By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
When the 2016 football season began, many in the fantasy football community argued and debated about the logic and sensibility of selecting a tight end in the first round. That tight end was Rob Gronkowski. In every single one of my drafts, Gronk went in the top 15 picks. Are you curious as to how he finished this season? He scored 99 points, good for 25th. That’s it.
I get it. You can’t predict injuries, he was worth the gamble because of how the Patriots use him, blah blah blah. If you listened to our podcasts during the summer, The Commish and I debated and came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t select a tight end before the end of the third round.
When you look at where the top tight ends finished this year, the third round seems like a reasonable spot.
Greg Olsen jumped out to a commanding lead at the position, becoming the focal point of the offense as Cam Newton’s safety valve in Carolina. He was easily proving that taking a tight end in the first round wasn’t such a bad idea. But then he put together a string of below average games that likely cost a lot of fantasy owners games down the stretch and cost a few teams a first round bye. But because of that hot start, he finished second this season.
Who finished first? How about Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs? Andy Reid knows how to use the tight end position. He had a string of good ones in Philadelphia and has a great one with the Chiefs. The problem was, how can you trust Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense? Kelce let you know you can trust him. He was the starting tight end on the championship team in the Skrip Club, putting the final nail in yours truly’s coffin.
There were a few surprises too. How about Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings? With Mr. Dink-and-Dunk Sam Bradford running the Vikings offense, Kyle Rudolph became Mr. Move-the-Chains, en route to a third place finish at the position. And Cameron Brate. Jameis Winston’s Ivy League educated tight end burst into everyone’s minds with a sixth place finish. Then there was Martellus Bennett, who filled in admirably for the in-and-out-of-the-lineup Gronkowski. He had a typical tight end season: some really great games, and some games where he provided his best David Blaine impersonation.
And then there was the miracle on the gridiron. Jimmy Graham, thought to be a long shot to even play this year after suffering a torn patella tendon in his knee, fought his way back to remind us of his Saints glory days as a trusted go-to target for Russell Wilson. His unprecedented season was good for fifth amongst tight ends.
And that doesn’t even cover the busts. Remember when we and everyone else hyped the free agency signings of Jared Cook and Ladarius Green? They finished 38th and 40th, respectively. Sure, both spent weeks on the bench with injuries, but their history in the league should have warned us this was inevitable. Other disappointing performances included Coby Fleener (13th) and Gary Barnidge (20th). Barnidge was the more predictable one, with the Browns acting like a Triple-A squad. Fleener just couldn’t find chemistry with Brees. Maybe that changes in year two (2017). Potential rebound candidate right there folks.
What does all this mean for next year? With the top targets – Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed – consistently battling injuries, heed our advice and wait until at least the third round before taking someone like Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce or Delanie Walker. Truthfully, I may wait until the fourth. And really, the consistency at the tight end position pales in comparison to running backs and wide receivers. Sure, every couple of seasons, one tight end will break out and score over 250 points, but that doesn’t happen as often as you’d like. Don’t be the guy who reaches, when no tight end tops 225 points.
You know, like this year.
Below are how the TEs of 2016 finished. Scoring is from weeks 1-16 and scoring is in Club Fantasy format: