We’re pushing through into the regular season this week and a lot of you are drafting; it’s time to post our final pre-season tiers for each position. It’s going to be a busy Sunday as we push to publish the remaining positional tiers!
- Rob Gronkowski
- Travis Kelce
You may want to elevate others to this tier, but the truth is outside of these two guys, there’s no one else worth reaching for. Every week they factor as one of their teams highest scoring players, and having one or the other gives you a significant advantage nearly every week.
- Zach Ertz
- Greg Olsen
- Jimmy Graham
- Kyle Rudolph
- Delanie Walker
While we don’t condone reaching on a TE, these five tight ends are worth grabbing in the middle rounds similarly to the middle tier of wide receivers. With plenty of consistency, either in targets or in the red zone, these guys won’t hurt you to have on your roster. There will be weeks they blow up and weeks they disappear, but the range of outcomes is fairly predictable.
VERY GOOD Tier
- Trey Burton
- Evan Engram
- George Kittle
- Jordan Reed
- O.J. Howard
- Jack Doyle
It’s important to understand that the TE position isn’t likely going to win you a championship, so waiting on a TE will land you a player likely in this tier. There’s some upside for many of them, but either inexperience, a new team, or extensive injury history suppress their value. We suggest understanding that a back up is necessary to offset the potential pitfalls here, but after missing out on the top seven TE’s, these guys are solid options.
- Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
- Charles Clay
- David Njoku
- Mike Gesicki
- Austin Hooper
It’s a shorter tier than the one before it, mostly because after Hooper, the proverbial cliff is steep and obvious. Starting one of these guys will likely leave a hole in your roster on some weeks, so pair with a player you like that’s still available and pray.
BACKUPS and PRAYERS Tier
- Eric Ebron
- Virgil Green
- Jared Cook
- Hayden Hurst
- Tyler Eifert
- Luke Willson
- Cameron Brate
- Vance McDonald
- Benjamin Watson
- Nick Vannett
If you’re grabbing a player in this tier, you’d better hope it’s as a backup or depth piece. There’s little upside with these players despite what the experts would have you think. There may have been some buzz recently about the guys in this tier, but a lot needs to happen to make them fantasy relevant. Of course, in keeper leagues or dynasty formats, guys like Hurst, Willson, and Vannett are worth a look as a long term asset.
- Rob Gronkowski, NE
- Travis Kelce, KC
- Zach Ertz, PHI
- Jimmy Graham, GB
- Graham has had several peaks and valleys since his time in New Orleans, but he finds himself in an ideal situation in Green Bay. As the teams best red zone target, double digit TD’s is a reasonable quest.
- Greg Olsen, CAR
- Kyle Rudolph, MIN
- Delanie Walker, TEN
- Jordan Reed, WAS
- Trey Burton, CHI
- A contract with $22 million guaranteed is proof the Bears plan to use Burton heavily in the passing game. Beyond Allen Robinson, Burton could slide in as the #2 target for the young Mitch Trubisky.
- Evan Engram, NYG
- George Kittle, SF
- O.J. Howard, TB
- Howard only managed 26 catches last year, but his athleticism was on display through his 16.6 yards per reception and 6 TDs (that’s a score almost every 4!). He’s a big breakout candidate in his 2nd year.
- Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, JAC
- Charles Clay, BUF
- David Njoku, CLE
- Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI
- Austin Hooper, ATL
- Jack Doyle, IND
- Eric Ebron, IND
- By all accounts, Ebron looks like he’s adapting to the Colts offense well. While his talent never matched his on the field accomplishments, sometimes a change of scenery is all it takes for a player to pop.
- Virgil Green, LAC
- Jared Cook, OAK
- Tyler Eifert, CIN
- Hayden Hurst, BAL
- Ed Dickson, SEA
- No longer playing second fiddle to Olsen in Carolina, Dickson has a great opportunity to produce in Seattle. On a roster that’s top heavy in the passing game, Dickson is sure to be involved heavily in the red zone.
- Cameron Brate, TB
- Rico Gathers, DAL
- Vance McDonald, PIT
- Stephen Anderson, HOU
- Anderson flashed at times, but still needs to prove he can be consistent enough to be worth rostering. The retirement of C.J. Feidorowicz means we’ll know sooner than later for the Houston TE.
- Jesse James, PIT
- Luke Willson, DET
- One of my favorite positional sleepers, Willson has all the athletic intangibles to be a contributing member of the passing game. Despite that, overcoming the organizational depth means fighting for touches with several good passing options.
- Mike Desicki, MIA
- Ben Watson, NO
- Gerald Everett, LAR
- Jake Butt, DEN
- Adam Shaheen, CHI
Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts.
