Tired of being a fifth place fantasy football sheep that follows the ESPN and Yahoo rankings herd? Looking for the most accurate and in-depth rankings out there? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve already brought you the best running backs, wide receiver, and quarterback rankings in the business. Today, we turn our attention to the 2017 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings and Stock Scores.
Note – if you don’t know what “Stock Score” means, pause and immediately go here. Understanding our Fantasy Stock Formula is absolutely crucial.
While most leagues only require one starting tight end, the increasing popularity of the flex makes two tight ends a potential strategy. Though this is not an option I typically roll with, as wide receiver or running back usage is more often easier to project, bye week crunches can certainly hit hard. As we’ll explore in-depth following the rankings in our Landscape Preview, the 2017 tight end crop comes with many viable options, at least as streamers. As such, we’ve gone 27 deep below.
Just how high are we on Hunter Henry? Where does RSJ Favorite Jack “The Beanstalk” Doyle slide in? Is there any real logic to Julius Thomas, Jared Cook, and Jesse James (gasp!) being ranked way ahead of longtime stalwarts Antonio Gates and Jason Witten? Find out this and much more below! And be sure to sound off in the comments with any major agreements or especially disagreements.
2017 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings & Stock Scores
|Rank (ECR / ADP)||Name (Team)||Talent||Usage / Opportunity||Coaching Scheme||Surrounding Talent||Risk||Stock Score + Grade (/50)|
|Tier 1 - The Elite (A) - Second Round|
|1 (1)||Rob Gronkowski (NE)||10||10||10||10||7.5||47.5, A|
|Summary: Even as more and more freakish athletes join the position, Gronk remains in a clear tier above the pack and will likely go down as the greatest to ever play the game. Being attached to the GOAT quarterback certainly doesn't hurt, and, if anything, Brandin Cooks' addition should only help command some attention as well as get the team in the red area even more frequently, where Gronk is the single greatest receiving threat in the NFL. Gronk was off to GOAT things once he and Brady were back together, scoring 13.4, 25.5, 17.3, and 19.4 FPs (.5 PPR) in their four full contests together. The cheat code is very real, it's just a matter of health. Staying on the field will always be a risk, but he's been fully cleared from his back surgery as of now and is running around without restrictions. Do not hesitate to draft him early in Round 2.|
|Tier 1.5 - Weekly Edges (A-) - Third to Fourth Round|
|2 (2 / 2)||Travis Kelce (KC)||9.5||9||9||9||9||45.5, A-|
|Summary: Though, as a human, I despise Kelce with every fiber of my being, it’s time to shed personal biases. This tool flat out balled in 2016, finishing as fantasy’s clear TE1 after topping 1,110 yards and scoring double digit 1/2 PPR points in nine of 16 weeks — by far the most consistent output at the position. Even more impressive, Kelce accomplished these numbers despite scoring only four times; you’d have to imagine, with his 6’5″, 260 LB frame that these stand for an uptick -- Chiefs Insider Chris Clark agreed on our Podcast, suggesting Kelce hasn't come close to matching his red zone ceiling. And, unlike those above him, Kelce has been an iron man throughout his NFL career, not yet missing a start in the past three seasons. He’s surpassed Greg Olsen as the ideal floor target, and Kelce could vault into Gronk territory with even a modest bump in TDs. If you hate the injury risk Gronk and Reed bring, especially at their price, wait a round and pluck Kelce.|
|Tier 2 - Locked in TE1s (B to B-) Fifth through Early Sixth Round|
|3 (4 / 3)||Jordan Reed (WAS)||9.5||10||10||10||4||43.5, B+|
|8/8 Stock Down Update: Not one practice in and we're already dealing with our first Reed Headache of 2017, this time a sore big toe. PUKE! This is the type of risk you obviously have to stomach for the week-winning upside of Reed, but stomaching it so early is tough. Reed's too talented, too involved offensively, and has too strong a rapport to let him fall further than 3. But you'll need an early back up plan (hello, Hunter Henry and Jack Doyle).
