We are mere days away from the Chiefs of Kansas City traveling to the northeast to take on the New England Patriots for the NFL’s Kickoff game on Thursday Night. That means one simple thing: you have three days to complete all of your fantasy football drafts. We have already given you our fantasy football rankings: running back, wide receiver, and quarterback editions. Now to round out your roster, our tight end rankings.
Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight End Edition
Tight End is a position that sometimes goes unhearalded, but when chosen wisely, they can make or break your weekly matchup. So you better draft smart!
1. Rob Gronkowski – Sports Al Dente ADP (1)
Danny Rendon (1) – Injuries have been an issue, but the production is undeniable. Also, having Tom Brady throw the ball helps.
Andrew Whisnant (1) – When he’s on the field Gronk is the best in the game. Obviously, research and be aware of the injury risk. But if he can be on the field you’ll win your week.
Talon Graff (1) – He is currently the best tight end and even though he has some injury risks he still should be the first tight end drafted. Tom Brady loves throwing him the football and he should be targeted even more with Julian Edelman’s ACL injury.
Tad Desai (1) – I was really torn on this one. Gronk is far and away the best tight end in football and it translates to fantasy as well. The problem is his injury history is starting to mount up and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to overcome that stigma. If he can stay healthy (and that’s a huge if), there is zero reason to not believe that Gronkowski will dominate the position again.
2. Travis Kelce – Sports Al Dente ADP (2)
Danny Rendon (2) – In an offense that values the underneath routes, Kelce is the clear cut number one target.
Andrew Whisnant (2) – Kelce was the top tight end in fantasy last year and he seems to only be getting a larger role this season. With Jeremy Maclin leaving and no major addition made, Kelce should absorb even more targets. He’s consistent and his availability beats out the guys around him on this list.
Talon Graff (2) – Perhaps the most electrifying player on the Chiefs offense. Kelce provides a red zone threat, deep ball threat, and even has the ability to turn short screens into big gains. He wants the ball in his hands and only has Tyreek Hill to compete with for targets.
Tad Desai (2) – Kelce really came out of nowhere last season to become the top fantasy tight end in Gronkowski’s absence. He notched career-highs in receptions and yards but the one knock on him is his scoring. He’s never gotten more than five in his three seasons of play. Unfortunately for Kelce fantasy-wise, it looks like Mahomes won’t be on the field much, if at all, this season so that number isn’t likely to go up.
3a. Jordan Reed – Sports Al Dente ADP (4)
Danny Rendon (3) – When healthy, Reed is as good as it gets. With the loss of both starting WRs from a year ago, Reed will see an increase in targets.
Andrew Whisnant (3) – Reed has the same issues as Gronk, availability. He’s the main target for the Redskins when healthy and can be the best if he plays sixteen games. Again, he’s a risky pick and if you get him, keep an eye on his status.
Talon Graff (3) – The injury bug always seems to bite Reed at some point in the season. He hasn’t been available for a full 16-game season yet in his four-year career which is too bad because the kid can flat out take over a game. He is a freak of an athlete and is probably the surest handed tight end in the game. If he can string together a full season then he would be the highest scoring tight end in fantasy football.
Tad Desai (7) – Even in an injury-riddled campaign in 2016, Reed still caught six touchdowns and had 700 yards. Unfortunately, the injury part of that sentence is nothing new with him. Reed has proven his ability over the past two years but the fact that he has never played a full season is a pretty large cause for concern. So draft Reed high but definitely look at a solid backup once you do.
3b. Greg Olsen – Sports Al Dente ADP (4)
Danny Rendon (4) – A model of consistency, Olson is coming off his third straight 1,000-yard season. Like all TEs, his production hinges on the play of his QB. Let’s hope for the MVP Cam Newton and not the 2016 version.
Andrew Whisnant (5) – Olsen refuses to disappear as a top Panther and a top fantasy play. His production might drop off if the Panthers young offensive weapons play well but he should still be a top five player.
