2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Five big TE, K, DST questions
Get to know the tight end, kicker and DST positions for 2018 as our trio of experts answer key questions about the positions.
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With the Bears' and Ravens' rookies reporting for training camp, we're so close to the start of the football season. The veterans will be in camp any day now, and that means it's officially time to kick off the Fantasy football season at CBSSports.com.
We've had our Draft Prep page live for months, featuring Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings' latest thoughts and expectations for the 2018 Fantasy season. Now, we'll be kicking our coverage into high gear over the next seven weeks leading up to the season, beginning with our position previews. First up: Tight ends, kickers, and DST.
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Sure, it's not the most exciting group, but ask anyone who wound up with Zach Ertz, Greg Zuerlein, and the Jaguars' DST on their team last season how important landing the right options at each spot can be. We'll be focusing on these positions all week, including tiers, sleepers, breakouts and busts, plus projections, features, and more. Following that, we'll be focusing on Quarterbacks (July 23-27), Running Backs (July 30-Aug. 3), and then wide receivers (Aug. 6-10).
To start each week, we'll be focusing on five big questions for each position group, with our trio of experts providing their perspective on each. The road to a championship begins here.
1. How far ahead of the field is Rob Gronkowski at this point?
Jamey Eisenberg: As per usual with Gronkowski, he has the potential to be well ahead of the field, especially this season with the change in receiving corps for the Patriots — Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are gone — as well as Julian Edelman starting with a four-game suspension. That should lead to more targets and hopefully more production. But we've seen Gronkowski play just 22 games over the past two years, so injuries are a concern. And the field is getting better, even slightly, with guys like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz finally living up to their potential. Still, you're drafting Gronkowski in Round 2 without hesitation, where Kelce and Ertz are still better as Round 3 options.
Dave Richard: Gronkowski is way ahead of Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz in terms of Fantasy point potential, but he's not that far ahead in terms of draft value. Gronk's gonna go in Round 2 in pretty much every league, with Kelce within 10 spots of him and Ertz another five or so spots after that. It suggests there's a little gap between each of the three but Gronkowski clearly has the most upside. It's enough to call him a fair value in Round 2.
Heath Cummings: Gronkowski is a well ahead of "the field" but he has company. Travis Kelce is right on his heels and Zach Ertz isn't far behind. After that is a wide chasm.
I still have Gronk as my No. 1 tight end because on a per-game basis it's not particularly close. HIs 16-game pace over the past four seasons is 76-1,207-10, which would be even more impressive if he ever played 16 games. I expect he'll get off to a fast start with Julian Edelman suspended and hold off the field even when he misses a game or two. As long as he and Tom Brady are in New England, Gronkowski will be my No. 1 tight end.
2. How many tight ends would you actually be comfortable starting every week in 2018?
Jamey: If Jordan Reed is healthy then there are 10. After 10, nothing is guaranteed. It makes you want to draft a tight end you know is guaranteed targets instead of chasing potential. There are a lot of tight ends I like outside of the top 10, and you can make it work for your Fantasy team by carrying two tight ends at the start of the season until one hits. But who wants that headache if you can avoid it? Do yourself a favor, and find a tight end you like and draft him with at least a mid-round pick. Your Fantasy team will likely be better for it.
Dave: My answer is 14, but with a catch. The bottom half of my top-14 tight end rankings are players who I would be okay starting but would want to pair with a second tight end on my bench to either rotate or have in case of an injury or a dry spell. If you're asking me how many tight ends I'm prepared to draft and start every week regardless of matchup and not change my mind all season, the answer is three.
Heath: I feel good about nine tight ends as my starter for the season, regardless of matchup. I would include Jordan Reed, who is my No. 10 tight end but I don't imagine I'll be very comfortable starting him the four-to-six weeks he's injured. While that makes it seem like tight end is shallow, it also makes it feel deep. Because the bar is so low to be a top-12 option there are another dozen who could be adequate starters on a weekly basis. For that reason I'm okay waiting until the end of the draft to nab my tight end if they fly off the board. It should also make streaming a viable option once again.
