Does it ruin a top 10 countdown to feature the #1 player at the beginning? It might kill the suspense in some cases. However, when it comes to ranking fantasy tight ends for the 2015 season is not one of them. Rob Gronkowski will be the first tight end of the board in 99.99% of redraft leagues. If it wouldn’t be too much to ask, feel free to send me a league invite if he isn’t the first tight end selected in yours.
The Cost of Gronk
According to fantasypros composite rankings, Gronkowski’s current ADP is sitting at 14. Mock drafts from earlier in the summer had Gronkowski coming off as high as pick #7. The dip is in large part due to the impending Brady suspension. If word breaks that the suspension has been lifted, or reduced Gronkowski should be slotted back in as a mid-to-late first round selection.
Let’s take a look at last year’s numbers from the running back, wide receiver, and tight end position. Each position group will feature the top scorer, sixth scorer, and twelfth scorer at their position. The numbers reflect ESPN scoring.
D. Murray (16 games) – 282 points / 17.6 ppg
E. Lacy (16 games) – 216 points / 13.5 ppg (-4.1 vs Murray)
A. Morris (16 games) – 159 points / 9.9 ppg (-7.7 vs Murray)
A. Brown (16 games) – 251 points / 15.7 ppg
E. Sanders (16 games) – 192 points / 12 ppg (-3.7 vs Brown)
A. Jeffery (16 games) – 167 points / 10.4 ppg (-5.3 vs Brown)
R. Gronkowski (15 games) – 178 points / 11.9 ppg
C. Fleener (16 games) – 118 points / 7.4 ppg (-4.5 vs Gronkowski)
L. Donnell (16 games) – 84 points / 5.3 ppg (-6.6 vs Gronkowski)
So what do all those numbers mean? Well, basically just go out and pick the top scorer at one or more of those positions and you will be fine. Easy enough right?
As you noticed the biggest positional advantage when comparing the #1 vs #12 occurred at the running back position. DeMarco Murray outscored Alfred Morris by an average of 7.7 fantasy points per week. That is a huge gap, and a main factor why many DeMarco Murray owners found themselves at the top of their fantasy league last season.
Want that nice positional advantage at running back this year? All you have to do is pick the right one, but who will it be this year? As I see it, there are 10 running backs who could contend for top scorer at their position.
In no particular order…
A. Peterson / J. Charles / E. Lacy / M. Lynch / C.J. Anderson / L. McCoy / D. Murray / M. Forte / J. Hill / L. Bell
It certainly isn’t written in stone that one of these listed players will finish as the top running back. Let’s pretend that it is though. With that assumption in place, you have a 10% chance to draft the top scorer at the running back position. That is a 10% to enjoy the cushy positional advantage that Murray owners enjoyed last season.
What about receivers?
Again, nothing is written in stone, but I see eight players who appear to be a cut above the rest.
A. Brown / D. Bryant / D. Thomas / C. Johnson / J. Jones / J. Nelson / O. Beckham / A.J. Green
Assuming one of those eight players finish as the top receiver you have a 12% chance to lock up the best receiver.
Now for the tight end position.
Obviously, no one can predict injuries. With that said, assuming Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham both play 16 games, or even 15 games, one of those two will finish as the top scorer at the tight end position. After consulting my calculator it appears that one would have a 50% chance to draft the best the tight end.
What did I learn?
-Numbers obviously change from year to year, but last year running back offered the largest positional advantage when comparing the #1 to #12 running back. With there being so many contenders for the top spot, it makes it more difficult to secure that advantage.
-Despite Antonio Brown’s monster 2014 season, the top receiver offered the smallest positional advantage. Again, this can change from year to year.
-Gronkowski actually supplied the biggest gap when comparing #1 vs #6 at each position, but fell just short in the #1 vs #12 comparison. However, having a 50% chance vs a 10% chance to get that advantage more than makes up for it.
On to the top 10 tight ends for 2015.
