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2018 Fantasy Football Rankings Analysis - Tight Ends (PPR)


The first wave of Rotoballer's official 2018 fantasy football rankings is live! Before I dive in, I would like to extend a huge thanks to Nick Mariano, Kyle Richardson, and Pierre Camus for all their hard work and dedication. Click here to check out the rankings and get a leg up on the rest of your leaguemates with some early research.

Tight ends can become a lot more valuable in point per reception (or "PPR") scoring formats. In fact, elite receiving tight ends can rival many top tier wide receivers if they hold a significant target share in their offense. For this article, I will be taking a look at Rotoballer's tight end rankings for PPR leagues and providing some quick reactions with analysis to boot.

 

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PPR Tight End Rankings

Position Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 21 Rob Gronkowski
1 2 26 Travis Kelce
2 3 40 Zach Ertz
3 4 58 Greg Olsen
3 5 59 Evan Engram
4 6 73 Kyle Rudolph
4 7 79 Jimmy Graham
4 8 80 Delanie Walker
5 9 99 Jordan Reed
5 10 106 Trey Burton
6 11 113 Jack Doyle
6 12 119 Tyler Eifert
6 13 121 Austin Seferian-Jenkins
6 14 125 Charles Clay
6 15 127 Cameron Brate
6 16 128 George Kittle
7 17 137 David Njoku
7 18 142 O.J. Howard
7 19 149 Eric Ebron
8 20 153 Jared Cook
8 21 161 Austin Hooper
8 22 164 Benjamin Watson
9 23 178 Vance McDonald
9 24 182 Ricky Seals-Jones
9 25 183 Mike Gesicki
9 26 187 Vernon Davis
9 27 196 Gerald Everett
9 28 205 Hayden Hurst
10 29 217 Jake Butt
10 30 219 Ed Dickson
10 31 236 Adam Shaheen
11 32 254 Jesse James
11 33 261 Nick Vannett
11 34 263 Stephen Anderson
12 35 272 Tyler Higbee
12 36 274 Dallas Goedert
12 37 285 Luke Willson
12 38 290 Garrett Celek
12 39 293 Mark Andrews

Tier 1

Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce

As a duo at the top, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce have done too much in their NFL careers to be ranked lower than TE-1 and TE-2 heading into 2018. Their third round draft prices may be too steep for some, but the market share these two have in their respective offenses has always led to plenty of fantasy points.

Although Gronkowski hasn't played in a full 16-game regular season since 2011, the simple fact is that fantasy owners get top-shelf production every time he steps out on the field. "Gronk" has managed to finish inside the top-five in fantasy scoring in every season since 2011 where he’s played in at least 11 games, including being the TE-1 three times in PPR formats and four times in standard leagues during that span. Brandin Cooks' departure leaves even more targets on the field to Gronkowski's benefit.

Though he doesn't boast nearly the same resume, Kelce has been a unique and dominant threat at the tight end position for Kansas City. Although he will be catching passes from a new quarterback and be flanked by Sammy Watkins, the passing game for the Chiefs begins with Kelce. Unlike many tight ends, Kelce does a great deal of his work after the catch, leading his position group in that category three of the last four years (and missing out on the fourth year by just five yards after the catch).

Tier 2

Zach Ertz

While some would argue that Zach Ertz deserves a spot in the top tier of tight ends, owners should temper there expectations and recognize why nearly a full round separates Ertz from the next best tight end. For the first time during his five-year NFL career, Ertz finished inside the top-five of his position in PPR formats. Despite having nearly identical numbers to previous years, touchdowns were the clear difference-maker. He scored a career-high eight times last year after scoring just four times in 2016 and twice the season before that.

This isn't to say that Ertz is a significant downgrade from Gronkowski or Kelce. In fact, he gets the eighth-easiest schedule for tight ends next season and should be at his peak value in a high-flying Philadelphia Eagles offense.

