The 2017 season was not one to remember for the tight end position. Rob Gronkowski was still dominate even though he missed three games. Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce finished closely behind him and the rest of the group didn’t provide a lot of steady production. Delanie Walker was his usual steady self, Jimmy Graham had some high touchdown potential, and Evan Engram impressed in his rookie year, but if you didn’t have one of those top three guys you never felt confident to get solid production from the position week to week. In 2018 fantasy football drafts, we will look for where the best value is at the tight end position that holds a lot of questions with little answers.

Gronk is the Only True Elite Tight End

Super Bowl XLII PreviewIn 2017, Gronk led all tight ends in fantasy points in standard leagues. In PPR Kelce beat him, but only by 10 points with Gronk missing three games. In 2015 he also led the position, and in 2016 he did not because he was injured and missed eight games. When Gronk is healthy, he is far and away the best fantasy asset at the position finishing more than half the weeks of the season as a TE1 each year. He isn’t the only tight end to do that each year, but if you draft him and he stays healthy you know you’re going to have one of the best at the position which you can’t say about anyone else.

With that said Gronk will likely not be on any of my fantasy teams in 2018. The price is too high with his current average draft position at the back of the second-round. He will likely be the number one overall tight end, but the wide receivers or running backs you can draft there are much more valuable. He will outscore all other tight ends, but in 2017 in PPR 11 running backs and 11 wide receivers finished with more points than him. Considering you have to start more running backs and wide receivers, paying up for a tight end makes it difficult to create a well rounded team. I would only consider drafting him in redraft leagues if his draft stock falls to the late third-round or early fourth-round and I still don’t love him there.

Tight Ends are Very Unpredictable

If I don’t even consider drafting Gronk until the early fourth-round I obviously don’t love the idea of drafting Kelce at his current draft price in the late third or Ertz in early fourth. Besides Gronk the rest of the tight ends are simply very hard to predict year to year because so many of them are touchdown dependent.

Most tight ends in the league don’t score more than 10 points in PPR format unless they score a touchdown. In the fantasy community touchdowns are known for being the most difficult statistic to predict which leads to tight ends being unpredictable. Many WR2s or WR3s can score over 10 points in PPR any given week through a couple catches and some yardage. Tight ends don’t typically have high yards-per-reception compared to wide receivers. For example both Jason Witten and and Devin Funchess had 63 receptions in 2017. However Witten finished with 560 yards compared to Funchess’s 840 yards. Witten had a yards-per-reception of 8.9 and Funchess had a yards-per-reception of 13.3. Gronk and Kelce have high yards-per-reception which is why they are being drafted high, but they still aren’t on the same level as some wide receivers. Wide receivers also typically have a larger target share of their offense compared to tight ends further making them easier to predict than tight ends.

Tight End Draft Round Analysis

Kyle RudolphWe have covered the difficulties of predicting tight ends. Now we can examine how that affects the draft. The past three years at least half of the TE1s have come from round nine or later in the draft. That means you have a fifty-fifty shot or worse at hitting a TE1 in the first half of the draft. Obviously guys like Gronk, Kelce, and Ertz will likely finish as a top 12 tight end as long as they are healthy, but the point is there is good percentage chance you can hit on one late in the draft. This allows you to stock up on other positions that are difficult to hit on late. Also, if you are wrong about your tight end pick late you didn’t give up nearly the same draft capital as the top guys cost.

Tight ends as a whole don’t tend to score a lot of points compared to other fantasy positions. Having one of the elites is great because they are a safe play from week to week, but it is also possible to stream the position based on matchups. You can take a shot in the late rounds and hope you hit a gem while you load up on other positions. Most leagues only require you to start one tight end so usually it is only worth rostering one and streaming the position if necessary. I love Gronk, Kelce, and Ertz this year, but not for their price. I would much rather draft Trey Burton, Kyle Rudolph, or if you really want a deep sleeper Vance McDonald on the Steelers late in the draft. If the elite tight ends start to fall go ahead and grab one, but if not don’t be afraid to play the percentages and grab a guy late.

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