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Late-Round Tight Ends Who Will Outperform Their ADP

Soon after your drafts have begun, you are presented with a decision concerning how quickly you will invest in the tight end position. There are advantages to making the sizable investment that is necessary in order to secure one of the elite options, although that also entails bypassing gifted running backs and wide receivers with a valuable early round pick. If you exercise patience until the middle rounds, then you can target one of the dependable options that will still remain.

But it will be important to avoid waiting too long as your draft progresses. Otherwise, you increase the risk of depending on tight ends whose production will be restricted by underwhelming snap counts. Or, you could experience an unwanted positional run between your picks, which will render you powerless as your best remaining options are eliminated.

If you remain uneasy about your situation at tight end once your draft has entered the later rounds, or are considering a tight end for any other reason, there are still viable options for you to target. Here are five that should outperform their current ADPS, and are worthy of strong consideration after your draft has entered its final stages.

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Tight End Sleepers

Charles Clay (TE18/ADP 188)

While several other late round options have a track record of inconsistency during their careers, Clay’s production has been largely predictable during his seven professional seasons. Between 2013-2017, his yardage total has only deviated between 759 and 558 yards, which results in an average of exactly 600. He has also averaged 57 receptions during that sequence, with totals that remained between 69 and 49, and his career best TE8 finish in fantasy scoring (2013) has been followed by remarkably steady results (TE15/TE18/TE16/TE18).

Those numbers should not prompt potential owners to consider him at an earlier round in their drafts. But he does offer a distinct role as the TE1 on his own team, while performing within an offense that is alarmingly devoid of receiving options. Buffalo will enter Week 1 with Kelvin Benjamin, Jeremy Kerley and Zay Jones as the top three wide receivers, which entrenches Clay as an integral component in the Bills’ talent deficient passing attack. He led the team in receiving yardage last season (558) while finishing second to LeSean McCoy in targets (74) and receptions (49).

Those are not inspiring numbers, but they did exceed the output of Buffalo’s wide receiving weaponry, and the release of Nick O’Leary has cleared the depth chart of any discernible threat toward siphoning Clay’s targets at his position. Clay does not present owners with an electrifying option, but he does supply an adequate floor -which can be a rarity at this position.


Eric Ebron (TE19/ADP 192)

Many of you have believed in him before. Then after you drafted him, he proceeded to let you down. Maybe you persuaded yourself to trust him a second time, only to become even more disgruntled with the recurrent pattern of underwhelming results.

Targeting has never been an issue, as he received a legitimate opportunity to thrive in Detroit. Ebron averaged 80 targets during his last three seasons as a Lion, and garnered 86 last season, which tied him for ninth among all tight ends. However, even if his target total regresses this year - and I fully expect that it will -  Frank Reich's expected deployment of the 6'4" Ebron in multiple positions on the field should impose matchup issues on the defenders that must contend with his combination of size and speed.

Still skeptical since Ebron was not a factor during the Colts preseason contests? Then here's a question: if you were Reich, had vigorously encouraged Ebron to join your team so that you could take advantage of the matchup nightmare that he can be through usage in various formations, would you a reveal them during August, or wait until Week 1? The belief from here is that it was strictly a decision not to unveil his role until his snaps are far more meaningful.

While Zach Ertz averaged 72% of Philadelphia's offensive snaps last season with Reich as the Eagles' offensive coordinator, Trey Burton and Brent Celek combined for 67.6%. If Reich apportions similar usage to his new tight end tandem, then Ebron will receive enough snaps to accrue numbers that eclipse his ADP.


Benjamin Watson (TE21/ADP 201)

Watson’s ADP continues to languish at 201, even though there are a myriad of reasons to expect a more favorable outcome if you include him on your roster. Since he has been included among my tight end sleeper candidates during the past several months, and I just made a bold prediction that he will finish as the TE1, the merits of targeting Watson will be discussed one final time.

During his last two healthy seasons (a torn Achilles sidelined him throughout 2016) he finished at TE7 in 2015 with the Saints (110 targets/74 receptions/825 yards/6 touchdowns), and finished at TE11 in 2017 with Baltimore (79 targets/61 receptions/522 yards). Watson also led the Ravens in receptions and red zone targets (13), which also tied him for seventh among all tight ends. He also played in all 16 games, while his output and favorable track record during his previous tenure with New Orleans prompted the Saints to secure him with a one-year contract.

That supplies the framework for a reunion with Drew Brees, and the Sean Peyton offense. Brees has already established his comfort level with the 13-year veteran, who amassed career-best numbers in every major receiving category during his last season with the team. Watson will also be performing as the Saints’ unquestioned TE1, as opposed to other tight end options that will be functioning in production inhibiting time shares. Watson’s favorable situation and sustained skill should boost his numbers beyond other late round options, while also exceeding his ADP.


Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE22/ADP 203)

He only played in 25 games from 2014-2016, which left him with uninspiring seasonal averages during that span (18 receptions/237 yards). But after playing 655 offensive snaps in 13 games for the Jets last season, Seferian-Jenkins easily eclipsed those numbers (50 receptions/357 yards). He also generated three touchdowns, while being subjected to having multiple scores absconded by officials due to replay overturns or penalty.

Seferian-Jenkins also led the team with 11 red zone targets, collected at least five targets in seven of Gang Green’s first nine games, and amassed 41 of his catches during that sequence of contests. All of which compelled the Jaguars to secure him with a two-year contract, while entrusting him with the team’s TE1 responsibilities. At age 25, he now has an excellent opportunity to establish new career highs once again, and consistently reward owners for the minimal investment of a 14th round pick.

Jacksonville's offense runs through Leonard Fournette, and Blake Bortles will certainly target his cluster of wide receivers. But offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will also keep Seferian-Jenkins involved in the Jaguar attack. With only Niles Paul and James O'Shaughnessy occupying spots on the depth chart, Seferian-Jenkins owners will not be impacted by the fluctuating target totals that exist with burdensome time shares. He not only supplies you with viable protection in case your theoretical TE1 is sidelined or frequently ineffective, but Seferian-Jenkins also offers the potential to function as your starter when he is the beneficiary of favorable matchups.


Jared Cook (TE24/ADP 208)

There is a lengthy list of dissatisfied former owners who entrusted the 31-year old Cook on their rosters during his career. But he clandestinely finished at TE12 in 2017, after collecting a career-best 54 receptions, and leading the Raiders with 688 yards. That yardage total also exceeded the output of Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, while placing him seventh among all tight ends. The lack of enthusiasm surrounding Cook is understandable, but he is in position to exceed expectations once again while operating as Oakland's unchallenged TE1.

In the aftermath of the substantial changes that have transpired since the arrival Jon Gruden, Oakland will enter the season with blocking specialists Derek Carrier and Lee Smith as the only other tight ends on the roster. This will sustain Cook’s responsibilities as the team's pass-catching tight end, while enabling the Raiders to take advantage of the matchup challenge that the 6'5" veteran can provide. This could result in a cluster of big plays during the year, as he was one of only five tight ends to amass at least 10 catches of 20+ yards in 2017.

His size should also be a factor when Derek Carr and the Raider offense approaches the end zone. This could provide Cook with an increase in red zone targets beyond his 2017 total (9), while allowing him to join Jordy Nelson in functioning as Carr’s most targeted weapons near the goal line. While becoming passionate about owning Cook might be a challenging goal, there are justifiable reasons for designating him as a viable late-round option.


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