When people think of tight ends in football they think Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, or Jimmy Graham. It is a position that does not hold many elite fantasy talents. That is why in your fantasy draft three to four tight ends come off the board relatively early, then they disappear for a while until you realize that you forgot to roster a tight end. The position does hold a lot of value because of that reason. Last year Zach Ertz was the tight end seven coming off the board and was picked on average at pick 85 overall. Zach Ertz stayed healthy and finished as the tight end three and overall finished 33rd excluding quarterbacks. That is the value a fantasy owner dreams about especially at the tight end position. So who is the guy that will put up Ertz kind of value this season?
Go to this season’s tight end seven in ADP and you find Kyle Rudolph. I believe Rudolph has a great chance of being a top three tight end this season. Here are three reasons Kyle Rudolph will be a top-three fantasy tight end this season.
As most know the Vikings acquired Kirk Cousins in the offseason this year. That signing was key for the Vikings as they are serious about making a Super Bowl run this season. For fantasy football owners it means that all position players on the Vikings team began to trend upwards. Cousins is a much better quarterback then Case Keenum last year and he is also better then Sam Bradford two years ago. (That hurts to say because I really like Sam Bradford) In those two years, Rudolph has caught at least 57 passes and seven touchdowns while seeing more than 80 targets in both of the last two seasons. Proving to be a consistent pass catcher over the last two seasons and a definite red zone threat. Rudolph has also not fumbled the ball in the last three seasons so that dreaded negative one point you see when your player fumbles is not a factor with Rudolph. So the consistency is there, but what does it mean with the addition of Cousins?
The addition of Cousins adds significant value to Kyle Rudolph. Cousins loves to pass to his tight ends. In the last two seasons Cousins has targeted his tight ends a total of 272 times. Yes, this Vikings team does have significantly better weapons then what Cousins had in Washington and he will probably be able to throw the ball less, but the Vikings signed Cousins to be their guy and will more than likely not take too many passing attempts away from him. With that being said there is an average of 136 targets to tight ends unaccounted for. With the Vikings only having one real stand out tight end in Kyle Rudolph it is a fair assumption to give Rudolph an estimated 110 targets from Cousins. The last time Kyle Rudolph had more than 100 targets in a season was 2016. His numbers that season 83/840/7. Another thing that bodes well for Rudolph is Cousins elite play action ability, this proves significant in the red zone as Cousins will execute a play action play, and have a large target in Rudolph available in the end zone. Cousins will bring Rudolph a large target share and high upside touchdown potential this season.
A factor that plays into a tight end having an effective fantasy season is the ability to stay on the field. They are consistently pressing on large defensive linemen on run plays, and taking hits from strong linebackers on passing plays. This leads to the body of a tight end wearing down. Rudolph, however, has been extremely durable over the last three years and has played in all 16 games each of the last three seasons. He played in 90 percent of the offensive snaps last season and had a solid year remaining healthy. If this continues into this year and can hit 90 percent of the team’s snaps once again Rudolph should have an elite tight end year.
Projections for 16 game season for Kyle Rudolph
Even with these great numbers, there are some elite tight ends still that can finish ahead of him. Sure that is a possibility, but if Rudolph stays healthy I’ll make a case for him as top three against the players drafted ahead of him.
I’ll start with Greg Olsen. After nine straight seasons of playing all 16 games, the toll of playing tight end in the NFL finally caught up to him. He only started seven games but did not finish a majority of those games. He ended last season only catching 17 balls and had the worst season of his great career. I do not expect Greg Olsen to return to his full form in which he was an elite tight end in the league.
Now to Jimmy Graham. This is a tough one because like most know Rodgers does not typically throw much to his tight ends. He also has never had a Jimmy Graham playing tight end for him either. Rodgers is great at spreading the ball around to his receivers and is great at making plays from nothing. It is hard to tell who will be Rodgers guy this season, so far all eyes are looking at Davante Adams as the guy in Green Bay. Even though I do believe Graham will be effective, as of right now I am just not sure how effective he will be in this offense.
Evan Engram and Zach Ertz fall pretty closely in the things that I have to say about them so I am going to bunch them together. I expect regression out of both of these tight ends this season. Engram will have to face the return of Odell Beckham Jr, and the new addition Saquon Barkley. The Giants will no longer have the need to pass every play with Barkley, and the downs they do pass the main option will be OBJ. For Ertz not much changed in the Eagles offense, but Ertz still remains an injury factor, and the addition of Dallas Goedert could mean that some of the targets could go to him. I know that Trey Burton took some of Ertz targets away, but I doubt that you move up in the second round to draft a tight end that you want to be a backup full time. I am not saying Ertz is in jeopardy to lose his job, but early rookie targets to build chemistry between Goedert and Wentz is what I foresee.
To finish this article we will go to the two elite tight ends that normally finish one and two. Gronk and Travis Kelce. Gronk has started to fall to the injury bug as well, but I still see him finishing as the number one tight end just due to having elite talent and it does not hurt to have Tom Brady either. For Kelce, he is one that worries me a little bit, due to the fact that he is going into the season with an unproven quarterback. Yes, Kelce is an elite talent but he will have to build a rapport with Patrick Mahomes if he is going to continue to put up big numbers.Download the Free GoingFor2 App by Clicking Here...