Talon Graff (4) – At 32 years of age, Olsen is one of the oldest tight ends on the list. He also happens to be one of the most reliable. Three straight 1,000 yard seasons and hasn’t missed a game since 2007. His quarterback has a ton of trust in him and so do I.
Tad Desai (3) – There has been some concern that Christian McCaffrey is going to take away some of Olsen’s touches but I don’t see it impacting his fantasy value that much. Olsen continued to rack up the yards last year going over 1,000 for the third straight year, the first one to do so. His touchdown numbers were down but that could be because of Newton’s injury. Olsen can likely be targeted in the third or fourth rounds and worth a shot if the secondary options at other positions don’t interest you.
5. Jimmy Graham – Sports Al Dente ADP (4.75)
Danny Rendon (5) – His drop in production due to injuries is behind him. Graham may not be what he used to be, but he is trending in the right direction. Look for Graham to see increased red zone targets due to a running game that is filled with question marks.
Andrew Whisnant (4) – Graham has been in Seattle a couple of years now and he’s primed to make his mark in the offense this year. This year is the year he could make the jump back to his New Orleans years. Wilson and Graham’s chemistry should be at a high point especially after a good season from Graham last year.
Talon Graff (6) – Graham actually seemed to be back to normal last year for the Seahawks. He looks to have an even bigger impact in his third year with Seattle. He can be as good as he wants to be in an offense that has had a struggling running game and doesn’t have an elite receiver. If Graham stays healthy and looks as comfortable as he did last year then he could have a monster year. He could just as easily be another average fantasy tight end if he seems to be struggling early.
Tad Desai (4) – Graham’s first season in Seattle was a major disappointment. Coming off yet another stellar year in New Orleans, Graham missed five games was just over 600 yards with only two touchdowns. Then his old demeanor came back roaring. Graham finished last year with just under 1,000 yards and six touchdowns and there’s very little reason to think that’ll change. The Seahawks’ running game and offensive line are likely to be mediocre at best which will mean Russell Wilson will be looking at short routes which tight ends are usually good for, especially in the red zone. Worst case: Graham is solid at best. Best case: Graham returns to his 2011-2014 self.
6. Delanie Walker – Sports Al Dente ADP (6.75)
Danny Rendon (8) – 65 receptions, 800 yards, and 7 touchdowns in 2016 is great for any TE, especially when the talent pool at the position is so shallow. Look for Walker to continue to be a part of this high powered offense. 900 yards on 70 receptions isn’t out of the question.
Andrew Whisnant (8) – Marcus Mariota loves his big target in Walker. In the red zone, these two have a chemistry that will boost Walker into top ten play. Walker is one of the safer guys he has, and he has a proven role in the offense and has consistent availability.
Talon Graff (5) – Walker’s move to Tennessee in 2013 was the best move of his career. He has more than twice the amount of receiving yards and almost three times as many touchdowns in only four years as a Titan compared to seven as a 49er. Marcus Mariota has targeted Walker over 100 times each of the last three seasons and with some new faces in the receiving corps, Walker may lose some targets but will still have a heavy workload. The Titans’ running game is still the bread and butter but don’t let that scare you off too much because Walker has proven he is a true TE1.
Tad Desai (6) – Walker is always that guy that everyone is just waiting for Father Time to catch up to. The thing is, it never actually seems to. Ever since Walker has joined the Titans, he has been the very definition of consistent and there’s no reason to think that will change.
7a. Kyle Rudolph – Sports Al Dente ADP (8)
Danny Rendon (6) – Sam Bradford is not the answer in Minnesota, but Rudolph’s production is clearly immune to that. With 840 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2016, a drop in production may be coming. But if you don’t get one of the top three at this position, 7 touchdowns and 83 receptions are golden.
Andrew Whisnant (6) – Rudolph shocked as a top tight end last year and the same quarterback will be throwing him the ball this year.
Talon Graff (9) – Minnesota’s tight end sort of burst onto the scene last year and after five years of showing flashes, Rudolph finally was given the opportunity to shine. Sam Bradford is probably the biggest reason for that as he targeted Rudolph 132 times throughout their first season as teammates. Without any elite receivers on the roster, the Vikings will utilize Rudolph a lot in 2017 too.
