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NFL Fantasy production from tight ends proved to be elusive in 2017. In a typical week, only 5-6 tight ends managed to provide 10 NFL standard fantasy points.
Such NFC Fantasy stalwarts as Coby Fleener, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks, and Maxx Williams were among the 59 tight ends who made an appearance among the weekly top ten NFL fantasy scoring leaders. If a tight end scored a touchdown, he was virtually guaranteed to make the cut.
Eight tight ends managed to perform the feat more than five times. If you substitute Jordan Reed for Vernon Davis’ six appearances, all eight were drafted in the top ten in 2018 NFL Fantasy drafts. But they only accounted for 21-percent of top ten performances.
Who will kick off the 2018 season with a Week 1 top ten performance? And who almost assuredly will not? Here is what we think:
Tyler Eifert has been an NFL Fantasy nightmare- too good to not draft, injured too often to roster. He enters Week 1 as the starter against a tight-end friendly defense in Indianapolis.
New head coach, Frank Reich, says he wants to limit Eifert to about 50 snaps all season. But when he is out there, we trust his old friend Andy Dalton will be looking for him.
Evan Engram had an unusually productive season for a rookie tight end, landing among the top ten performers 8 times. But he effectively operated as the WR-2 much of last season after the Giants lost three of their top four wide receivers to injury.
Sharing targets with Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepherd, and even Saquon Barkley will undoubtedly eat into Engrams opportunities. Jacksonville’s strong defense against NFL fantasy tight ends will further erode his production.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins emerged as a top target of quarterback Blake Bortles, even before Marquise Lee was lost for the season. He will be the biggest red-zone target for the Jaguars quarterback.
New York gave up more touchdowns to tight ends than any other team in the league last season. There were only two games when they held the opposing tight end out of the end zone. They let two different tight ends score in the same game twice. Alec Ogletree showed little sign of correcting that flaw in the preseason.
NFL Fantasy owners expect David Njoku to take a leap forward from his TE-21 debut season, as indicated by his 2018 ADP of TE-12. He showed signs last season and had a decent if nondescript preseason.
Pittsburgh presents quite the challenge. They were a top-five NFL Fantasy defense against tight ends last season. Until we see improvement in Njoku's patterns and hands, we're steering clear of the youngster, especially against better defenses.
Not only is Andrew Luck back behind center, but Jack Doyle looks healthy, too. Doyle and wide receiver TY Hilton are the two most familiar faces Luck will see. Frank Reich installed a new offense, but we think Luck will find Doyle when he needs to.
Reich’s offense uses a lot of two-tight end sets, with one splitting out wide or in the slot. It is possible that Doyle and Eric Ebron wind up being the second and third receiver behind Hilton most weeks.
Kittle’s status as a target of the much-hyped Jimmy Garoppolo helped raise his ADP to the number 13 slot in the average NFL fantasy draft. We don’t expect much out that connection in Week 1, however.
Minnesota and their top-ranked defense have a lot to do with that assessment. Kittle will have some big weeks. But not this week.
We would start Eric Ebron against the Bengals, too. Indianapolis could have a TE-1 and 1A this season. We’re counting on the familiarity with Luck to give Doyle only a slight edge.
A gimpy Delanie Walker is still a good bet against the Miami Dolphin defense. He is off the injury report, so worries appear unwarranted anyway.
In another TE-1 and 1A situation, Cameron Brate is Jameis Winston’s favorite red zone target. Jameis Winston isn’t throwing the ball this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked OJ Howard's way a bit more. Against the Saints corners, Fitzpatrick may look for tight ends as much as anyone else. Start Howard. Brate is a sleeper at best.
Do you have questions about who to start or sit on your roster? Ask me in the comments below or post your query to my Facebook page. I'll answer them as soon as I see them.