TE Rankings: Samuels Stands Unchallenged

TE Rankings: Samuels Stands Unchallenged

This article is part of our Position Rankings series.

TIGHT END

1. Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State, JR

As far as college fantasy tight ends go, Samuels (5-11, 236) alone is the first tier, and no one is especially close to him. That's because he doubles not only as a prolific pass catcher, but also a regular running threat in the North Carolina State offense. In addition to 65 receptions for 597 yards and seven touchdowns, Samuels took 56 carries for 368 yards and nine more touchdowns in 13 games last year. It's not quite like when Devon Johnson had tight end classification two years ago, but it's pretty close. He could lead North Carolina State in both receptions and rushing TDs.

2. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, JR

Perhaps the top NFL prospect at TE, Hodges is a huge target at 6-7, 245, but he has the athleticism to repeatedly burn safeties down the seam, and he's an adept runner after the catch. He reached the 40-catch, 500-yard mark in each of his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, scoring 14 total touchdowns in the process. The arrival of former Memphis coach Justin Fuente means Virginia Tech's offense is going high-tempo, and the Hokies' severe lack of receiver depth means Hodges might effectively serve as the team's second wideout behind Isaiah Ford. There's huge upside here.

3. Gerald Everett, South Alabama, SR

Everett (6-4, 225) returns to South Alabama after scoring 12 touchdowns from scrimmage in 12 games last year, catching 41 passes for 575

TIGHT END

1. Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State, JR

As far as college fantasy tight ends go, Samuels (5-11, 236) alone is the first tier, and no one is especially close to him. That's because he doubles not only as a prolific pass catcher, but also a regular running threat in the North Carolina State offense. In addition to 65 receptions for 597 yards and seven touchdowns, Samuels took 56 carries for 368 yards and nine more touchdowns in 13 games last year. It's not quite like when Devon Johnson had tight end classification two years ago, but it's pretty close. He could lead North Carolina State in both receptions and rushing TDs.

2. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, JR

Perhaps the top NFL prospect at TE, Hodges is a huge target at 6-7, 245, but he has the athleticism to repeatedly burn safeties down the seam, and he's an adept runner after the catch. He reached the 40-catch, 500-yard mark in each of his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, scoring 14 total touchdowns in the process. The arrival of former Memphis coach Justin Fuente means Virginia Tech's offense is going high-tempo, and the Hokies' severe lack of receiver depth means Hodges might effectively serve as the team's second wideout behind Isaiah Ford. There's huge upside here.

3. Gerald Everett, South Alabama, SR

Everett (6-4, 225) returns to South Alabama after scoring 12 touchdowns from scrimmage in 12 games last year, catching 41 passes for 575 yards and eight touchdowns while running for seven yards and four more touchdowns. The South Alabama is known to sputter at times, but there is a decent amount of explosive talent in this offense, and Everett is clearly its go-to option whenever they get into the red zone. He's almost like Samuels-lite, offering receiving and rushing touchdown upside at a lesser cost.

4. Jonnu Smith, Florida International, SR

Smith (6-3, 230) was widely ranked as the top fantasy TE heading into last year, so his owners were no doubt disappointed when Smith finished the year with just 36 passes for 397 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. With injuries no longer limiting him, Smith is a clear buy-low bounce-back candidate. The FIU offensive scheme funnels targets toward its tight ends, and Smith already demonstrated his true upside by catching 61 passes for 710 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014. You can probably make the case to rank Smith higher in PPR formats.

5. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma, SO

At 6-5, 244, Andrews runs as if he's a 220-pound wide receiver, and he might go nuts this year with Sterling Shepard no longer around. There's cause for concern, though – the Oklahoma scheme only set aside 19 receptions for Andrews in 2015 – but the fact that those 19 catches went for 318 yards and seven touchdowns hopefully made clear that Andrews needs to get the ball in 2016. The graduations of Shepard and Durron Neal leaves Oklahoma with a 130-catch shortage from last year, so it's difficult to imagine Andrews remaining in the periphery.

6. Terry Pettis, Middle Tennessee, SR

A big former wideout, Pettis (6-5, 24), Pettis might post distinctly wide receiver-like numbers in 2016, as Middle Tennessee's explosive, uptempo offense has to replace one of its top pass catchers. Ed'Marques Batties is gone after catching 82 passes for 1,048 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, meaning there's room for Pettis to greatly improve his already formidable 2015 box score of 29 receptions for 612 yards and four touchdowns. Since workhorse wideout Richie James is only 5-foot-9, the hulking Pettis could emerge as Middle Tennessee's leader in touchdown receptions.

