TIER 1 & 2
Rob Gronkowski is in his own tier, the only tight end you could consider in the first round. After that, Reed and Olsen are both the top red zone targets and could both lead their teams in receptions.
Fleener moves from Indy to New Orleans. Last year, Benjamin Watson was a top 10 tight end replacing Jimmy Graham, and I expect Fleener to be a pretty safe play to get a lot of catches with Drew Brees. Speaking of Graham, he’s being drafted lower than this, and I’ve seen him frequently outside the Top 12. I know he was a disappointment and got hurt last year, and his touchdowns were entirely lacking. But he still averaged 4.4 catches per game. For perspective, Travis Kelce averaged 4.5, Gary Barnidge 4.9, and Rob Gronkowski 4.8. TDs can be notoriously fickle, and while I don’t expect the same production he had with Brees, I think he can be a value.
The only reason I have Eifert here is concerns over when he will be back and how healthy he will be this year. He will also have a hard time duplicating the TD rate. I’ve been expecting great things from Dwayne Allen for awhile, and he has struggled with injuries. With Fleener gone and Luck returning, those tight end catches have to go somewhere. Martellus Bennett is a tough one to project. I think this is the area to take the risk in that offense.
Vance McDonald is 26, and had 23 catches for 281 yards and 3 TDs over the final 7 games last year. (He was TE13 over the last half of the season). Remember, Vernon Davis was traded away and McDonald barely played before then. With little established at WR in San Francisco, I think he is an upside play as your 2nd tight end. Will Tye likewise emerged last year in New York. Ladarius Green is now in Pittsburgh, but has yet to see the field. If you get positive word that he is playing, he bumps up.
These are guys to watch on the waiver wire. Cameron Brate is impressing in Tampa, and Sefarian-Jenkins has not been able to stay healthy. Benjamin Watson will probably have a hard time duplicating his career year last season, with a new team, but usage in Baltimore is worth monitoring, as is the Packers’ splits between Cook and Rodgers. It’s probably a year early on Hunter Henry, but if Gates misses games or falls off the cliff, he could emerge.
Here are the overall projections: