Tight ends have a short shelf life.
It takes most of them a number of years to mature — pass- and run-blocking schemes and routes take time to learn. They enter their prime around age 27. Then by age 31, they’re already on a steep decline.
There are, of course, exceptions. Rob Gronkowski is only 26 this season, so, theoretically we haven’t even seen his best. Should you draft him in the early second round over a running back or receiver? Should you pay up for him on your favorite daily fantasy site? Let’s talk about that.
Season-long draft strategies
My typical draft strategy when picking a tight end is to get a good upper-middle-tier guy at a value or punt the position and hope to strike paydirt with an extreme value. I’ve had teams win with and without a stud tight end, so either strategy is viable.
When it comes to draft day, you’re going to be in two camps: Pay for Gronk or don’t pay for Gronk. Of course, there’s a subset to that second group. You can pay for a middle-range guy like Greg Olsen or Martellus Bennett, or you can wait until nearly your final pick and get Kyle Rudolph or Jordan Reed.
I feel like the best play is either going for Gronk or waiting for a Rudolph or Reed. Those upper-middle guys probably aren’t going to produce much more than a tight end with a matchup of the week. but they are going to cost you quite a bit more.
Daily fantasy football draft strategies
Just like with season-long contests, you’re either a Gronk or a not. And in this case, those middle-range guys are really not worth it unless they have a ridiculously good matchup. If you’re going to pay, pay a bit more for Gronk. It’s like rostering an extra wide receiver — which is not a bad play.
If you’re scraping the bottom of the fish barrel, you want to make sure you get a tight end who has a chance to score some points. Look for someone with a good matchup who also might have new opportunities.
Top 40 tight ends for 2015
These rankings may seem a bit off to you. Here’s the methodology: We took three-year fantasy point season averages (fpts) and assigned them to players based on the free fantasy football rankings at Fantasy Pros. The ADP is by position from Fantasy Pros, to give you an idea where these players are being drafted compared to their peers. Then we modified the points (xfpts) using a formula that factors in age-based performances and projected schedule based on defense-adjusted value over average.
This is the part where I tell you I wouldn’t really follow these rankings because of something. But, you know what, I’m ok with our top-8. Sure Garrett Graham is a huge reach at no. 9. I’d definitely take Jordan Reed over him, but there are a lot of question marks for most of the tight ends outside of the top-8. Is 32-year-old Owen Daniels really the replacement for Julius Thomas, or does 27-year-old Virgil Green step up when opportunity arises? Is Zach Ertz going to be able to buck the tight end trend and start paying off before most tight ends do in their age 24 season? Travis Kelce did it. Is he a rare talent or is there a sea change happening? What about Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener? If we were drafting Dwayne Fleener OR Coby Allen, then, sure, they’d be higher.
I considered making this list only 30 players long, but then we wouldn’t have Eric Ebron, Clive Walford and Maxx Williams on here. I wouldn’t be surprised if each one of them wins someone some bucks in daily fantasy lineupa this season.
|1||Rob Gronkowski NE, 4||TE||26||171.0||1||201.7|
|2||Greg Olsen CAR, 5||TE||30||162.2||3||156.0|
|3||Jimmy Graham SEA, 9||TE||28||140.4||2||160.0|
|4||Travis Kelce KC, 9||TE||25||127.8||4||146.9|
|5||Martellus Bennett CHI, 7||TE||28||126.3||5||142.3|
|6||Jordan Cameron MIA, 5||TE||27||120.1||8||131.9|
|7||Julius Thomas JAC, 8||TE||27||110.3||6||115.9|
|8||Jason Witten DAL, 6||TE||33||101.1||7||120.2|
|9||Garrett Graham HOU, 9||TE||29||99.4||91.9|
|10||Virgil Green DEN, 7||TE||27||95.5||91.9|
|11||Delanie Walker TEN, 4||TE||31||93.5||12||118.4|
|12||Jacob Tamme ATL, 10||TE||30||93.3||91.9|
|13||Zach Ertz PHI, 8||TE||24||88.9||9||104.9|
|14||Dennis Pitta BAL, 9||TE||30||88.3||91.9|
|15||Dwayne Allen IND, 10||TE||25||85.8||10||95.7|
|16||Scott Chandler NE, 4||TE||30||85.8||91.9|
|17||Jordan Reed WAS, 8||TE||25||85.0||28||91.9|
|18||Larry Donnell NYG, 11||TE||26||84.1||25||91.9|
|19||Rob Housler CLE, 11||TE||27||83.0||91.9|
|20||Josh Hill NO, 11||TE||25||82.5||19||91.9|
|21||Coby Fleener IND, 10||TE||26||81.6||14||91.9|
|22||Ladarius Green SD, 10||TE||25||80.0||26||91.9|
|23||Owen Daniels DEN, 7||TE||32||79.9||11||91.9|
|24||Kyle Rudolph MIN, 5||TE||25||79.0||15||93.7|
|25||A. Seferian-Jenkins TB, 6||TE||22||77.5||23||91.9|
|26||Charles Clay BUF, 8||TE||26||76.0||20||91.9|
|27||Mychal Rivera OAK, 6||TE||24||76.0||31||91.9|
|28||Benjamin Watson NO, 11||TE||34||75.1||91.9|
|29||Jared Cook STL, 6||TE||28||73.9||22||91.9|
|30||Tyler Eifert CIN, 7||TE||24||73.8||16||101.6|
|31||Jace Amaro NYJ, 5||TE||23||69.9||38||91.9|
|32||Crockett Gillmore BAL, 9||TE||23||69.9||91.9|
|33||Antonio Gates SD, 10||TE||35||67.1||13||91.9|
|34||Vernon Davis SF, 10||TE||31||65.1||17||91.9|
|35||Darren Fells ARI, 9||TE||31||65.1||91.9|
|36||Eric Ebron DET, 9||TE||22||65.0||21||91.9|
|37||Richard Rodgers GB, 7||TE||23||64.9||24||91.9|
|38||Clive Walford OAK, 6||TE||20||62.3||91.9|
|39||Heath Miller PIT, 11||TE||32||59.9||18||91.9|
|40||Maxx Williams BAL, 9||TE||21||59.8||29||91.9|
Draft well, and may variance be in your favor today and every day.