Summary: If anyone could come close to Gronk's weekly ceiling, it's Jordan Reed. When asked how targets will be redistributed after losing Pierre Garcn and DeSean Jackson, Jay Gruden replied "the offense runs through Jordan Reed." Washington Insider Grant Paulsen similarly agreed on our podcast (video clip linked here). Reed also was the only tight end to top 20 FPs (.5 PPR) more than once last season, accomplishing this feat three times. He's a monster in the red zone and down the seams, and should absolutely thrive as Kirk Cousins go-to guy... as long as he holds up. Just like Gronk, that's the only thing standing between Reed and a cheat code type of ceiling.
|4 (3 / 4)||Greg Olsen (CAR)||9||8.5||8||8||9||42.5, B|
|Summary: The poster boy for high floor tight ends, Olsen topped 1,000 yards and finished among fantasy’s top five seam-stretchers for the third straight season. Even with Kelvin Benjamin returning, Olsen remained Cam Newton’s primary target; however, the big bodied wideout did steal some red zone love from “Third Leg G-Reg,” as He-Man’s TDs dipped to only three in 2016. Should Cam rebound as he’s capable, Olsen could see his scores double or even triple. Even at 32, Olsen should, at worst, yield 1,000 yards and a top-five TE finish; this type of consistency amidst such a wildly undependable field makes him a highly valuable fourth or fifth round investment.|
|5 (5 / 5)||Jimmy Graham (SEA)||9||8||8||8.5||7.5||41, B-|
|Summary: Graham’s 2016 bounce back from a torn patella was nothing short of remarkable, given this injury almost always ends careers. Yet, by midseason, Graham was leaping over defensive backs and flashing the most athleticism we’ve seen since his 2013 Saints’ days, ultimately piling up 923 yards and 6 TDs to a TE4 fantasy finish. Even scarier, given his complete focus on rehab, Graham had no offseason time to build a rapport with Russel Wilson; the two also reportedly had minimal practice time together as well, with Graham rarely suiting up until game day. Graham believes entering 2017 at full health and having time to work with his quarterback will yield one of his best season’s yet. Though a full-blown return to his “challenge Gronk” days remains unlikely, stronger health and a stronger rapport should allow Graham to build upon his wildly successful 2016. Over 1,000 yards and 7-8 TDs is well within his reach.|
|6 (6 / 8)||Tyler Eifert (CIN)||9.5||8||8||8.5||6.5||40.5, B-|
|Summary: In the mold of Gronk and Reed, Eifert is extremely injury prone, but brings week-winning upside whenever he plays. At 6’6″, 250 lbs, Eifert is a genuine red zone monster — he’s hauled in 18 TDs over his past 21 games, and Andy Dalton loves letting the big man go up and make plays in the end zone. Yet, Eifert’s injury floor is just as real, if not more so, than Gronk and Reed; additionally, he’s been a bit more TD-or-bust, and does not offer the weekly yardage floors of those other options. Positively, Eifert’s two highest 2016 yardage outputs (9 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD and 5 catches, 96 yards) came in his only two full games with AJ Green, suggesting a sneaky yards ceiling does indeed exist when defensive attention is elsewhere. But, to realize this, Eifert will need to stay on the field, which has proven impossible for the young tight end thus far.|
|Tier 3 - Remaining TE1 options - Seventh through Ninth Round Options|
|7 (12 / 11)||Hunter Henry (LAC)||9||7.5||7.5||8||7.5||39.5, C+|
|Summary: Hunter will undoubtedly be one of 2017’s most popular breakout tight end candidate, and, ranking him up at seven, I’m clearly buying. From a talent standpoint, I loved Hunter’s early NFL tape — his size / speed combination jumped off the page as he burst past linebackers and safeties alike, and his leaping abilities were equally impressive, hence the high 9 score. Henry has the complete skill set to both shred seams and dominate red zones, and, as evidenced by Antonio Gates’ Hall of Fame career, Phillip Rivers absolutely thrives with this mold. Of course, Henry's usage score remains depressed as Gates has announced he plans to return for a 15th season, which might slightly stall Henry’s truest breakout; nonetheless, the team reportedly informed Gates “Henry will be the featured tight end.” Others might point to new head coach Anthony Lynn and his run-centric game plans as a detriment, but this may actually help Henry thrive: a strong run game will keep safeties low, and the play action, chunk play upside will be immense. Over 900 yards and 7-8 TDs isn’t impossible.|
