Over the past three seasons, Rob Gronkowski has averaged 15.7 PPR points per game in 37 games. To put that in perspective, Travis Kelce averaged 16.4 points per game in 15 games in his career year in 2017. Look, everyone knows you are taking a risk when drafting Gronkowski. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011 and has missed 12 games over the past three seasons. Everyone also knows about the benefits of drafting Gronkowski. His fantasy production when on the field is unparalleled. He is arguably the most dominant player ever to play the tight end position and continually wreaks havoc on opposing linebackers and safeties. He just cannot be covered.
On the other hand, Travis Kelce has had at least 80 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons and is a force in the passing game in his own right. Some people will point to Patrick Mahomes and wonder how his presence as the starting quarterback in Kansas City will affect Kelce this season. Others will look to the newly acquired Sammy Watkins and wonder if Kelce’s target share will drop. Ultimately, I don’t think those problems are as dire as some people make them out to be.
Bottom line, Kelce is a stud and will easily finish as a Top-5 fantasy tight end if he plays in all 16 games. But.. I still would rather have Gronkowski over Kelce. The weekly ceiling Gronkowski provides (six weeks of 20-plus fantasy points in 2017) is something that cannot be ignored.
In 2017, Zach Ertz had at least 13 PPR fantasy points in 11 of his 14 games played. He has had at least 70 receptions, 800 receiving yards in each of his past three seasons and is quickly cementing himself as one of the elite tight ends in the NFL. It’s always a good thing when you have a quarterback (Carson Wentz) that is among the best at his position as well. Whether or not he can repeat his eight receiving touchdowns in 2018 remains to be seen, but as the primary target in an above average offense, I’m fully expecting another Top-5 fantasy tight end season out of Ertz this season.
Rarely have we seen a rookie tight end enter the league and have immediate success. It typically takes a year or two for a tight end to get acclimated to the many intricacies of an NFL offense. Evan Engram defied the odds in his rookie season in 2017, tallying an impressive 64 receptions, 722 receiving yards, six touchdowns in 15 games. He had at least four receptions, 40 receiving yards in 10 of those 15 games. As far as his 2018 fantasy outlook, it’s reasonable to expect a similar, but possible lesser output considering the return of Odell Beckham Jr. and the arrival of rookie running back Saquon Barkley. While it may be tough to exceed his 2017 numbers, he should still see enough of a target share to end up finishing as a Top-10 fantasy tight end.
Considering Ertz’ role in the Eagles offense and Engram having more competition for targets in New York, Ertz over Engram is an easy selection.
Once upon a time, Jimmy Graham was a prized fantasy football asset that consistently put up high-end fantasy numbers. From 2011-2014, Graham finished as a Top-2 tight end each season, including being the best tight end in 2012 and 2013. His three seasons with the Seahawks from 2015-2017 were not a total disaster, but he was not the same brute force that he was in New Orleans. Graham showed signs of slowing down in 2017. He did not seem as explosive coming in and out of routes and lacked the lateral and vertical quickness he once showcased on a weekly basis. I wonder if Graham has enough juice left in the tank (he’ll be 32 years-old in November) to ever be a reliable fantasy option again. Now a member of the Green Bay Packers, his new offense has never been a tight end-friendly one. Some would argue that the Packers have never had a tight end of Graham’s caliber, which would have been 100% true if he signed with them back in 2015. To put it simply, I won’t be drafting Graham this season as his best fantasy days are long behind him.
Instead, I’d much rather prefer a tight end like Delanie Walker. Walker was the only tight end to have at least three receptions in all sixteen games in 2017. He has seen at least 100 targets and tallied at least 800 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons and is a focal point of the Tennessee Titans offense. Some will point to his age (34 years old when the season starts) and think a decline is inevitable. However, unlike Jimmy Graham, Walker hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down just yet. Others will point out that the Titans are going to expand Corey Davis’ role in 2018, leading to fewer targets for Walker. Those concerns hold water, but ultimately are not major ones in my eyes.
Until I see a decline in Walker, I’ll take his consistent production over the bust potential in Graham every day of the week.