Evan Silva

Best Ball Strategy

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Updated Best-Ball TE Tiers

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Tier One

Rob Gronkowski (TE1) > Travis Kelce (TE2) > Zach Ertz (TE3)

Summary: As tight end is a “onesie” position in most leagues – like at quarterback, you’re only required to start one each week – box-score expectations must be especially elevated for tight ends to be worth early-round fantasy picks. (We should be selecting at least two, and ideally three in best-ball drafts.) There are only three tight ends in the league that meet that tier-one criteria. Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011, yet he’s finished as a top-two tight end in five of the past seven years. Kelce has topped 80 catches in back-to-back seasons. The Chiefs’ quarterback change to Pat Mahomes increases Kelce’s volatility, but he maintains an overall TE1 ceiling on a Kansas City team that looks explosive on offense but has backslid precipitously on defense. Ertz hovered in the 74-78 catch range with 816-853 yards in each of the past three years. He took a big 2017 step via touchdowns (8) after never topping four TDs in a previous season, so it’s fair to wonder if Ertz scored a bit above his head. I went back and forth on Ertz as a true first-tier tight end. Although he lacks the ceiling of Gronkowski and Kelce, Ertz’s floor is ultimately high enough that I think he belongs.

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Tier Two

Greg Olsen (TE4) > Jimmy Graham (TE5) > Hunter Henry (TE6) > Evan Engram (TE7) > Delanie Walker (TE8) > Kyle Rudolph (TE9)

Summary: This is the tier I’ve targeted most in early best-ball drafts, ideally emerging with two members of this group. Olsen is 33 and was up and down after returning from a Jones fracture in his foot last year, but he is set up for heavy volume in a weak Carolina pass-catcher corps. Graham showed signs of decline in Seattle by averaging 24.0 yards over the final eight games, and he turns 32 late this season. Still, joining an Aaron Rodgers-quarterbacked offense gives Graham immense touchdown upside. The Chargers finally moved on from Antonio Gates, positioning Henry for a breakout season. Engram won’t see 115 targets again with Odell Beckham back, but he should be more efficient after managing a lowly 55.7% catch rate as a rookie. Walker has been a model of consistency, topping 800 yards in four straight years. I expect the Titans’ offense to take a step forward. Adam Thielen’s 2017 emergence contributed to Rudolph seeing 51 fewer targets than the year before, but Rudolph has been a reliable touchdown scorer, and Kirk Cousins should upgrade Minnesota’s passing game as a whole.

Tier Three

Jordan Reed (TE10) > Jack Doyle (TE11) > Tyler Eifert (TE12) > Trey Burton (TE13) > O.J. Howard (TE14) > > Cameron Brate (TE15) > George Kittle (TE16) > Charles Clay (TE17)


Summary: These are riskier or lower-ceiling tight ends with health or target concerns. Reed has missed 35% of his career games and could conceivably retire at a moment’s notice considering his concussion history. Albeit for good reason, Reed’s draft cost has fallen into the double-digit rounds. Same goes for Eifert, who missed a frightening 63% of the Bengals’ games in the past four years. Now medically cleared, Eifert re-signed with Cincinnati on a one-year, prove-it deal. Eric Ebron’s addition is a concern for Doyle’s targets. Signed for $8 million per year by the Bears, Burton offers breakout appeal as a catch-first slot tight end in Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich’s spread-style attack. Howard scored six TDs as a rookie and looked ready to explode down the stretch before an ankle injury cut his season short. The Bucs re-signed Brate to a six-year, $41 million contract, so Howard and Brate figure to cap each other’s ceilings. Kittle flashed as a rookie and is a sophomore breakout candidate with Jimmy Garoppolo. Clay’s upside is limited in an anemic offense, but he will push to lead Buffalo in targets.

Tier Four

Jared Cook (TE18) > Austin Hooper (TE19) > Vance McDonald (TE20) > Ricky Seals-Jones (TE21) > Eric Ebron (TE22) > David Njoku (TE23) > Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE24) > Mike Gesicki (TE25)

Summary: These tight ends are capable of flirting with low-end TE1 value but are best approached as TE2s. Seam-stretcher Cooks set a career high with 54 receptions in his first year as a Raider, but he has never scored touchdowns and has steep target competition in Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and Martavis Bryant. Hooper’s third-year breakout candidacy was damaged by the Falcons’ first-round addition of Calvin Ridley. McDonald battled a knee injury in his first season with the Steelers, but he was the team’s primary receiving tight end over Jesse James when healthy and led Pittsburgh with a whopping 16 targets in January’s playoff loss. Converted WR Seals-Jones flashed big-play chops as an undrafted rookie and will play an expanded role in Arizona’s thin pass-catcher corps. Ebron’s usage is as unclear as his new quarterback’s health. Frustratingly underutilized by Hue Jackson as a rookie, Njoku enters year two vying for targets behind Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon in what should be a run-first, Tyrod Taylor-quarterbacked offense. Seferian-Jenkins joined a crowded pass-catcher corps on the run-heavy Jags. Rookie tight ends usually struggle, but Gesicki is a freak athlete with immediate opportunity.

Tier Five

Ben Watson (TE26) > Adam Shaheen (TE27) > Hayden Hurst (TE28) > Vernon Davis (TE29) > Luke Willson (TE30) > Michael Roberts (TE31) > Gerald Everett (TE32) > Ed Dickson (TE33) > Tyler Higbee (TE34) > Tyler Kroft (TE35) > Niles Paul (TE36) > Stephen Anderson (TE37) > Jesse James (TE38) > Jonnu Smith (TE39) > Clive Walford (TE40) > Nick Vannett (TE41) > Rico Gathers (TE42)

Summary: The rest of the tight ends worth monitoring and/or considering as TE3s in the final round of best-ball drafts.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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