|8 (9 / 9)||Martellus Bennett (GB)||8||7||8.5||8.5||7.5||39.5, C+|
|Summary: Generally, leaving the Patriots and Tom Brady‘s side is an automatic "Surrounding Talent" downgrade, especially for tight ends. Aaron Rodgers, however, might be the lone exception, especially considering the gaping hole the Packers had at tight end. Bennett doesn't achieve a 10 with so many other mouths to feed, but QB accuracy won't be the issue here. Additionally, tight end usage has been quite inconsistent in Mike McCarthy’s offenses, but he’s also never had a weapon like The Black Unicorn at his disposal (all you Jermichael Finley garglers, quiet down). As evidenced by the less-talented Jared Cook’s postseason run of 18 catches, 229 yards, and 2 TDs in a three games, Rodgers and McCarthy aren’t afraid to stretch seams when provided the talent. Consider Bennett the best they’ve had yet. Rodgers himself is excited for the mismatches Bennett can bring, noting how the team can create deception thanks to Bennett's run blocking prowess, before breaking into the "vertical passing game." |
Surrounded by so many weapons and with a quarterback that’ll spread the wealth based on matchups, Bennett will have his disappearing acts. Still, his tremendous blocking ability will keep him active on all three downs, and really open up play action potential this offense hasn’t yet seen. Double-digit TDs are well-within reach, and Bennett has the set up for a career year. The lone concern is the team signed the athletic, but oft under-utilized Lance Kendricks, who’s a sneaky threat to eat into Bennett’s load.
|9 (8 / 6)||Delanie Walker (TEN)||8||7.5||8||8||7.5||39, C+|
|Summary: After a 2015 in which he lead all tight ends in targets (133) and receptions (94), Walker followed up with a second top-five fantasy campaign in 2016. His yardage (800) and catches (65) inevitably dropped, but Walker remained a weekly force, scoring 9.8 FPs (1/2 PPR) or higher in 50% of his contests while upping his TDs to seven.|
Unfortunately, Walker finished slowly, especially amidst Rishard Matthews emergence, with Walker topping double digit FPs just once in his final six weeks. He now has to contend with red zone maven Eric Decker for TDs, and the extremely explosive Corey Davis down the seams, which can't help. Plus, At age 33 and after taking a beating throughout his career, this indeed could be the final hurrah. Still, Walker has a strong play action game, his own freakish athleticism, and a strong rapport working in his favor for 2017. Just be wary of a breakdown at any point.
|10 (13 / 14)||Jack Doyle (IND)||7||7.5||9||8||7.5||39, C+|
|Summary: Cover up, league. After Dwayne Allen was traded away to the Patriots, Jack has sole possession of the TE1 role here and is finally set to drape his massive beanstalk all over the league in 2017. In all seriousness, there’s some upside for a huge TE1 season here. Jack’s best career game came, unsurprisingly, with Allen removed from the lineup, as the “Beanstalk” doyled the Titans for 9 catches, 78 yards, and a TD. Though that reception and yardage output will remain the exception and not the norm, Doyle’s TD upside is still mammoth. Andrew Luck historically LOVES his tight ends in the red zone, and, in his past two healthy season, Luck has tossed 18 and 12 combined TDs to his seam-stretchers. Hauling in 10 by himself is realistic for the new featured tight end.|
Additionally, Colts’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has long been regarded as a tight end whisperer. Under Chud’s tutelage, future hall-of-famer Antonio Gates put together some of his most magical campaigns, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen became yardage monsters, while the useless pile of dog mess named Jordan Cameron even posted 80 catches, 917 yards, 7 TDs. If god-damn Jordan Cameron can be a top-five TE, you better believe the Beanstalk has this ceiling. In short, you can’t find a better late round TE target, and anyone who has Doyle outside their top-10 TEs should never be trusted.
