Tight end continues to be a key fantasy football position this season, and having a solid option can make or break your season. The dropoff from the top tier to the rest of the starters is pretty steep, so do your best to secure a top-flite option. If you can’t get one of the elite options, try to target one of the players who might emerge as a value pick later in your draft.
Here are my top 15 options going into the preseason, and make sure to bookmark our fantasy football page for more rankings, perspective, and sleeper options leading up to your draft day. Throughout the season, you’ll also be able to find waiver wire pickups, starter rankings, and weekly value options to help you claim your league’s bragging rights.
TE, New Orleans Saints
Graham tried to be classified as a WR in his arbitration this offseason, but fantasy owners know him as the top end tight end in the game. Graham is re-signed, locked in, and should be in for a huge workload this season. The Saints are down a few weapons on offense this season with the departures of Lance Moore and Darren Sproles, but Graham is such a main focal point of the attack his targets probably won’t be affected very much. Graham is worth taking early in most formats and can easily be a first or second round pick since there is a pretty dramatic dropoff in production outside the elite tier and an increase in risk in the other elite options.
TE, New England Patriots
Gronk can be every bit the fantasy weapon that Graham is when he’s in the game. The problem has been some pretty major injuries and extended recovery times. He is expected to be back week one, and he’s one of the few tight ends that could be on the same tier with Graham based on the way Tom Brady focuses on getting him the ball especially in the red zone. The risk in taking him slots him in behind Graham, but his upside holds him at the #2 spot.
TE, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens installed Gary Kubiak as their new Offensive Coordinator this offseason which should result in a monster season from Pitta in his first full year back after fracturing and dislocating his hip in training camp last year. Pitta showed his abilities in the Ravens Super Bowl run two years ago, and if he shows he’s back to full strength the system he’s in has the potential to make him an elite option. If you miss out on Gronk and Graham, Pitta is the next best option if you’re looking for upside
TE, Denver Broncos
Thomas showed he’s a great option for Peyton Manning and can be a huge red zone threat in the prolific Denver passing attack. The only thing that holds him back is that there is so much talent around him and Manning spreads the ball so much that he won’t ever consistently get the workload the top three will get.
TE, San Francisco 49ers
Davis did just fine with his new quarterback last season finishing as the second-highest scoring TE in ESPN standard scoring behind only Jimmy Graham. He and Colin Kaepernick hooked up often in the red zone, and his 13 TD’s made him an awesome option for fantasy owners. This year, San Francisco has a little bit more in the way of receiving options which could limit his yardage, but he’s definitely a solid TE1 who is a reliable part of a good offense.
Witten is the end of the second tier of tight ends and the drop off is pretty steep. 3-6 on this list are reliable starters but after that things get a little bit iffy. Witten has a great rapport with Tony Romo and is often targeted all over the field including the red zone, but his numbers were down a bit last year and Dallas has plenty of receiving weapons which is why he slides down this list just a bit this season.
TE, Washington Redskins
Reed showed he has the skills to be an elite option and that he has the trust of RGIII to make the catches that the Redskins need. The problem is that his rookie season was cut short due to a concussion and he didn’t play after week 11. Washington will be running a new offense under Jay Gruden and has some new weapons with DeSean Jackson in town, so Reed’s role is still a bit undefined. However, his upside is undeniable and gets him to this spot on the list.
TE, Cleveland Browns
Cameron had a huge first half of the season last year with the Browns before QB injuries and defensive schemes caused his numbers to decline in the second half of the season. With another new system in Cleveland, his role could change again, but Brian Hoyer showed he can make him a servicable TE1 if you miss out on the top options.
TE, Carolina Panthers
Olsen will be the Panthers one returning receiving threat after they replaced their wide receivers in the draft while letting Brandon LaFell, Steve Smith, and Ted Ginn Jr. all depart. Olsen could see a ton of targets as a result, but he isn’t very much of a downfield threat and I’m not convinced that the Carolina passing game will be effective enough to give him much upside. He’s actually a safer option than Cameron and Reed, but I rank him as a low-end TE1 because his ceiling is much lower.
TE, Tennessee Titans
Walker overcame QB instability, injury, and a limited offense to put together a pretty solid season in his first year as a full-time starter. The former-49ers backup is a low-end TE1 consideration especially as Ken Whisenhunt takes over after utilizing the Chargers’ tight ends effectively last season. Walker is no lock and the QB position still has issues, but there is definitely upside for the Titans TE.
TE, Minnesota Vikings
The bad news–Rudolph was a big fantasy disappointment last year and then got injured. The good news–he still has the raw tools to be successful as a tight end in the NFL and his new Offensive Coordinator, Norv Turner, has made tight ends in his offense into fantasy studs. The upside is there for this sleeper, but don’t overreach for Rudolph until we see he’s ready to step into Norv’s laboratory and come out the star.
TE, Miami Dolphins
Clay showed some potential last season as he stepped in after a preseason injury gave him the starting TE job. Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill trusts Clay and uses him as a safety valve and red zone target, but Clay doesn’t have the elite tools to make him a star from what we’ve seen so far. He’s a nice insurance policy and a pretty reliable option even though he won’t have monster games and carry your team.
TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Ertz could emerge as a big part of the Eagles high-flying offense, or he could be stuck in a platoon with Brent Celek like he was last year and be too unreliable for fantasy purposes. His upside earns him this spot, but don’t draft him to be your starter unless you are in a multiple tight end league or a 16-team league (although those don’t usually require a TE specifically).
TE, San Diego Chargers
Green has huge upside, but the question is how much time will he have to split with Antonio Gates. Ultimately, the uncertainty hurts both their value, and hopefully we can get some clarity before camp ends. Green’s upside is higher, so that’s why he makes the list despite Gates’ long-time fantasy contributions.
TE, Chicago Bears
Bennett has the raw tools to be a fantasy factor but he’s struggled to be consistent even with Jay Cutler who normally makes his tight end relevant. Bennett has upside but will need more consistent targeting before he should fill a roster spot on your team.