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Best-Ball Rankings Analysis - Tight End

Since many of you have embraced the MFL10 format with overwhelming passion, the expert rankers at Rotoballer have assembled their Best-Ball rankings at each position. This will help you formulate a plan as you proceed through your upcoming MFL10 drafts. Our rankings also include tiers that provide you with a more detailed breakdown on which players to target for your rosters. We will also be generating our other rankings and positional analysis articles as we continue to approach the regular season.

This breakdown will focus on the tight end position, which provides owners with a select group of elite options, a limited number of dependable alternatives, and the potential to present owners with frequent torment again this season. Running backs and wide receivers dominate the initial rounds of our rankings, then appear with frequency as the list unfolds. However, the tight ends do not share that share the same universal presence. Instead, tier 1 options are ranked between slots 24-37, while just six additional tight ends reside within our top 100.

This illustrates the challenging decision-making process that confronts owners during their drafts. Even though the tier 1 options supply the greatest potential to significantly boost your scoring, securing them requires you to bypass drafting talented backs and receivers with a valuable early round pick. However, there is also risk in waiting too long as your draft progresses through the middle rounds. This increases the likelihood of becoming reliant on tight ends whose production will be restricted by underwhelming snap counts. Or, you could be forced to watch helplessly as the best remaining options are eliminated during a dreaded positional run between picks. All of which makes it critical that your patience does not result in roster selections which will leave you non-competitive at the position.

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Tight End Best-Ball Rankings

Tier Rank Player Name Pos
 1 24 Rob Gronkowski TE
 1 26 Travis Kelce TE
 1 37 Zach Ertz TE
 2 49 Evan Engram TE
 2 60 Greg Olsen TE
 2 75 Kyle Rudolph TE
 2 85 Delanie Walker TE
 2 89 Jimmy Graham TE
 3 97 Jordan Reed TE
 3 100 Jack Doyle TE
 3 117 Tyler Eifert TE
 3 122 Trey Burton TE
 4 125 Cameron Brate TE
 4 130 O.J. Howard TE
 4 134 George Kittle TE
 4 136 David Njoku TE
 5 137 Jared Cook TE
 5 141 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE
 5 142 Eric Ebron TE
 5 163 Charles Clay TE
 5 164 Ricky Seals-Jones TE
 6 170 Austin Hooper TE
 6 185 Mike Gesicki TE
 6 186 Vance McDonald TE
 6 188 Hayden Hurst TE
 7 198 Benjamin Watson TE
 7 206 Gerald Everett TE
 7 218 Vernon Davis TE
 7 229 Tyler Kroft TE
 7 234 Adam Shaheen TE
 8 244 Dallas Goedert TE
 8 250 Ed Dickson TE
 8 254 Stephen Anderson TE
 8 270 Jesse James TE
 8 272 Antonio Gates TE
 9 276 Jake Butt TE
 9 277 Mark Andrews TE
 9 282 Nick Vannett TE
 9 283 Luke Willson TE
 9 286 Dwayne Allen TE
 9 287 Julius Thomas TE

Tier 1
Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz

They were the only tight ends to generate 200+ fantasy points last season, and this tier comprises the most likely candidates to lead tight ends in scoring again this year. But the factor that is most likely to discourage you from pursuing any of member of this trio is the hefty investment that is required in order to have them on your roster.

If you are inclined to pursue any member of this select group, Gronkowski and Kelce will not be available beyond the middle of Round 3, while Ertz is often being selected late in that round. Yet they remain enticing options, due to the distinct possibility that you will reap massive benefits as the result of their substantial output.

Gronkowski enters his ninth season as the preeminent choice at his position, after finishing just behind Kelce in scoring, and leading all tight ends with 1,084 yards. He has not played in all 16 regular season games since 2011, but has surpassed 1,000 yards in the four years that he has appeared in at least 14 contests. Any apprehension about Gronkowski should be offset by the numbers that are accumulated when he is in New England's lineup.

Kelce has paced tight ends in fantasy scoring for two consecutive seasons, while averaging 84 catches and 1,081 yards in the process. Last year, he led all tight ends in targets (122) and receptions (83), while establishing a new career high in touchdowns (8). Kelce could finish as the top point producer once again, and his immense talent should override any concerns about the potency of Kansas City's passing attack with unproven Patrick Mahomes under center.