Elite Tier (1)
- Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
- Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs
- Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers
Before you jump down my throat that “how can you elevate these two guys into Gronk’s class!?” I’d like to point out that I’ve really just pulled back on my Gronkspectations as an injury or two are nearly guaranteed. Still, these guys offer the highest ceiling at the position.
Very Good Tier (2)
- Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins
- Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals
- Jimmy Graham – Seattle Seahawks
- Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
My plan this year is to grab one of these guys in the middle rounds. I’m amazed that Jordan Reed doesn’t get the same pass on his health that Gronk gets because when he’s on the field he’s really, really good. Delanie Walker has probably the weakest claim to this tier as the Titans offense should spread the ball round better than previously but he still offers plenty of talent.
Decent Tier (3)
- Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings
- Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles
- Martellus Bennett – Green Bay Packers
- Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions
- Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers
- Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts
- Coby Fleener – New Orleans Saints
I’m personally a big believer in Kyle Rudolph’s ability as a pass catcher. Last year was just a start to what he should accomplish. Hunter Henry should certainly see an uptick in targets between the 20’s but until proven otherwise the red zone still belongs to Antonio Gates.
Make A Prayer Tier (4)
- CJ Fiedorowicz – Houston Texans
- Jason Witten – Dallas Texans
- Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Julius Thomas – Miami Dolphins
- Austin Hooper – Atlanta Falcons
- Antonio Gates – Los Angeles Chargers
- Evan Engram – New York Giants
This is a fantastic late round tier of tight ends as very little investment gets you a starting quality TE. Austin Hooper is the darling of the off season so be wary of where he’s being drafted but in the later rounds he’s a steal. Evan Engram is another TE that is getting a lot of buzz after playing very well in the preseason but anything other than a late round flier in deep leagues and dynasty/keeper formats may be a wasted pick.
Worth a Flyer Tier (5)
- O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- David Njoku – Cleveland Browns
- Erik Swoope – Indianapolis Colts
- Dwayne Allen – New England Patriots
- Benjamin Watson – Baltimore Ravens
- Jesse James – Pittsburgh Steelers
If you’re drafting these guys then make sure you do your homework. OJ Howard may be the most NFL ready TE from this draft class but that doesn’t mean he’ll unseat Cameron Brate as the top dog in Tampa. Jesse James is a sneaky good late pick if you miss on the top guys and want a back up to mitigate disaster. LeDarius Green is gone and Big Ben has a history of using his TE’s in the red zone.
I’ve never been in favor of spending a pick on a TE in the first 5 rounds, it’s effectually throwing away a very valuable asset so your team looks pretty on draft night. While Gronkowski is as dominant at his position as any other player, the fact is he can’t stay on the field and I’d rather take my chances with a WR or RB in the 1st or 2nd round and hang my hat on Kyle Rudolph in the 9th instead.
A tough blow came today as reports centered around a season ending ACL tear for Panthers star WR Kelvin Benjamin. After lighting up the league as a rookie, he’ll be sideline for the entire 2015 season, throwing further shadow across an already tough-to-gauge roster.
Cam Newton Impact: Don’t expect him to throw for 4,500 yards even with Benjamin in the line up. You can expect maybe a bit of a down turn passing yards, but he still has two towering red zone targets in Greg Olsen (6’5″) and rookie WR Devin Funchess (6’4″) so TD’s won’t be an issue.
Devin Funchess Impact: Temper your expectations! Obviously he’ll be in line to receive a bulk of the 140 targets that went to Benjamin last year, but he’s still a rookie, and he doesn’t have the pedigree of an Amari Cooper or Nelson Agholor. He’ll produce at a level acceptable of a fantasy WR3 but be mindful of over drafting just because of the injury to Benjamin.
Greg Olsen Impact: As a receiving tight end, there’s only a few more prolific in the league. This injury should make Olsen the #1 option for Cam Newton on most weeks, I’d expect a top 5 season from the big man.
Jonathan Stewart Impact: This should help Stewart early as the team may lean on the run a bit more than usual. If the usage increases for Stewart, expect injuries to follow.
Bonus Impact: For those who have Cameron Artis-Payne flagged as a late round flier, this is great news. A team that has been committed to the run for years is down it’s best receiver and will likely integrate more Artis-Payne than over using it’s aging RB1. Although Stewart still sits atop the depth chart, as a cuff, he’ll be far more productive than other backups in the league.
