Fantasy Football Free Agency: Trey Burton the big winner at tight end so far
We've seen plenty of tight ends sign already in free agency. Dave Richard tells you what to expect from them for Fantasy purposes.
There wasn't a tight end switch this offseason that'll shake up the top spots of our positional rankings, but there were some moves that caught the eyes of Fantasy owners everywhere. Here's the low-down on several tight ends you might find yourself drafting this fall.
There's one tight end every year who changes cities and seemingly is in line to get a bigger opportunity with the new team, and this year's version is Trey Burton. He should slide into a prominent role with the Bears after spending a couple of seasons as Zach Ertz's understudy in Philadelphia.
Burton might be listed as a tight end but really is more of a receiver. Per Pro Football Focus, the 6-foot-3, 228-pounder lined up as a traditional tight end just 37.2 percent of the time last year and was in the slot 37.5 percent of his snaps. He barely passes blocked and owned a 66.3 percent catch rate. These are the kind of dreamboat details we look for in breakout Fantasy players.
If you're hoping the Bears try to turn Burton into the next Ertz, or the next Travis Kelce, you're in luck. The offense he now finds himself in is the same one Ertz and Kelce are in – and Burton says he already knows "95 percent" of it. We'll find out if he can handle the workload since he's never played more than 345 snaps in a season. We'll also see if he ends up taking a big bite of the target share in Chicago – he might finish second in their receiving categories behind fellow newcomer Allen Robinson.
Early projection for Trey Burton: 90 targets, 58 catches, 615 yards, five touchdowns.
The Bengals and Fantasy owners would be thrilled if Mr. Eifert could stay on the field for more than a few games at a time. We'll get another shot at that possibility this fall after he re-signed with the team.
His stats make him look better than he really is – 20 touchdowns in 39 games with a 67.2 percent catch rate. But he's missed more games (41) than he's played in. That's just sad.
So, the deal is obvious – don't spend significant draft capital on Eifert. Is he worth a final-round flier? Assuming he's still running around by late August, sure. There's no harm in tossing a late pick at him. If he manages to stay healthy, you should see a bushel of touchdowns with some decent yardage along the way, since he averaged 40.3 yards per game before last season.
Early projection for Tyler Eifert: Nine games, 32 targets, 21 receptions, 280 yards, five touchdowns.
Despite the low projection, I'd still take the chance on him ahead of other, less exciting tight ends just in case he doesn't get bit by the injury bug.
Re-signing with the Buccaneers is great for him but it really turns down the excitement we had for O.J. Howard becoming a Fantasy mainstay. Brate is a touchdown-or-bust tight end with 14 scores in his last 31 games. He has five career games with over 70 yards (two last season) and typically doesn't get more than three or four grabs per game. That's what's expected moving forward. It's hard to bank on him becoming a bigger part of the Bucs offense even though they re-signed him, not with Howard there and oozing potential of his own.
Early projection for Cameron Brate: 75 targets, 49 catches, 585 yards, five touchdowns
Seferian-Jenkins is back in Florida, this time with the Jaguars, where he should assume the mantle as top tight end on the team. He's in the right place at the right time, as Jacksonville released long-time tight end Marcedes Lewis and reshaped their receiving corps after not re-signing Allen Robinson and cutting Allen Hurns. That should open up some chances for the 6-foot-6, 262-pound behemoth.
In four seasons, Seferian-Jenkins' career-highs are 50 catches (2017), 357 yards (2017) and four touchdowns (2015). It's not like he's a Fantasy staple. But given the surrounding offense in Jacksonville, there's a chance for him to be a red-zone force and potentially exceed all his career numbers. It's worth noting that Jaguars tight ends have combined for six touchdowns each of the last two seasons, and the only tight end ASJ would potentially share targets with is fellow free-agent signee Niles Paul.
He offers more athleticism than other tight ends they've had and is a dark horse to be a Fantasy factor after all. Maybe you'll draft him if you like the Jaguars' Week 1 matchup.
Early projection for Austin Seferian-Jenkins: 86 targets, 54 catches, 513 yards, five touchdowns.
The Colts will give Eric Ebron another chance to meet his potential as a matchup-nightmare tight end, though if he couldn't get it done with the Lions in four seasons it's hard to buy into him doing it in Indy. Sure, he should have Andrew Luck throwing passes to him, and the Colts should still be a pass-oriented offense, but so were the Lions under Matthew Stafford.
Playing time might be an issue for Ebron – Jack Doyle is the more traditional tight end of the two and is a superior blocker to Ebron. So, while Doyle should play a ton, Ebron will look for matchups to exploit on anywhere from 30 to 50 snaps per game. He'll get noticed in the red zone a lot but probably won't have many chances to rack up 70-plus yards. Again, not exactly a shocker since he exceeded that mark eight times in four years with the Lions. Figure Ebron to be a touchdown-or-bust Fantasy option who probably won't score many touchdowns.
Early projection for Eric Ebron: 73 targets, 45 catches, 537 yards, four touchdowns.
Also, expect better numbers, especially in PPR, from Doyle.
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