Fantasy football season is right around the corner. Here are the top 10 tight ends to target as we draw closer to draft season.
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots – Is this a surprise to anyone? We all know that the big negative with Gronk is health. When he’s healthy, however, it’s a buffet of points from Tom Brady, possibly the greatest quarterback to play the game. In just six games in 2016, Gronk had three 100-yard games and three touchdowns. He also caught 25-of-38 targets for 540 yards. Look for more of the same this season. Just pray, cross fingers, knock-on-wood, do whatever you need to do so that he plays a full 16 games.
2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs – Kelce has proven that he’s a tight end who can rack up catches, as his reception totals have improved every season. He caught 67 balls in 2014, 72 in 2015, and last season he finished with 85 grabs and his first 1,000-yard campaign. With Jeremy Maclin now gone, look for the big tight end to put up even bigger numbers in 2017. Now, if he can only improve on his five-touchdown seasonal average.
3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins – Reed is a lot like Gronkowski in that he puts up great numbers … when healthy. Last season, he missed four games and caught 66 passes for 686 yards and six touchdowns. Reed had five or more receptions in eight games, including a 10-reception day against the Cowboys. As long as he can avoid concussions — something that has plagued him throughout his career — he should put up enough point to finish in the top three or four among tight ends, with the upside to finish No. 1 or 2.
4. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers – Looking for the first tight end to finish with three straight 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history? Look no further than Olsen. Last season, he was Cam Newton’s pride and joy. Newton targeted Olsen 129 times, and he finished with 80 catches for 1,073 yards and three scores. Despite being a tight end, he is the No. 1 receiver on the Panthers. Much of this is chemistry between Newton and Olsen. Both arrived in Carolina in 2011, and the signal caller has relied heavily on Olsen throughout his career. That relationship should continue to help fantasy owners in 2017.
6. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans – Walker been an important cog in the Tennessee Titans offense. He has essentially been the team’s slot receiver, and he has racked up over 100 targets in three of his four seasons in Tennessee. He has also averaged about 63 receptions a season and six touchdowns. That said, things will get harder for Walker this season, as the Titans went out and drafted Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor to play the slot. These are weapons the Titans have not had before, so expect a drop off for the veteran tight end in 2017.
7. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals – Eifert is another athletic tight end who has struggled to stay healthy. A great red zone target at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Eifert is a load to bring down. He ended 2016 with a back injury that required surgery. However, he should be back for training camp. The Bengals also drafted speedster John Ross from Washington, and he will take the top off the defense, allowing Eifert to roam the middle of the field freely.
8. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings – The two seasons prior to Rudolph’s resurgence in 2016 were not very good. He totaled 54 catches for 544 yards and five touchdowns. In comparison, last year he finished with 49-495-5, nearly matching his two prior years’ totals. He also played in all 16 games, something he hasn’t done since 2012. Quarterback Sam Bradford had instant chemistry with Rudolph, and that should continue into 2017. With his 6-foot-6, 259-pound frame, he makes a great red zone target.
9. Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers – Now out of New England, the “Black Unicorn” has found another great landing spot in Green Bay. Not too shabby to go from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers. Bennett should also find himself in a more prominent role with the Packers. Outside of one breakout season with the Bears in 2014 (90 receptions, 916 yards, six touchdowns), Bennett hasn’t been a consistent fantasy contributor. There is hope, though, that he can reach those heights again in Green Bay.
10. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers – The 2016 rookie played well enough in Antonio Gates’ absence for most of last season. He caught 36 balls for 482 yards and eight touchdowns. Even though he has shown to have really good hands, his blocking needs to improve to warrant an every-down role. Henry has a high ceiling if everything breaks the right way in 2017, as Philip Rivers as shown he likes to look for his tight end in the end zone. The best part is that Henry shouldn’t cost too much on draft day.