Tier 3

Greg Olsen, Evan Engram

Fantasy owners didn't get what they normally expect from Greg Olsen in 2017, who didn’t miss a game for nine straight years but played in just seven games. After finishing with only 17 catches on 34 targets for 191 yards and one touchdown, the veteran is primed to be a bounce-back candidate. In his five seasons prior to 2017, Olsen has never finished worse than TE-7 in PPR formats. With the foot injury that hobbled him appearing to be healed, keep Olsen in mind for round six of drafts.

Some might argue that Evan Engram was the beneficiary of a decimated New York Giants wide receiver core on route to 108 targets, 64 receptions, and 722 receiving yards in his rookie season. It is all but certain that he will not have the same 2017 target share with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard back in the lineup. Still, his 6.3 yards per target represent great efficiency for a receiving tight end and he could get more snaps in the slot if Shepard continues to get work on the boundary.

Tier 4

Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, Delanie Walker

Kyle Rudolph might be better suited to standard format scoring as touchdowns are his bread and butter for points. His 17 red zone targets last season ranked fifth among tight ends and he gets a new quarterback who has a propensity to throw to tight ends. Of the 99 passing touchdowns Kirk Cousins amassed in Washington, 27 of them had a tight end as the recipient.

Jimmy Graham's hasn’t finished as TE-11 since 2013, but he has been top-four twice in the last four years. With him and wide receiver Davante Adams being top red zone choices, the upside is through the roof in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. Of course, Graham needs to improve greatly on his 5.7 yards per target from a year ago to have the safe PPR floor that owners are looking for.

Delanie Walker is the Mr. Consistency of fantasy tight ends. He has put together a streak of four consecutive seasons with at least 100 targets, 60 receptions, and 800 receiving yards, giving fantasy owners three top-five PPR finishes and never finishing worse than TE-8 at season’s end.

Tier 5

Jordan Reed, Trey Burton

Jordan Reeds' breakout campaign in 2015 has to be largely in the rear-view mirror at this point, with his current TE-9 ranking being mostly based on upside. After missing 28 games over five years, his 11 total touchdowns throughout his last four seasons are the same number that he had in 2015. He still doesn't appear to be back to full health, but the newly acquired Alex Smith could help bring Reed back to form considering how much he has thrown to the tight end position in the past.

Fantasy owners have to love the thought that we have only scratched the surface of what Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton can do. Under new coach Matt Nagy, who heavily utilized tight ends during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Burton could easily prosper into fantasy gold. However, he might have to compete with 2017 second-rounder Adam Shaheen for targets along with the various offseason additions at wide receiver.

Tier 6

Jack Doyle, Tyler Eifert, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Charles Clay, Cameron Brate, George Kittle

Entering tier six for tight ends means post-round 10 draft day prices with plenty of value for owners in PPR leagues. Jack Doyle might have to compete with the new addition of Eric Ebron for some targets, his value certainly shouldn't plummet to the thirteenth round of drafts. Doyle managed to breakout in 2016 despite  Dwayne Allen being on the roster and head coach Frank Reich will surely use the tight end position heavily in 2018. While Cameron Brate is more likely to lose targets to his fellow tight end O.J. Howard, he managed to average 6.3 targets, 4.4 receptions, and 57.9 yards in his first seven games of 2017. That might have taken a sharp dip to 3.7 targets, 1.9 receptions, and 20.7 yards for the rest of the season, but his draft price in the fourteenth round will allow owners to let him go if he doesn't produce early.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is a player whose draft stock has fallen tremendously due to injury after missing 41 games over his five-year career. Much like Jordan Reed, the upside is there, but the health may not be. Still, the Bengals are projected to have a favorable top-nine ease of schedule for the tight end position and Eifert will be a de facto red zone target.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Charles Clay are two tight ends who have potential to get extra work due to the lack of overall receiving talent around them. Just know that if either fail to score, you're likely to be left feeling disappointed. Sefarian-Jenkins saw 74 targets in 14 games last year, but only topped 46 yards one time. Clay may have started out stronger by totaling 51.6 yards per game with two touchdowns over his first five games, but he failed to top 37 yards in five of his last eight games, and didn't score a single touchdown in them.