|11 (7 / 7)||Kyle Rudolph (MIN)||8||8.5||7||7.5||8||39, C+|
|Summary: 2016’s #2 or #3 TE (depending on your scoring format), Rudolph’s 83 catches, 840 yards, and 7 TDs were shocking. He scored double digit FPs in over 50% of weeks thanks to a position-leading 132 targets and also a result of running by far the most routes of his career -- He ran routes on 58 percent of his snaps and was targeted on a career-high 23.7 percent of his routes, as quarterback Sam Bradford sought him out to continue drives. Fifty of Rudolph’s 83 catches went for first downs, accounting for nearly a quarter of the Vikings’ 210 first downs through the air.|
Rudolph believes this was just a launching point for his career, stating: “This season was more along the lines of what I expect for myself, and what I expect moving forward, to kind of be a springboard and a baseline for the rest of my career.” Though the team added both Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, the line is rough, and Rudolph might not be far off. Pop-gun arm Sam Bradford clearly loves the short-to-intermediate & middle-of-the-field game, which plays right into Rudolph’s route tree. If you’re seeking a high floor, Rudolph’s is arguably higher than anyone in this tier; however, 2016 feels like his absolute ceiling, and anyone else in this tier feels capable of topping.
|Tier 4 - Last Possible Starters, Upside Bench Stashes - Double Digit Rounds|
|12 (10 / 10)||Zach Ertz (PHI)||8.5||6.5||7||7||7||36, C-|
|Summary: Zach Ertz was, well, Zach Ertz in 2016, getting off to a putrid start (scoring single digit FPs in all but one week leading into Week 11)... before finishing on a torrid, blazing pace (double digit FPs in 5 of last 7, including a 30+ FP effort in Week 17). So, we should all just swoon thanks to recency bias and want him all over again, right?
Not so fast. The team added both Alshon Jeffery AND Torrey Smith, which seriously dents Ertz's 2017 target outlook. Perhaps he'll see even more RZ usage with the offense more explosive as a whole, but another year of inconsistency and unpredictability almost seems guaranteed now.
|13 (11 / 13)||Eric Ebron (DET)||8||7||7||8||6||36, C-|
|Summary: Ebron began approaching dependable, "every week" status before getting hurt in Week 10. From here, he was held under 5 FPs for four straight weeks, and ultimately scored double digit .5 PPR FPs five times. These little dings and missed time are nothing new, and continue keeping Ebron from reaching his admittedly high ceiling -- the guy is one of a select group of 6'4", 253 lb mammoths that can seriously move. Additionally, HC Jim Caldwell said Ebron "just keeps gtting better... if he improves at the same rate, it's going to be a pretty outstanding season for him." Plus, the team added two blocking tight ends, which will allow Ebron to be used solely in the passing game and not punish his body as much, potentially making his health easier to maintain. With Anquan Boldin and his 22 red zone targets gone, Ebron has all the right ingredients for a breakout, but he'll need to stay happy and capitalize on his massive frame at the stripe first.|
|14 (17 / 19)||Julius Thomas (MIA)||7.5||7.5||9||6||5||35, C-|
|Summary: Thomas lands in maye the only place to revive his fantasy value, reuniting with HC Adam Gase in Miami for a late round pick. In 27 games with Gase calling pays, Thomas has 24 TDs. Since arriving, news has broken that the team has designed "multiple plays" specifically for him, QBs have called him a "big part of what we do," and his OC is calling him a "10 touchdown guy." Working against Thomas, however, are his own health (has never made it through a full season), as well as his "Surrounding Talent" (crowded receiving corps with a rough QB delivering the mail). At this stage, however, the scoring upside is well worth it, and Thomas is one of the more undervalued tight end "Penny Stocks."|
|15 (22 / 23 )||Jared Cook (OAK)||7.5||6||7.5||8||6||35, C-|
|Summary: Cook’s 2016 was a microcosm of his entire career: flashes of brilliance, marred by a greater share inconsistency and injury. Yet, when he hit, especially during the playoff stretch run (18 catches, 229 yards, and 2 TDs in a three games, PFF’s second highest tight end grade from Week 14 on), Cook was a monster. He joins a team devoid of any reliable seam-stretcher, and both a quarterback and offensive coordinator who are thrilled to use their new toy. OC Todd Downing told local papers: “He’s got a skill set that’s going to be fun to play with so we’re excited to see what he can do and I know Derek (Carr) is excited to add him. He’s got a history of making plays in this league and it’s something we’re excited to have.”|
Though the competition for targets is fairly fierce, with stalwart receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree commanding the lions share of work, defensive attention will be sparse for Cook. Moreover, this explosive offense keeps the team in the red zone, where Cooks could do some serious 2017 damage. Though he’ll be too inconsistent to rely on as an every-week starter, Cook will be carry a huge weekly ceiling, especially when the match up is right.
