Fantasy Football Draft Duels: Tight Ends

This fantasy football season, drafters will face many tough decisions among multiple players at certain positions.

Rankings and sleepers lists can’t always tell the full story: Sometimes, it makes sense to take a risk. That’s why fantasy football players could use input from numerous sources. 

We’ve gathered some RotoWire personalities to give their opinions on which fantasy tight end they’d take when posed several matchups — or in some cases, make some mini-rankings.

QB | RB | WR | TE

(Note: We used our NFFC PPR rankings to compare players.)

Jordan Reed (54.36, TE3) vs. Greg Olsen (58.55, TE4)

This is a dilemma of the “safe pick” versus the upside play. Reed, 27, hasn’t played a full season in any of his four years in the league, and things haven’t looked great for him as draft season has heated up as he’s been sidelined with a toe issue. While it might not impact his Week 1 availability, it’s still another mark on Reed’s lengthy injury ledger.  Olsen, meanwhile, is a model of consistency and availability throughout his career. He’s played in every game since 2008 and is going for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. If per-target efficiency is your thing, Olsen’s YPT over the last three years is 8.5. Reed’s? 7.8.
OlsenJohn McKechnie

Assuming both are healthy, the decision between Reed and Olsen is a toss up, but the former has yet to log a full NFL campaign. In four seasons, Reed maxed out at 14 games in 2015, when he hauled in 11 touchdowns on a career-best 114 targets. However, he’s racked up 18 DNPs otherwise, or 14 more than Olsen during his 10 years in the league. On the heels of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in which he caught between 77 and 84 passes each time, Olsen is the easy choice.
Olsen -Eric Caturia

When healthy, Reed is right up there with Rob Gronkowski in terms of overall talent. Of course, the problem is, the 27-year-old is hardly ever at full strength, with the star TE already dealing with a toe injury that has kept him out of training camp thus far. In other news, water is wet. Still, it’s hard not to lean towards Reed given this relatively inexpensive price tag — just make sure to find a quality backup in later rounds.
Reed –Joe Bartel

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It’s all about consistency: Reed’s missed 18 of 64 games in four years, and more importantly, his concussion history is so scary that any hit could be a season- or career-ender. Sure, his upside is insane, but Olsen hasn’t missed a game in nine years, and he’s Cam Newton’s security blanket. After three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, he’s as safe as they come.
Olsen- Jim Coventry

Olsen has not missed a game since 2007. That’s right. He’s started 144 consecutive regular season contests and is riding three straight 1,000-yard seasons into 2017. He may be 32 years old, but Olsen is an iron man and quarterback’s best friend. Reed may be one of the premier receiving weapons at the position, but the maxim “the best ability is availability” always holds true. Reed has played more than 12 games once in his four years. Moreover, with stiffer competition for targets via Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and a healthy Josh Doctson, you have the recipe for a bust stew.
Olsen -Luke Hoover

Olsen 4-1

Delanie Walker (85.71, TE6) vs. Tyler Eifert (87.15, TE7) vs. Kyle Rudolph (89.5, TE8)

While Rudolph may be the least exciting guy to roster of this bunch at first glance, I like his chances of finishing the year as a top-five tight end the best. Rudolph plays in the least explosive of these offenses, but that only helped him last year as Sam Bradford looked his way a whopping 132 times, including 25 times in the red zone. The Vikings will be rolling out Sam Bradford under center again this season, making Rudolph a likely candidate to replicate his 2016 success.. Meanwhile, Walker and Eifert both return to offenses that spent top-10 picks on shiny new toys in the passing game. Walker has been a model of consistency since arriving in Tennessee and Eifert is great when healthy, but Rudolph has the best blend of skill and opportunity of this group.
Rudolph, Walker, Eifert –JM

In 2016, Rudolph’s breakout was fueled by the sheer amount of targets (132) received as a safety valve for Sam Bradford to the tune of 6.4 YPT. Rudolph also easily outpaced his red-zone usage, earning 18.9 percent of his targets in the region as opposed to his previous mark of 14.7. Although regression is likely, Rudolph remains more appealing than the injury-prone Eifert, whose own usage the past two seasons pro-rates to 92 targets, and Walker, who must contend with Eric Decker and 2017 first-round pick Corey Davis for looks from Marcus Mariota.
Rudolph, Eifert, Walker -EC