Ertz has collected at least 74 receptions, and has surpassed 800 yards in each of the last three seasons. But he also produced a career best eight touchdowns last year, after manufacturing a total of 13 in the four previous seasons combined. He also finished within the top four in targets (110), receptions (74), and receiving yards (824), even though his snap count was eclipsed by 12 other tight ends (778/68.8%). He should maintain an integral role in Philadelphia's attack, and could easily lead the Eagles in receptions and yardage once again.

Tier 2
Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Olsen, Delanie WalkerJimmy Graham

Hunter Henry’s season-ending ACL tear deprives owners of a viable player to target at a position where enticing options were already scarce. His absence also reduces the size of this tier, although owners can still focus on selecting another member of this group. Engram's 115 targets were second most among all tight ends, while obliterating the second highest total by a rookie at his position (63). He will not receive the same number of opportunities with Odell Beckham running routes, but should still be your initial target among players in this tier.

After averaging 80 receptions, and eclipsing 1,000 yards three times from 2014-2016, Olsen's foot injury limited him to just seven games, 17 catches, and 191 yards. But at age 33, he remains a favorable alternative to the vast array of less appealing options that will be available later in the draft, and the evolving components in Carolina's offense will not prohibit him from being a preferred option for Cam Newton.

Rudolph’s eight touchdowns were the most since 2012, tied him with Gronkowski, Ertz and Kelce, and trailed only Jimmy  Graham last season. However, his 81 targets placed him third on the Vikings behind Adam Thielen (143) and Stefon Diggs (95), and both receivers will be located repeatedly by Kirk Cousins this season. Still, Cousins has also proven his willingness to target tight ends with enough regularity to keep Rudolph productive.

Walker enters his age-34 season having eclipsed 100+ targets and 800+ yards in four consecutive years. Walker was also allotted the third most targets among all tight ends (111), and tied for third with 74 receptions. His three touchdowns were the fewest since 2012, and Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews could pilfer a larger percentage of opportunities in year one of Matt LaFleur's offense. However, Walker remains a worthy roster target for at least one more year.

Graham paced all tight ends with 29 red zone targets last season, which helped him accrue the most touchdowns at his position (10).  But even though owners embraced his scoring prowess, he only exceeded 34 yards once between Weeks 10-16, which was a detriment to their scoring totals. 16 tight ends generated more yardage than Graham (520), which was the lowest total since his 2010 rookie season. While Aaron Rodgers should utilize Graham consistently once the Packers have reached the red zone, it may be difficult for him to exceed last year's yardage total. As a result, the touchdown dependency that owners will contend with drops him into the last slot of this tier.

Tier 3

Jordan Reed, Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert, Trey Burton

Anyone who has experienced having Reed on their rosters should be well acquainted with the benefits and pitfalls that are customary during the process. He can theoretically supply you with high quality outings, but he will not be available for the entire 16-game schedule. Reed has missed 28 games during his first five seasons and has never performed in more than 14 during a given year. He did finish as TE3 in 2015 but has only managed one other top 10 season (TE9 in 2016). While the cost of obtaining Reed has diminished, it is essential to safeguard your roster by drafting two other tight ends if you select him.

Andrew Luck's absence did not deter Doyle from establishing new career highs in receptions (80), and yardage (690). But his 108 targets were 33 more than his previous best, and that number will be difficult to replicate regardless of whether Luck or Jacoby Brissett is under center. Eric Ebron and the now healthy Erik Swoope will siphon Doyle's opportunities, although the potential for Doyle to still function as a viable TE1 in Frank Reich's system was examined here.

Eifert has demonstrated the capacity to be productive, although his potential to reside in tier 1 has been circumvented by lingering injuries. Eifert finished at TE 6 in 2015, when he produced 13 of his 20 career touchdowns, and caught 52 of his 127 receptions. But memories of Eifert’s red zone proficiency have been supplanted by the ongoing reality of a 41-game absence during his five-year career. However, he has an opportunity to flourish as Cincinnati’s TE1 if he can avoid another protracted health issue.

