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The tight end position is not one where you typically find a lot of fantasy depth, but this season features a long list of pretty bankable TEs whose careers are either just peaking or about to peak. I can say for the first time in years that I feel pretty confident identifying at least the first eight guys on this list as picks that will help you win draft day.
Even as deep as No. 18 on this list you can find one of the most reliable TEs of the previous season. This is way different than last year, when the back half of my TE rankings consisted mostly of speculation on how what the increase in tandem-TE offensive schemes could mean for certain players' fantasy values.
This year, there is enough depth at TE that I'm offering up a Fantasy Fix first for this position - three sleeper candidates.
1. Rob Gronkowski, NE.
Not only the top TE, but virtually a consensus first-round pick. Last year's 1,123 yards and 12 TDs were his best numbers since 2011, and even if there is a small letdown from the Tom Brady suspension, 1,000 yards and 10 TDs is as low as I'll go with a prediction.
2. Jimmy Graham, SEA.
Common sense says he can't amass the 889 yards of 2014 in a run-heavy offense, but don't drop him too low on your board because the final botched play of the Super Bowl showed what SEA lacked - a big, fast target for TD passes. Graham will fix that.
3. Greg Olsen, CAR.
Former Bears draft pick has settled in as a top target in an offense that really needs him - and more than ever with WR Kelvin Benjamin out for the year. Career high in every category last year except TDs, and I'll bet he surpasses his 1,008 yards and six TDs of 2014.
4. Martellus Bennett, CHI.
Career-high 90 catches, 916 yards and six TDs last year after many had written him off is too hard to ignore. The catch number was second only to Matt Forte, and with Brandon Marshall gone and Kevin White out, he should be busier than ever.
5. Travis Kelce, KC.
Certainly the most hyped TE. Totaled 862 yard and five TDs as a rookie on a time-share, but he'll see many more snaps and end zones targets this year. Could easily challenge Gronk for the TE yardage crown, though KC is nowhere near as good at scoring as NE.
6. Jason Witten, DAL.
Still the reliable choice for fantasy teams that don't like drafting TEs early. His career is winding down and he saw under 100 targets (90) last year for the first time since 2006, but he remains QB Tony Romo's go-to possession receiver, so draft him for consistency.
7. Jordan Cameron, MIA.
Has the skills to be ranked higher. Like Kelce, a Gronk-in-waiting. Miami teaming with QB Ryan Tannehill looks promising, but injuries have been a problem, and we need to see if MIA gives him enough chance to revisit his 917-yard 2013 season.
8. Delanie Walker, TEN.
Quietly made a pretty big fantasy impact last year with a career-high 63 catches and 890 yards. Another solid choice who should provide something every week, especially if rookie QB Marcus Mariota is at the helm, but needs more end-zone looks.
9. Zach Ertz, PHI.
Another very athletic TE with downfield promise. He and Kelce were popular sleeper picks last year, but like Kelce, he ended up splitting snaps. somehow he still managed 702 yards. Slight risk is that he's been injured in the preseason and may not start Week 1 active.
10. Owen Daniels. DEN.
Once a popular target in Houston, then a bust in Baltimore, Daniels gets the job that made Julius Thomas a star TE, thanks to Peyton Manning. Solid and experienced, and could easily be a top 10 TE, but we need to see how much DEN changes its offensive schemes.
11. Dwayne Allen, IND.
The two-headed TE beast in Indy got a lot of end-zone looks last year from the league's most prolific QB. Though Allen had only 395 yards, he was on the field in the red zone and got eight TDs out of it. Fantasy loves a TD vulture, and that's the deciding factor here.
12. Coby Fleener, IND.
774 yards to Allen's 395 last year, though his 51 catches were one less than 2013, and could go down with Andre Johnson coming in at WR. Still, something like 45 catches and 650 yards is pretty good for a TE, and he should still get some TD chances.
13. Julius Thomas, JAC: Tied Gronk and Antonio Gates for most TDs by a TE last year with 12, but he's no longer in Denver's prolific offense. In fact JAC is kind of the opposite, and unless he develops into a top target of QB Blake Bortles, he's no more than a fantasy back-up.
14. Antonio Gates, SD.
How do not one, but two guys with 12 TDs last year drop this far? Nine of his TDs came in just four games, so his week-to-week value is debatable, making him more of a match-up play. But, he's also suspended for four games, which parks him in back-up territory.
15. Kyle Rudolph, MIN.
Was supposed to have a big breakout last year, but injury sidelined him and when he returned he didn't get much playing time. An impressive and improving Teddy Bridgewater at QB could give him top-10 yardage and TDs, but for now a draft-and-stash play.
16. Tyler Eifert, CIN.
Another very promising young TE. Only played one game last year, but veteran Jermaine Gresham is no longer in his way. He's probably better than Gresham, but even if he just inherits the same workload, we're looking at 60 catches, 500 yards and five or six TDs.
17. Austin Seferin-Jenkins, TAM.
Yet another promising TE, though a lot will depend on how well and how often he connects with rookie QB Jameis Winston. He's unproven and both dropped passes and injuries have been an issue, but if everything clicks, his stock will rise quickly.
18. Heath Miller, PIT.
Finally, another boring old TE like Witten who should get you something every single week of the season, and maybe a couple big games. Maybe the fourth pass target in a productive offense, but a safe back-up bet all-around, and start him as needed.
19. Larry Donnell, NYG.
Three of his six TDs last year came in Week 4, as we started seeing the revival of QB Eli Manning, but with WR Victor Cruz back from injury and WR Odell Beckham, Jr. now a superstar, you have to wonder how much work he'll get this season.
20. Jordan Reed, WAS.
Not a great offense, whether RG-3 is at QB or not, but he may play many more snaps this year with fellow TE Niles Paul now on IR. If you demand a proven back-up option, he'll do, and maybe can be an occasional match-up starter.
* Josh Hill, NO: Unproven as a weekly starter, but even with Graham starting last year, QB Drew Brees still found Hill for five TDs, so at least there's no chemistry question. With youth and lack of depth at WR, Hill could quickly become fantasy relevant.
* Eric Ebron, DET: Second-year man is the recipient of increasing hype, very much fueled by the guy who will be throwing to him - QB Mathew Stafford. We need to see how this plays out, but a nice late-round pick to view as a long-range investment.
* Richard Rodgers, GB: Seems to be getting the edge over Andrew Quarless after a time-share between the two last year. Rodgers reportedly has the hands and skills to be a receiving threat, and now the possible season-ending injury to WR Jordy Nelson could move him up a notch as a target.
Previously in the Fantasy Fix 2015 Football Draft Guide:
* Overall Top 20.
* Top 20 QBs.
* Top 20 RBs.
* Top 20 WRs.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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Posted on May 22, 2017