Tier One: Elite Scorers with Overall TE1 Upside

Rob Gronkowski (TE1) > Travis Kelce (TE2) > Zach Ertz (TE3)

Comments: As tight end is a “onesie” position in most leagues – like at quarterback, you’re only required to start one each week – box-score expectations must be especially elevated for tight ends to be worth early-round fantasy picks. Only three tight ends meet that criteria. Gronk hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2011, yet he’s finished as a top-two tight end in five of the past seven years and figures to be leaned on especially heavily to open 2018 with Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola long gone, Julian Edelman on suspension, and Kenny Britt and Jordan Matthews on the street. Kelce has topped 80 catches in back-to-back seasons. The Chiefs’ quarterback change to Pat Mahomes increases Kelce’s volatility, but he maintains an overall TE1 ceiling on a Kansas City team that looks explosive on offense but has backslid precipitously on defense. Ertz hovered in the 74-78 catch range with 816-853 yards in each of the past three years. He took a big 2017 step via touchdowns (8) after never topping four TDs in a previous season, so it’s fair to wonder if Ertz scored a bit above his head. His floor is still safe, and Alshon Jeffery (shoulder) and Nelson Agholor’s (lower body) injuries enhance Ertz’s outlook.

Tier Two: Rest of the Potential Difference-Making Starters

Jimmy Graham (TE4) > Delanie Walker (TE5) > Greg Olsen (TE6) > Evan Engram (TE7) > Kyle Rudolph (TE8) > Trey Burton (TE9) > Jordan Reed (TE10)

Comments: This is the tier I’ve targeted most, typically in the sixth through ninth rounds. Graham showed signs of decline in Seattle by averaging 24.0 yards over the final eight games, and he turns 32 late this season. Still, joining an Aaron Rodgers-quarterbacked offense gives Graham league-leading touchdown upside. Graham led the NFL in red-zone targets and targets inside the ten-yard line last season, and Rodgers throws in the red zone at a near-league-high clip. Walker is a model of consistency, topping 800 yards in four straight years. I expect the Titans’ offense to take a step forward with Walker as a passing-game focal point, especially in scoring position. Olsen is 33 and was up and down after returning from a Jones fracture in his foot last year. He faces more target competition with Christian McCaffrey returning, Devin Funchess emerging, and D.J. Moore added in the draft. Engram won’t repeat 115 targets with Odell Beckham back, he should be more efficient after managing a lowly 55.7% catch rate as a rookie. Adam Thielen’s 2017 emergence contributed to Rudolph seeing 51 fewer targets than the year before, but Rudolph has been a reliable touchdown scorer with 15 over the past two years. Kirk Cousins upgrades Minnesota’s passing game as a whole. Burton is a prime breakout candidate as the Bears’ potential receiving leader. Mitchell Trubisky has targeted Burton on 6-of-18 preseason pass attempts. You know the deal with Reed; He’ll dominate if healthy, which is always a big “if.”

Read the rest of Silva’s TE Tiers in the 2018 Rotoworld Draft Guide.

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