Much like with Reed, I lean toward the potential Eifert can give in an abbreviated season, with the obvious caveat that I would need to invest a later pick in a depth tight end. Especially in the eighth round, where Eifert’s ADP reside, fantasy owners have no business worrying about potential injury concerns. The question between Walker and Rudolph is a little trickier, as I suspect Walker starts to dip in his age-33 season. Couple that with Sam Bradford’s love for the other Notre Dame alum here, and it’s hard to ignore the fact Rudolph has the higher floor and at least a similar ceiling.
Eifert, Rudolph, Walker -JB

Eifert has the biggest upside and downside. His ADP takes into account his injury history, and his upside is worth the risk at that point of a draft. Meanwhile, Walker’s averaged over 900 yards over the last three years, but he was the team’s de facto No. 1 receiver, and it’s unlikely he’ll repeat that role. His age (33) also causes some concern. Finally, Rudolph benefited from heavy volume due to Sam Bradford having to get rid of the ball to mask OL issues. He’ll go back to being middle-of-the-road this year.
Eifert, Walker, Rudolph -JC

Given the depth of their teams’ receiving weapons, Walker and Rudolph are high-floor, low-ceiling players. The Bengals also boast a deep and diverse group of pass catchers, but Eifert’s value will remain unaffected. His 18 touchdowns in the last two seasons lead all tight ends, and somehow he managed that in just 21 games. Fully healthy in training camp, Eifert is worth a full round reach given the depth at the tight end position. If his injury history rears its ugly head, he can be replaced inexpensively. But if he remains healthy, he could lead the position in scoring.
Eifert, Rudolph, Walker -LH

Eifert, Rudolph, Walker

Zach Ertz (96.62 TE9) vs. Martellus Bennett (97.74, TE10)

I’m well aware I just pulled the “too many mouths to feed” card in the last duel, but none of those offenses have Aaron Rodgers running the show. Now, Ertz has been a consistently productive player since entering the league and he showed strong chemistry with new quarterback Carson Wentz while logging a career-high 78 catches in just 14 games. Wentz, who has a penchant to throw short, will be looking Ertz’s way plenty this year, but the additions of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith could make Philly’s passing game decidedly more vertical. With Bennett, concerns that he’d get lost in the wash in New England alongside Gronk were easily quelled as he finished as TE7 in standard formats. He joins a similarly loaded offense in Green Bay, and while I doubt Bennett will match Ertz’s week-to-week consistency, his ability to absolutely go off on a given week makes me think he’ll end the year slightly ahead of Ertz in overall points.
Bennett -JM

The offseason additions of wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith pushed Ertz down a peg in my mind, but the subsequent trade of slot receiver Jordan Matthews salvages the tight end’s standing as Carson Wentz’s primary underneath target. While triple-digit looks are quite possible for a third straight year, Ertz doesn’t threaten in the red zone like Bennett, topping out at four touchdowns in a given season. Bennett, meanwhile, gives Aaron Rodgers his first upper-tier TE since Jermichael Finley. Sure, Bennett must vie with a stacked receiving corps, but his three-down status and budding chemistry with Rodgers nonetheless helps his case.
Bennett –EC

Despite being lauded as a breakout player for what feels like the last three seasons, Ertz has failed to score more than four touchdowns in a given season. That matters less in a PPR league such as this, but with Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins in the fold, I suspect Ertz will have a hard time hitting the 100-target threshold that he reached the last two seasons. Bennett is by far the best TE the Packers have seen since the vaunted years of Jermichael Finley, and as such, should become a reliable weapon in an offense desperate for a target that can occupy the middle of the field.
Bennett -JB

Ertz has seen at least 106 targets in each of the last two years, and the loss of Jordan Matthews should mean that he’ll retain volume despite the addition of Alshon Jeffery and the possible emergence of Nelson Agholor. However, he’s only scored 13 TDs in 61 career games. Over in GB, Bennett’s averaged almost 800 yards and six TDs over his last three 16-game seasons, and now he’ll play with Aaron Rodgers. In that offense, he could flirt with 900 yards and eight scores.
Bennett –JC

