Club Fantasy – 2017 Year-End Recap: Tight Ends

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By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson

The tight end position continues to be a topical debate year in and year out. When is too early to draft one? When is too late to draft one? Because of the inconsistency of the position in general — tight ends are tasked with blocking more than any other skill position, unless your name is Travis Kelce or Evan Engram — it’s hard to find one that will make you feel comfortable week in and week out.

The plus side to the position? The top 10 at the position predominantly stay that way. Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, and Jason Witten are the only three TEs to score top 10 finishes over the last three years. Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Zach Ertz, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph, and Cameron Brate have two top 10 finishes over the last three years. That’s ten out of ten spots. Sure, injuries happen and someone sneaks in, like Reed and Olsen going down this year opened the door for standout rookie Engram and Colts TE Jack Doyle.

The Commish and I have talked in the past about how we wouldn’t take a TE prior to round 3 in our fantasy drafts. In 2015, five TEs exceeded 220 fantasy points. In 2016, only one did. In 2017? Two TEs hit the mark. A third, Zach Ertz, likely exceeds that threshold if he doesn’t miss two games. What does all this tell you? Tight end is a game of Russian Roulette. Draft one you hope has a top 5 season because then you’ll never have to worry if you guess right. Guess wrong and you’re going to have migraines on the weekly.

For the second year in a row, Kelce took home the crown as Fantasy’s best TE. Coming in second? Gronk. It’s amazing what he’s capable of when he’s healthy. He did however miss two games this season, but only one due to injury. Heading into the season, I had injury risks Gronk and Redskins’ TE Jordan Reed at the head of the class. One out of two ain’t bad, right? Reed’s whole season was mired by injury, finishing an abysmal 35th, but with his points per game, he’s TE9, so when healthy, he’s a top 10 option. Silver lining, right?

If you followed along with us over the summer, you’d know how much I loved Zach Ertz heading into this season. What I didn’t see coming was Carson Wentz’ rapid ascension to stardom. Ertz was my preseason TE5 and he came in as TE3 in 2017. Walker, Graham, and Rudolph weren’t much of a surprise with their top five finishes, but I don’t think anyone outside of our own Joe Zollo saw Even Engram emerging as the rookie TE to own.

The New York Giants season came crashing down when superstar WR Odell Beckham Jr. and their nominal number two Brandon Marshall were lost to injury in the same game in Week 4. Engram became the only weapon left with Sterling Shepard in and out of the lineup due to injury, and Engram capitalized en route to a TE4 finish.

Heading into next year, there’s some uncertainty at the position. Greg Olsen, coming off an injury-riddled 2017 that saw him finish as TE49, should return healthy. Jimmy Graham is a free agent and is likely to leave Seattle. Kyle Rudolph will potentially have a new QB and will have a new offensive coordinator. Evan Engram will have Pat Shurmur running the offense in New York, and we’ve seen what he’s done for Rudolph the past two years. Jack Doyle will have a new HC and OC, potentially Patriots OC Josh McDaniels. Hunter Henry may not have Antonio Gates breathing down his neck anymore. George Kittle will have a full year with Jimmy Garoppolo. Did you know Kittle and Garrett Celek combined for 69.5 fantasy points from Weeks 12 to 16? With a full year, one of them emerges as a top option in San Francisco.

So as you can see, stay tuned. The offseason has a funny way of bringing about new expectations. Here’s the constant: Kelce, Gronk, and Ertz should remain the top 3 TEs in 2018, barring significant injury.

Below are how the tight ends of 2017 finished. Scoring is from Weeks 1-16 and follows the Club Fantasy format:

Rank Player Points Overall Avg Pts/Game
1 Travis Kelce (KC) 233.50 15.57
2 Rob Gronkowski (NE) 229.40 17.65
3 Zach Ertz (PHI) 198.00 15.23
4 Evan Engram (NYG) 173.60 11.57
5 Delanie Walker (TEN) 169.60 11.31
6 Jimmy Graham (SEA) 163.50 10.90
7 Kyle Rudolph (MIN) 156.90 10.46
8 Jack Doyle (IND) 155.20 11.09
9 Jason Witten (DAL) 143.30 9.55
10 Cameron Brate (TB) 136.40 9.09
11 Eric Ebron (DET) 130.50 8.70
12 Hunter Henry (LAC) 126.90 9.06
13 Jared Cook (OAK) 126.30 8.42
14 Benjamin Watson (BAL) 124.10 8.27
15 Vernon Davis (WSH) 117.80 7.85
16 Austin Hooper (ATL) 115.10 7.67
17 Charles Clay (BUF) 104.40 8.70
18 O.J. Howard (TB) 103.20 7.37
19 Austin Seferian-Jenkins (NYJ) 101.70 7.82
20 Tyler Kroft (CIN) 101.10 6.74
21 Julius Thomas (MIA) 97.80 6.99
22 Jesse James (PIT) 95.30 6.35
23 George Kittle (SF) 92.50 6.61
24 David Njoku (CLE) 88.90 5.93
25 Marcedes Lewis (JAX) 84.50 5.63
26 Trey Burton (PHI) 77.90 5.56
27 Seth DeValve (CLE) 76.50 5.10
28 Ed Dickson (CAR) 75.50 5.03
29 Garrett Celek (SF) 74.80 4.99
30 Jermaine Gresham (ARI) 71.80 5.52
31 Antonio Gates (LAC) 71.00 4.73
32 Stephen Anderson (HOU) 63.80 4.56
33 Coby Fleener (NO) 63.50 5.77
34 Tyler Higbee (LAR) 60.50 4.03
35 Jordan Reed (WSH) 60.10 10.02
36 Martellus Bennett (GB/NE) 58.60 6.51
37 Zach Miller (CHI) 55.60 6.95
38 Nick O’Leary (BUF) 54.60 3.90
39 Luke Willson (SEA) 54.30 3.62
40 A.J. Derby (MIA) 53.50 5.35
41 Darren Fells (DET) 50.50 3.37
42 Ricky Seals-Jones (ARI) 50.10 5.57
43 Gerald Everett (LAR) 49.10 3.27
44 Rhett Ellison (NYG) 48.20 3.21
45 Nick Boyle (BAL) 45.90 3.28
46 Lance Kendricks (GB) 44.30 2.95
47 Adam Shaheen (CHI) 42.70 3.29
48 Jonnu Smith (TEN) 41.50 2.77
49 Greg Olsen (CAR) 40.10 6.68
50 Dion Sims (CHI) 39.00 3.00