7. Deon Watson, Idaho, JR

In Idaho's unconventional, uptempo offense, TE is utilized much more in the passing game than most teams, and Watson's the lead guy at the position. A former wide receiver, Watson (6-4, 222) caught 42 passes for 551 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games last year, and something similar should be in store for 2016. Although he was limited to six games due to suspension and dismissal, wideout Dezmon Epps led Idaho with 61 receptions last year, and his departure means Watson should increase his share of the completed passes at Idaho this year.

8. George Kittle, Iowa, SR

Playing behind Henry Krieger-Coble, Kittle (6-4, 235) enjoyed a breakout 2015 despite playing as Iowa's No. 2 tight end. Kreiger-Coble graduated this offseason, though, as did standout receiver Tevaun Smith, setting the stage for a major Kittle breakout campaign. Kittle caught 20 passes for 208 yards and six touchdowns last year, while Krieger-Coble and Smith combined for 67 catches for 968 yards and four touchdowns. There's reason to think Kittle could approach 40 catches in 2016, in which case he'd also be a double-digit TD threat.

9. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, SR

Sprinkle (6-6, 255) is a huge but athletic tight end who steps into a starting role after previously playing second fiddle to Hunter Henry, who's now in the NFL. Even as Arkansas' second tight end, Sprinkle caught 27 passes for 389 yards and six touchdowns last year in a season where Henry caught 51 passes for 739 yards and three scores. That implies a lot of growth potential in Sprinkle's 2016 stats – particularly with his receptions and yardage – though Sprinkle's upside might be capped by the loss of star QB Brandon Allen, who will be replaced by his untested brother Austin.

10. Buck Cowan, Idaho, SR

Even with Watson already in the picture, there's plenty of room for Cowan (6-3, 224) to make a big impact in the Idaho passing game. He did as much in 2015, surprisingly emerging as one of the team's best players by catching 48 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns. Cowan was especially strong in the season's second half, stepping up after the dismissal of Epps by catching 32 passes for 438 yards and two scores in six games. Epps is still gone, so Cowan should be in position to more or less repeat his 2015 season.

11. Ryan Yurachek, Marshall, SR

The Marshall tight end position has been a steady source of touchdowns over the years, most notably during the reign of the great Gator Hoskins, and Yurachek reaped the benefits of the job in 2015, his first year as starter. Yurachek (6-3, 233) finished 2015 with 44 receptions for 417 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games, impressive both because it was his first starting season and because the Marshall passing game struggled for much of last year. With quarterback Chase Litton improving, Yurachek could make a real push for double-digit touchdowns.

12. Cam Serigne, Wake Forest, JR

Serigne is probably a better player than his stats imply, and his stats are already quite good. Standing out despite playing for a team with a miserable passing game, Serigne already owns 100 career receptions for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns as he heads into his true junior season. Wake Forest is unlikely to prove explosive on offense this year or any time in particular, but Serigne has already proven he can produce in the worst conditions, so it's reasonable to posit he can only get better. If John Wolford or Kendall Hinton can step up at QB a better Serigne could well be in store.

13. Keith Rucker, Georgia State, SR

If QB Nick Arbuckle hadn't graduated, Rucker would be ranked significantly higher than this. Rucker finished his junior season with 39 receptions for 522 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games, and an even greater share of the team's passing production could be up for grabs with wideout Donovan Harden graduating following a 725-yard, five-touchdown 2015. The uncertainty at quarterback casts uncertainty over the entirety of Georgia State's offense, however, so Rucker might be a bit of a boom-or-bust consideration. His upside likely exceeds that of most in this range.

14. Dalton Schultz, Stanford, JR

Schultz is technically a redshirt sophomore, and he'll likely step into the lead tight end role at Stanford now that Austin Hooper is off to the NFL. Listed at 6-6, 240, Schultz is one of the top recent tight end recruits and is potentially both bigger and more athletic than Hooper, making Schultz an interesting fit in a TE-centric offense that lost two of its top pass catchers from a year ago in Hooper and Devon Cajuste, a duo that combined for 61 receptions for 821 yards and nine touchdowns last year while Schultz caught 10 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown as a backup.

15. Jake Butt, Michigan, SR
16. Jordan Leggett, Clemson, SR
17. Billy Freeman, San Jose State, SR
18. Evan Engram, Mississippi, SR
19. Brandon Lingen, Minnesota, JR
20. Alize Jones, Notre Dame, SO
21. Daniel Montiel, Memphis, SR
22. Jake Roh, Boise State, JR
23. OJ Howard, Alabama, SR
24. Kody Kohl, Arizona State, SR
25. Harrison Handley, Utah, SO
26. Ryan Fritts, North Carolina, SO
27. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin, JR
28. Josiah Price, Michigan State, SR
29. Cole Hikutini, Louisville, SR
30. Jeremiah Gaines, SMU, SR

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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