|16 ( 21 / 12)||OJ Howard (TB)||8.5||5.5||8.5||7.5||5||35, C-|
|Arguably the top tight end prospect in the past five years lands in an ultra-friendly tight end scheme, which creates an enormous ceiling. Still, early reports suggest he will be firmly behind Brate to begin 2017, with Brate and Winston picking off where they left off chemistry-wise. Still, Howard's a major midseason breakout candidate, and arguably the top TE2 to target with his explosive upside.|
|17 (27 / 24 )||Jesse James (PIT)||6.5||6.5||8||8||6||35, C-|
|With Ladarius Green gone, James has sole tight end duties on lock for a team that projects to be among the most explosive offenses. Plenty of red zone opportunities bode well for this 6'7" monster, who reportedly was "consistently targeted" by Big Ben in the end zone during OTAs, which was "100 percent" by design. Ben has sung his praises since a 10 catch, 131 yard postseason, and James needs to be taken far more seriously in fantasy right now. Heath Miller made a fantastic, top-10 TE living terrorizing seams in Pittsburgh, and James is way more freakishly athletic. Get him on your radar.|
|18 (19 / 18)||Austin Hooper (ATL)||7||7||8||8||5||35, C-|
|Though he's likely to remain fourth or fifth on the target totem pole, Hooper has reportedly caught everyone's attention during OTAs, with Matt Ryan saying the sophomore has improved "exponentially" and will be "a big part of our offensive success this year." Certainly worst ways to burn a last round pick than a huge target in one of the league's most explosive attacks.|
|19 (16 / 17)||Cameron Brate (TB)||7||6||8||8||6||35, C-|
|Summary: After being outscored by only five other tight ends in 2016 FPs, Brate panned out huge as our “Next Gary Barnidge.” As predicted, Brate’s red zone presence was heavily felt, and his eight receiving TDs led all seam-stretchers. At such an unpredictable position with only six truly reliable season-long options, Brate’s waiver wire value was tough to match.|
Still, matching his 2016 stat line (57 catches, 660 yards, and 8 TDs) will be near impossible, especially in the yardage department following DeSean Jackson and OJ Howard's additions. Yet, Brate is reportedly still flashing unparelleled chemistry with Winston, again in the red area, which has beat writers projecting him as the first string starting tight end, at least to open 2017. Thus, Brate will offer weekly TD upside, and generally little else when he doesn't score...which is about all you can ask for at this point in the draft.
|20 (18 / 28)||CJ Fiedorowicz (HOU)||7.5||6||7||7||7||34.5, D+|
|Summary: The hulking Fiedorowicz might be the only player negatively impacted by Brock Osweiler‘s removal, as the 6’5″ seam-stretcher benefited from Osweiler’s unwillingness to toss a ball further than 10 yards downfield. Still, who’s to say Tom Savage doesn’t seriously improve The Fieds stock, but most likely, he’ll return as a “streamer” when the matchup is right...still, upside always exists at this size.|
|Tier 5 - Stash and Sees -|
Last Round Fliers and Watch List Candidates
|21 (15 / 15)||Jason Witten (DAL)|
|Will Witten outscore many of the names above him? Yeah, probably. Is your bench really maximized when you know the upside is 60 catches, roughly 700 yards, and 3-5 scores? No. That does nothing for no one.|
|22 (26 / 22)||Evan Engram (NYG)|
|Engram brings insane athleticism (4.42 forty at 6'3", 234 lbs) that the Giants have sorely lacked at the tight end spot, and is reportedly being lined up everywhere -- the slot, out wide, and even in the backfield. His blocking is atrocious, but that plays into his fantasy favor. Still, the competition for targets is fierce here, and rookie tight ends almost never make a splash. If he flashes early though, scoop him up fast.|
|23 (25 / 26)||Dwayne Allen (NE)|
|8/8 Stock Up Update: The Boston Globe's Ben Volin reported Dwayne Allen has been targeted "a ton" in the red zone, and makes a great fantasy sleeper. Martellus Bennett produced some monster efforts in the same role last season, and while Allen isn't on Bennett's talent level, he's not too too far off. He's a "Handcuff with Benefits" type of player in that he offers Top-10 upside if the man in front of him goes down, while also carrying some standalone appeal. One of my favorite TE2 targets.|
Summary: Your yearly Gronk Handcuff. Allen would be a locked-in TE1 for any fill-in starts he makes, and should be a safe bet for a tough-to-predict 5-6 TDs in 2017.
