2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Jamey Eisenberg's tight end sleepers, breakouts and busts
Jamey Eisenberg gives you some updated sleepers, breakouts and busts at tight end for the 2018 season.
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It's tight end week for us at CBS Sports, so it's time to look at some updated sleepers, breakouts and busts for the position. And we've already covered several tight ends in earlier versions of these topics.
To recap, the sleepers I wrote about already include George Kittle, David Njoku and Ricky Seals-Jones. The breakouts are Trey Burton, O.J. Howard and Adam Shaheen. And the busts are Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph.
Now, my opinion has changed on some of those guys, especially the ones written about in February. For example, I no longer consider Shaheen a breakout since the Bears signed Burton as a free agent, and Howard loses value after the Buccaneers kept free agent Cameron Brate on the roster.
Rudolph is no longer a bust after the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins. And Njoku is trending in the wrong direction since his early Average Draft Position data appears to be too high as the No. 10 tight end off the board.
You can read all about the earlier versions of sleepers, breakouts and busts .
In full disclosure, it's not easy finding new tight ends to write about for these categories since the position is relatively thin. Sleepers are easy because you can take plenty of fliers on late-round picks, but there aren't a lot of options for breakouts or busts.
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ADP is the best ally in picking players for these categories, and we'll lean on the early data we have there for most of these selections. ADP will obviously change as more drafts occur this summer, and we'll have another version of sleepers, breakouts and busts prior to the start of the season.
For tight end week, here are some players to focus on as you prepare for your upcoming drafts.
In 2015, Watson was the replacement option for Jimmy Graham in New Orleans, and he had a solid season with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns on 109 targets. He returns as the starter again, and hopefully he can be just as productive, even though he's 37. The Saints might not lean as heavily on tight ends as they did in the past after Coby Fleener failed to be productive for the past two seasons, but Watson has No. 1 upside if Sean Payton and Drew Brees feature him with 100-plus targets again as they did in 2015.
When Joe Flacco has a tight end he likes, he tends to feature him quite a bit, including Dennis Pitta in 2016. That season, Pitta had 86 catches for 729 yards and two touchdowns on 119 targets. It's hard to expect Hurst to get over 100 targets as a rookie, and Watson just had 79 targets as the No. 1 tight end for Flacco last year. But Baltimore has a revamped receiving corps with Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead all coming to the Ravens this offseason, and hopefully Flacco will lean on Hurst quite a bit. He has to prove he's better than fellow rookie tight end Mark Andrews, but Hurst has tremendous potential in this offense.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase was known as somewhat of a tight end guru during his days as an offensive coordinator in Denver and Chicago, and he featured the position prominently with those two teams. But with the Dolphins, Gase has yet to find a tight end to give him consistent success. He tried with re-tread guys like Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas over the past two seasons, but both failed. Now, Gase might have his guy in Gesicki, who could be a featured part of Miami's offense. Remember, the Dolphins have to replace plenty pf production with Jarvis Landry gone (160 targets, 112 catches, 987 yards and nine touchdowns). While the receivers will handle the bulk of that work, don't be surprised if Gesicki makes an immediate impact. He's worth a late-round flier.
After missing all of the 2017 season in his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered in the Orange Bowl after the 2016 season, Butt is back and ready to contribute -- hopefully in a big way. The offseason reports on him have been promising, and the Broncos have a need at tight end given the rest of the players on their roster at the position (Jeff Heuerman and Austin Traylor are the other guys on top of the depth chart). New quarterback Case Keenum leaned on Kyle Rudolph with the Vikings last year for 81 targets, and hopefully he'll do the same with Butt in 2018. He's a great second tight end to target with a late-round pick.
All five of the tight ends listed here should be new starters on their respective teams, including Jarwin. And he has a tremendous opportunity if he can beat out Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers and Dalton Schultz for the No. 1 job. Jason Witten is gone from the Cowboys, and he leaves behind 87 targets for 63 catches, 560 yards and five touchdowns from last year. If Jarwin can get the majority of that production, he could be a streaming option and potential starter in deeper leagues. Dak Prescott has leaned on Witten quite a bit over the past two seasons -- Witten had 95 targets for 69 catches, 673 yards and three touchdowns in 2016 -- and Jarwin has earned positive reviews this offseason.
I'm a fan of the re-breakout whenever possible, which is a player who once upon a time was great but has struggled and now has the chance to rebound. Think of guys like Josh Gordon and Allen Robinson, along with Reed this year. In 2015, Reed was awesome when he played 14 games and finished with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on 114 targets. Since then, Reed has struggled with injuries, and he's played in just 18 games over the past two years. He's still not 100 percent because of a toe injury, but hopefully he'll be ready for Week 1. And if that happens, he's a steal at his current ADP in Round 10 as the No. 13 tight end off the board. If Reed can play 13-plus games, he has the chance to be a top three tight end in any format, which is what happened in 2015. And new quarterback Alex Smith has a good history of leaning on his tight ends with Travis Kelce in Kansas City and Vernon Davis in San Francisco. I'm hopeful Reed will be healthy for most of this year.
I don't consider Graham a bust as much as he's someone I don't really plan on drafting much this year given his ADP in Round 6. I'm just concerned he might be too touchdown dependent at this point in his career, and if the touchdowns disappear then his Fantasy value could be awful. Last year in Seattle, Graham had the seventh-most targets among tight ends, and he was tied for ninth in receptions. But he was 17th in yards, and his touchdown prowess saved him because he led all tight ends with 10 scores. He's clearly in a good spot with the Packers, who have to replace Jordy Nelson's ability to find the end zone. And Aaron Rodgers once helped Richard Rodgers score eight touchdowns in 2015, and Jermichael Finley also scored eight times in 2011. But if Graham falls below 10 touchdowns and struggles -- remember, Jared Cook and Martellus Bennett weren't great with Rodgers in Green Bay the past two seasons -- then his price tag will end up being too high.
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