- Rob Gronkowski – NE
- Greg Olsen – CAR
- Travis Kelce – KC
- Jimmy Graham – NO
- Martellus Bennett – CHI
- Delanie Walker – TEN
- Dwayne Allen – IND
- Julius Thomas – JAC
- Jason Witten – DAL
- Jordan Cameron – MIA
- Zach Ertz – PHI
- Owen Daniels – DEN
- Heath Miller – PIT
- Antonio Gates – SD
- Kyle Rudolph – MIN
- Jordan Reed – WAS
- Tyler Eifert – CIN
- Austin Sefarian-Jenkins
- Josh Hill – NO
- Larry Donnell – NYG
- Maxx Williams – BAL
- LeDarius Green – SD
- Coby Fleener – IND
- Vernon Davis – SF
- Charles Clay – BUF
- Jared Cook – STL
- Richard Rogers – GB
- Jace Amaro – NYJ
- Mychal Rivera – OAK
- Eric Ebron – DET
- Scott Chandler – NE
- Andrew Quarless – GB
- Ladarius Green – SD
- Jacob Tamme – ATL
- Dion Sims – MIA
- Virgil Green – DEN
Jordan Cameron – MIA – At times in Cleveland, Cameron looked like an elite pass catching TE until injuries and inconsistent QB play derailed his season last year. Arguably an upgrade over Charles Clay, Cameron could find himself pushing the top 5 in TE fantasy points by the end of the season.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – TB – For those who drafted him a little early last year assuming his freak athletesism would overcome the dismal offense in Tampa Bay, there is probably a little skeptisism left after a disappointing year. Add a QB that can make the throws, and Jenkins looks poised to have the breakout year many expected of him last year.
Andrew Quarless – GB – Despite being often ranked behind teammate Richard Rogers, all the buzz out of mini camps is that the offense will likely end up using Quarless as their number 1 TE, and he has the hands and skills to be a middle of the pack fantasy TE in the high powered GB offense. He says all the right things and Aaron Rodgers has beemed, expect him to leap over Richard Rogers before the season starts, but will likely be an afterthought in your drafts.
Josh Hill – NO – I feel bad piling on a TE that hasn’t even had a chance to take the field as his teams starting TE, but the buzz is almost all bad going into fantasy drafts, and the chances he’ll produce at levels close to Jimmy Graham are zero. Don’t over bid on player who is likely going to let down fantasy owners and make way for Ben Watson on the field.
Eric Ebron – DET – A player many lauded as the replacement for the much maligned Brandon Pettigrew, Ebron did nothing to prove his supports right last year, and hasn’t done much this year to change my expectations. Detroit will likely continue to force the football to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and balance it out of the backfield with super rookie Ameer Abdullah. Use caution when drafting Ebron.
Jordan Reed – WSH – Reed has the physical tools to be a top 10 TE, but his health isn’t there, and the roster features another capable TE in Niles Paul. Expect both TE’s to line up on the field together and neither will create much of a cushion between the other in terms of fantasy production. In case of injuries, one or the other could be a late, and I mean LATE round sleeper.
With the NFL draft complete and most of the big time trades and free agent moves in the rear view mirror, the ultra dedicated among us have started our fantasy prep work. If you’re playing in a keeper league, there are so many things to take into account when deciding who you need to have on your roster next year. Using 2014 ADP numbers, we evaluate who are the best candidates to be kept in your leagues.
- Le’Veon Bell – ADP 27: In all likely hood due to his DUI arrest, Bell was drafted later than the back end of the 2nd round. All Bell did was turn in a top 5 RB season and show up as the top pass catching back in the league. Bell is a 1st round target this year, and if you’re lucky enough to have drafted him later in the draft (like I did in the 4th round) he’ll be a heck of a keeper.
- TY Hilton – ADP 56: It’s rare that a player exceeds the pre-draft hype like Hilton did last year. Finishing near the top ten for WR’s in fantasy scoring, Hilton is a volume reciever in an elite passing offense. The only concern here is that recently aquired Andre Johnson may eat into his numbers a little bit. Still, I expect Hilton to be a 2nd round pick.
- Emmanuel Sanders – ADP 67: When Eric Decker left and Sanders came in, we figured he’d slide in as the 4th option behind the two Thomas’ and Wes Welker. All Sanders did was finish with 100 catches, 1400 yards and 9 TD’s. With Julius Thomas gone, it’s a good bet that Sanders will continue to see elite numbers.
- Sammy Watkins – ADP 73: The hype surrounding Watkins was for real as Watkins caught 65 balls for 900+ yards and 6 TD’s. This is even more impressive when you consider he’s the only weapon in the Bills offense. If the parts around him improve, he’s a safe bet for 70-80 catches and 1100 yards.
- Russell Wilson – ADP 84: It’s amazing to me that in Fantasy circles Wilson still doesn’t get any respect. Sure, he may not have the aqumen under center to be mistaken for a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but combine his skills on the ground with an efficient passing game, and Wilson finished in the top 3 for Fantasy contributions among QB’s. Not bad in the 8th round.
- Greg Olsen – ADP 94: Olsen has always been an above average TE in the passing game, but he became a true threat this year in Carolina’s offense. With a healthy Cam Newton, expect Olsen to finish at or near the top of the TE rankings again this year.
