4.27 – 2015 TE Preseason Top 10

Ah TE…the bastard child of the WR position. The receiver asked to block or the blocker asked to catch? A couple different ways to approach the position over the years. A long time ago, you would just pray for any stats from the position. More recently, skilled size/speed guys like Antonio Gates/Tony Gonzalez (Shannon Sharpe before them?) showed how effective the position could be in the passing game. These studs were capable of producing on the level of WR1/2 but with the bonus of being TE eligible.

Today, a bunch of different types of TE’s exist. You have your studs, like Gronk/Graham who are not just featured parts of their team’s passing attack, but offense as a whole. You have your TE’s that are really just receivers that line up closer to the line like Fleener and Ertz. Those with big bodies like Donnell/Rudolph are great in the endzone where they can postup smaller defenders or simply go up and pluck the ball from the sky, racking up the TDs. You have your relatively steady chain-movers like Witten and Olsen. In general, the more ways a player can beat you the better they are. (Thank you captain obvious…)

This season, if you dont get Gronk (who will probably go in the first round) what to do? Im not sure there’s enough separation between TEs outside of around the top 5 or so to justify using a top-60 pick on. Last season, it often felt like getting points out of the position was like pulling teeth unless you had a top-5 TE and even some of those had bouts of inconsistency. Outside the top-5, you had to have a skill you could hang your hat on if you wanted to find success or at least a good matchup to take advantage of. Fishing for TDs has been a valid strategy for owners who either dont have an elite TE or lost one to injury/bye as huge yardage games from TEs are far less frequent than the random TD catch.

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Jimmy Graham
  3. Greg Olsen
  4. Martellus Bennett
  5. Antonio Gates
  6. Julius Thomas
  7. Travis Kelce
  8. Dwayne Allen
  9. Kyle Rudolph
  10. Owen Daniels

Tier 1 

A tier of one. Gronk stands alone atop the TE mountain at the moment.

  • Rob Gronkowski

GRONK! GRONK SMASH!!! Im not sure there is a more fun player to have on your fantasy team/root for than Gronk. Who doesnt love buckets of TDs and points? No worries about role or QB with Gronk. Injuries are a bit of a concern with the hits he takes (and gives) since he is such a big target and the ways that defenders have to tackle him to try and bring him down. Combing back from getting his ACL torn and being unlucky with an infection after surgery on his arm slowed his roll to start the season, limiting him a bit to mostly a redzone threat. As the season progressed, he really racked up the receptions/yards while maintaining an elite TD rate en route to a #1 TE finish.

Tier 2

Another lonely tier, Graham is probably the only TE that can challenge/match Gronk.

  • Jimmy Graham

Tough year for Graham owners last year. He battled injuries again, primarily to his shoulder, which limited him as a receiver and left him an inconsistent option. Traded away from NO and Brees, one of the premier QBs in the league, he now finds himself paired with SEA with Russell Wilson. Whereas NO was a pass-first team centered around Brees, this SEA team has banked on its ground game and top defense. In SEA, he is far and away the best receiver on the team, but the question will be if SEA will shift it’s offensive identity away from the ground game. Of course no one expects them to throw it 600+ times, but I think Graham is the kind of talent that warrants featuring in an offense. He is one of the few TEs with a reasonable shot at matching Gronk’s fantasy production, but consecutive seasons of injuries is concerning.

Tier 3

If your draft plan isnt to punt TE, one of these guys will probably find their way to your team. Each has their own downsides (upside, inconsistency, age), but I think their pros outweigh their cons. They wont fit every fantasy team, but could be good plays on those with specific compositions depending on what they offer.

  • Greg Olsen

Consistent is the best way to describe Olsen. Similar to Jason Witten of seasons past, he is a reliable, steady receiver that can move the chains for Cam Newton and CAR. The addition of Benjamin takes a little pressure off of Olsen to carry the receiving load in CAR. The two seemingly occupy different roles in the offense, with Benjamin being the big play threat. He wont have as many big games as some of the other TE around here, but can be expected to score 7-13 points regularly. You get what you pay for with Olsen, and if youre the type of player that values consistency, Olsen is a good play, albeit with limited upside. He could be a good play if paired with more boom-or-bust players on a team to add some balance.

  • Martellus Bennett

The unicorn, Bennett got fed the ball by Jay Cutler last year. A huge body capable of doing work in the end zone as well as the athleticism to be used between the 20s, Bennett is an absolute beast. Will the departure of Trestman mean less targets for Bennett? Possibly, but with the departure of Brandon Marshall, Bennett’s targets shouldnt change too drastically. Was a bit inconsistent at times, but is capable of putting up big numbers any given week.

  • Antonio Gates

The elder statesman of the TE crowd. His heyday as TE king behind him, he still has soft hands and ability to make catches in traffic. With Rivers as his QB, he’ll always have a role in the red zone and catching first downs. Not the high rec/yd TE that other top TEs are, he is highly TD dependent. Last season, he binged on TDs with 9 in the first 8 games, but slowed down the rest of the way scoring only 3 more TDs in the last 8 games. You wonder when age will slow him down this season, but I think he can be great for at least the first half again. If you do draft Gates, you’ll have to have a fall-back plan/option in place.

