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“Off the Matt” 2015 Tight End Rankings 20-11 (Part 1 of 2)

Here is all you need to know about the tight end position when it comes to fantasy football…

In 2014 eight of the top 12 fantasy scoring tight ends had an ADP of the 8th round or later.  Half of the top 12 were selected in the 12th round or later.

2014 Top 12 Fantasy Tight Ends (Points Scored) / (ADP)

1.  R. Gronkowski – 178 / 3.04 (round 3 – pick 4)

2.  A. Gates – 148 / 12.01

3.  J. Graham – 137 / 1.08

4.  G. Olsen – 131 / 8.03

5.  M. Bennett – 123 / 10.08

6.  C. Fleener – 118 / 17.03

7.  J. Thomas – 116 / 3.03

8.  T. Kelce – 108 / 14.01

9.  D. Walker – 105 / 15.03

10.  J. Witten – 93 / 6.11

11.  H. Miller – 87 / 13.6

12.  L. Donnell – 84 / Undrafted

It is not an easy task to predict tight end production.  Just ask the Yahoo! Sports Staff.  Last year they were able to successfully pick five of the top 12 in their 2014 preseason ranking.  That number is even less impressive when you factor in Gronkowski, Graham, and Thomas as three layups who were at the top of EVERYONE’S rankings.

With that said, I am going to get out my lucky coin and crank out some rankings for the 2015 season.

20.  Tyler Eifert, Bengals – Eifert showed flashes as a rookie hauling in 39 of his 59 targets for 445 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  His second season didn’t even last a full quarter after going down with a gruesome elbow injury.  With Jermaine Gresham out of the picture, there is some intrigue in selecting Eifert this year.

Despite the Bengals switching gears to a more run-heavy offense, Gresham still caught 62 passes and scored five touchdowns.  With Eifert taking over those targets, he should be considered a breakout candidate.

19.  Charles Clay, BillsI want to shake hands with Charles Clay’s agent.  For him to get Clay a five-year, 38 million dollar deal is far more $impressive than any stat that is currently available on Clay himself.  With the Bills playing in the same division as Clay for the past four seasons, they have had their opportunity to see a fair share of this guy on film and on the field.  They are obviously impressed with what they saw by inking that type of contract.

Tight ends have had no problem putting up numbers in Greg Roman’s system.  Second-string tight end MarQueis Gray referred to Roman’s offense as “tight end heaven.”  The past two seasons, Clay has put up 759 yards and 605 in 14 games last year.  In 2013, he finished the year as the seventh best tight end in fantasy.  Last year, only finding the end zone three times stifled his chances of making a repeat trip into the top 10.  The 38 million dollar question is who will be throwing the ball to Clay?  At the end of the day, they didn’t sign him to that type of contract to stand on the sideline.  He will play a role in this offense.  I expect him to achieve similar yardage totals as he has the previous two seasons.  However, I don’t see a ton of scoring opportunities, which cripples his upside.

18.  Larry Donnell, Giants – Before I get into the goods on Donnell, it needs to be mentioned that he has yet to participate at Giants camp due to Achilles tendinitis.  Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo said that big Larry is “not quite there yet.”  The situation needs to be monitored, but everyone including Donnell expects him to be full go when the season starts.

My favorite stat on Donnell is that he received 20 targets in the red zone.  To put that number in perspective, of all the tight ends, only Jimmy ldGraham had more red zone targets.  With the potential the Giants offense has this year, it should make for plenty of trips to the red zone.  Oh yeah, don’t be worried about the return of Victor Cruz cutting into Donnell’s stats.  Actually, in the seven games that Donnell played with Cruz he was more efficient.  In those seven games, Donnell scored four touchdowns and posted yardage totals of 56, 81, 45, 54, and 90.  Wait a sec, that’s only five games worth of yardage totals.  What about the other two?  Okay, fine.  He hit a bit of a rough patch in Week 5 and Week 6, TOTALING one reception for six yards.  Any tight end on the 20-11 list is capable of dud weeks like that.  However, with Donnell being a constant red-zone threat, he is worth keeping an eye on.  Who knows, maybe you will get lucky and spot start him on the week he erupts like he did in Week 4 last year to the tune of 54 yards and three touchdowns.

17.  Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers – Let’s just forgot about asfASJ’s rookie season.  After all, if you read this article from earlier in the year, you already know not to expect anything from a rookie tight end.

I agree with the masses, and expect the Buccaneer offense to be better than it was last year.  Jameis Winston walks into a good situation with two talented receivers and a 6’5” 260lb tight end that looks the part of a big time player.  New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has a history of quality tight end production in his scheme.  With no run game in sight, it will be on Winston and the passing game to put up points in Tampa.  Having the two outside options in Evans and Jackson should open up plenty of one-on-one opportunities for ASJ, who with his size should win those matchups.  The upside is definitely there.

16.  Eric Ebron, Lions – Go back up and read the first paragraph of ASJ’s write-up.

Now, while I am on the topic of upside, let’s bring Eric Ebron into the fold.  eeBeing the 10th overall selection doesn’t just happen.  The Lions obviously saw an immense amount of talent to spend such a high pick on him.  While Ebron failed to deliver in his rookie season, there is hope for a bounce back in year two.

Ebron’s situation is not all that different from ASJ’s.  He will be the third option in the passing game and plays alongside two talented receivers that will likely put him in favorable match ups.  I will go on to say that I like Ebron’s situation even better, thanks to having a proven quarterback throwing him the ball.