Tad Desai (11) – Rudolph is perhaps the only person in the Vikings building who is truly benefitting from Bridgewater’s injury. Bradford is now infamous for avoiding deep passes which lead to a lot of targets for Rudolph. He set career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns and overcame the injury reputation by going through his second complete season. He may not produce at quite the same level but an extra offseason with Bradford could lead to better chemistry. He’s a good low-end option for TE1 if you have a stacked team at other positions.
7b. Tyler Eifert – Sports Al Dente ADP (8)
Danny Rendon (7) – In 2015, Tyler Eifert won championships for many fantasy owners. The Bengals are still a work in progress. If Andy Dalton can find space to work with his gutted O-line, Eifert may find enough work to be relevant once more. He is going to need more than 29 catches to get back to his old form and play in more than 8 games to be trusted.
Andrew Whisnant (7) – Here’s one of the riskier tight ends for fantasy. Eifert’s fantasy value is made off of his red zone targets. He has great upside but maybe the worst fantasy floor in the top 10. However, if he’s healthy he should see consistent red zone targets.
Talon Graff (13) – Eifert just cannot get healthy. He only played half the season last year which is so disheartening because he could be up there with Gronk and Kelce. Until he can prove he is over his injury issues, he will be nothing more than a borderline fantasy starter.
Tad Desai (5) – If Eifert can truly be ready in time for the regular season, he instantly jumps the number three spot. However, because that is still unconfirmed this is where he lands which still speaks volumes to his talent. After an injury-riddled 2016 campaign, it became clear how much Dalton truly relied on him as he stumbled through the season without him. If Eifert can avoid injuries, it’s safe to assume he will return to his 2015 self in which he caught 13 touchdowns.
9. Martellus Bennett – Sports Al Dente ADP (9.5)
Danny Rendon (10) – The move to Green Bay is a bump in value for Bennett. Not because the team is better, but because he is no longer in the shadow of Gronk. Aaron Rodgers will find Bennet, and hopefully, that translates to red zone targets and touchdowns.
Andrew Whisnant (11) – This is an interesting situation Bennett steps into. He has potential to be Aaron Rodgers’ best tight end he’s had but that’s not saying much. Even if he is productive he steps into a crowded receiving corps that all dominant the red zone. If he can carve out a role early Bennet will be a low-end TE1.
Talon Graff (7) – Bennett found a new home in Green Bay this year after only one year in New England. He should be the primary tight end for that offense led by Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers should be one of the biggest reasons to keep an eye on Bennett because #12 loves to throw to his tight ends. Green Bay also brought in Lance Kendricks which could cut into Bennett’s production but it shouldn’t keep you from drafting him.
Tad Desai (10) – If Doyle is my biggest hot take on this list then Bennett is my biggest boom or bust pick. Bennet didn’t do anything in Dallas, performed decently in New York and well in Chicago. So it’s up to you if you want to risk it with him joining the Packers. The reason he is so high then is because of Aaron Rodgers. The one thing good quarterbacks look for in the red zone is size and Bennett has that. My bet is Bennett will see a drop off in yards and receptions but make up for it in touchdown numbers.
10a. Hunter Henry – Sports Al Dente ADP (10)
Danny Rendon (11) – The heir apparent to Hall of Famer, Antonio Gates, Henry had a big rookie year. He managed to turn a mere 36 receptions into 478 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Chargers have some issues to work out, but Henry looks to be the real deal.
Andrew Whisnant (9) – Most of you will think this is too high for the sophomore tight end. He’s the most talented at his position on the Charger roster and will start carving away at Antonia Gates‘ relationship with Philip Rivers. He caught the most touchdowns among tight ends last season and that number could reach double digits this season.
Talon Graff (8) – Henry scored more touchdowns in his rookie campaign than Eric Ebron has scored in his three-year career. The heir apparent to Antonio Gates’ throne may start his reign a little earlier than everyone thought. Gates was still targeted a lot more than Henry but the opportunities should be a lot more evenly distributed in 2017. The Chargers relied a lot on their two tight ends last year due to injuries and they came through for their team. Henry has earned his spot and Philip Rivers knows he can trust Henry to produce.