10. Zach Ertz, Eagles
Last season Ertz played in just over 50% of the Eagles offensive snaps. While that might not sound like much, he was still able to garner 86 targets and turn that into a line of 58/702 /3. With his snap-count expected to rise, and the departure of Jeremy Maclin, Ertz could break-out in a big way. As a matter of fact, I am going predict that he…wait a sec…what’s this?
That’s right let’s just throw the yellow-flag up on Ertz.
Chip Kelly on Ertz’s injury.
“Zach has a core muscle injury and he’s probably going to be out for a couple weeks,” Kelly said. “I think he’ll be back for Week 1 but I think now, he’s out. He’s with Dr. Meyers now. It’ll be a couple weeks with him. But he’s not gonna play in the preseason.”
The good news. He might be back for Week 1. The bad news. He is going to lose valuable reps with new quarterback Sam Bradford at game-speed.
Ertz’s ADP is bound to plummet with this news. Monitor the situation closely; he could be a draft day steal. However, if I was drafting today I would definitely take guys like Witten, Gates, Fleener, and Allen before Ertz–adjust accordingly.
9. Martellus Bennett, Bears
I have to give credit where credit is due. Bennett’s 90 catch 900 yard season of 2014 was impressive. The 129 targets that went Bennett’s way certainly didn’t hurt him. With the departure of Marc Trestman, so will disappear the high volume targets. 2014 was likely a career year for Bennett, and one of my draft-day no-no’s is to overpay for a career year. Owners who are spending a 5th round draft pick on Bennett are doing just that.
8. Delanie Walker, Titans
Walker proved to be the most reliable pass catcher the Titans had in 2014. His line of 63/890/4 earned him the ninth best fantasy season among tight ends. While most publications are expecting a regression in 2015; I on the other-hand am expecting similar results. The addition of Marcus Mariota should provide an upgrade from the motley crew he caught passes from last year. The Titans added Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks, as well as big-bodied receiver Dorial Green-Beckham in the draft. These additions will provide competition for targets, but on a positive note it should open up the of the middle of the field for Walker to operate. Not many tight ends have the big-play ability to post a 60 yard reception – – Walker had two last year.
Keep in mind that Walker actually missed a game and was injured early in another. If he played a full 16 games, a 1,000 yard season would have been a likely result. I will take my chances in the 10th round on a tight end that has that has that high of a ceiling.
7. Jordan Cameron, Dolphins
After choosing not to break the bank for Charles Clay, the Dolphins replaced him with the 6’5” 260lb Jordan Cameron. Cameron has shown some serious potential in his career. In his only season not plagued by injury, Cameron was able to churn out 80/917/7. It should be noted that this was on a below-average offense, in which he was catching balls from the likes of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer.
Ryan Tannehill likes to use his tight end. Over the past two seasons, Clay rated ninth in targets among all tight ends. Aside from ailing rookie DeVante Parker, none of the potential starting receivers are over 6’0”. This should translate to Cameron being option number one in the red zone and could yield double digit touchdown production from what I see as an up-and-coming offense. With Cameron’s injury history, make sure to grab another top 20 tight end in case the injury bug bites again.
6. Julius Thomas, Jaguars
I have spent the better part of the offseason throwing dirt on Julius Thomas’s fantasy value. I am not doing a complete 180, but sometimes the hate goes too far. I consider “Teal Julius” a lock for six-plus touchdowns, and at the tight end position that is certainly nothing to sneeze at. With an ADP of 60 he is bordering on the line of value at that position. The big yardage games won’t be present, but guess what, they were absent in Denver as well. To be exact, he has put together eight games with 50+ yards receiving in his 27 regular season games as a Bronco. Sure, there are going to be some lean weeks when dealing with a touchdown dependent tight end like Thomas. However, he projects to be one of the most targeted pass catchers on the team, as well as the leading red zone threat. He has as good of a chance as anyone not named Gronkowski or Graham to be a solid week-to-week contributor.