15.  Josh Hill, Saints – Josh Hill is the ultimate speculative selection.  There is not enough in regards to a body of work for anyone to have a strong opinion on how he will perform on the field.

So what do we know?  For starters, Jimmy Graham heading to Seattle has opened the gate for Hill to slide into the starting tight end position in one of the most potent offenses in the entire league.  In addition to Graham, wide receiver Kenny Stills is also no longer in New Orleans.  Graham and Stills represents 209 targets that are going to be filled by some combination of Saint’s pass catchers.

In Hill’s limited time last year, he did manage to find the end zone five times, which speaks to his ability to be a red zone threat.  There is a great deal to like about this situation, but it is arguable that even more is unknown.  No players stock will rise or fall, based on their preseason performance, more.  If Hill has a big preseason and proves to be the every-down tight end, move him into the top 10.

14.  Dwayne Allen, Colts – It’s not everyday you will find a tight end ranked this low who is coming off a season with eight touchdown receptions (in just 13 games).  On the other hand, it is commonplace to find a tight end ranked this low who failed to crack 30 receptions or 400 yards.  Touchdowns are flukey.  There is no way he can repeat his one touchdown per every 3.6 reception pace that he had in 2014.  His week-to-week production is too touchdown dependent to be counted on in head-to-head formats.  Playing in an elite offense, in which there will be loads of scoring opportunities, does make him an attractive option.  For me, the lean weeks outweigh the touchdown potential.


13. Coby Fleener, Colts – After a solid 2013, Fleener followed it up with an even bigger 2014, finishing as the 6th best fantasy tight end.  A whole article could be devoted to comparing Fleener and Allen.  At the end of the day, they will prevent each other from being truly elite tight ends.  It can be summed up best by saying; Fleener will be more consistent when it comes to yardage, while Allen will be the better touchdown threat.  With yardage being more predictable than touchdowns, I rank Fleener ahead of Allen.

I think the addition of Frank Gore is going to take a chunk out of the production that this duo amassed last season.  An improved running game, especially at the goal line, will cut into their scoring chances.

12. Antonio Gates, Chargers – The big news regarding Gates this offseason was the four game suspension he received for PED use.  Him missing four games is enough to keep him out of my top 10.  A report  surfaced during the offseason that Gates reportedly wants to play less snaps this year.

“With injuries and what not, I played a little bit more than they expected me to play last season,” Gates said in an interview with MMQB. “I was playing the whole game. How I feel next year, it depends on how much volume they have me doing. I’d like to come in on third-and-7s, red zones, those situations. That’s what my contribution is at anyway.”  To me, that doesn’t sound like enough snaps to be a solid contributor in any fantasy line up.  People have been writing Gates off for about the past five seasons.  One of these seasons they will eventually be right.
11. Jason Witten, Cowboys – Say what you want about Jason Witten, but any tight end that has played every game for 11 consecutive seasons is okay in my book.  His durability and consistency are both desired commodities in the fantasy football world. Witten is safe.  Safe isn’t a bad thing at all.  However, if I miss out on onejwit of the top tier tight ends, I would like to take a swing for the fences in filling my tight end slot.  Witten has only scored more than five touchdowns twice in the past seven years.  The odds of him blowing up the touchdown column at this stage in his career seem highly unlikely.  You could do worse than having Jason Witten as your starting tight end.  If you are looking for a steady but not spectacular option, he is your man.  In PPR leagues Witten can be bumped up a few slots.
This list of players covers the spectrum from high floor to high risk to high upside.  If you miss out on one of the premier tight ends, take a shot on one of these high upside players later in the draft.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 9th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio sponsored by the Sports PaloozaRadio Network. You are welcome to call in and ask questions at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will include minor league call ups that could effect your fantasy playoff roster amongst other current baseball information.

Our guests are Ron Shandler, Bryan Luhrs, and Kyle Amore. Ron is a fantasy sports trade association hall of famer, and fantasy baseball pioneer. Bryan Luhrs is a writer with MLFS, and the owner of Real Deal Dynasty Sports. Kyle is a writer with MLFS, and a former college ball player whom had his career derailed by Tommy John Surgery. This will be a very spirited debate so come join us!
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Major League Fantasy Football Show:  Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Saturday August 8th from 2-3:30pm EST for Major League Fantasy Football Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. This is a live call in show so feel free to dial in at 646-915-8596. This week is all about the wide receiver position.
Our guests this week are Jeff Nelson, Lou Landers, and Zak Sauer. Jeff is a defensive coach from White Hall H.S. in PA. Lou Landers and Zak Sauer are both writers with
If you can’t make it to the live airing you can always download the podcast at I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for “Sports Palooza Radio Show”. Android owners download “Podcast Republic” and then search on podcast republic for “Sports Palooza Radio Show.”

A/S/ the old school AOL instant messenger days... 31/M/PA Elementary Physical Education by day, chasing around my 1 and 2 year old boys by night. I started playing fantasy football when I was 9 years old (94'). My older brother let me be a co-owner on his team. We had one of those giant C-Band satellite dishes and had heard that there was a way to get every football game through a new package called "Sunday Ticket." My first memory was watching Terry Allen run around for the Vikings and I have been hooked ever since. I don't know what the world record is for most consecutive Sundays watching a minimum of seven hours of football, but I have to be on my way to achieving it.

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