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2014 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Tight End (TE) Targets & Dynasty


 

Tight End Draft Strategy

Jeffrey Beall - Own workThe position of tight end can be fairly unexciting for fantasy football, especially in non-PPR leagues, unless you are the fantasy football owner with Jimmy Graham or another elite TE on your team.  After the "Big Three" tight ends come off the board (Graham, Rob Gronkowski, and Julius Thomas), your choice at the position can become "Which team's uniform are you plugging in and hoping for touchdowns from?"

Tight end is a notoriously unreliable position in fantasy, with much of a tight end's value coming from touchdowns instead of receiving yardage, which is a much more consistent source of points for any receiving threat on a team.  You can certainly win by playing "touchdown roulette" at this position, since much of your league will be playing the same game, but if you're here, that's not enough for you. We're looking for some tight end sleepers for 2014 and beyond.

You want to play your season above the cesspool of tight end touchdown chasing that so many owners are reduced to slogging through, but you either don't want to spend an early-round draft pick on a tight end or you'll watch as someone reaches for Gronkowski or Thomas before you can snag them.

 

2014 Fantasy Football Draft Values & Sleepers

Scouring though player analysis, comparing ADPs, identifying the risers/fallers and potential busts, following the pre-season team outlooks, learning the rookies and putting together your rankings are all key components for your fantasy football draft strategy. And today we are here to help out with tight ends, and making sure your teams are prepared to win.

In this article, we look around the NFL and provide analysis on some 2014 fantasy football sleeper tight ends. As we make our way through the first three weeks of NFL preseason play, here are two potential tight end sleepers to consider on fantasy football draft day. We’ve considered these TEs because of their potential fantasy return, based on your draft-day investment and their current ADPs. Here are some young tight ends who have the potential to lock down your tight-end spot and let you laugh at others stuck in the mire below you.

 

Editor's Note: If you want to read about even more tight end sleepers & ADP draft values, click here to see our running list of players to consider targeting in your fantasy football drafts. 

 

Zach Ertz - Tight End, Philadelphia Eagles

zach-ertz-tight-end-te-sleepers-fantasy-footballComing into Philadelphia's high-octane offense from Stanford last year, fantasy owners were hoping that Ertz could become one of the Eagles' favored receiving options.  For the first eight games of the season, they were disappointed, but Ertz turned it around and scored four receiving touchdowns in six games over the back half of the year, as well as one in the Eagles' playoff game against New Orleans.

This year, owners hope that Ertz can build on the promise he showed to close out 2013, resulting with him sneaking onto the draft board in the later rounds.  Ertz' ADP puts him as the 11th tight end selected, making him on of my tight end draft sleepers. His current ADP puts him behind Dennis PittaGreg Olsen, Jordan Reed and right around Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Kyle Rudolph and Martellus Bennett.

Ertz has a similar profile to Ebron; both were elite receiving threats in college, although Ertz is an inch taller at 6-5.  Ertz averaged 13 yards per catch and was a Mackey Award finalist in his last season at Stanford.  Ertz also demonstrated the ability to play all over the line, taking snaps as a wideout, a traditional tight end, and in the slot.  He also presents the size mismatches that the elite tight ends all take advantage of in today's NFL.  Ertz has the ability to become a monster in the middle of the field.

It also cannot be overstated how important Ertz' ability to score became.  As mentioned before, playing a tight end in fantasy football is sometimes just hoping for a touchdown and a couple points from receiving yards; if Ertz can continue his trend of reliable scoring, he can become a solid contributor on your fantasy team.  He has put up four receptions for a touchdown and 50 receiving yards so far this preseason in limited action.  However, Ertz's blocking is not quite as good as his position mate Brent Celek, which could serve to keep him off the field and therefore hurt his fantasy value.  Optimists suggest that Ertz will be the "receiving" tight end where Celek will be used primarily as a blocker, though.

At his ADP, Ertz is a solid choice at the tight end position and could have sleeper value based on his draft day price.  He's proven can put up touchdowns for you, and he's had an entire offseason in the Philadelphia offense.  If you've waited long enough to take a tight end so that Ertz is one of your best options, go ahead and take him.  Five touchdowns in seven games is difficult to ignore.

 

Eric Ebron - Tight End, Detroit Lions

eric-ebron-tight-end-te-sleepers-fantasy-footballWhen Eric Ebron was drafted tenth overall in this year's draft, fantasy owners salivated at the thought of the ultra-talented tight end playing on the statistically prolific Detroit passing offense.  Ebron was a monster in his final year at the University of North Carolina, hauling in 62 receptions for a total of 973 yards, breaking the ACC record previously held by Vernon Davis.

Although he doesn't possess the same size as Graham or Gronkowski, who come in at 6-7 and 6-6, respectively, his 6-4 frame still presents a mismatch any time he lines up against a defensive back.  His 4.6 second time in the 40-yard-dash also suggests he will be a matchup problem for linebackers, who won't have the same raw speed at their disposal.  His route running and catching ability drew praise from scouts leading up to the draft.

Equally as enticing as Ebron's ability is the offense he landed on, making him a potential fantasy football sleeper for years to come. The Lions' offense was pass-happy before they brought in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi from the New Orleans Saints; Matthew Stafford attempted 634 passes last season.  Lombardi brings with him the system that has made Drew Brees one of the best quarterbacks in the league and an almost certain Hall of Famer.  The Saints are notorious for spreading the ball around to their receivers, but that hasn't stopped anyone from drafting Jimmy Graham with the sixth overall.  Stafford has a new and capable wide receiver in Golden Tate, and will throw passes out of the backfield to Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Additionally, the specter of Calvin Johnson lingers over opposing pass defenses like a malevolent cloud of pure receiving ability, and will draw double teams, triple teams, and probably some quadruple teams too.  Pick a coverage "uple," and Megatron will likely see it eventually at some point during this season.  This results in wide-open looks for the other receiving options in Detroit, and Ebron will undoubtedly benefit.

Ebron has also played well in the preseason, despite modest production.  He's managed only 2 receptions in each of his last three games, but has avoided bad drops and has been able to block opposing defenders when needed.  Every sign from this preseason indicates that the Lions are developing a legitimate threat at the tight end position.  However, the Lions are still paying Brandon Pettigrew $8 million this season, and second-year tight end Joseph Fauria is still a factor in the positional battle.

Sadly, the presence of Fauria and Pettigrew may serve to limit Ebron's upside this season in redraft leagues.  Stafford didn't throw to his tight ends often last season, and with the logjam at the position, Ebron will have to work hard to put up stud TE numbers.  Pass on Ebron in this season's draft, but keep an eye on waivers during the year as a potential sleeper pickup, especially if injuries hit in Detroit.  While he'll have to work for his numbers, he does have the potential to put them up based on sheer ability alone.  In dynasty leagues, however, draft Ebron without reservation as an ADP and draft day sleeper.  He will cost you nothing in the draft. He will also almost certainly take the starting tight end spot in Detroit, and I'd be willing to bet that happens sooner rather than later.