George Kittle is drawing major sleeper buzz on a rising 49ers squad. In nine of his 16 games last year, he received at least one target inside the 20-yard line and ranked sixth at the tight end position for red zone receptions. If quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo can continue to improve, Kittle could make a significant fantasy impact in 2018.

Tier 7

David Njoku, O.J. Howard, Eric Ebron

With so many mouths to feed in Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and Indianapolis, it will be difficult to trust these tier seven tight ends to return significant value. David Njoku may have athleticism that is off the charts, but they will need to find ways to keep Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman involved. If Tyrod Taylor starts under center, expect very limited passing attempts and a much greater commitment to the ground game.

O.J. Howard and Eric Ebron will both likely begin 2018 behind their respective team's starter on the depth chart, but either could become relevant quite quickly if said player goes down due to injury. The fact that Howard missed two games and saw more than four targets just twice all season, but was able to finish as the TE-17 in his rookie season should tell you a lot about his potential. If quarterback Andrew Luck returns to his old self, his historically heavy usage of his tight ends could cause Ebron to make a fantasy name for himself despite his overall lack of development.

Tier 8

Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, Benjamin Watson

See the tier seven situation, but exaggerated. Jared Cook would have appeared in line for much more work in the passing game after Michael Crabtree's departure, but the team signing wideouts Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant means there simply won't be enough for Cook to perform above his TE2 pedigree. Austin Hooper will not just have to worry about rookie Calvin Ridley stealing targets, but also regaining the trust of his coaching staff. From Week 4 to Week 10, Hooper saw at least six targets in all but one game but failed to crack 50 yards in any game. The Falcons quickly  dialed back his targets and he failed to see more than five the remainder of the season.

Benjamin Watson is not too far removed from his 2015 season with the New Orleans Saints in which he scored six touchdowns on 74 receptions. Unfortunately, the Saints offensive philosophy has changed drastically since that year and reuniting with his former team doesn't necessarily mean Watson can be successful in fantasy. With Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Cameron Meredith all vying for targets, Watson's best case scenario appears to be as a streamer.

Tier 9

Vance McDonald, Ricky Seals-Jones, Mike Gesicki, Vernon Davis, Gerald Everett, Hayden Hurst

Rave reviews have come in about Vance McDonald this offseason and it is certainly possible that he carves out a role as Ben Roethlisberger's safety blanket. He did close out the year with two 52-yard performances in the last four games and has the ability to box out defenders in the red zone with his 6'4, 267 lb frame. Fantasy owners should follow his situation closely to see if he can obtain any notoriety before season's start.

Ricky Seals-Jones is expected to have an expanded role in the offense after showing flashes of talent in 2017 and the team having not made a move to sign any legitimate competition. Seals-Jones led all fantasy tight ends in points per opportunity, yards per reception, and yards per route run last season, albeit on only 68 routes run. The fact that Seals-Jones is going undrafted in most fantasy drafts could make him a sneaky option and an eventual waiver wire add for this upcoming fantasy year.

Mike Gesicki and Vernon Davis are two obvious freak athletic mismatches, yet each has obstacles to contributing for fantasy owners. The exits of Jarvis Landry and Julius Thomas frees up over 220 targets in the passing attack for Gesicki, but it is notoriously difficult for rookie tight ends to transition efficiently to the NFL in year one. Davis doesn't have the same youthful step as Gesicki, but an inevitable injury to Jordan Reed means he could get enough looks to put up solid numbers at select times in the regular season.

Tier 10

Jake Butt, Ed Dickson, Adam Shaheen

Tier 10 and onward represents major fliers in redraft leagues with abysmally low floors. Even in PPR formats, it will be hard for fantasy owners to get any form of consistency out of this group on a weekly basis. Ed Dickson couldn't take advantage of Greg Olsen's absence much of the season in Carolina and won't be used as frequently in the red zone as Jimmy Graham was in Seattle. Trey Burton's addition in Chicago kills much of the building hype for Shaheen's sophomore season and Jake Butt is yet to take a snap in an NFL game, making all three of these players complete wild cards.

Updated Tiered Rankings and Analysis


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.




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