3. If you're not taking a tight end until after Round 10, who is the one you're targeting?
Jamey: My favorite No. 2 tight ends are Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Cameron Brate, Charles Clay and Eric Ebron, and I like them all for different reasons. There are targets available in Arizona, and Seals-Jones could become a top option for whoever starts at quarterback for the Cardinals. Njoku and Brate are going to be touchdown dependent, but they could score close to eight each this year. Clay and Ebron should see plenty of targets as well, but Clay is in a terrible offense, while Ebron might not be the best tight end in Indianapolis because of Jack Doyle. If I have to take one, give me Seals-Jones.
Dave: George Kittle or bust. I enjoyed watching him play last season and see him as a guy who can take a big step in his second season, particularly in an offense with a creative playcaller and a lack of dangerous receiver threats. Plus, tight ends saw plenty of work from Jimmy Garoppolo late last season. That's a cinch to continue. I suppose if Tyler Eifert is healthy for all of training camp then he'd also be on the list, but Kittle is a no-brainer over him.
Heath: I am really starting to get excited about Hayden Hurst, and he barely even has an ADP right now. He'll certainly be available after the 10th round. Hurst landed in a dream spot for a rookie tight end, as the Ravens have averaged 133 tight end targets over the last three seasons. And, the only real competition there is from a fellow rookie they drafted two rounds after they drafted Hurst. Pair Hurst with a safe, boring option like Clay at the end of your draft.
4. Which defense is ready to make a Jaguars-esque jump — i.e. bottom-10 in scoring to top-3?
Jamey: The easy answer for this question is the Texans, who were No. 24 in Fantasy points in 2017, but get a hefty amount of talent back on the field this season because of injuries. J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are back, and Houston also added Tyrann Mathieu to help on this side of the ball, as well as Aaron Colvin and rookie Justin Reid. The Texans likely won't be as dominant as the Jaguars a year ago, but they do have the best chance to make the biggest leap in performance this season.
Dave: The Texans are an obvious answer since they fell apart last year due to injuries. I think the Packers could also make some noise now that they've replaced Dom Capers and really added depth to their secondary. But the one defense I'm really interested in watching is the Buccaneers. Last year they had nothing in terms of pass rush. Now they have Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, a healthy Noah Spence and some massive talent at D-tackle in Gerald McCoy, rookie Vita Vea and free-agent additions Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein. They're totally rebuilt.
Heath: This may be cheating, but I'll take the Houston Texans. They were decimated by injuries in 2017, but if they're able to stay healthy in 2018, look out. Their pass rush, with Watt and Jadeveon Clowney should be among the league's best and they won't be easy to run on either. The big difference makers could be the the acquisition of Colvin and Mathieu. If this secondary is even passable the Texans are going to be a top-5 DST this season.
5. Do you think we should finally get rid of kickers for standard Fantasy leagues?
Jamey: I'm indifferent on this topic because I play in plenty of leagues with and without kickers. I don't have a problem drafting kickers and playing the waiver wire with the position because I like the fun of trying to find a better player, at any spot, than the rest of my league. I'm also fine not having to worry about kicker each week. What I do think we should get rid of is people who constantly complain about kickers. If it bothers you that much, be the commissioner of every league you play in, and you can set your own rules.
Dave: No. I understand that they're a nuisance, but I like to look at them as a total wild-card for Fantasy lineups. You start one and you have no idea what you're going to get. Might get three extra points, might get three field goals. But it's cool to have a good kicker contribute Fantasy points in a close victory. I'm a leg man.
Heath: Yes. Absolutely. #BanKickers. In fact, I'd be pretty happy if the NFL would do the same. In Fantasy, it's absolutely maddening to beat a team with your football players and lose because the kicker scored five field goals. No one likes watching a field goal in a real game and it's even worse to lose in Fantasy because of one.
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