One thing has become abundantly clear in fantasy football: there is Rob Gronkowski and there is everyone else. That isn’t to say that guys like Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert or Jordan Reed haven’t played themselves into that “elite tight end” conversation. But with Jimmy Graham being traded and later injured in Seattle last year, the throne rose up a few hundred miles.
Gronk is Still Tops
The proof was in the pudding in 2015, when The Gronk had almost 30 more fantasy points than any other tight end. Closest to him was the random Gary Barnidge, the often hurt Reed, the over-compensating Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker and the aforementioned Eifert and Kelce.
There are problems with associating these guys with Gronkowski, however. Barnidge could easily be a one-hit wonder, Reed has a sketchy injury history, Olsen needed to be huge last year with Kelvin Benjamin hurt, Eifert has been hurt more often than not and Kelce works out of a system that continues to curb his upside.
Of the entire lot, only Walker is truly “safe”, but he lacks the upside any of those guys possess.
Of course, this is all simply in the “#1 tight end talk”. From there, the pack is far from Gronkowski, which tells us we can take a shot on Gronkowski early in drafts, but if we can’t get him (or don’t want him), there is little reason to press the issue at the position.
Tight end is better now than it has been in the past, partially because of talent, but also due to fluidity. Barnidge, Eifert, Ben Watson, Richard Rodgers and Zach Ertz all climbed the fantasy ladder, while Graham, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Martellus Bennett all fell.
The point? Get Gronkowski early if you want, but then choose wisely from that point on. The harsh reality is you can roster two solid tight ends and really just stream the position throughout the year, based on trends and matchups.
ADP Shows Value
The ADP data over at FantasyFootballCalculator.com shows us where the value is, too.
Gronkowski is going off of fantasy football draft boards around round two, with Jordan Reed coming off two rounds later in round four. On average, fantasy owners can expect to see the next best option going off the board in each successive round, with the likes of Kelce, Eifert, Olsen and Julius Thomas all being picked between rounds 5-7.
This is where the value comes in, as Coby Fleener is steadily rising up draft boards due to his athletic upside as the main option in New Orleans. That’s assuming his bad awareness, drops and the presence of Josh Hill don’t collectively become an issue.
In the case of Fleener, his upside is seeing him drafted in round six, ahead of more stable guys (who also possess plenty of upside) like Julius Thomas, Gary Barnidge, Delanie Walker and (gasp!) Tyler Eifert.
If that value wasn’t jaw-dropping enough, guys like Antonio Gates (#2 tight end in 2014), Zach Ertz (10th tight end in 2015), Jason Witten and Jared Cook (interesting sleeper now that he’s in Green Bay) are all also available after Fleener is typically drafted.
Overall, the value is clear at the tight end position. With so much talent and risk involved, it probably doesn’t pay to take a tight end early. Unless, of course, his name is Rob Gronkowski.