|24 (30 / 33)||Austin Seferian-Jenkins (NYJ)|
8/8 Stock Up Update: ASJ's dominant OTAs performance has carried over to padded practices, as he's "dominated" Training Camp thus far. Remember, QB Josh McCown made a Top-5 Fantasy TE out of the much lesser talented Gary Barnidge, and Jenkins is world's above in terms of size and talent. Plus, with Quincy Enunwa going down, there's a real chance ASJ paces the team in targets. While burning a pick on a suspended Jet is never recommended, make sure to add ASJ to your Watch LIsts. He could be this year's "Cameron Brate" and emerge as a true TE1 as early as Week 3.
From getting sober, to slimming down, to being labeled "the most impressive player on the field" that "caught everything in sight," this offseason has been kind to Jenkins. He's always flashed monstrous ability when his head is on striaght, and is an absolute monster at 6'5" and 250 pounds. Really, who else do the Jets have to throw to? Jenkins is my pick for 2017's Cameron Brate -- a guy on no one's radar who ultimately is a weekly option by midseason.
|25 (14 / 20)||Coby Fleener (NO)|
|Brandin Cooks is gone. Fleener still sucks. Those Jimmy Graham comparisons are laughable, but any piece of the Saints’ pie needs a mention.|
|26 (20 / 16)||Antonio Gates (LAC)|
|Gates has been a red zone monster his entire career, dipping below 7 TDs just three times in his 14 year career, and only once if on the field for 11 or more games. Still, this is the Hunter Henry show, and while Gates will add his 4-6 TDs, knowing when to use him will be baffling. His only upside is a Henry injury, in which case Gates would be a weekly top-seven option. The team force fed Gates red zone looks to help him break the record for TDs by a tight end, but there'll be no need to do such this year.|
|Tier 5 - Last Mentionable Names|
|27 (24 / 25)||David Njoku (CLE)|
|Here's where I mention Njoku is an athletic freak, but am supposed to forget he's on the Browns with a horror show QB situation, and is playing a position where rookies never succeed. Passing unless I see a reason not to.|
|28 (32 / UR)||Ben Watson (BAL)|
|Summary: It's no secret Baltimore has a whopping 345 targets up for grabs, and everyone is zooming in on which receiver is going to take which share... yet no one talks about Watson. Keep in mind a large portion of those targets were thrown at the tight end, as Dennis Pitta's 121 looks ranking third among seam stretchers in 2016; when seeing 113 targets in 2015 with the SAINTS, Watson hauled in 74 catches, 825 yards, and 6 TDs, good for a top-seven fantsy campaign. Of course, an Achilles tear and his age (36) are working hard against him, so Watson's health is important to watch this training camp. He has returned to practice, but it remains to be seen if he can regain pre-injury form against father time.|
|29 (23 / 30 )||Zach Miller (CHI)|
|Miller was a bonafide TE1 when on the field in 2016, topping double digits in 5 of 10 contests. In fact, his 80 catch, 826 yard, and 7 TD pace would’ve placed Miller well within the top-five scoring tight ends had he managed a full season. Unfortunately, that’s the rub. Miller suffered his second career Lisfransic tear, and is still deep in the lengthy recovery process. Plus, he’s 33 years old, making a clean bill of health even more unlikely. Plus, with Mike Glennon a complete unknown, Miller is shrouded in question marks. He’s still likely to be usable throughout the season when on the field, making him a worthy last-round investment|
|30 (29 / 31 )||Charles|
|Because he's athletic and the Bills don't have a clear No.2 behind Sammy Watkins. Maybe Anquan Boldin. Maybe Charles Clay. Probably doesn't matter.|
Continue to page two for the 2017 Tight End Landscape breakdown.