Tad Desai (12) – Henry enjoyed a phenomenal rookie campaign when he caught eight touchdowns despite Antonio Gates’ presence. While it’s not clear if he will dominate over the legendary tight end again, it’s a safe bet that he will be a serviceable tight end for your time even if they do split the production at the position.
10b. Zach Ertz – Sports Al Dente ADP (10)
Danny Rendon (9) – His production seems to always leave something to be desired. But he always delivers. It must be that Ertz has the talent to be one of the best TEs in the league, but hasn’t reached that level yet. His position on this list is an example of the depth at the TE position.
Andrew Whisnant (10) – Ertz did not have the red zone numbers you wanted last season but he proved himself to be Carson Wentz’s favorite target and with Jordan Matthews gone he should see an increase in targets. In the red zone, his chemistry with Wentz should provide more targets or at least until Wentz can trust Alshon Jeffrey.
Talon Graff (12) – Ertz caught a lot of passes from Carson Wentz last year and expect Wentz to look his way this year too. Jordan Matthews is gone and it’ll take a little bit of time for Wentz to develop chemistry with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith so until then, Ertz should remain his favorite target.
Tad Desai (9) – Ertz probably popped the champagne when he saw that Jordan Matthews was traded. Okay, not really but it’s still going to be good for Ertz in the long run. The one knock on the tight end has been he isn’t much of a red zone threat. He’s been a reception and yards machine, making him valuable fantasy-wise. That value has sky-rocketed due to the Matthews trade though. While Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith may steal some targets away from Ertz, I think it’s more likely it will be vice versa and they will open up the offense for Ertz.
12. Austin Hooper – Sports Al Dente ADP (12.75)
Danny Rendon (17) – Any TE that can turn 19 receptions into 271 yards and three touchdowns is worth a look. The second year man out of Stanford will look to build on his rookie year while playing on one of the best offenses in football. If he can build a repertoire with QB Matt Ryan, the sky may be the limit for him.
Andrew Whisnant (13) – This projection is the biggest jump for anyone on this list. Hooper is stepping into the number one tight end role and on the Falcon’s offense that could give Hooper his sophomore breakout year. The Falcons and Matt Ryan have talked Hooper up in the offseason and it’ll prove to make Hooper a nice sleeper in the late rounds.
Talon Graff (10) – Hooper may not have had the same success in his rookie season that Hunter Henry had, but his potential is right up there. Hooper is in an offense that features Julio Jones so he will never be the top target. He also has to compete with the running backs for looks. Hooper’s talent is undeniable so he should find his way into a bigger role for the Falcons. Matt Ryan will need to go to someone else in the red zone when Julio Jones is being doubled.
Tad Desai (13) – Hooper failed to impress his rookie year but another offseason working with Matt Ryan in the hopefully still high-octane offense should help. While Ryan still likes to spread the ball around, it’s safe to assume all the attention Julio Jones will get in the red zone will leave Hooper open for more scores. If he’s still available in the mid-to-late rounds, as he has been in drafts happening right now, he’s well worth the risk.
13. Jack Doyle – Sports Al Dente ADP (13)
Danny Rendon (14) – A big, productive target with Andrew Luck throwing the ball is going to be worth a roster spot. With the injury concerns surrounding Luck, Doyle lands low on the list. Should Luck get healthy with no ill-effects to his throwing arm, Doyle’s value will get a boost.
Andrew Whisnant (14) – Doyle came out of nowhere last season. Now with Dwayne Allen gone, Doyle is the starter for the Colts and looks to be a solid fantasy play. However, this all depends on Andrew Luck and his health. If Luck sits the first few weeks Doyle will struggle to produce on the field. But whenever Luck gets back, be confident in Doyle.
Talon Graff (16) – Doyle’s first year as the starting tight end was a productive one. He should build on that this year but he must compete with a loaded receiving group for looks. He also has Andrew Luck which could be great for Doyle if Luck stays healthy.
