Tight ends are one of the more fickle positions in fantasy football. There are usually only two or three really good ones, followed by some solid contributors. Many fantasy players just resort to streaming tight ends weekly if they miss out on a stud. This year, however, was especially bad, with stalwarts like Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker going down early in the season. The top two players at the position were not a surprise, but some new and old faces performed better than expected. There were also a few old stars that fell from grace.
Zach Ertz, Jared Cook Highlight 2018 Fantasy Football Season’s Tight End Superlatives
The top two spots are no different than the midseason point, and there should be no surprise at that. Whereas a few years ago, tight ends were basically tiered as Rob Gronkowski, and then everyone else, this year it is Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, and then everyone else. In PPR the divide is enormous. Kelce has almost 10 more points than number two tight end Ertz, but almost 50 more points than George Kittle, who is third.
Kelce keeps his top spot even in standard leagues. He has rewarded the fantasy football teams that drafted him with both a high ceiling and high floor. Since his Week One dud where he only caught one pass for six yards, Kelce only has one game with under 50 receiving yards. He has also scored ten touchdowns on the year. There is no doubt that he will be the top tight end drafted next year.
Coming in at number two in both formats is Ertz. Along with Kelce, Ertz has shown that tight ends can straight up absorb targets. Last season, Kelce led all tight ends in targets with 122. Ertz had 110. This year, with one more week to play, both have already blown those numbers away. Ertz has seen an unreal 152 targets this year. That is more than players like DeAndre Hopkins and Jarvis Landry. He only has one game with fewer than six targets all year. This translates to huge PPR numbers, and plenty of opportunity for points even in standard leagues.
Ertz has more yards than most wide receivers with 1,148 and went over 100 catches on this season in week 15. Even with a lot of competition for targets in Philadelphia, Ertz still demands looks. While he is a little behind Kelce in yards and touchdowns, his offense is not quite as explosive as the Kansas City Chiefs offense this year. It is honestly a toss-up between the two on who will perform better next year.
Well, there is one player to not count out. The biggest surprise at tight end this season was San Francisco 49ers tight end, George Kittle. At 1,228 yards, Kittle is actually 11th in the league in receiving yards, ahead of even Ertz. He has done so on 30 fewer catches, constantly showing off his unreal run-after-catch ability. Kittle could easily be way ahead of Ertz in fantasy scoring but only has four touchdowns on the season, compared Ertz’s eight.
He has done so with arguably the worst quarterback play of any of three. Kittle began the season with Jimmy Garoppolo, but he was lost for the year with injury a few weeks into the season. From there, second-year man C.J. Beathard tossed him the rock for a few weeks until he too went down. After that, undrafted rookie Nick Mullens took over the reins of the offense. While none of them played horribly, they all lacked experience and took away continuity from Kittle. Still, after being a late-round pick in most leagues this year, Kittle’s stock has skyrocketed for next season’s drafts.
While Kittle was the biggest surprise that no one had ever heard of, Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook is the biggest surprise everyone has heard of. Cook has bounced around the league for a while. He played on teams like the Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers. He has had solid seasons but has never been much of reliable contributor. Last year after signing with the Raiders, he had one of is better seasons. It still didn’t make him fantasy relevant in most leagues.
This year, he looks better than ever and is playing with fire even on an Oakland team where most of the players have either been shipped out or look like they’ve packed it in. Cook has been quarterback Derek Carr’s only consistent target, making him round out the top five at the position this year. Cook is finishing up his tenth season in the league though, so he will be hard to trust going into next year’s drafts.
It’s been a quick fall from grace for the behemoth of a man, Rob Gronkowski. Health has always been a concern for the New England Patriots tight end, but whenever he is on the field, he is usually close to unstoppable. However, that was not the case this year. Though Gronkowski did miss a few games with injuries, he is at least finishing off the season on the active roster. Still, he has been invisible on the field at times, bottoming out during most league’s fantasy championship with zero points.
Most people took Gronk expecting at worst a top-three performance. Instead, he has barely managed to stay in the top 10 all season, mostly only due to all the injuries at the position. In fact, O.J. Howard, who went down back in week 11 of the season still has more points than him in standard leagues. Gronkowski has had a few good games, but also way too many duds. He is now just another guy at tight end and will be a huge gamble for those that draft him next year.
Expectations for new Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham weren’t where they once were when he was uncoverable with the New Orleans Saints. They were even lower than when he turned into a red-zone threat with the Seattle Seahawks. Even still, he managed to disappoint his fantasy owners. He was supposed to be a solid contributor with future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Instead, he was usually nothing more than an afterthought.
Even with all the attrition at the position, Graham wasn’t able to crack the top-10 in standard or PPR scoring. Pedestrian tight end Vance McDonald had more points than Graham. In the end, it looks like Graham just doesn’t have anything left in the tank after a great career. He is likely to go undrafted in fantasy leagues next year.