2014 Fantasy Football – It’s All About Value: Tight Ends

By Kenny Ortiz
Follow Kenny @kennethortiz

Kenny has been a fantasy football enthusiast since 1996 and has developed a strong track record of finding quality value picks throughout the draft. Last year, he participated in 12 fantasy leagues and made it to the championship game in six of those leagues and claiming three fantasy championships. Kenny has especially established himself as a guru of auction leagues and keeper leagues. As for his “day job” Kenny is a motivational speaker, web designer, real estate landlord, free-lance writer and the host of this website.

Also, be sure to check out WalterFootball.com’s 2014 Fantasy Football articles, including sleepers, busts, tons of 2014 Fantasy Football mock drafts and other material. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

Published August 26, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football - It's All About Value:
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defenses | Kickers

The most important key to know about the tight end position is simply to realize that in most league formats, the difference in fantasy scoring between the No. 3 tight end and the No. 16 tight end is incredibly nominal! And this is not a new trend … this has been the case since the late 1990s.

Every year there are typically one to three tight ends who are dominant and the all the rest are all about the same.

So what does this mean? This means you either need to draft one of the top guys early, OR you need to wait until VERY late in the draft and take whatever decent tight end is “leftover.”

Now, if you decide to draft a tight end early, there is an important correlation to remember between the quarterback position and the tight end position. As I stated earlier in this series, in most fantasy formats, if you draft both a quarterback and a tight end in the first three rounds, it will be VERY hard for you to field a viable starting lineup most weeks this season. That is simply because you will be severely behind the 8-ball at the running back and wide receiver positions. If you draft a quarterback in the first three rounds, you ought to plan to wait to draft a tight end until Round 10, or even later (which we will cover in this section).

And if you draft a tight end in the first three rounds, you ought to wait until the sixth round or later to grab your starting quarterback (which means you should be targeting Foles, Romo, Newton or Cutler).

Getting a dominant tight end can make a huge impact on your team, but if you don’t get a top tight end, you can easily do without it and simply wait really late in the draft to get a tight end.

And, if you overpay for a top tight end, then you will potentially be missing out on elite talent at other positions. If you overpay for a second-tier tight end, then you will definitely miss out on talent at running back and wide receivers, and that could kill your draft.

Here are the top-18 tight ends for the 2014 season (with my projected points for each player, using a standard performance non-PPR scoring system):

Name Points My Value ADP Jimmy Graham 183 Late First Round 1.06 Rob Gronkowski 160 Early Second Round 3.05 Julius Thomas 133 Fourth Round 3.02 Jordan Cameron 120 Fifth Round 4.08 Greg Olsen 105 Seventh Round 7.03 Jason Witten 103 Seventh Round 6.01 Vernon Davis 98 Eighth Round 5.04 Zach Ertz 95 Eighth Round 10.08 Jordan Reed 95 Eighth Round 7.12 Delanie Walker 95 Eighth Round 17.06 Kyle Rudolph 91 Ninth Round 8.06 Dennis Pitta 91 Ninth Round 8.04 Martellus Bennett 85 Ninth Round 8.09 Tyler Eifert 83 Ninth Round 12.12 Dwayne Allen 82 10th Round 15.04 Antonio Gates 82 10th Round 14.01 Ladarius Green 77 10th Round 14.02 Charles Clay 77 10th Round 9.02 Donnie Avery Undrafted 16th round

There are some very interesting things we notice when we evaluate this table.

First, notice the difference between the best tight end, Jimmy Graham, and the sixth-best tight end, Jason Witten: 80 fantasy points. Then notice the difference between the fifth-best tight end, Greg Olsen, and the 18th-best tight end, Charles Clay: only 28 fantasy points. The gap is QUITE REMARKABLE!

There is a dramatic difference between the upper-echelon tight ends and the rest of the tight ends.

Second, notice that the fifth-best tight end, Greg Olsen, is only 14 points ahead of the 12th-best tight end, Dennis Pitta. Over the course of your fantasy season, that’s less than one point per game. Drafting at tight end in the sixth or seventh round yields you virtually the same results of drafting one in the 10th round. Again, the learning lesson here is obvious: Either draft a top guy or wait until very late!

There is no logical reason to draft one of these middle of the road tight ends.

My Preferred Plan for 2014:

– Jimmy Graham at bottom of first round or top of second round
– Rob Gronkowski at bottom of second round or top of third round
– Greg Olsen in the seventh round or later
– Zach Ertz in the ninth round or later
– Delanie Walker in the 14th round or later
– Dwayne Allen in the 15th round or later

These are the options I would recommend, unless extreme value presents itself at some point in your draft.

As you evaluate these tight ends, you will clearly see that Jimmy Graham is the best, and he definitely deserves to be drafted in the first round.

Honestly, there are only nine players I’d take ahead of Graham; five running backs (Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy) and four wide receivers (Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green), but that’s about it. But if I am drafting late in the first round, and those nine players are gone, then I would probably take Graham at the bottom of the first round.

