It’s April and there is no better time to start talking rankings! In this piece, we will cover The Fantasy Footballers’ Early TE rankings for the 2018 season and include context for some of the players we feel necessary to address. Be sure to listen to the full episodes below if you would like to hear thoughts on these TEs from Andy, Mike, and Jason!
Half PPR Scoring
Consensus Ranking: 3
The fact that No. 3 is “surprisingly low” should hint at just how good Kelce has been over the past few years. Despite back-to-back +1,000 yard seasons, Kelce sits behind the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski and recent riser Zach Ertz in the guys’ 2018 rankings. While he is by no means relegated to the “less than elite” tier, we should take a quick look at the question marks.
After playing his entire career with Alex Smith, Kelce will be adjusting to the new arm of Patrick Mahomes. It’s tough to say how that will play out, except that the young gunslinger may be willing to throw more aggressively to his downfield threats and resort to the TE-checkdown a little less often. And speaking of those threats, Kansas City snagged Sammy Watkins to complement Tyreek Hill, forming a potentially stronger WR duo than the Chiefs have had in the Kelce era.
Along with the possible drop in targets, we should expect some regression in the touchdown department. Kelce jumped from a career average of 4.7 to a total of 8 TDs last year, and chances are he’ll slide back to the 4-6 range in 2018. Obviously, even a pessimistic projection around 70 rec, 900 yards, and 4 TDs would be excellent, and more than enough to make Kelce a high-end option, but the draft price will be equally high.
Consensus Ranking: 5
Henry was a bit of a disappointment in 2017, as many expected him to fully assume the Antonio Gates role for the Los Angeles Chargers (RIP San Diego). Instead, Gates stuck around leeching snaps and Henry finished with a pedestrian 45/579/4 stat line. Well, the 37-year-old Gates is currently still a free agent, so he may be entirely out of the picture in 2018. Either way, Andy, Mike, and Jason agree that Henry’s time has come.
While filling the shoes of a fantasy superstar like Gates is not always an easy task, Henry’s draft pedigree (fourth pick of the 2nd round in 2016) and flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity are tell-tale signs. Remember, the guy had 8 TDs as a rookie — and when Gates missed a couple weeks with a hamstring injury, he went on a four-game tear to the tune of 18 catches, 290 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Also, Los Angeles signed Virgil Green in the offseason, a blocking tight end whose addition may actually boost Henry’s value, if it frees him up to run routes more often. Considering his high ceiling and lower draft price, Henry may be the ideal target if you skip out on the elite guys.
Consensus Rank: 8
Here we go again, another new tight end to the Green Bay Packers. We all saw how that went with Martellus Bennett last season — 233 yards and zero TDs in seven games — and with seemingly every other guy in recent years. So it’s tempting to ignore the sultry sound of Graham and Aaron Rodgers in 2018. Don’t forget, Graham will turn 32 this season and has dealt with his share of injuries as well.
Still, with tight ends in fantasy, it usually comes down to touchdowns. Graham himself is coming off a top-four season with only 520 receiving yards, thanks to his 10 TDs. And if you’re looking for receiving touchdowns in the NFL, heading to an offense quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers and losing Jordy Nelson is about as good as it gets. Unless Green Bay makes a move for Dez Bryant, it’s essentially going to be Graham and Davante Adams soaking up the majority of Rodgers’ lofty touchdown total. Considering Graham’s pedigree as a red zone threat, you almost have to set the floor at double-digit scores in 2018.
Don’t be surprised to see Graham set career lows in catches and yards this year, but also don’t sleep on the touchdown upside. We’ll have to see how heading to the Packers affects his draft stock, but he could be a sneaky steal if he falls into the later rounds.
George Kittle, SF (Jason’s Pick)
For one thing, he’ll be catching passes from the H.O.A.T. (Handsomest Of All Time), Jimmy Garoppolo. For another, Kittles and Bits. But in all seriousness, Kittle is a freakishly athletic sophomore tight end, who PlayerProfiler measures in the top 10% in nearly every relevant category. There is not a wealth of receiving talent on the 49ers (Marquise Goodwin is currently the WR1), so Kittle could get the opportunity to flash his talent in 2018.
Luke Willson, DET (Mike’s Pick)
You know him as the guy with too many L’s in his last name, or perhaps as the guy who’s routinely vultured receiving TDs from your Seahawk pass-catchers in recent years. Now, he is the No. 1 tight end in Detroit, after the departure of Eric Ebron and Darren Fells. Those two combined for 112 targets and 7 TDs last season, so there is room for Willson to thrive as a Lion.
David Njoku, CLE (Andy’s Pick)
Njoku only accumulated 32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TDs in 2017 after earning a first-round selection in the draft. But young tight ends in the NFL are also infamously slow to develop for fantasy purposes. Potentially aiding in Njoku’s future prospects is Tyrod Taylor, currently the QB in Cleveland. Taylor favored tight end Charles Clay in Buffalo and is certainly an upgrade over anything Cleveland has had in years. We could see him quickly bump Njoku’s stock in 2018, barring the ascension of any rookie(s) Cleveland takes in the draft.