By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The TE position may be the most frustrating in all of fantasy football. Seriously. Every year, there are maybe two or three that are reliable and everyone else is a major frustration. One week, it’s 20 points. The next, it’s four. If the position as a whole is mind-boggling, you can imagine how uninspiring this year’s free agent class is.
Much like the position, there’s a clear must have, followed by others with a season or two of success and not much else to be desired. The two biggest names we know are Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks and the oft-injured Tyler Eifert of the Bengals. Graham has been amazing since he came into the league with the Saints in 2010. The former basketball player has a nose for the end zone and can stretch the field like few other tight ends before him. In five years with the Saints, he had four seasons over 85 catches, two seasons over 1,000 yards, and 51 total TDs.
Then the Saints traded him to Seattle and the Seahawks sucked the production out of Graham. He never topped 65 catches, had only one season over 900 yards, and one season where he scored exactly 10 TDs. The biggest highlight, and this is hardly something to celebrate, was his miraculous recovery from a patella tendon injury he suffered in 2015. Few have come back from the injury to be what they were prior and Graham came back healthy and played with purpose. He played all 16 games, caught 65 balls for 923 yards and 6 TDs. Now he hits free agency as the top target, coming off a season when he scored 10 TDs. Even if his athleticism isn’t what it was, few can deny he knows how to find the end zone. Could a reunion with the Saints be on the horizon? The Jets and Bengals could also be in the market and have cap room to spend.
Eifert is an enigma. He’s a former first round pick with a ton of ability. But he’s played more than 8 games only twice. His career is marred with injuries. Prognosticators continue to bring his name up in discussions about the top tight ends in the game because of one good season. In 2015, Eifert played in 13 games, caught 52 balls for 615 yards and and 13 TDs. In his four other seasons, he’s combined for 26 games, 75 catches, 922 yards, and 7 TDs. Basically, he averages 6.5 games, 18.75 catches, 230.5 yards, and 1.75 TDs per season. Those are the types of numbers that belong to a guy who fights for a roster spot year in and year out. Eifert will likely receive a one-year, prove-it deal to see if he can bounce back from yet another injury. Will it be with the Bengals? I think they’ve had enough and will likely move on, but some team will bet on that lone 2015 season. One thing you can bet on for certain, no matter where he lands, he won’t sniff the top 15 in my rankings come summer.
A very intriguing name hitting the market is Eagles TE Trey Burton. He’s mostly been a special teams guy in Philly but has always been someone that has flashed in spots when given the opportunity. In the two games Zach Ertz missed for the Super Bowl Champions — God, typing that never gets old — Burton contributed 7 catches for 112 yards and 3 TDs. Oh, and he threw a TD pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. (Seriously, I can’t stop being giddy about the Super Bowl.) Overall, he finished as TE26. In a backup role. Philly isn’t likely to resign him as Burton will likely receive multiyear offers worth way more than they can afford. He’s young, athletic, and has shown he can produce. The 49ers could be a great landing spot, teaming him with George Kittle and allowing Jimmy G(Q) to utilize multiple TE sets like in New England.
Another young TE coming off a decent season is Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. His off-field issues and attitude have caused him to bounce between teams. He found success in New York with the Jets as a safety blanket for QB Josh McCown. Of course, must of what we remember from ASJ was his TD that wasn’t a TD against New England. (So glad the NFL is fixing the catch rule, by the way.). Like Burton, he’s young, athletic and can catch the football. Would the Saints be a match? If ASJ is willing to sign in the $3 million range, the Saints would be a perfect fit.
Most of the other names on the market are aging veterans or blocking TEs with little to no fantasy appeal. Players like Ed Dickson, Richard Rodgers, Virgil Green, Darren Fells, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, and Anthony Fasano will make a few million bucks a year but likely won’t be drafted.