potential.

Jimmy Graham (TFFA TE14, ADP TE19) — Graham’s best days appear behind him as he’s lacked the same explosiveness since he tore his patellar tendon during the 2015 season. The Packers drafted their future at the position in Jace Sternberger in the third round, but it could take the rookie some time to push Graham for the top TE spot. Graham was clearly due to regress off his 10-TD campaign with the Seahawks back in 2017, but his backslide went too far in the other direction with just 2 TDs in his first season with Green Bay. Graham came into last season averaging 8.6 TDs per season in his first seven seasons, and I’d expect his TD total to settle somewhere in the middle of the extremes from the last two seasons. He’s still linked to Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers WR depth chart is also still unproven behind Davante Adams. Graham may have bottomed out last year with just 2 TDs playing through his injuries. He could have a small bounce-back campaign as essentially a free pick, which is quite the discount from when he went as a fifth-round pick as the TE4 last season.

Jack Doyle (TFFA TE15, ADP TE20) — Just last summer, Doyle was going off the board 40 picks before **Eric Ebron **(TE12 vs. TE18). A Doyle hip injury and 14 Ebron TDs later and their draft positions are completely flipped (and then some) this summer. Ebron is clearly viewed as the better fantasy asset now, but do the Colts view him as the team’s top TE heading into 2019? The Colts clearly viewed Doyle as the #1 TE in their six games together last season. Doyle saw one-third more targets than Ebron (33 to 22) and he more than doubled up Ebron in snaps (332 to 165) in those contests. Unfortunately for Doyle, he needed surgery to repair his hip injury, which is a concern going forward since he’s not an elite athlete anyway entering his age-29 season. Ebron also established himself as a critical weapon for Andrew Luck in some must-win spots down the stretch after Doyle went on the IR after Week 11. Still, Doyle has proven to be one of Luck’s favorite targets when he’s been on the field, and he could easily vault back ahead of Ebron in this passing attack.

Noah Fant (TFFA TE18, ADP TE21) — Fant was the second Iowa TE selected in the first round of this year’s draft, going off the board 12 picks after his Hawkeye teammate T.J. Hockenson. Fant isn’t the complete prospect that Hockenson is coming into the league, but Fant has the potential to be a dominant receiver at the next level because of his freakish athletic ability (98th-percentile SPARQ). He also landed in an ideal spot to make an impact immediately in one of the league’s weaker receiving corps. Top WR Emmanuel Sanders is coming off a torn Achilles at 32 years old, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton looked overwhelmed as rookies, and their TEs have been an issue for three years running. Fant will also get a major PPR boost from QB Joe Flacco, who has slipped as a downfield passer but has come to use his tight ends as a crutch. Over the last six seasons, Ravens TEs averaged a healthy 8.3 targets per game or 133.5 targets per season. Of course, rookie TEs have a terrible fantasy track record because of their steep learning curve, which curbs some excitement for Fant in Year One. Fant has more boom-or-bust potential than Hockenson this season, but his potential upside could make him a more appealing fantasy pick since he’s going off the board about 40 picks later.

Players we’re lower on compared to ADP

Eric Ebron (TFFA TE9, ADP TE7) — My favorite late-round TE selection from last season, Ebron surpassed even my wildest expectations by scoring a ridiculous 14 TDs that propelled him to a TE4 finish. Among all receivers, he finished behind only Antonio Brown in touchdowns (15). Ebron turned a ludicrous 12.4% of his opportunities into touchdowns last season (14 of 113). That rate is simply unsustainable going forward, especially since TE Jack Doyle and big-bodied WR Devin Funchess will be in the mix in the red zone this season. A healthy Doyle would really put a damper on Ebron’s potential this year. Ebron averaged 34.3 routes run (per PFF) and 45.7 snaps per game in 10 games without Doyle, but his usage dipped to only 16.8 routes run and 27.3 snaps per game in six games with Doyle. HC Frank Reich and company viewed Ebron as a part-time player when Doyle was in the lineup last season. They’ll likely use a committee between again this season unless Doyle isn’t the same player coming off hip surgery. The tight end class isn’t very strong outside of the top six options but it’s still hard to see Ebron coming even close to duplicating his 2018 success.

David Njoku (TFFA TE12, ADP TE10) — I’d normally be all over a talented third-year TE like Njoku playing with a potential stud QB in Baker Mayfield, but it’s tough to give him too much love because of the deep offensive talent the Browns have accumulated the last two years. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry could easily soak up about 50% of the targets like Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have done the last two seasons in Minnesota. That would make it difficult for Njoku to match his 17% target share from last season (89 targets) as he competes with Antonio Callaway, Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt for opportunities. The Browns should also have one of the better rushing attacks and an improved defense, which could lead to fewer pass attempts after they finished 12th last season with 35.9 per game. Njoku will need to be a bigger factor in the red zone going forward to make up for his inconsistent targets after seeing just 8 red-zone looks last season. Njoku still clearly has huge upside but he’ll most likely to be a volatile fantasy asset since he’s a non-essential part of this offense.

Kyle Rudolph (TFFA TE19, ADP TE16) — The Vikings put Rudolph on notice when they drafted Irv Smith in the second round, but they did ink him to a contract extension this off-season. As his situation currently sits, he’s a distant third fiddle in this Vikings’ passing attack behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. He still finished as the TE7 last season, but 21.9% of his fantasy production game in a single game in Week 16 (9/122/2 receiving), which included a 44-yard Hail Mary TD. Rudolph has finished as a top-12 TE in each of the last three seasons, but he’s been trending downward since his career campaign in 2016. HC Mike Zimmer also wants to get his offense back to pounding the rock after they finished sixth in the league in pass attempts (37.9) last season. Rudolph has averaged fewer than 40 receiving yards per game and fewer than 6.0 targets per game in seven of his eight seasons. Rudolph is a low-volume option and his fantasy production will once again hinge on his ability to find the end zone.

T.J. Hockenson (TFFA TE21, ADP TE12) — The Lions have selected the only two tight ends to go in the top 10 of the last 13 drafts. Hockenson, the #8 overall selection in April, joined Eric Ebron (#10 in 2014) in that exclusive club. The Iowa rookie will look to have a much better Lions’ career than Ebron had in four seasons. Hockenson will jump right to the top of the depth chart, but the Lions did sign the solid Jesse James to a four-year deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. Hockenson is as complete a tight end prospect as we’ve seen in recent years, and he certainly has enough athleticism (85th-percentile SPARQ) to make an impact for Matthew Stafford right away. However, he attempted just 555 passes last season and averaged 6.8 YPA with this offense trending more toward the run heading into 2019. We also never get too excited about rookie fantasy TEs because they typically have a more difficult transition into the NFL than other positions. Hockenson would be one player to bet on to be the exception to the rule, but you won’t be getting any discounts to find out in the 10th or 11th round.

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Tom Brolley
Tom Brolley

@TomBrolley

Tom Brolley is the better half of The Fantasy Free Agents Podcast with his partner Joe Dolan. Brolley owned a 53.8% winning percentage picking every game against the spread for his old site over the last two seasons.