News & Analysis

The fantasy tight end landscape heading into free agency

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown pass during the NFL International Series game against the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium on October 30, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

We’ve set the pre-free agency table for running backs, wideouts, and quarterbacks, and now we’re on to the final fantasy-relevant position: Tight ends.

Like the quarterback position, there aren’t too many big-named tight ends that move each year. This year, however, we do have a handful of noteworthy free agents at the position, starting with Jimmy Graham, Cameron Brate, and Tyler Eifert.

Here are the potential fantasy implications based on landing spot.

High impact potential

A free agent tight end has high potential to become a viable fantasy player in 2018 if they sign here via free agency.

Green Bay PackersSigning Martellus Bennett didn’t pan out for the Pack in 2017, so they may not go back to the well in 2018, but tight end remains a position of need, and anytime a skilled pass-catcher gets paired with Aaron Rodgers, the potential for fantasy fireworks are high.

Houston TexansThe return of Deshaun Watson makes everything about the Texans offense high potential. This is a position of need in a young, explosive offense; Houston tight ends combined for just two touchdowns last season.

Los Angeles RamsThe Rams paced the league in scoring despite having no tight end gain more than 300 receiving yards. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee didn’t break out with the rest of Los Angeles’ offense in 2017, which is a red flag for their breakout potential down the road. A playmaker at tight end would be fantasy relevant from Day 1 with the Rams, especially with a pass-catching void left by Sammy Watkins.

New Orleans SaintsThere have been whispers of a Jimmy Graham reunion with Drew Brees and the Saints, which is obviously a “high impact potential” possibility. The Saints were essentially tight end-less in 2017, with no player at the position seeing more than 30 targets this season. The return of Graham would be great for fantasy purposes, though. He had 85-plus receptions every year from 2011-2014 with the Saints to go along with 9-plus scores in all four season and 1,200-plus yards in two of those years.

San Francisco 49ersIt’s amazing what a good quarterback can do. The 49ers need a pass-catcher, and whether or not that comes in the form of a receiver, a tight end, or a pass-catching back remains to be seen. But even though we only saw a few games of Jimmy Garoppolo under center, it’s seems clear that a talented tight end could flourish with San Francisco.

Seattle SeahawksThe Seahawks are expected to lose Graham to free agency, which leaves a big gap in their offense — particularly down near the red zone. Graham scooped up 10 touchdowns last year. Not any tight end could come into Seattle and succeed, but if the right player joins the squad (someone with a nose for the end zone), then the fantasy potential is high.

Medium impact potential

A free agent tight end has mild potential to become a viable fantasy player in 2018 if they sign here via free agency.

Baltimore RavensThe Ravens are primed to lose Benjamin Watson this year, and they don’t really have a viable backup plan in place. The Ravens’ offense doesn’t flow through the tight end, however, and only Dennis Pitta had a couple of noteworthy season in the Joe Flacco era, so it’s hard to call the fantasy potential here anything more than mild.

Chicago BearsWith Zach Miller gone, the Bears are without a lead tight end. The Bears are a “medium impact potential” landing spot by default.

Cincinnati BengalsTyler Kroft has filled in well for Tyler Eifert in the past — he scored a respectable seven touchdowns in 2017 — but there is still the possibility the Bengals bring in a replacement via free agency. Given this offense’s penchant for producing tight end touchdowns, there’s certainly some interest here from a fantasy perspective.

Denver BroncosLike the Bears, the Broncos are a “medium impact potential” landing spot purely by default. If a good enough tight end joins the team, the path to playing time isn’t too rough in Denver.

Jacksonville JaguarsTight end is a position of need for the rising Jaguars. Marcedes Lewis isn’t the answer, and the Jaguars only threw 21 targets to backup tight end James O’Shaughnessy all year. A new Jacksonville tight end would be unlikely to rack up the yards, but it’s easy to envision them feasting in the red zone off of Leonard Fournette play action passes.

Miami DolphinsAfter posting a pedestrian 41-388-3 line in 2017, it’s abundantly clear that Julius Thomas isn’t cutting it for the Dolphins. In fact, the Dolphins may be cutting him. A newcomer could become the starter by default, which obviously carries some inherent fantasy value.

New York JetsAustin Seferian-Jenkins is set to hit free agency, and we did see him produce as a TE1 in fantasy for a short period of time in 2017. New York’s quarterback situation is unclear, which certainly dampens the potential outlook here, but a new tight end should immediately become the starter. Behind ASJ, no Jets tight end saw more than 12 targets last year.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersThe Buccaneers could lose Cameron Brate to free agency, but they proved in 2017 that they are capable of carrying two fantasy-relevant tight ends at the same time. Brate (591) and O.J. Howard (432) gained over 1,000 combined yards last year, and they both scored six touchdowns. Brate is a restricted free agent, so his departure isn’t certain. Will Howard simply take over, or will the Buccaneers continue to roll with a two-TE attack? The former seems more likely, but if a tight end does sign with Tampa Bay, it’s not necessarily a lost cause for fantasy.

Low impact potential

A free agent tight end is unlikely to become a viable fantasy player in 2018 if they sign here via free agency.

Every other team in the league — The other 18 teams in the league either have a veteran tight end that isn’t going anywhere, or they have a young tight end who will likely see some more playing time in 2018.

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