Despite a modest snap count (300/26.5%), Burton amassed five touchdowns in 2017. Now, the promise of a burgeoning role while operating within a potent Matt Nagy attack has propelled Burton into the TE12 slot of our rankings, and should supply owners with incentive to trust him on their rosters. He should surpass his previous career highs in targets (60) receptions (37) and yardage (327), and could match last year's touchdown total.

Tier 4

Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, George Kittle, David Njoku  

We now have progressed to the TE13-16 options in our rankings, and this is an excellent tier to target if you have only drafted one tight end before this point.  If you continue to focus on other positions, there is escalating risk that you will contend with a major issue if your presumed TE1 is sidelined for an extended period of time. Anyone who has selected Henry in earlier drafts, then abstained from grabbing their second tight end until the later rounds, can tell you how thrilled they are to enter the season with a roster that appears to be woefully uncompetitive at this position.

If either Brate and Howard were functioning as unchallenged TE1s on their own teams, then they would be a much more enticing options for yours. Since 2016, Brate has collected 33 red zone targets, averaged 52.5 receptions, 625.5 yards, and has scored 14 times. Meanwhile, Howard scored five of his six touchdowns and exceeded 50 yards four times between Weeks 7-15, before an ankle injury ended his season. But much of the enthusiasm that would otherwise exist for either player must be tempered. Because the games in which Brate or Howard make notable contributions to your scoring, will be blended with limited production in other contests.

A cluster of lingering injuries were a factor in Kittle's 2017 snap count (591/53.7%), but his 16 red zone targets were the fifth most among all tight ends.  Both his opportunities and production should rise during his second season. This is also the case for Njoku, whose snap count was exceeded by 38 other tight ends last season (501/47%). However, despite the expected increase from last year's 60 targets, his opportunities will be negatively impacted by Josh Gordon’s availability for an entire season, and the presence of Jarvis Landry.  

Tier 5

Jared Cook, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron, Charles Clay, Ricky Seals-Jones

If you have owned Cook at some point during his nine-year career, the experience might have left you with a feeling that fluctuated between frustration and resentment. However, he did accrue a career high 54 receptions, while emerging as last year's TE12. He can also a present opponents with a problematic matchup, and is entrenched as Oakland's pass catching tight end.

25-year old Seferian-Jenkins accrued the best numbers of his four-year career in 2017 (50 receptions/357 yards) after averaging just 18 catches, and missing 25 of 48 games from 2014-2016. His career resurrection should continue as Jacksonville’s categorical TE1.  While there is justification for not ranking Ebron any higher than his current TE19, it would be premature to completely dismiss him as an option. He shares the same age as Seferian-Jenkins, and collected 4+ receptions in six straight contests last season (Weeks 11-16).  Ebron could supply adequate production while functioning as a TE2 in the redesigned Indianapolis offense.

Clay’s output has been consistent during his three seasons with Buffalo, as have his finishes in fantasy scoring (TE18/TE16/TE18). This year’s results should be similar, even as Clay operates within a Bills offense that will be burdened by a dearth of talent.  Reliable receiving options are scarce on Arizona's roster, which could help Seals-Jones evolve into a productive best ball option. He averaged 16.8 YPC, scored three times, and collected five receptions of 20+ yards, despite performing on just 132 snaps in 2017.

Tier 6

Austin Hooper, Mike Gesicki, Vance McDonald, Hayden Hurst  

This tier is located between slots 171-189 in our rankings, and each player could provide various weeks of adequate scoring. Hooper’s output increased during his second season, but he still finished at just TE17. McDonald endured a collection of injuries, but still attained 50 yards in more contests than Jesse James – even though James played on 82% of Pittsburgh’s snaps. The athletic Gesicki has been placed in a position to succeed but must persevere through the challenges of his first professional season. Hurst will encounter the same process, although his path to a desirable target total is more arduous.

Tier 7

Benjamin Watson, Vernon Davis, Tyler Kroft, Adam Shaheen 

Watson is the only player from this tier whose name can currently be found atop his team’s depth chart.  But their value could ascend as the months unfold, and they are all worthy of a late round selection.

Tier 8

Dallas Goedert, Ed Dickson, Stephen Anderson, Jesse James, Antonio Gates

Even though you did not enter the draft with an overwhelming desire to specifically target any of these tight ends for your roster, various factors could allow them to fortify your scoring.


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