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Best Late-Round Tight End Picks If You're Punting the Position


Perhaps more than any other time in recent history, punting the tight end position in the draft seems like an optimal strategy. While it's never good to lock yourself into a strategy before your draft even starts, the obscene amount of buried treasure waiting to be scooped up in the later rounds makes the idea incredibly appealing. Outside of assured studs like Travis Kelce and George Kittle, the rest of the tight ends being taken in the first eight rounds have more question marks than a level of Super Mario Bros.

Historically, it's not been wise to bank on early tight ends to produce solid returns on investment. Last year, out of the ten drafted in the first eight rounds, only Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Evan Engram met or exceeded their ADP on a points-per-game basis. And only six of the tight ends that finished in the top 12 were drafted in those first eight rounds. That means you essentially had a 50/50 shot at landing a TE1 whether you took one off the board early or waited until the back half of the draft. Those aren't the odds you want if you're spending an early pick on the position, especially considering the quality you'd be sacrificing at other, more important positions.

So rather than use up high draft capital or hazard a guess on which mid-rounder might break out, let's blow the dust off some late-round tight ends and try to unearth potential studs that can be had for a pittance.

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Jordan Reed - TE14 (13.04)

By all reports, Jordan Reed is finally enjoying a healthy offseason. The last time that happened, Breaking Bad was still on the air. (Yes, Reed sustained a concussion in the third preseason game against the Falcons, but at least none of his limbs were affected.)

Reed has fallen off most draft boards for two reasons: 1) As mentioned, he's always hurt and 2) He's on a bad offense. And sure, he’s never played more than 14 games in his six-year career. But as recently as 2016, Reed finished as the TE1 on a points-per-game basis. Even if he's not someone you can rely on all season long, being able to plug in a player with the TE1 upside for even a handful of games makes Reed well worth grabbing as the 14th tight end off the board.

As for the Washington offense, the team moved on from Matt Kavanaugh who, in his 10 years as an offensive coordinator, only had a team finish inside the top 12 for offensive yards once. (His teams finished in the bottom 12 four times.) They've also boosted their quarterback situation. Add all of that to the fact that Reed put up a true catch rate of 91.5% and the sixth-highest target separation amongst tight ends in 2018 while dealing with toe injuries, and it would be a crime to walk away from your draft without considering him.

Jimmy Graham - TE18 (13.12)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Last year Jimmy Graham was being overvalued and over-drafted as the TE4, now he's barely on anyone's radar as a viable fantasy option. But those who think Graham is dead to rights likely forgot about the down year he had in Seattle before enjoying a nice bounce-back the following season.

The entire Green Bay offense looked off last year, and everyone outside of Davante Adams disappointed. With a new head coach who has to be more innovative than Mike McCarthy, everyone in that offense has room to improve.

And let's not forget, Graham still finished as a top 12 tight end and did so despite Aaron Rodgers throwing for a career-low touchdown percentage of 4.2, well below his career average of 6.2. Graham also broke his thumb in Week 10. Prior to that, he was on pace for 59 receptions and 780 yards, the latter of which would have put him fifth-most at his position. Oh, and he also managed to improve his yards per reception (from 9.1 to 11.6) and catch percentage (from 59.4 to 61.8) from his last year in Seattle. The man's not dead yet.

 

Tyler Eifert - undrafted

As with Jordan Reed, there's a weariness to drafting Tyler Eifert these days. Maybe it's because he only played six games over the last two seasons combined, or maybe it's because...no, it's definitely because he only played six games over the last two seasons combined. But in the four games he did play last year, he averaged five targets, four receptions, and 45 yards.

With A.J. Green likely to miss a few weeks, Eifert should be in line for an uptick across all those major categories, not to mention a substantial boost inside the red zone. Green saw 14 targets in just eight games -- which put him on pace to have the fourth-most of any position -- and there aren't any great red zone threats on the Bengals roster outside of Eifert.

Take Eifert with the knowledge that he may be worse once Green returns from injury, or he may go down with an injury himself at any point in time. But since you can take him with your very last pick, there's practically no risk involved.