Thomas suffered a fractured finger in the teams first preseason game. It is being described as a “small fracture,” and that the team hopes it will have a minimal impact. Monitor the situation, but it sounds like little to be worried about.
5. Owen Daniels, Broncos
This one might end up making me look bad. Most have Daniels ranked outside of the top 10, but this situation is too attractive for me not to have him in my top 5. I am not the only one intrigued. Check out Matthew Berry’s 100 Facts for 2015, specifically numbers 90-93. Just for record keeping, check out the publication date on that (June 30th). I have been riding this Bronco since my May 3rd article. I want full-credit for being the first person on the Owen Daniels bandwagon in 2015. For all the reasons why, check out that May 3rd article. Some people are worried about Virgil, wait not that Virgil, Virgil Green. Everything I am reading makes it sound like Green will be used as the blocking tight end, while Daniels will be the receiving option. With protection being of paramount importance to Peyton Manning there could even be more two-tight end sets then what we have seen in previous years. Don’t get it twisted, Daniels is the tight end you want.
…………Four Months Later…………
Headlines from The Denver Post:
“Virgil Green Makes Denver Fans Say Julius Who?”
4. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
“This is the week Travis Kelce breaks out”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard that in 2014… .Every single week, someone, somewhere was saying it. I think I even said it once or twice. The reality is that his whole 2014 WAS the breakout. I don’t know what people expect from a tight end who plays in an ultra-conservative offense, but a final line of 67/862/5 is beyond solid, and even more impressive when you factor in that he only got 87 targets.
The arrival of Jeremy Maclin can be looked at one of two ways. The pro-Kelce crowd will view Maclin as a deep-threat who will stretch the field allowing Kelce to roam freely in the middle collecting catches. The anti-Kelce crowd will view Maclin as a legitimate #1 receiver for Alex Smith to work with, which will take away from Kelce’s targets. Both might be right, only time will tell.
The big year Kelce buzz is already in full effect for 2015. Let’s all just take a deep breath and slow down on this guy. In and offense that has Jamaal Charles and a quarterback who doesn’t like to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field at a time, his ceiling is only so high. With that said, another season of around 900 yards and six touchdowns is well within reach.
3. Greg Olsen, Panthers
Greg Olsen has become one of the most consistent tight ends in the game. He has played every game for seven consecutive seasons and has scored a minimum of five touchdowns in each of those seven seasons. In 2014, he achieved career highs in receptions with 84 and yards with 1,008. He and Cam Newton have a strong connection on the field, and there is no reason to expect anything different from him this year. At a position full of question marks, Olsen is one of the safest bets on the board.
2. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
I dedicated 500+ words to how I feel about Jimmy Graham’s move from New Orleans to Seattle in this article.
I still believe Graham will be a star in the fantasy world, but his days of posting 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns are in the rearview. As good as Seattle’s offense is, there will be enough trips to the red zone for Graham to do what he does best. With an ADP of 27, it feels a bit risky to use such a high pick on a guy who will be reportedly blocking 75% of the time.
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
The only question mark involving Gronkowski is his ability to stay on the field. Even in his shortened 2012 season, he still managed double-digit touchdowns. Really, Gronkowski has been a touchdown machine his entire career. He has posted touchdown totals of 10, 17, 11, 4, and 12. You can probably guess which one of those years he only played seven games. Including the playoffs, he is currently riding a streak of six games with a touchdown scored. While everyone talks about touchdowns, Gronk is no slouch when it comes to yards. In six of his 15 games played last year, he recorded 90+ yards receiving.
As mentioned earlier in the article, if Brady somehow wiggles his way out of the impending four game suspension, move Gronkowski back into your top 10 overall.
That does it for the 2015 fantasy tight end rankings.
(Click the BLUE link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 16th from 7-8:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in live at 646-915-8596. This week we will be discussing busts, disappointments in fantasy baseball for 2015, and how we can learn from it.
Major League Fantasy Football Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Saturday August 15th from 2-3:30pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio network. Call in live at 646-915-8596. This week is all about the QB, and LB positions.