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Dynasty: Bang for Your Buck: 2018 Tight End Tiers
By Alex McCarthy
Bang for Your Buck: 2018 Tight End Tiers
A simple rankings list can be helpful when trying to get an idea of where a player generally rates among his position, but often the difference between Player 1 and Player 2 is a lot bigger than the difference between Player 2 and Player 3. This is where tiered rankings come into play. Tiers are groups of players who are considered to be of similar value (in this case in my personal opinion), and the breaks between tiers represent a significant drop in value. For tight ends I’ve separated the top twenty-five players into five tiers (my full rankings are also available under my profile), within which I’ve also identified the most over- and undervalued players according to ADP (Average Draft Position, per DynastyLeagueFootball.com), ECR (Expert Consensus Rank, per FantasyPros.com), and my own anecdotal experience.
Tier 1Travis Kelce
Best Value: With all three Tier 1 TEs fetching relatively similar prices on the open market, I’m going with the one who is the cheapest (marginally) and has the best long-term quarterback situation- Zach Ertz. For most intents and purposes I view him and Travis Kelce identically, but Kelce has Pat Mahomes throwing him the ball while Ertz has Carson Wentz. Ertz also lacks the off-the-field antics of Kelce and the injuries of Gronk, so I have the most faith in him to continue producing at an elite level for longer.
Worst Value: It pains me to say this, but Rob Gronkowski is just not a good value right now. When he’s playing at 100% and Tom Brady is throwing him the ball, he is not only far and away the best TE in the league but also the greatest TE of all time. This is why it is impossible to put him outside of Tier 1. However, at this point the Gronk has been injured so much that he is basically more cyborg than man, and rumors of his imminent retirement these days seem more and more credible. His price, however, has yet to go down, and this makes him unacceptably expensive in dynasty.
Tier 2Evan Engram
Best Value: Hunter Henry is the heir to the coveted Antonio Gates role for the Chargers, and even with Gates still present he made it abundantly clear that he was going to excel when his day came. He is one of the most well-rounded TEs in the league and a lethal redzone threat, and more importantly he still has time and room to grow. He doesn’t yet cost the price that an elite young TE will usually run you, but by the end of next season he will. Buy now while you still can.
Worst Value: Evan Engram shattered expectations as a rookie TE and is a deadly offensive weapon who could easily join Tier 1 next year- however, it is also a possibility that he could eventually be transitioned to a WR designation. This would cause a huge loss of value, and that possibility combined with the fact that his overall ADP is almost two rounds earlier than Henry make him the worse value in this tier.
Tier 3David Njoku
Best Value: David Njoku is a hypertalented athlete at a slow-developing position who just so happens to play for a team that could slowly be developing into an offensive juggernaut. I’ll pause for you to laugh at the idea of the Browns becoming a juggernaut of any kind other than sadness, but if they use their current wealth of assets intelligently they could be an explosive offense right at the time that Njoku is entering his prime. He is more of a long-term investment at the moment than a player that is going to help you win a 2018 championship, but he is a great value at his market price.
Worst Value: Kyle Rudolph is by no means a bad value and only fills this slot by default because of the small tier, but I consider him a worse value than Njoku basically because he will only be the fourth option in the Vikings offense next year (after Cook, Thielen, and Diggs). He is a solid player and should provide above-replacement-value production most weeks, but for their respective prices I’d rather have Njoku.
Tier 4O.J. Howard
Best Value: Undrafted free agent Jack Doyle, provided the right circumstances, could become a top-6 TE and the surprise gem of this tier. He saw encouraging development from his rookie to sophomore year and has yet to reach the typical prime of a tight end, and additionally has the potential return of all-world QB Andrew Luck to look forward to. Neither a healthy luck nor continued development are sure things, however, which is why the market price for the 24-year old Doyle is still as low as it is (TE15 ADP/ECR), allowing him to remain an excellent value and investment.
Worst Value: The jury is still out on OJ Howard, which is exactly why I believe he is the worst value in Tier 4. He has an ECR and ADP of TE6 but plays in such a crowded offense that he seems like a prime example of someone who may end up being a great football player without being a great fantasy football player. It seems unlikely that the Bucs offense will change drastically enough to make him a fantasy contributor next season, so his value will probably go down before it will go up. Avoid at all costs right now.
Tier 5Austin Hooper
Best Value: When you get down to the final tier of TEs you’re not looking at many players who have a lot of concrete value or much serious upside, but George Kittle could be a potential exception here. Though it was discouraging that he was out-snapped by journeyman Garrett Celek last year, he was only a rookie at a notoriously rookie-unfriendly position. The current offensive revolution in San Francisco could reap dividends for Kittle if they decide that he is “their guy” moving forward, so taking a shot on Kittle if your league doesn’t have a particularly attached owner is a great value play.
Worst Value: As I mentioned, in this tier you’re probably not paying much for any of these guys so it’s hard to call them out for being bad value, but it could be argued that Cameron Brate is simply waiting to decline. Both OJ Howard and Chris Godwin have better pedigree and seem likely to grow into roles that steal the touches that made Brate worth anything in the first place.