Tad Desai (8) – This is probably the hottest take I have on this list. Not the fact that Doyle is high but just how high I put him. There is one statistic in particular that puts my confidence in Doyle’s ability. 24% of Andrew Luck’s passing yards went to tight ends and 37% of his touchdowns did as well. There’s a reason Coby Fleener looked like an attractive option to the Saints in free agency two years ago. The one knock on Doyle is Luck’s questionable availability at the beginning of the season.
14. Jason Witten – Sports Al Dente ADP (15.25)
Danny Rendon (15) – A durable legend that has stayed consistent for more than a decade. His production may decrease while Ezekiel Elliott is suspended, but that is to be expected with most Cowboy pass catchers. You aren’t going to get a 1,000-yard season out of him at this stage in his career. But a 70/600/4 stat line isn’t out of the question.
Andrew Whisnant (16) – Witten is like Greg Olsen, an age defying playmaker. Dak showed trust in Witten last season and there seems to be no indication that Witten will lose his role. He won’t blow your opponent out of the water but Witten’s a consistent threat.
Talon Graff (15) – Witten is reliable, consistent, and experienced. Those are three pretty good traits to have and even though he is 35 years old and won’t be the sexiest pick in a draft, he won’t let you down.
Tad Desai (15) – Tony Romo’s injury impact on Witten went criminally under-covered last year. Witten saw every statistical category except for touchdowns (which remained the same) decrease with Dak Prescott at the helm. Witten is clearly past his prime and so it’s hard to imagine he can return to his previous self. There is some upside, however. With Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, it’s safe to assume the Cowboys will be depending on the pass more so Witten will likely see more targets from Prescott.
15. Coby Fleener – Sports Al Dente ADP (15.67)
Danny Rendon (16) – At this point in a draft, an owner stops looking for big names and starts to look for steady production. Coby Fleener can be that guy. Any pass catcher in a Drew Brees offense is going to have some value, it may not be much, but as a bye-week fill in he may help out. With only one 100 yard game in 2016, he isn’t going to win you the week.
Andrew Whisnant (15) – Last year was a weird season for Fleener and one that kept his fantasy owners on edge most of the year. As he goes into his second year in New Orleans he should be more consistent. Brees loves throwing to a tight end in the red zone and Fleener’s second year should start to increase his numbers.
Talon Graff (N/A) – I did not rank Coby Fleener in my Top 20.
Tad Desai (16) – When he signed with the Saints, many expected Fleener to be Jimmy Graham 2.0. It was a fair assumption since their play-style is more or less the same. Fleener massively disappointed with a mediocre season but did shine in a few games. However, as his predecessor proved last year, a bad first year with a new team doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for the next. With Brandin Cooks gone, it is a fair assumption that Fleener will see more targets and therefore produce more.
16. Eric Ebron – Sports Al Dente ADP (16)
Danny Rendon (13) – An athletic freak that can’t seem to find the end zone. In the last three years, Ebron has managed to score just seven times. That isn’t good for a guy that should be dominating smaller defenders in and around the goal line. His ranking on this list is based more on potential than production.
Andrew Whisnant (20) – Ebron has been linked with having a breakout 2017 season. But his offseason has featured injuries and no good news for that breakout season. He is the starting tight end but he has to be available to have a good season. He’s still on my list because of the opportunity he’ll see. If he stays hurt though he’ll fall off completely.
Talon Graff (11) – I am still waiting on Ebron to explode on the field and live up to the potential we all saw when he was coming out of North Carolina. I was convinced that 2016 was finally going to be the year and then he only caught one touchdown all season. I haven’t given up completely yet because he is only 24 years old and has a great quarterback in Matthew Stafford. I’m not going to call him a bust just yet but another year of mediocrity might do the trick.
Tad Desai (20) – I’m not as high on Ebron as many are this year. First off, he’s currently injured with a hamstring injury and given the fact that he hasn’t played a full season yet in his career, that’s not promising. He has steadily improved in the past three seasons but he still leaves much to be desired in terms of red zone targets. He’s a safe bet to take at this point because if he can stay healthy, it’s very possible Ebron becomes a viable backup or even a borderline TE1.
