2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Tight end overview and strategies you'll need to win your league
If there ever was a year to map out a plan for tight ends, this is it. A lack of depth at the position along with drop-offs from the top tiers lead Dave Richard to believe that a strategy for this position is pivotal in 2018.
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Everyone wants to have a tight end like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz -- a tight end with the weekly potential to put up numbers like a top-20 wide receiver. But not everyone wants to spend the proper draft pick to get one of them.
Before you draft, you must decide just how badly you want one of these so-called "big three." Doing such a thing will likely shape your entire Fantasy Football draft philosophy this summer.
Going big early
Gronkowski is a sure-fire Round 2 pick and basically the only one of the trio you should expect to have a chance to get if your picks are slotted in the back half of your draft.
Kelce and Ertz will get taken at any point between 20th and 30th overall in pretty much every league, meaning that only those Fantasy owners with early draft slots will have chances at getting them.
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These are kind of steep prices to pay, but it's for good reason. These players carry plenty of consistency and a high-floor projection compared to their positional comrades. They are pretty much matchup-proof starters you'll never bench. They also give your lineup a positional advantage over those squads that have a lesser tight end -- and there will be a lot of them.
If you don't like having a little extra pressure to draft running backs and receivers on your shoulders, then don't target these tight ends. And taking any one of them should rule out taking a quarterback before Round 5 unless your league is 10 teams or less. While splurging on a stud tight end isn't a bad idea, it will mean hoping for a rusher or receiver you'd want to start, falling into your lap in Round 5 or 6.
Settling for what's next
After the big three, no tight end in Fantasy averaged more than 7.0 points per game in non-PPR or 11.5 points per game in full PPR in 2017.
Funny, all of those things are going to happen (hopefully!) in 2018.
Olsen, Engram, Graham and Burton, in some order, will be the next tight ends off the draft board. They'll all get picked anywhere from Round 4 to Round 8. There's absolutely no problem with drafting any of them as stand-alone starters to begin the season with.
Just know that their ceilings aren't as high as the top three tight ends.
If you're into safe tight ends, Olsen seems to fit the bill best. If you're into high potential, Burton's got it. If you prefer tight ends with stud quarterbacks, Graham gets the nod. If you like second-year breakouts on teams with incredibly potent offenses, then Engram is a no-doubter.
One way to strategize this group is to target the last one on the board. So if it's Round 8 and you need a tight end and there's only one left from this foursome, it's probably a good idea to take him. You'll probably be happier with a stable tight end like one of these guys instead of the high-risk variance types you'll find in the next group.
Working the late-rounds
If you don't care which human fills the tight end space in your lineup, you're not going to draft one until at least Round 9.
The riskiest tight ends reside in the double-digit rounds. Guys with injury concerns, guys with low upside, guys with inexperience. At the very least, these are the tight ends you'll be fine starting your season with but not making any commitments to thereafter.
Taking one is fine. Taking two is better.
Once upon a time, Gronk, Kelce and Ertz were late-round fliers. Really, they were! Want to get in on someone like that? If you take two late-round tight ends, you get two shots at finding a productive (if not lucrative) tight end to bolster your lineup.
There are a handful of young tight ends who will be particularly popular. George Kittle and David Njoku figure to have roles locked up with their teams as they enter their second seasons. Rookies Mike Gesicki (Miami) and Hayden Hurst (Baltimore) also could become decent contributors right away.
This also happens to be a particularly good year to try such a strategy. The depth at quarterback is insane, and the running backs and receivers you'll look at in the late rounds won't make you raise even one eyebrow. Finishing your draft with two tight ends will give you an extra shot at landing a good player at a thin position, not to mention a potential trade piece for later on during the season.
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