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2017 Rankings Analysis - Tight Ends in PPR Leagues

Just because the 2016 season was a downer for tight ends it does not mean that 2017 is destined to be a repeat.

There are several wild cards at tight end because there is a bumper crop of young up-and-comers just entering their primes who showed flashes of great promise this past season. This coupled with the hope that some injury-prone veterans stay healthy and that the consistent crop of the tight end corps keep up the good work could translate into a banner year for tight ends in fantasy football.

Our preseason rankings at RotoBaller will continue to shift as free agents move on and rookies find homes. For the time being, here are my top 12 tight ends in points-per-reception leagues entering the 2017 season:

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1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

When everything is right with Gronkowski, there is no tight end in fantasy football more valuable. No tight end evens comes close to his zip code. The problem is everything is never right with him, at least physically. Gronkowski has been missed 24 games over the past five years and has left fantasy owners high and dry more often than a stat website that blows up every NFL football Sunday at 3:00 pm. If you want to play it safe, you can pass on Gronkowski and go with the second or third-ranked TE on this list. But if you want the best guy at the position and you think you can milk 13-15 games out of him, then you have to go with Gronk.


2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith does not do wide receivers any favors due to his lack of arm strength, but he is the perfect quarterback for tight ends like Kelce. Kelce topped all tight ends in 2016 with 1,125 yards and was second at the position with 85 receptions. It is hard to place him No. 1 when he has scored 14 touchdowns in three seasons and a healthy Gronkowski could possibly match that in one season, yet Kelce’s productivity in the other major fantasy categories lands him this coveted rule as numero dos (and No. 1 if/when Gronk gets hurt again).


3. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

Olsen and Kelce were the only tight ends to break the 1,000-yard barrier in 2016 in what was a down year at the position. Olsen has been a model of consistency as he has finished in the top six in receptions among tight ends each of the past five seasons. He has also not missed a game over his last nine seasons and has a string of three consecutive 1,000-yard years. Olsen has only averaged five touchdowns per year and will be 32 when the new season starts, but the goods totally outweigh the bads and that is why he is ranked here.


4. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Reed had 66 catches in a dozen games last season, but a concussion and a shoulder injury stopped him better than any defense did. We do not know if he can actually stay healthy for 14-16 games, nor do we know if Kirk Cousins will be the QB throwing to him. What we do know is Reed is one of the top tight ends in fantasy football when he suits up. As long as Kirk Cousins remains in Washington, it should be a high-volume passing attack. The loss of his two main wideouts only boosts Reed's value.


5. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks

Have we seen the best of Graham?  He has Russell Wilson instead of Drew Brees as his QB, he is now 30 years old and seems a step slower, plus he plays half of his games outside in Seattle’s rainy weather rather in the friendly offensive confines of the Superdome. His fantasy numbers may be capped at 70 receptions for 950 yards, but if that is the best he can do it probably still keeps him as a top-5 TE in PPR leagues.


6. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

Ertz was a fantasy non-factor during the first half of last season thanks to a rib injury and building chemistry with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. The second half of the season was a different story, with Ertz handing his fantasy owners 443 yards and three touchdown catches over the last five weeks of the season, typically the most important weeks in fantasy leagues. He had 78 receptions in 2016, but he could have 85-90 in 2017 and be the central figure in Philly’s passing attack if everything breaks right for him (like newly-acquired Alshon Jeffery injuring himself like he usually does).


7. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals

Eifert has more trouble staying on the field than President Trump has staying off Twitter. Eifert has missed 27 games over his first four seasons, so unless he has milk and multi-vitamins going through an IV into his body, he will probably miss a couple games this upcoming season. That being said, you cannot ignore the 13 touchdowns he scored in 2015 and that he has been Andy Dalton’s second-favorite target behind A.J. Green the last couple years.


8. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans

Walker racked up over 1,000 yards in 2015 and posted 65 catches for 800 yards in 2016, so Father Time does not seem to be slowing him down even though he is in his 30s. Even if the Titans finally acquire a No. 1 receiver after years of terrible draft choices and free-agent signings, Walker will still be on the received end of plenty of Marcus Mariota’s short tosses.


9. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions

Ebron has just as many tools in his toolbox as your average HGTV handyman, and this past year he finally strung some solid weeks together to set career-highs with 61 receptions for 711 yards. He is only going to be 24 years old at season’s start and has the ability to catch 80 passes, but he is going to have to stay healthy (he has never suited up for all 16 games in a season yet) and is going to have to score more touchdowns (one TD in 2016).


10. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Henry tied Brate for the lead in touchdown grabs among tight ends with eight last season. We all know how Philip Rivers favors throwing to his tight ends on third down and near the red zone with the way he peppered Antonio Gates with passes over the past decade. Hopefully Henry becomes Rivers’ top tight end target in 2017 as Gates slowly gets phased out of the offense.


11. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

Rudolph had the best year of his six-year career with 83 receptions for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. This was thanks in large part to him being targeted an ungodly 132 times. Quarterback Sam Bradford and Rudolph meshed perfectly in Minnesota’s dink-n-dunk offense, but you would think Rudolph won’t be targeted and connected with as much in 2017.


12. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brate blew up for 57 receptions, 660 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016 after fantasy owners initially ignored him because they assumed All-World wideout Mike Evans would catch 99 percent of Jameis Winston’s passes. Brate is not dynamic downfield, but he has a nose for the end zone and could catch 60-70 passes this upcoming season unless new acquisition DeSean Jackson takes some targets away from him. That shouldn't be a problem in the red zone, as Jackson doesn't do much damage there.

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.