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What is the fantasy shelf life of the top current tight ends?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 26: Evan Engram #88 of the New York Giants carries the ball in the first half against the New York Jets during a preseason game on August 26, 2017 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Five years ago, the top 10 fantasy tight ends at the end of the year included Tony Gonzalez, Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, and Martellus Bennett, four guys who, at least at the moment, are out of the league.

Of course, topping the list was Jimmy Graham, while Rob Gronkowski’s fantasy points per game would have had him second over 16 games. Vernon Davis, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates are still hanging around, but by and large, tight end—the position we think of as having as much staying power as any but quarterback—saw a near-complete changing of the guard in the last five years.

Will we see the same story in the next five years? How long are the current starting tight ends going to remain such? That’s the question we’ve been answering the last few weeks. I gathered some PFF Fantasy writers (Dan Clasgens, Michael Moore), and I’ll fill the roll of Dan Schneier this time around, and they and I have been attempting to figure out how long the current fantasy starters will remain as such.

The premise: You can keep Player X for as long as you want, but you have to decide on that duration right now.

The cost: You can keep the player indefinitely at the cost of the last starter at the position. So a quarterback will cost you the draft slot of the 10th quarterback off the board, while a wide receiver will cost you the 20th receiver. In short, the question at hand is: How long will Player X be a fantasy starter?

Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers have gotten their turns. Now the tight ends. Who has the longest remaining shelf life? And who will be just another guy by next season?

How long will the top tight ends be fantasy starters?
Number of years
Team Age Clasgens Moore Kelley
Evan Engram NYG 23 4 5 1
Zach Ertz PHI 27 3 5 4
Jimmy Graham GB 31 1 1 0
Rob Gronkowski NE 28 3 5 4
Hunter Henry LAC 23 3 5 6
O.J. Howard TB 23 2 1 0
Travis Kelce KC 28 4 5 5
Greg Olsen CAR 33 1 0 0
Kyle Rudolph MIN 28 3 3 2
Delanie Walker TEN 33 2 1 0

Evan Engram, New York Giants

Age G Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Receiving TDs Fantasy Rank
23 15 108 64 722 6 TE5

4 years: After turning in one of the most productive rookie TE seasons in history, Engram will likely see fewer targets in his sophomore season. However, his talent as a pass-catcher should keep him as a viable fantasy starter for years to come. — Dan Clasgens

5 years: Top-five fantasy tight end in his rookie year? Sign me up. — Michael Moore

1 year: Pessimism will be my theme among tight ends. For Engram, his 2017 production was largely volume-based. His 6.7 yards per target ranked 49th among qualified tight ends. That’s not a killer if the volume keeps up, but with Odell Beckham Jr.’s return to health (assuming he sticks around), Engram needs to prove he can produce on more limited volume. Even one year scares me, but I’ll take that shot. — Daniel Kelley

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