2018 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview: By the Numbers

by Alex Hamrick
2018 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview

The Fantasy Football season is approaching and it is time to dive into the tight end position. Arguably the most frustrating position in Fantasy Football. Often, the week-to-week Fantasy productivity of tight ends will annoy owners. First of all, do not let this phenomenon negatively impact your draft or your Fantasy season.

Do not panic and get sucked into a "tight end run" during the draft. Just because someone pulls the trigger on Gronk in the second round, does not mean that you have to go ahead and draft a tight end right away. This article will discuss some tight end draft strategies, the impact of several off-season moves, and some steals and reaches at the tight end position. With that said, hope you had a Happy Fourth of July and enjoy the 2018 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview.

2018 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview

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Can these Tight Ends Succeed on New Teams?

Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers

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Over the past four years, the Green Bay Packers have not had a tight end finish 15th or better in fantasy football. Martellus Bennett finished 38th in 2017, Jared Cook finished 29th in 2016, Richard Rodgers finished 15th in 2015, and Andrew Quarless finished 34th in 2014.  Jimmy Graham is more talented than the aforementioned tight ends. He even has his fair share of top elite fantasy finishes.

The problem is that these successful years for Graham were mostly during his glory days in New Orleans and a few good spells with Seattle. Now joining a Green Bay team that prefers to distribute the ball among receivers, Graham is likely to have his worst season, for Fantasy Football purposes, in a long time.

Trey Burton, Chicago Bears

Easily everyone’s favorite tight end sleeper for 2018, Burton will look to impress as the number one tight end in what could be an exciting Bears’ offense.

Burton showed signs of Fantasy success for the Eagles, especially when filling in for an occasionally injured Zach Ertz. Burton is an excellent receiver and provides excellent value as a later-round tight end that could easily be a TE1.

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

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Eric Ebron never really lived up to his “freakishly athletic receiving tight” end hype in Detroit. Now Ebron is with the Colts and he is all but forgotten in terms of Fantasy relevance. Lets not forget that he still managed to finish as the TE13 last year. This year his situation has improved tremendously, relying solely on the assumption that Andrew Luck is back and playing at a high level. Wait what about Jack Doyle?

First, we have seen Andrew Luck support two Fantasy relevant tight ends in the past, think of pairs like Dwayne Allen & Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle. Andrew Luck relies heavily on his tight ends, especially in the red zone. Second, I think Eric Ebron is a much better football player than Jack Doyle is.

It will not surprise me if Eric Ebron is the number one tight end for the Colts this year, a player who would provide excellent Fantasy value. The best part is, Ebron is virtually free in drafts, so he won’t cost you anything to pick up and see what you can get out of him.

Draft Strategies

There are basically two drafting strategies for tight ends. You can Draft an elite caliber tight end in the first two or three rounds in hopes of landing someone like Gronkowski. Or you can pass on these elite players and wait to draft a tight end.

I can see the argument for spending high capital on a tight end like Gronkowski. He is a game changer and has the ability to win you the weekly tight end battle. However, with the uncertainty of some of the top tight ends’ health, and the risk of finding one of the few elite guys, I tend to focus more on the wide receiver and running back positions and wait on tight end.

If I am not one of the three members that lands an elite tight end, my tight end production will be about the same as everyone else and my running backs or wide receivers will be better and deeper than those with the rare and elite tight end.

This does not mean you should pass on elite guys if the time is right. But, I am certainly not taking a tight end in the first few rounds if I can drastically improve my running backs or wide receivers. This is because of the many remaining poor wide receivers or running backs for fantasy purposes in later rounds. These remnants get outscored on a weekly basis by most other players at those key respective positions.

However, this is different for tight ends. For tight ends there are about three or four elite caliber players. After that, the drop-off is drastic. You can find similar production at the tight end position that is comparable to your opponents who do not have one of the top three.

Tight Ends by the Numbers

In 2017, three tight ends averaged over 8.5 points per game. Four averaged between 6.5 and 7.5 points per game. Then the next 15 tight ends averaged between about five to six points per game.

