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Tight Ends -- ADP Trends and Why It's Best to Wait

The tight end position is one that seems to be causing fantasy owners unnecessary fits these days. With the losses of Rob Gronkowski (for at least the early part of the season), Aaron Hernandez and Dennis Pitta, you would normally think that, based on the structure of the position, Jimmy Graham would be in high demand and most everyone else would fall to the wayside. It’s not that people should outright ignore the position, but knowing just how interchangeable most tight ends beyond last year’s top four or five are, the rush to grab one becomes much less urgent than it has been over the last two or three seasons.

However, that hasn’t been the case this offseason and, for the most part, fantasy owners have been reaching too high for tight ends with the hope of securing a top 10 guy and gaining an edge over their competition. But what they may not realize is that they are actually doing their fantasy teams a disservice here by using a third or fourth round pick on the position. You may think you’re gaining an edge grabbing Vernon Davis in the fourth round, but, in the end, will his stats be that much better than those of say, Brandon Myers or Rob Housler or even new offseason darling Jordan Cameron? I’m not so sure.

Remember, we’re talking about value here. Davis may ultimately score more fantasy points than Housler or Cameron, but it has to be by a very significant amount to warrant using a fourth round pick versus a 12th rounder. But it’s not just there that you have to be looking. Who else could you have taken in the fourth and who would be available at that position in the 12th? You could be looking at owning Davis and Brandon LaFell as opposed to Housler and Reggie Wayne. The difference between LaFell and Wayne is substantial, especially in PPR leagues, so that means that Davis has to out-produce Housler by at least that much to break even. If he doesn’t then your team is scoring fewer points overall.

And that’s still assuming that Davis outperforms the other guys. What if he doesn’t? What if he turns in a season similar to last year’s disappointment? Everyone assumes that with Michael Crabtree out for the year, Davis will start seeing a huge increase in targets, but that could be a huge mistake. Anquan Boldin is replacing Crabtree and the team is currently auditioning a dozen or so wideouts for a total of five other roster spots delegated for the position. Colin Kaepernick may key in on Davis in the early goings, just as Alex Smith did last year, but with the abundance of potential targets and the way defenses clamped down on Davis last year, you could be looking at more targets going to guys like Quinton Patton, Kyle Williams or newly acquired Jon Baldwin. Nothing is set in stone, so things could fall in a variety of different ways. Is that a risk you're willing to take with your third or fourth round pick? I'm not!

So let’s get a quick look at what the ADP Trend Report looks like for tight ends in standard scoring leagues.

Player Team Current ADP Change 1 Wk Ago Change 2 Wks Ago Overall Trend
Jimmy Graham NO 20.59 2.40% 21.08 9.90% 23.17 12.50%
Rob Gronkowski NE 30.31 -13.30% 26.28 8.60% 28.53 -5.90%
Vernon Davis SF 48.28 -6.60% 45.08 3.70% 46.73 -3.20%
Jason Witten DAL 60.70 -1.00% 60.11 -1.30% 59.33 -2.30%
Tony Gonzalez ATL 61.26 -4.80% 58.33 1.40% 59.17 -3.40%
Greg Olsen CAR 77.94 -4.30% 74.56 2.30% 76.30 -2.10%
Jared Cook STL 84.96 -4.30% 81.33 4.00% 84.57 -0.50%
Antonio Gates SD 88.70 -3.30% 85.75 2.20% 87.67 -1.20%
Kyle Rudolph MIN 90.52 -3.20% 87.64 1.80% 89.23 -1.40%
Jermichael Finley GB 94.35 0.10% 94.47 4.70% 98.93 4.90%
Jermaine Gresham CIN 102.07 -10.10% 91.72 5.40% 96.67 -5.30%
Owen Daniels HOU 102.89 -3.50% 99.33 1.90% 101.20 -1.60%
Brandon Myers NYG 105.89 -4.70% 100.89 0.90% 101.83 -3.80%
Brandon Pettigrew DET 111.39 -5.50% 105.31 1.70% 107.13 -3.80%
Dustin Keller MIA 117.65 -8.90% 107.19 2.80% 110.23 -6.30%
Martellus Bennett CHI 121.87 -4.40% 116.53 3.40% 120.53 -1.10%
Coby Fleener IND 124.63 -7.20% 115.64 4.00% 120.30 -3.50%
Dwayne Allen IND 127.11 -9.60% 114.92 2.10% 117.33 -7.70%
Marcedes Lewis JAX 138.89 -11.40% 123.06 4.90% 129.07 -7.10%
Brent Celek PHI 139.76 -9.70% 126.22 3.60% 130.77 -6.40%
Fred Davis WAS 142.74 -8.60% 130.42 1.40% 132.20 -7.40%
Robert Housler ARI 146.72 -9.00% 133.47 6.70% 142.47 -2.90%
Zach Miller SEA 147.72 -13.50% 127.72 3.30% 131.93 -10.70%
Jake Ballard NE 157.59 -10.90% 140.42 2.80% 144.30 -8.40%
Jordan Cameron CLE 168.70 23.30% 207.94
-NR- ++
Jacob Tamme DEN 183.61 -6.40% 171.83 3.20% 177.33 -3.40%
Tyler Eifert CIN 192.93 1.70% 196.22
-NR- ++
Jeff Cumberland NYJ 198.72 -4.90% 188.92 0.90% 190.67 -4.10%
Zach Sudfeld NE 200.19
-NR-
-NR- ++
Tony Scheffler DET 204.35 -5.10% 193.94 5.40% 204.37 0.00%
Heath Miller PIT 205.87 -6.30% 192.94 3.70% 200.17 -2.80%
Zach Ertz PHI 206.20 0.40% 206.94
-NR- ++
Anthony Fasano KC 209.07 -1.80% 205.22
-NR- ++
Delanine Walker TEN 209.28 -4.10% 200.69
-NR- ++
ED Dickson BAL 210.46 -1.60% 207.03
-NR- ++

