Late-round tight ends worth a look

Ladarius Green and Travis Kelce have become appealing late-round fliers. (USATSI)
Ladarius Green and Travis Kelce have become appealing late-round fliers. (USATSI)

If you were one of the lucky ones who had Julius Thomas on your Fantasy roster last season, you know the feeling of finding the next great tight end. It's one thing to draft one, it's another to steal one. People stole Thomas last season.

There are already a few tight ends making waves this summer, some more so than others. We're getting a lot of questions about all of them and thought we'd answer them all here.

Just remember this about the elite tight ends in Fantasy: They all have great quarterbacks and play in explosive offenses that are not afraid to throw the ball a ton. Also, they're all matchup nightmares for opposing defenses because of their size, speed and skill set. I would hesitate to label a tight end the next big thing unless they fit all of this criteria.

Ladarius Green, Chargers

Has the size, speed and skill set but it remains to be seen just how much playing time he'll get. He had some nice plays this preseason but got way fewer snaps than Antonio Gates in the third exhibition game. What helps his cause is that he's got a great quarterback in Philip Rivers and is in an offense that will use the no-huddle and pass-happy approach often. And for him to see more snaps, all he needs to do is outperform the likes of Eddie Royal and act as the Chargers' third receiver. The feeling here is that Green will be a big part of the offense. Of all the young tight ends with breakout potential, he has the most.

Eric Ebron, Lions

Before training camp he had all the potential of a low-end No. 1 Fantasy tight end but he struggled in camp and in the preseason. That's not good. There's also the reality that rookie tight ends just don't tend to do well -- exhibit A is Rob Gronkowski, who had 10 touchdowns as a rookie but just 546 yards. Rare is the rookie who destroys defenses on a weekly basis. Ebron is worth a late-round flier in case the preseason was an aberration and he does make a quick transition. Playing time will definitely be there for him and the quarterback factor is in his favor.

Richard Rodgers, Packers

It's beginning to look like Rodgers will begin the season as the Packers' replacement for Jermichael Finley. Watching him play, Rodgers was awful as a blocker but very sharp as a receiver. He'll definitely exploit matchups but who knows just how much he'll play if he can't block. With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, he could be very productive on the work he does get. But like Ebron, he's a rookie. We might be a year away from Rodgers being a breakout player.

Travis Kelce, Chiefs

Only once in Andy Reid's career has he fielded a tight end that's had more than six touchdowns and over 900 yards in the same season. That was Brent Celek in 2009, his career year. Kelce has the look of a Rob Gronkowski in that he's a giant on the field. Speed isn't really his thing (it's not Gronk's thing, either), nor is he explosive. He's okay in those areas but his size makes him a potential asset, particularly for checkdown champion Alex Smith. Reid's track record with tight ends, the Chiefs' need for their tight ends to help block (Kelce can do that) and the quarterback situation there are all strikes against Kelce. He's OK to speculate on but don't expect a lot of consistency.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers

When the Buccaneers traded Tim Wright to the Pats, all eyes went toward Seferian-Jenkins. He's a big dude with some sharp skills but, like others on this list, is a rookie. He also has Josh McCown as his quarterback and is on a team that might ask its tight ends to block a little more than catch. Also, Jeff Tedford's track record as a play caller doesn't suggest a breakout type of role for ASJ. If we expect 500 yards and five touchdowns then we might not be disappointed.

Timothy Wright, Patriots

When the trade to the Pats went down everyone buzzed about Wright and whether or not he should be owned in Fantasy. The hunch here is that the answer is no -- for now. Wright has reportedly picked up the offense quickly and did some nice things in the Patriots' fourth preseason game (four catches for 43 yards) but seems unlikely to see a ton of playing time right away for New England. They seem to have their receiver rotations set and might not press Wright into action anytime soon. Then again, this is New England and if Tom Brady and Bill Belichick want a guy to play, he's going to play. When's the last time a new veteran in New England came in at some point after the preseason began and did well, or came in at any point and did well? Randy Moss and Wes Welker did. Brandon Lloyd maybe? Danny Amendola wasn't so hot. Wright is a big-time gamble in drafts, not such a gamble off waivers.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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