- Mike Evans – ADP 96: The knock on Evans was that his game played a lot like Vincent Jackson’s and with a lack of QB skill, he may not live up to the hype. Flash forward and Evans finished as the #1 rookie WR in terms of fantasy contributions. A freakish athlete, should continue to produce with Jameis Winston likely being better than the rotation of QB’s the Bucs used last year.
- Carlos Hyde – ADP 103: It was bound to happen at some point. Frank Gore is no longer a 49er, leaving the door wide open for the talented Hyde to run away with the job… pun intended.
- Lamar Miller – ADP 124: Knowshon Moreno arrived from Denver prior to the 2014 season and many thought it signaled the end of Miller in Miami. When the Fins lost Moreno for the year due to injury, Miller stepped his game up and contributed nearly 1100 yards and 8 TD’s on the ground, and was a factor in the passing games for PPR owners. With the passing game getting better through the draft, expect more room to run.
- Jeremy Hill – ADP 134: Hill had to battle for playing time from Giovanni Bernard who was expected to be a 3 down back for the versatile Bengals offense. Instead it was Hill who put up great numbers and enters the year firmly entrentched as the number one option in Cincy.
- Jordan Matthews ADP 150: 67 Catches and 870 yards made for a great season for Matthews. The departure of Jeremy Maclin means that Matthews can expect a bump in production. The only cloud over his 2015 season is that Sam Bradford holds the keys to the car now, and an injury could throw a wrench in the gears.
- Odell Beckham ADP 154: This one shouldn’t surprise anyone, down the stretch Beckham was the most devestating fantasy player, racking up 20+ points (even more in PPR leagues) in 5 of the final 6 weeks of the season. There’s no reason to believe that he won’t perform at the top of the WR rankings.
- DeAndre Hopkins ADP 168: When you’re performance is enough for a team to send Andre Johnson packing, odds are you wowed some people. Hopkins finished 12th in yards (1210) and 20th in receptions (76) all while hauling in 6 TD’s. Now that Johnson is gone, Hopkins is a bonafide #1 and will likely go in the top 30 picks of your draft.
- Mark Ingram ADP 186: Ingram did what other first year busts like Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden couldn’t. He finally came through for owners. Running away with the starting gig, Ingram has 980 yards in 13 games for the Saints. An offseason that saw the Saints look to balance out the offense, Ingram stands to gain the most from the changes and could challenge for a top 15 RB spot.
- Derek Carr ADP 200: I hesitate to put QB’s on here because they are a dime a dozen in the middle of the pack, but Carr was drafted near the end of most standard drafts, and with the addition of Amari Cooper and finally having a competent back means that Carr could be a breakout in his sophomore season.
- Ryan Tannehill ADP 215: Tannehill had a coming out party in 2014, quietly leading an efficient offense in Miami that only got better in the offseason. He may never approach the elite status, but he’s a safe bet to put 4,000 and 25-30 TD’s along with a few hundred yards on the ground.
- Darren McFadden ADP 218: It would take a strong stomach to keep a guy like McFadden, but with DeMarco Murray gone and no RB’s coming in through the draft, McFadden will be the guy running behind the best O-Line in football. If he stays healthy (a big if) he’ll WAY outperform his ADP from 2014.
- Travis Kelce ADP 248: There was a lot of hype surrounding Kelce coming into the season. A massive and athletic TE who can catch, block and score he was drafted criminally low. Drafters won’t be fooled this year as Kelce has very little competition to catch passes in KC from the TE spot.
- Sam Bradford ADP 245: Similar in situation to Darren McFadden the oft injuried but talented starting QB of the Eagles should benefit from having a much better team around him in Philly than he ever did in St. Louis. Just like how Foles and Sanchez had great performances in the Chip Kelly offense, I expect Bradford to finally return the investment that drafters made when taking him.
- Steve Smith Sr. ADP 248: Even at his advanced age and with the addition of Perriman in the draft, Smith should continue to be a PPR machine. He may not command a top 30 pick, but he’ll go well before his 2014 ADP.
- C.J. Anderson ADP – : Anderson was likely a waiver wire guy in your league, and now he’s the stud in an offense full of them. With the Broncos looking to protect Peyton Manning, Anderson could finish as a top 10 RB.
- Brandon LaFell ADP – : There was speculation the Patriots could try to bolster it’s offense in the draft, instead LaFell gets the vote of confidence as he will be the main WR target for Tom Brady in 2015. Gronk and Edeleman will have a lot of touches, but LaFell should finish inside the top 30 WR’s.
- Delanie Walker ADP – : Undrafted, Walker was a beast early in the season. He has the tools to be a top 5 TE in the league, and with Tennessee improving on offense with the addition of Marcus Mariota, a healthy Walker could be in for a bump in production even over a successfull 2014 campain.