By the looks of the ADP Trend Report, we do see that many fantasy owners are starting to see the benefits of waiting on a tight end as most are falling in the overall trend column. Unfortunately though, not by much. The biggest percentage drop we see is Zach Miller’s 10.7-percent reduction which translates to a little more than a round’s difference in a 12-team league; not a big drop at all. And if you look down the list, you’ll still see that the top 10 tight ends listed are all still going in the mid-seventh round (again, in a 12-teamer) or earlier.

While that may seem reasonable, taking the 10th best tight end in the middle of the seventh round after you’ve stocked up on running backs, wide receivers and at least one quarterback with your first six picks, think about the fact that you could have solidified your bye week replacements and boosted your depth by waiting another five or six rounds to grab your starting tight end. After all, there’s little reason not to think that Jermichael Finley could post numbers similar to last year which are likely to be equal or possibly worse than what you could get out of Brandon Pettigrew, Martellus Bennett, Housler or Cameron.

If you’re looking for sleepers this season, then the tight end position just might be the best place to look. No, the position isn’t always one that scores a lot of points, but if you’re just looking comparatively to other tight ends, then it’s a great place to start for cheap. Out of all the “alternative” tight ends I’ve mentioned, just look at a few things to consider…

Brandon Myers, NYG – With Hakeem Nicks forever hurting and Victor Cruz hobbling on crutches and in a walking boot, Eli Manning is going to need to find himself a reliable target. Guys like Reuben Randle and Ramses Barden are good receiver complements and decent deep threats, but Myers has sure hands and has already proven to be both capable and reliable. The number of targets he saw from Carson Palmer last season was huge in comparison to other tight ends and he’s big enough to go over the middle in the red zone.

Martellus Bennett, CHI – Had a bit of a problem with drops last season, but is more than capable of churning out quality numbers. Jay Cutler obviously keeps his eyes glued to Brandon Marshall, but with few other alternative targets, Bennett could see a fair amount of work. If he can hold onto the ball and earn Cutler’s full trust, then he could see a major increase in targets.

Rob Housler, ARI – A favorite of mine and a guy who everyone seems to forget. But Palmer is now at the helm in Arizona and we’ve already seen how he likes to lean on his tight ends. Housler is a big boy with good hands and strong route running skills. He can shed blockers and pick up good yardage after the catch and should easily become a favorite red zone target.

Jordan Cameron, CLE – Let’s face it, few people had him on their radar until he grabbed a pair of touchdowns during the Browns’ second preseason game. But Cameron showed strong potential in his rookie season last year and saw a steady number of targets throughout the year given his limited time on the field. Now the number one guy in Cleveland, he and Brandon Weeden have built a strong rapport during camp and will show off that chemistry as early as Week 1.

And though I didn’t mention them above, both Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld have strong potential moving forward. The Patriots will use them exactly as they deployed Gronkowski and Hernandez and when Gronk comes back, one of them (my gut says Sudfeld) will stay on the field in a strong complementary role.

Obviously I wouldn’t take any of these guys over Jimmy Graham, but knowing that they are going to be available late in my drafts, I breathe a little easier that I don’t have to waste such a high pick.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

 

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