How 2016's tight end results will impact 2017 Fantasy Football drafts


How can I put this delicately? Tight ends stunk like a pile of unwashed gym socks stuffed with week-old trash in a witch's basement.

OK, not so delicate.

Tight ends totaled over 2,400 catches for the second season in a row, turning it into nearly 27,000 yards, but scored just 184 times, down from 209 in 2015. If we're being nice, we're calling it a "flat" year for tight end growth, but really there was a lot to be disappointed about.

6.6

I took the total number of Fantasy points the top 12 tight ends scored in 2016, found the average on a per game basis in non-PPR and put it just above this sentence.

Yes, top 12 tight ends averaged 6.6 Fantasy points per game, down a full point from 2015.

What it really means is that if your tight end scored a measly seven Fantasy points last season, it was good enough, even if you didn't think it was. It also suggests that tight end is a more touchdown-dependent position than you thought.

Sad stats

Two tight ends caught eight touchdowns -- Hunter Henry and Cameron Brate. Neither had more than 660 yards.

Two more -- Kyle Rudolph and Delanie Walker -- caught seven touchdowns and had at least 800 yards. Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates had seven touchdowns, too, but 701 yards or less.

And then there's Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen, both of whom had over 1,000 yards receiving but combined for seven scores.

The above players represent 75 percent of the top 12 Fantasy tight ends in 2016.

There's no Gronkowski-like player because Rob Gronkowski got hurt. There's no "next Gronk" or "Gronk Deux" unless you're talking about a guy who's kind of like Gronk but not as stat-heavy. This is simply just what tight ends are.

Where's the consistency?

The most consistent Fantasy tight end was the one who missed the first six and last two games of the season: Tyler Eifert. He cleared seven Fantasy points 62.5 percent of the time (five of eight games).

Yep, that's the most consistent tight end we had in 2016. In fact there wasn't another tight end that made seven-plus points in even 60 percent of his games.

Want names? Sure, why not?

Tyler Eifert62.5%Greg Olsen50.0%
Travis Kelce56.3%Jordan Reed50.0%
Julius Thomas55.6%Antonio Gates50.0%
Delanie Walker53.3%Rob Gronkowski50.0%
Hunter Henry53.3%

If there's a good takeaway here it's that a lot of these guys are household tight ends who just need to stay healthy in order to rack up more good games.

But that's the problem with these tight ends -- there are a lot of injuries. Only two of them, Kelce and Olsen, played 16 games.

Conclusions

Have tight ends devolved into a swamp of mediocrity?

The knee-jerk reaction is to say yes and just hold your nose when you pick one this summer, but the truth is that it's still a group with a lot of good talent that can help your Fantasy team.

We know that Gronkowski and Eifert are no-brainers for your lineup when they're healthy. What kind of shape will they be in come August? Chances are they'll be rolling, as will Jordan Reed, which means someone in every league will target them before the end of, say, Round 5.

If there's that feeling for them, then there will be similar sentiments for Kelce, Olsen and Graham.

Well, that's six tight ends right there. That doesn't include safe-but-not-spectacular picks Delanie Walker and Kyle Rudolph, or trendy breakout candidates like Cameron Brate, Zach Ertz and Hunter Henry.

So, pretty quickly, we've arrived at a point where there are 11 tight ends with some halfway decent appeal. Maybe not amazing appeal, but at least the potential to begin the season as a starter for your Fantasy team.

The key is that Fantasy owners should focus on tight end bargains on Draft Day. Don't be the sucker who takes Gronk in Round 1 or some other tight end at the end of Round 2 or the beginning of Round 3.

But don't rule out taking a tight end sometime between Rounds 5 and 8. That sweet spot should deliver a good return on investment.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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