Tier 4

This tier Im not as sure that risk outweighs the benefits of drafting one of these three. All three have the potential for great seasons, but carry more risk than the previous options. For the right price, I think Im ok buying.

  • Julius Thomas

This will be the season where we find out how much of Thomas’s success was Peyton Manning and how much was his own doing. Bortles struggled last year as rookie QBs often do. With a weapon like Thomas, a successful season will speak volumes about both players. Thomas was at his best in the redzone, posting multiple multi-TD games last season. However, after a healthy year the season prior, he struggled with injury last season (one of the knocks on him during the draft process) leading to painful low scoring games instead of just sitting out and getting healthy.

  • Travis Kelce

Hey did you hear? Kelce is a sleeper at TE. – said everyone, everywhere. By the time fantasy drafts begin, Kelce probably wont be coming at a discount. Lauded by some as a “mini-Gronk”, he’s certainly built in the same physical mold as Gronk. Equally capable of out-muscling smaller defenders as he is of outrunning them, his potential is tantalizing. Almost a quarter of his 67 receptions last year went for 20+ yds. Yet, owning him last year was a bit of a drag as it felt many factors worked against him from reaching his full potential as a dominant force on the field. While expectations are low for Alex Smith, you at least thought he would be capable of getting the ball to Kelce on intermediate routes, but the whole KC passing attack struggled last year. Seeing Anthony Fasano vulture 4 TDs (to Kelce’s 5) was also an unpleasant experience for Kelce owners (me >_>) considering how sparse passing TDs were in KC. Other knocks on Kelce include his health and fumbles. Health was a bit of a red flag coming into the season, but he played all 16 games last season. Kelce is also surprisingly loose with the football, leading TEs with 4 FUM. For a TE that isnt the best blocker (which may explain why he splits more time than you’d expect with Fasano), he cant be turning the ball over. Despite all this, his drool-inducing potential will attract owners trying to get the jump on the next big thing at TE.

  • Dwayne Allen

You could easily put Fleener in this spot instead of Allen. In the IND explosive offense, the TE was heavily involved last year, whichever one was in. Where as Fleener is more of a receiver, capable of breaking off the big chunks of yards, Allen is the better redzone threat and better blocker. I expect he ends up with higher snapcount and TD totals barring injury. As of now, with so many mouths to feed in IND, I favor the guy with more of a redzone role and better hands who is no slouch as a receiver either. Last season, Allen started the year hot, but then injuries and the emergence of Fleener caused him to fall off in the 2nd half of the season. The same issues will be there for Allen this season. If he can avoid injury and Fleener doesnt cannibalize too much of the TE snaps in IND, Allen could be a nice value TE pick.

Tier 5

Admittedly, if Im taking a TE from here on out, my expectations are low. I better be certain that everywhere else on my roster is solid if I havent taken a TE yet. The odds are high that the TE I draft from here on out gets dropped for some hot pickup if he falters. But at least the price should be cheap…

  • Kyle Rudolph

A trendy sleeper from last year, Rudolph’s season was ruined by injury. MIN’s offense seems to be on the upswing led by Bridgewater. How Rudolph fits into their scheme is a bit uncertain, but his redzone skills should still be intact. I have a feeling if I dont chase some of the bigger names at TE, Rudolph is going to find himself on a lot of my teams.

  • Owen Daniels

This pick is pretty much a bet on Manning and Kubiak and their history of TE success. I dont think Daniels is that special talent wise, but Manning can make it work and Kubiak and Daniels go back forever to HOU. An injury/age risk, but at the price you will probably get him at, its stomachable.

Other TEs outside the top 10 that are interesting (in no particular order):

  • Larry Donnell (redzone threat)
  • Delanie Walker (good for like 2 monster games a season; does he even age?)
  • Coby Fleener (if he can learn to catch the ball, maybe he pushes out Allen; bros with Luck)
  • Zach Ertz (no more Maclin -> more snaps for Ertz?)
  • Jordan Cameron (please no more concussions….)
  • Jordan Reed (can his body stay intact long enough for him to be productive? Maybe if he stops trying to hurdle defenders…)
  • Eric Ebron
  • Charles Clay (Is he worth all that $? Probably not, but is one of the best athletes of all TEs)
  • Heath Miller/Jason Witten (older dudes who have been with their respective QBs forever.)
  • Dennis Pitta (what is keeping his hip from falling off again?)
  • Tim Wright (Another special athlete at TE. Seems to have a nose for the end zone and after a whole offseason with NE, it’ll be interesting to see how they use him)
  • GB TE (Whichever one separates themselves from the other and if they demonstrate they have an actual role in that offense. Odds of those happening after they didnt last year are slim)
  • Josh Hill
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