Value Town: TEs

Updated: June 10th 2016

Most people like a deal. Receiving good value for that new phone, TV, car, or any other item allows us to put our hard earned resources into other things we value.  Obtaining good values on players in Reality Sports Online (RSO) leagues is a must when putting together a winning team.  The Value Town series examines the good and bad buys from the 2015 season in RSO leagues plus the overall state of positional groups in an attempt to get owners ready for the upcoming 2016 season.

This article examines the tight end position group from 2015. You can find more information on methodology, assumptions, and definition of terms in the first article of the series here.

State of the Tight End Position

The tight end position remains simultaneously one of the most consistent and fluid positions. The elite of the position has not changed as Rob Gronkowski finished as the overall TE1 once again, the fifth straight season in which either Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham has finished as the top tight end.  Greg Olsen continues providing solid value finishing as a mid range TE1 for the fourth consecutive season.  Several young talented young players joined the TE1 ranks including Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, and Zach Ertz.  Reed led all tight ends in fantasy points per game while Eifert dominated the red zone topping the position with 13 touchdowns in only 13 games.  The “old” players proved the NFL is not just a young man’s game as six players in their 30s finished in the top 12.

Tight End Values

The Good

Gary Barnidge –  Average Salary: $0.5M, Approximate Value: $23M

Barnidge wins the “Best Value” award for any player in 2015 with a top four finish at the position from a guy who was likely claimed off waivers in your league. His 79 reception/1,043 yard/9 touchdown performance was one of the few bright spots on a Cleveland team that went through multiple quarterbacks and struggled on offense all year.  The 30 year old also takes my “Where did that come from?” award with a season that accumulated more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than his previous eight seasons combined in the league.  Barnidge was rewarded for his impressive year with a three year, $12 million contract in the offseason.  He provides one of the few veteran presences on a team who just drafted four receivers.

Jordan Reed –  Average Salary: $1.2M, Approximate Value: $31M

We were finally able to see what a (mostly) healthy Reed could do in 2015 as he broke out with an impressive 87 reception/952 yard/11 touchdown season in fourteen games. The often injured star has played only 34 games in his three year career suffering through a variety of injuries including multiple concussions.  His hands, athleticism, and fluidity as a receiver make him a matchup nightmare when on the field though, resulting in an incredible 0.76 reception to target ratio throughout his career.  The Washington tight end was also rewarded with a contract extension in the offseason and should remain as the focal point of the emerging offense.

Ben Watson –  Average Salary: $0.6M, Approximate Value: $11M

Another veteran who made his presence felt is the well traveled Ben Watson. The thirteen year veteran took full advantage of the high powered New Orleans offense on the way to his best statistical season in the NFL.  His season was highlighted by a 9 reception, 147 yard performance against the Giants.  The 35 year old takes his talents to a crowded Baltimore depth chart in 2016.

The Bad

Jimmy Graham –  Average Salary: $13.8M, Approximate Value: $5M

The Saints traded Jimmy Graham to Seattle prior to the 2015 season in one of the biggest moves of the year.   Events did not quite go as expected by many with Graham producing as only a low level starting option for fantasy teams while he was in the lineup.  The Seahawks certainly utilized their new tight end, probably more than many realized.  His 74 targets in only 11 games was second on the team for the entire 2015 season and easily eclipsed Seattle’s tight end targets from all of 2014.  The one area in which Graham truly disappointed fantasy owners was in the touchdown department of which he managed only two on the season.

Graham suffered a patellar tear in week 12 ending his season. His prospects for the 2016 season are somewhat in doubt.  Seattle is hopeful he will be ready for week 1 this season but he could easily be placed on the PUP list for the first six weeks of the year.  We simply do not have many examples of players with this type of injury and fewer yet who have made a full recovery (You can read more about his road to recovery here).

Jordan Cameron –  Average Salary: $3.3M, Approximate Value: Not Worth a Roster Spot

Many people were excited at the prospects of Cameron moving to Miami last season. The former Brown was expected to be an integral part of the offense going forward.  Cameron proved to be a disappointment. He was targeted more than seven times per game over the first five weeks but only managed an abysmal 5.5 yards per target over that span.  The Dolphins eventually decreased Cameron’s role and he did not eclipse 35 yards or 5 targets in any game for the rest of the season.

Looking Forward

Greg Olsen continues as a rock at tight end and Gronkowski is simply one of the best to have ever played at the position (although with his own substantial injury history). However, there are more questions than answers going forward which is not unusual for the tight end position.  Will the likes of Barnidge, Walker, and Watson build upon career years in their 30s?  Will young and talented, but often injured, stars such as Reed and Eifert stay healthy for an entire season (I write this as Eifert recently had ankle surgery)?

The position remains as fluid as ever. I could make legitimate arguments for why a large number of tight ends including Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Ladarius Green, Eric Ebron, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins could join the starting fantasy tight end ranks in 2016.  Fortunately, the tight end position is a good place to take multiple cheap gambles in RSO leagues.  Only five tight ends averaged over $5 million in RSO auctions for the 2015 season with the 6th through 20th ranked salaries averaging about $2.5 million.   This allows for a lot of value upside at the position and not much downside with the cheap salaries.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.