2017 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings

Author Jay Clemons

Sports Hub Technologies, in conjunction with its partner LeagueSafe.com, offers a post-draft look at the top 30 tight ends in standard-scoring leagues.

It’s a good listing, demonstrating this position’s enhanced depth over the years. It’s also an incomplete listing for the time being … since former Browns star Gary Barnidge (inexplicably released a few weeks ago) has yet to find a new NFL home.

TOP 30 TIGHT ENDS

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Greg Olsen, Panthers
3. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
4. Jordan Reed, Redskins
5. Delanie Walker, Titans
6. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
7. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
8. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
9. Zach Ertz, Eagles
10. Eric Ebron, Lions
11. Coby Fleener, Saints
12. Jason Witten, Cowboys
13. Martellus Bennett, Packers
14. Antonio Gates, Chargers
15. Jack Doyle, Colts
16. Charles Clay, Bills
17. Hunter Henry, Chargers
18. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Texans
19. Julius Thomas, Dolphins
20. Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
21. Dwayne Allen, Patriots
22. Zach Miller, Bears
23. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers
24. Ben Watson, Ravens
25. Austin Hooper, Falcons
26. Evan Engram, Giants
27. Jesse James, Steelers
28. David Njoku, Browns
29. Jared Cook, Raiders
30. Vance McDonald, 49ers
30b. Richard Rodgers, Packers
30c. Gerald Everett/Tyler Higbee, Rams

RATIONALE
1. There’s tangible risk in blindly handing Gronkowski (25 catches, 540 yards, 3 TDs) the No. 1 spot, especially since he hasn’t posted a 16-game campaign since 2011 (excluding the playoffs). But then again, I’m a perpetual sucker for proven superstars with a knack for notching double-digit touchdowns in every ‘healthy’ season (2010-12, 2014-15).

Simply put, for at least another year, Gronkowski shall remain the fantasy gift that keeps on giving among tight ends, although please steer clear of replicating last year’s hysteria … when a number of draft gurus suggested taking Gronk early in Round 1.

That’s a little too rich for me, short of someone guaranteeing 90 catches, 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns.

2. Once again, we’ll nervously give out a free pass to a once-bankable tight end seemingly on the decline.

From Weeks 6-17 last year (11-game span), Greg Olsen posted paltry averages of four catches, 51 yards and 0.1 TDs. To put that into context, if Olsen was a wide receiver in fantasy, that deplorable production sample would have destroyed his draft value heading into the summer.

But we’ve been conditioned to judge tight ends a little differently, especially when dealing with injuries at the quarterback slot. Olsen’s dark period of play coincides with Cam Newton‘s injury foibles from October, November and December … meaning that Olsen deserves another chance at failure, before making any long-term determinations.

The reasons for such optimism break down like this:

a) Olsen averaged 11 targets in his first five games last season.

b) For three straight years (2014-16), the Miami product collected 120-plus targets and 1,000 receiving yards each time.

c) With a healthy Newton at quarterback, Olsen represents a lead-pipe cinch for six or seven touchdowns — and likely more.

3. Travis Kelce (85 catches, 1,125 yards, 4 TDs last year) merits the No. 3 ranking on the standard-scoring and seasonal fronts, but the same cannot be said with daily fantasy or seasonal-PPR formats. In his three-year career, Kelce has never collected double-digit targets in consecutive games; and last season, the Chiefs tight end posted 14 or fewer PPR points nine times.

The upside of that? When Kelce’s on … look out. From Weeks 8-16 last year, Kelce eclipsed the 100-yard mark on six different occasions.

4. When extrapolating Jordan Reed’s 2016 production (66 catches, 686 yards, 6 TDs) to a full 16-game slate, that works out to 86 receptions, 912 yards and eight touchdowns — easily top-3 numbers at the position.

But do these projections serve a substantive purpose with fantasy owners? Citing four NFL seasons, Reed has never gone wire-to-wire on the ‘healthy’ front, making him a shakier draft selection than Olsen, Kelce, Jimmy Graham and probably even Delanie Walker.

5. Point of clarification: The top-10 ranking for Kyle Rudolph (career-best 83 catches, 132 targets, 840 yards, 7 TDs last year) solely hinges on Sam Bradford — and not Teddy Bridgewater — serving as the Vikings’ starting quarterback this fall.

6. Zach Ertz isn’t a clear-cut choice for the top 10 in standard-scoring leagues, based on his middling four-year cycle of 13 total touchdowns (excluding playoffs). However, he might also possess the greatest upside of the 6-10 group, factoring in last year’s November/December/January averages of seven catches, 10 targets, 74 yards and 0.6 TDs.

Of course, we’re a little leery of Ertz’s Week 17 breakout against the Cowboys, rolling for 13 catches, 16 targets, 139 yards and two touchdowns. There’s a reason why the vast majority of fantasy championships get decided in Week 16. The season finale, especially with Dallas resting its starters for the playoffs, often lacks a cliffhanger ending.

Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media) and 2008 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year (Fantasy Sports Writers Association), can be reached via Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.