2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Four sleepers at tight end and DST to consider
Heath Cummings says tight end and defense could be two of your last three picks and you could still get value at the position.
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Because of the low bar to attain top-12 status at tight end, the position is flush with deep sleepers. Sure, there are plenty available in the double-digit rounds, but I'm talking even deeper than that. I'm talking preseason waiver wire fodder.
In fact, if your league doesn't have preseason position requirements, and you don't land a top-six tight end, you could reasonably punt tight end in the draft. Instead use that 13th-round pick on an upside running back and pick up a tight end at the end of August. Just make sure your league has a waivers run before Week 1.
Who should you be targeting? Here are four right ends with an ADP outside the top 200 this summer. As a bonus, I threw in an entire division of sleeper defenses.
I am certain you are tired of hearing about Eric Ebron as a breakout candidate, so let's talk about him as a sleeper. Ebron is coming off his most productive season, but that's mostly because he played 16 games. Each of the past three seasons he's finished between 13th and 16th at tight end, averaging 54 catches for 607 yards. This year he joins the Colts, which is a blessing and a curse.
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On the bright side, every piece of information we have seems to indicate the Colts will target their tight ends liberally, and Andrew Luck is taking steps towards playing. On the downside, Jack Doyle is still there, and he commanded 108 targets in 2017. Ebron has to prove me correct that he's the No. 1 option at the position for the Colts, and then everything else just has to go the way all of the information tells us it should.
Ebron is a great option for leagues with preseason waivers because I expect we'll gain more information on all the points above in August. If Luck is a full go and Ebron looks like the receiving tight end, he's a gimme as a sleeper. And yes, he still has breakout potential too.
Speaking of gimme sleepers, I have no idea how Charles Clay is currently 28th among tight ends in ADP. While missed time has kept him out of the top 12 the past few years, he's still managed top-20 finishes each of the past three seasons. That's no easy feat when you're playing 16 games per year, which Clay hasn't.
When Clay is healthy, he offers the epitome of low-end No. 1 tight end production. He should be healthy to start the season and on somebody's roster, likely as a starter.
Vance McDonald's first year in Pittsburgh was largely a nothingburger. He missed six games due to injury and had fewer than 20 yards in six others. But his performance in the playoffs against Jacksonville showed why the Steelers are still excited about him. In that game McDonald caught 10 of 16 targets for 112 yards.
McDonald is a deep sleeper, so much so that he's not someone that needs to be drafted in a standard 12-team, 15-round draft. But I love him in deeper drafts or best-ball formats. He has considerably more upside than Jesse James, and the Steelers have talked openly about the upside they believe he has.
How much do the Broncos believe in Jake Butt? They spent a fifth round pick on the tight end last year knowing he wouldn't be recovered from his torn ACL in time to start the season. He is recovered now and was a full go for the team's mandatory minicamp in June. It didn't take long for him to catch the attention of coach Vance Joseph.
Butt caught 97 passes in his last two seasons at Michigan and averaged better than 12 yards per reception. While he's technically in a battle for the starting tight end job, there is little doubt that he'll come out on top if he stays healthy. Butt has the talent and opportunity, and he's currently the 31st tight end off the board, according to Fantasy Pros, and has top-12 upside.
If you're looking for sleeper defenses, you need to look to the NFC South. None of those defenses are being drafted inside the top-10 at the position, but they all have varying degrees of upside.
The Saints DST actually finished at No. 8 last year, so it's kind of hard to figure why it isn't being drafted higher. The Saints have a bevy of young talent that includes Marcus Davenport, Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams as well as just enough veteran leadership. This defense should be able to get after the quarterback and force turnovers, especially in the Superdome.
The Panthers aren't near as exciting but they still have Luke Kuechly and a solid front seven. The key for them will be whether Ross Cockrell, Da'Norris Searcy and Donte Jackson can solidify their secondary. If they do, the Panthers will once again be a must-start defense.
After that you have to dig a little deeper to see the upside. Going into last season, I thought the Falcons could be what the Saints turned into, and I still haven't given up on that hope. But now they're more of a boom-or-bust defense that needs to play fast and force turnovers. Finally, the Buccaneers completely revamped their defense adding Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea, Vinny Curry and M.J. Stewart among others. The talent is there in Tampa Bay, and the only question is whether it will all mesh in training camp and turn into a good unit.
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