Now, Graham is not a great value at all, but if you’re drafting late in the first round, you’ll be behind in the talent pool for running back and wide receives, so getting Graham gives you a great advantage over the competition. But, chances are someone in your league will take Graham in the middle of the first, which means greater running back and wide receiver talent will fall to you.

As I look at the table, a there are a few guys who stand out.

Rob Gronkowski is being underrated. In just about every league format, he is worthy of a second-round pick (especially PPR leagues) and in touchdown-only or touchdown-heavy leagues, Gronkowski is a borderline first-round value. But in many leagues, he’s being taken in the third round. Now, if you’re in a league with experts or savvy owners, then Gronkowski will probably be drafted in the second round, but it’s possible he slips. If you can draft him in Round 3, you will have a HUGE advantage over your competition.

Greg Olsen is also being slightly undervalued. He is a decent tight end option. His basement is seventh-round value, and that’s where he’s being drafted, but he is a high-ceiling guy. Olsen could potentially give you numbers worthy of a fourth-round pick. Drafting him in the seventh round isn’t a bad plan (it’s not what I would do, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did this).

Now, as you evaluate the table, you’ll also see that I have listed 12 players who are all worthy of being drafted in the eighth or ninth or 10th rounds of your draft … and all these guys are about the same to me. Having the seventh-best tight end is just about the same as having the 16th-best tight end … so, why the heck would you ever spend an earlier draft pick? With that said, of those lower-tier tight ends, there are three to look for: Zach Ertz, Delanie Walker and Dwayne Allen.

Zach Ertz is a nice value pick and has decent upside, too. I don’t think he’s going to jump into the upper echelon of tight ends just yet, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility either. The Philadelphia offense is going to afford Ertz the chance to produce numbers. He’s a safe pick and has a lot more upside than most of the guys being drafted in the same range. I think Ertz will easily give you eigth-round value (and maybe more), but he’s currently being drafted in the ninth and 10th rounds of most fantasy drafts.

Delanie Walker is a nice sleeper pick. He will be the starter in an offense that will focus a lot on the intermediate routes. And their schedule gets easier down the stretch, especially during the weeks of most leagues’ fantasy playoffs. He is not a high-upside guy like Ertz. There is almost 0% chance that Walker could ever join the top tier of tight ends, but he will definitely be a top-10 tight end by the end of the season. He’s worth being drafted in the eighth round … But, you know what makes him great?? His ADP is in the 17th round!!! Seriously, being able to draft a guy with eighth-round value as late as the 17th round is insane. It is like STEALING!!! I recommend taking him in the 14th round just to make sure you get him, just in case someone else in your league is thinking the same thing.

Dwayne Allen looks to be fully recovered from last season’s injury, and he is the best tight end on the Colts, not Coby Fleener. Allen is better than Fleener in just about every area that you can compare tight ends. Allen is not a super talent, and the Colts offense will not be predicated on the tight end position, but as Andrew Luck progresses, the entire team will be better. Allen is not likely to be a top-10 tight end in most leagues, but as we’ve already established, having the No. 15 is almost as good as having the No. 7. Allen is a safe, sure-handed type of tight end, with limited upside, but drafting him in the 15th round isn’t a bad plan.

If I miss out on the top-two tight ends (Graham and Gronkowski), then I’m going to wait very late and draft two of these lower-tier guys: Ertz, Walker and Allen … and my team will still be a championship contender if I draft well elsewhere.

Now, on the flip side, we have several tight ends being overrated and drafted too high.

Jordan Cameron is a very good NFL player, but his fantasy numbers will take a slight step backward because I see the Browns’ offense taking a step backward without Josh Gordon to open things up, plus the team is facing a potential season-long quarterback battle all season. Typically, a young unstable quarterback relies on his tight end more, but I see Manziel just relying on his feet more rather than checking-down to his tight end, so that could hurt Cameron’s numbers. (Side Note: There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Johnny “Football” will indeed be the starter at some point in Cleveland in 2014.)

In the case of Julius Thomas, I see a very productive NFL player who will be very important to his team, but he will have his fantasy numbers take a dip in 2014. The Broncos will be a little more balanced this season. Thomas will be a very productive in 2013, but he’d have to match last year’s season totals to be worthy of a third-round pick this year, and I just can’t see him matching those numbers.

Vernon Davis is being grossly overrated. It’s actually shocking that he’s getting so much respect in drafts. His ADP is early fifth round, but you can easily draft players with similar production (and more upside) in the later rounds.

Jason Witten, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph and Dennis Pitta are all decent players, but all are being overvalued; each guy is being taken one FULL round earlier than he really should be drafted. If I was forced to pick one of these guys, then I’d take Reed simply because there is some upside with him, but it’s nominal.

2014 Fantasy Football - It's All About Value:
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Defenses | Kickers

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