Early 2018 RSO Contracts: TEs

Updated: August 2nd 2018

Our early RSO auction value examination moves to the tight end position.  The group is among the least valuable positions in most fantasy football leagues with very few reliable options.  What little value exists overwhelmingly resides in the top few options.  The combined duties of blocking and receiving for most tight ends make weekly fantasy consistency an issue.  The NFL has seen an injection of talent at the position in recent drafts, however, and we are left waiting to determine who will emerge.

The reader may find links to previous articles in the series below in preparation for upcoming auctions.

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: QBs

Early 2018 RSO Contracts: RBs

Average RSO Tight End Contracts

Set It and Forget It (TE1-3)

We have a new player atop tight end salaries for the first time in recent memory.  The dynamic Kelce finished each of the last two seasons as the overall TE1 accumulating 83+ receptions each year.  He carries more uncertainty going forward with brand new starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, and increased target competition in the form of heavily paid Sammy Watkins.  No tight end provides the kind of advantage Gronkowski does on a weekly basis.  He possesses ridiculous yardage and touchdown upside from being tied to one of the best quarterbacks of all time and atypical usage with deep targets abound.  The entertaining “Gronk” has not closed a season outside the top-8 in points per game since his rookie season and only once during that time has he not ended as the overall TE1 or TE2 in PPG.  Health remains the primary concern for someone who has not played a full 16 games in the last 6 seasons.  The model of consistency award goes to Philadelphia Eagle Zach Ertz who comes at a discount compared to the top two tight ends but without their upside. His receptions ranged from 74 to 78 over the last three seasons while his yardage spanned from 816 to 853.  The touchdowns spiked in 2017 doubling his previous high to eight resulting in the TE3 scorer.  He is a candidate for negative touchdown regression correspondingly with his third year signal caller Carson Wentz.

Uncertainty Already (TE4-8)

Engram  produced one of the top fantasy seasons from a rookie tight end thanks in part to a rash of injuries to Giants’ receivers.  Volume likely drops significantly in 2018 with the return of Beckham and a more balanced offense including top pick Saquon Barkley.  Engram should see a spike in efficiency to counterbalance the reduced volume.  Offensive line deficiencies forced Engram to lineup as an inline tight end nearly 70% of the time and reduced his receiving usage to primarily low depth of target opportunities.  Offensive line upgrades this offseason should allow deeper routes and more usage at his natural move tight end spot where his ridiculous 4.4 forty speed and dynamic receiving skills can be better put to use.  Foot injuries doomed Olsen to his worst season as pro in 2017 but previously he posted three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.  A lot of changes occurred in the offseason with new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and the addition of 1st round wide receiver D.J. Moore plus the return of last year’s second round pick Curtis Samuel.  We have also seen time and time again how foot injuries linger contributing to other lower body problems and late-career (Olsen is 33) injuries are especially difficult to come back from.  Graham is not the same dynamic player he once was thanks to a serious knee injury but any receiver, particularly one with Graham’s receiving skill-set, holds massive touchdown upside in Green Bay.  The story for Reed never changes.  He remains one of the top options at the position when he plays finishing as the PPR TE1 on a per game basis in 2016 and 2015.  Unfortunately he never played a full season in the NFL.  Gesicki showed off an amazing athletic profile at the NFL combine and there are a lot of targets up for grabs in Miami.  Rookie tight ends rarely do much of anything.  Do not get sucked in.


Young Upside Plays and Low Upside Veterans (TE9-15)

The Browns hope last year’s athletic first round pick Njoku makes a big second year leap.  He must contend with another athletic player, Seth Devalve, for tight end targets with a low volume passer and a receiving group which added target-hog Jarvis Landry.  Rudolf exceeded 532 yards in a season just once while averaging less than 10 yards per reception over his career.  The huge tight end holds solid touchdown upside which keeps him the low end TE1 conversation.  An ACL tear already ended the season for Henry.  He is a strong long-term buy grading out very well his first two seasons in the league.  It is conceivable Burton, who Chicago paid a lot of money in free agency, becomes the focal point of an almost completely rebuilt Bears passing attack.  The undersized former undrafted free agent might also remain a limited-use niche weapon in the passing game.  Walker posted four consecutive 800+ yard seasons while never exceeding 7 touchdowns.  Look for mid to low TE1 numbers again on a team without much in receiving weapons.  The uber-athletic Kittle represents a cheap option for those looking to get a piece of the Garoppolo-led San Francisco offense on a team without much in redzone targets.  He ceded more work to running-mate Garrett Celek in the second half of the season, never seeing above 56% of the snaps in the last eight games.  The story of Eifert reads similarly to Reed.  He grades out as one of the top all-around tight ends when on the field and an unstoppable force near the endzone.  Unfortunately Eifert played just 39 games in his first five seasons and is not yet ready to go for training camp.

Cheap Flyers (TE16+)

The Indianapolis tight end battle will be fun to watch with Doyle and Ebron battling for targets and Andrew Luck seemingly set to return.  The Colts have practically zero proven receiving talent behind T.Y. Hilton and Luck has utilized multiple tight ends in the past so both could hold value.  Last year’s first tight end drafted, Howard, is likely blocked from big fantasy relevance this season with fellow tight end Brate in the picture and a strong receiving core for Tampa Bay but both tight ends could be stream-worthy.  Cook led the Raiders in receiving yards last season and Oakland lost target-hog Michael Crabtree.  The situation is murky with the addition of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to go along with a new Jon Gruden offense.  McDonald is easily the best receiving tight end in Pittsburgh and got more involved at the end of the year culminating with a 112 yard eruption in the playoffs.  Injuries and questionable hands have limited effectiveness over his career.  The best receiving option in Buffalo might be Clay who has over 500 yards in five consecutive seasons.  Buffalo could produce the most ineffective offense in the league with a rookie or backup level QB at the helm and Clay has not played a full season in five years.  Seals-Jones has a golden opportunity with the Arizona tight end spot up for grabs.   Jermaine Gresham is coming off an Achilles tear opening the door.  The former wide receiver found some limited receiving success last season but his prospects going forward will largely depend on if he can make himself into a competent blocker which would allow him to stay on the field for more snaps.

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.


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