17. Cameron Brate – Sports Al Dente ADP (16.5)
Danny Rendon (12) – The Harvard product broke out last season, scoring 8 times on 57 receptions. The Bucs are getting better, and so is Brate. His job may be in jeopardy, however, with the addition of talented rookie, O.J. Howard.
Andrew Whisnant (12) – O.J. Howard is making many think Brate is a risky pick or is going to lose his spot in the offense. In preseason and camp, however, that narrative has been proven false. Brate has consistently been with the first team in the games so far this season and the Buccaneers have shown a lot of two tight end sets. Brate being the proven starter should still be a strong fantasy play, especially early on.
Talon Graff (N/A) – I did not rank Cameron Brate in my Top 20. (I have Evan Engram at 17).
Tad Desai (N/A) – I did not rank Cameron Brate in my Top 20.
18a. Julius Thomas – Sports Al Dente ADP (17.67)
Danny Rendon (18) – Once a TD machine, Thomas has fallen off the last few years. Part of the reason was a down grade in QB play. Anyone who goes from Payton Manning to Blake Bortles is going to see a decline in production. Orange Julius is now catching passes in Miami from veteran Jay Cutler. Only time will tell if this is a better situation for the six-year man out of Portland St.
Andrew Whisnant (18) – I was more confident with Thomas with Tannehill as the starter. Jay Cutler does not change much for the entire offense but it does for Thomas. Cutler like’s to focus on his wide outs and suffers from tunnel vision. The offensive coordinator has been outspoken about Thomas and that he will have a role in the offense which helps his value.
Talon Graff (N/A) – I did not rank Julius Thomas in my Top 20. (I have David Njoku at 18).
Tad Desai (17) – There is a huge cloud hanging over Thomas’s head that he was yet another product of Peyton Manning’s genius and his best days are behind him. That’s fine to think but if you look at his time in Jacksonville, it can be understood why he underperformed. Injuries and this “quarterback” named Blake Bortles is not a good combo for success. Granted, Jay Cutler doesn’t exactly scream amazing rebound season but it is the best quarterback Thomas has had in years. He will slide down draft boards so it’s worth taking him at the back of the draft to see if he pans out.
18b. Jared Cook – Sports Al Dente ADP (17.67)
Danny Rendon (20) – A decent TE in a system that doesn’t use them much. His best football is probably behind him, but again, if you’re are looking this low, he might just work as a bye-week fill in.
Andrew Whisnant (19) – This is a total risk. Cook has not proven much in the last few years but he’s been handed the starter role in the Raiders’ offense. Derek Carr should lead a capable offense where Cook can find a role that makes him a sleeper and a good play based on the matchup.
Talon Graff (N/A) – I did not rank Jared Cook in my Top 20. (I have Jesse James at 19).
Tad Desai (14) – Cook underwhelmed in just 10 regular season games with the Packers but he really hit his stride in a fantastic playoff run. Tight end was one of two skill positions the Raiders were really lacking last year so it’s hard to gauge how successful he will be with Derek Carr. It is safe to bet on him in the later rounds as it is very possible he becomes a favorite of Carr’s with short and intermediate passes.
20. O.J. Howard – Sports Al Dente ADP (18.75)
Danny Rendon (19) – A beast of a TE, but may lack the aggressiveness to succeed right away. If Howard can get his game together, he could be an All-Pro early. He is a TE that plays like a WR. A successful career at Alabama doesn’t always mean success in the Pros, however. At this point in the draft, however, he is definitely worth a pick.
Andrew Whisnant (N/A) – I did not have Howard ranked in my Top 20.
Talon Graff (14) – The rookie is going to be a stud in this league but fantasy football isn’t scored on potential. He has to compete with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and fellow tight end Cameron Brate for targets. If he is still available in the later rounds of your draft jump on him but don’t reach for Howard.
Tad Desai (N/A) – I did not rank O.J. Howard in my Top 20. (I have C.J. Fiedorowicz at 18 and Evan Engram at 19).