In standard scoring, this might be a coin flip. Historically, Ertz has not produced touchdowns (11 in four years), while the gigantic Bennett is a great red-zone target for Aaron Rodgers in an offense that will score a tone of points. In PPR, however, Ertz could be a monster. He’s averaged 70.3 catches over three years and hauled in a whopping 63 passes in the last nine games of 2016, displaying beautiful chemistry with Carson Wentz. With Jordan Matthews shipped to Buffalo, the middle of the field is Ertz’s to own as the Eagles break in two new starting wideouts.
Ertz –LH

Bennett 4-1

Eric Ebron (107.33, TE11) vs. Hunter Henry (108.45, TE12)

I absolutely will not give credence to a #HotTaek of Ebron > Henry. Rookie tight ends are notorious for being fantasy fool’s gold, but Henry finished 2016 as TE11 — three spots ahead of Ebron — despite playing alongside Antonio Gates, who finished as TE10 in standard scoring. Henry was efficient, finishing fifth in YPT (9.0) among tight ends with at least 50 targets, and his red zone target count (17) was nearly triple that of Ebron’s six. Raw numbers not your thing? Henry saw 20.7 percent of the Chargers’ red zone targets. Ebron? 9.. Henry’s share stands to increase with Gates entering the twilight of his career. Ebron legitimately has to contend with running backs for RZ looks.
Henry, with gusto -JM

The positive for Ebron: His aggregate totals in receptions, targets and yards have improved in each of his three pro seasons. On the other hand, Matthew Stafford has rarely looked Ebron’s way in the red zone, resulting in touchdowns on a dismal 3.5 percent of his targets (seven of 202). Meanwhile, Henry was a veritable vulture in the same area of the field as a rookie last fall, gobbling up eight touchdowns on just 53 targets. The 22-year-old should continue to endear himself to Philip Rivers in this term, especially with fellow tight end Antonio Gates in the twilight of his career.
Henry -EC

I took Henry in two recent drafts before the likes of Kyle Rudolph and company, so you can expect which direction I might lean. While Antonio Gates is going to get the majority of the looks in the red zone early on as the Chargers look to get the 37-year-old the touchdown record, Henry should start to see a larger share of the targets in the second half as the team prepares the second-year player for a bigger role. It doesn’t take a lot of squinting to see a fantasy superstar in the making, but that may come after Gates retires as opposed to before.
Henry -JB

High first-round draft picks at TE usually pan out, but it takes a few years for them to get there. Ebron has progressed nicely for two years and seems poised to be the seam-stretcher and red zone presence the Lions expected when drafting him in 2015. He’s a good bet to get many of the 24 red zone targets that Anquan Boldin saw last year. Meanwhile, Henry had a great rookie season, but with many mouths to feed in the Chargers’ passing game, he won’t likely see the volume needed to excel this year.
Ebron JC

Ebron has missed eight games over three seasons and has been essentially M.I.A. all of August with a hamstring injury. Even when he has suited up, nagging injuries and lack of technical development have limited him, resulting in pitiful totals of 3.3 career catches per game and seven scores over 40 contests despite awful receiver depth in Detroit. Henry, meanwhile, is playing with a quarterback that LOVES his tight ends (see Gates, Antonio), is a far-superior route runner and excels both between the 20’s and in the red zone. His eight touchdowns as a rookie were just a precursor of things to come.
Henry –LH

Henry 4-1

Additional polls

Coby Fleener (137.6, TE15) vs. Julius Thomas (154.36, TE16)

Fleener: JM, EC, JB, JC, LH

Thomas:

Fleener 5-0

O.J. Howard (157.31, TE17) vs. Cameron Brate (178.02, TE20)

Howard: JM, EC

Brate: JB, JC, LH

Brate 3-2

Austin Hooper (158.67, TE18) vs. C.J. Fiedorowicz (182.71, TE21)

Hooper: JM, EC, JB, JC, LH

Fiedorowicz:

Hooper 5-0

Jared Cook (185.33, TE22) vs. David Njoku (194.72, TE24)

Cook: JM, EC, JC, LH

Njoku: JB

Cook 4-1