Upon looking at the stats within the past five years, the same distribution exists with the worst 20 tight ends never having a point differential greater than two. This means that you do not necessarily have a disadvantage at the tight end position, if you wait on drafting the position. When you play the guys who spent high picks on hopefully obtaining an elite tight end, you will have deeper and better running backs and wide receivers.

Tight Ends on Championship Teams

Another interesting nugget is who were the most owned tight ends on championship rosters, in terms of percentage owned. In 2017, of the 20 most owned players on Championship game rosters, only one player was a tight end. Even more interesting was that this tight end was not a heavily sought after “elite level” tight end in drafts. The tight end was Evan Engram who was owned in 29.4 percent of ESPN championship game rosters. He was drafted last season with an ADP of 191, nearly undrafted.

Your draft strategy is ultimately yours. But waiting on tight end and focusing more on running backs and wide receivers might be the best strategy to get yourself a Fantasy Football Championship.


Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

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Say what? But Alex, Travis Kelce was the overall TE1 last year and has consistently been an elite tight end for Fantasy Football over the last few years. Yeah, so what? He is being drafted way too high this year with several risks associated with him.

Kelce's ADP is way too high this year considering the several risks associated with him.

First, we do not know how his chemistry will compare with Pat Mahomes next to Alex Smith. Additionally, Kelce produces as a yardage guy in fantasy - with over 1000 yards last season. However, the Chiefs essentially had just two main receiving options - Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.

With the addition of Sammy Watkins, there will be less yards and targets to go around for everyone. I am not saying that Kelce will not be great this year in Fantasy. What I am saying is that I do believe he regresses some. This makes the third round too high for him. If you are someone that must spend an early round pick on a tight end, wait a round or more for some guys like Zach Ertz, Greg Olsen, or Evan Engram who offer similar upside without the third-round investment


Jimmy Graham, Green Bay

Everything that needs said about Graham is in the section above. Do not spend a fourth or fifth round pick on him. That is a significant reach.


Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

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What if I told you that you could draft a top-3 Fantasy tight end around the seventh round? Well, that is where Olsen’s ADP stands at the time of writing this article. Recency bias seriously tanked his draft value, as owners remember Olsen's injury absence for the majority of the 2017 season.

People are forgetting how good Olsen has been for Fantasy. Let’s throw out last year. Since 2011, when Cam Newton entered the league, Olsen has never finished worse than 6th at his position, which is where he finished Newton’s rookie year. Olsen then had three top-3 finishes, a top-4 finish, and a top-2 finish leading up to last year.

Talk about consistency and safety at the tight end position. The best part is that you do not have to spend an early round draft pick on him. Instead, you can load up on other positions and then draft Olsen, who has a high percentage chance of providing elite-level tight end Fantasy production to your team.

One may worry about his health, due to his age and last year’s injury-riddled season, but the fact is that Olsen is just as likely, if not less likely than Gronk, Kelce, Graham, and Ertz to suffer injury, and he won’t cost you a high draft pick. Olsen is a steal at his current ADP.

Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

It was not long ago when Eifert was an elite level tight end. However, injuries have plagued his past few seasons. This has put Eifert at a significant discount in Fantasy drafts as his ADP is in the last few rounds. Eifert does not come without risk, but if healthy, he could be one of the bigger steals in Fantasy drafts.

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Another injury prone tight end, Reed can never seem to stay on the field. But at his current ADP, he could be a steal offering top three tight end value.

Cousins is no longer in D.C., but the Redskins brought in Alex Smith who loves throwing to his tight ends. You can draft Reed at a discount, and if an injury comes along, you will be in just about the same boat as everyone else who doesn’t have one of the elite tier tight ends.

Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota Vikings

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Rudolph has not been the flashiest tight end for Fantasy, but he is coming off of a TE1 finish. The Vikings offense is good and balanced, plus they brought in Kirk Cousins who targets his tight ends consistently. Rudolph offers good value if you choose to pass one some of the bigger names early on at the position.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to get you prepared for the 2018 season.

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