2016 Tight End Rankings
It has been a number of years now that the tight end position has had improvement. Every year we are finding new, younger, athletic options at the position that have fantasy value. While veterans like Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, and Jimmy Graham are all still out there, none of them remain at the fantasy heights that they once enjoyed. Unfortunately with his uncertainty, we had to remove Ladarius Green from the list. There are still enough solid tight ends that almost every team should have one reliable option, but the fall off comes pretty abruptly after that. Below are the top 20 guys at tight end.
You can email us fantasy questions at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter, Steve @fantasygeek37 and Ryan @fightingchance. Also please like Fighting Chance Fantasy on Facebook here.
If you like this content and want to be notified of future posts, you can click on “Notify Me of New Posts by Email” below.
2016 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
72 catches, 1,176 yards, 11 touchdowns
This guy is officially the one person I would like to be if I could change places with anyone. He lives a great life. No one has more fun than Gronk, he works hard, plays hard, and he probably has slept with more women than I have laid eyes on in my lifetime. Somehow through all of this, he is still a kick ass football player. Brady’s suspension diminishes his value slightly, but he is by far their best receiver. I don’t know if I would draft him in the first round, but if I had pick nine or later I would certainly consider it. He has had double digit touchdown catches in every season where he played more than half the games and is far and away the best at this position.
2. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
77 catches, 1,104 yards, 7 touchdowns
Olsen is a model of consistency at the tight end position, as he had 50 yards or more in 12 of 16 games as Cam Newton’s favorite target. The guy is also ultra reliable, as he hasn’t missed a game in eight seasons. I will be interested to see if Olsen’s stats take a small step back with the return of Kelvin Benjamin in Carolina, but even if it does the effect should be minimal. He had the fourth most yards among tight ends and the second most catches and should be a rock for your team at tight end if you select him.
3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
87 catches, 952 yards, 11 touchdowns
Throughout his career we have said that if Jordan Reed could just stay healthy he would be among the best tight ends in football. He didn’t stay healthy the entire season, but 14 games for Reed is pretty good and he broke out in a major way. However, I hesitate to put him up any higher on this list, mostly due to the injury concerns. He has missed 14 games due to injury in just three seasons, and now he is dealing with a minor ankle problem already. Yes, football is a violent sport and injuries could happen to anyone, but what we have seen to this point scares me. Now, I’m not saying don’t draft Reed. He is a special talent, but I am suggesting…….no urging you, that if you do draft him, get another decent tight end on your team. If you’ve ever lost your starting tight end in fantasy football in Week 6 and gone to the waiver wire you know what I’m saying. Once you get to a certain point of the year, there’s nothing available for decent tight ends. I love Reed, I think he’s great, just be sure you have insurance on your bench for if he goes down.
Jordan Reed and Kirk Cousins aren't quite finishing eachother's sentences, but it's close. I chatted w/them both: https://t.co/HneyPqcyZd
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 2, 2016
4. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns
79 catches, 1,043 yards, 9 touchdowns
All last year I kept saying that this Barnidge breakout wasn’t for real. He was going to calm down and stop putting up these great stats. At some point defenses were going to focus on him and his fantasy stats would be crap, I mean he’s a big, slow white guy for any sake! But it never happened, he finished the season among the best tight ends in fantasy football. Now I believe that he will repeat this performance and again be an option that you can count on. See, I can admit when I am wrong, and learn from my mistakes. Barnidge won’t be the best, but he will be very good again.
5. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
94 catches, 1,088 yards, 6 touchdowns
The Titans have certainly upgraded their offense with DeMarco Murray and Rishard Matthews coming in the offseason, but I don’t think it will put a huge dent in Walker’s production. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is still young, and we all know a young quarterback’s best friend is a big, reliable tight end he can find when everything goes to hell. Walker certainly won’t have 94 catches again, but I still think he can fall in the 77-82 range. With the offense theoretically improving, that should mean more opportunities in the red zone for Walker. This is where his big ass is a tough assignment for a linebacker to stay with or a safety to out jump for the ball. I don’t quite see a repeat for Delanie, but another very solid season is in the coffers for him.
6. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
72 catches, 875 yards, 5 touchdowns
I’m trying to decide whether I believe in Kelce or not. Here’s the thing, at times the guy looks like a beast, catching tough passes and dragging defenders down the field. Unfortunately at other times he seems like a forgotten man in a run first offense. In six of the sixteen games last season he had four catches or fewer, and he didn’t have a single 100 yard receiving game in 2015 after Week 1. Even though Kansas City lost their main rusher Jamaal Charles last season, they still didn’t rely on the passing game. Kelce is a contributor and a definite TE1, however I do believe that he is a bit overvalued in fantasy football. His two seasons in the league are rather similar, and I believe that you shouldn’t probably expect him to take a big jump this season. Unlike life and a box of chocolates, you pretty much know what you are going to get with Kelce.
7. Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints
54 catches, 491 yards, 3 touchdowns
Oh boy! This one has a chance to be exciting! I don’t know if any one player’s offseason movement could have a bigger effect on his value than Fleener. He went from a good passing offense in Indianapolis to an even better passing offense in New Orleans. Have you seen Jimmy Graham’s numbers when he was a Saint? Did you see old ass, broken down Ben Watson set career highs across the board last year with New Orleans? Now picture a stud, soon to be 28 year old tight end in the prime of his career catching balls from Drew Brees. Honestly if he finished the season in the top two or three of tight end scoring I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, but I am going to keep my expectations slightly in check and rank him here.
8. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
75 catches, 852 yards, 2 touchdowns
Despite being wildly more talented, Ertz has had to deal with Brent Celek throughout his career simply because of a lack of ability to block. The guy is basically another wide receiver on the field, and he has a freakish ability for a player his size. Ertz finished with a monster last month of the season, and we are all hoping that the Eagles will just unleash him in their offense this season. He is a bit of a risk/reward type of guy in case they continue to use Celek in 2016, but if Ertz does get maximum snaps, he easily could finish top two or three among tight ends
9. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
52 catches, 615 yards, 13 touchdowns (13 games)
Despite battling injury and inconsistency his first two seasons, Eifert broke out in a big way with a baker’s dozen in the touchdown department in 2015. A serious ankle injury screwed up the end of his season and the surgery that followed has him in jeopardy of starting the season late. If he is able to participate in some of the preseason and will be ready for Week 1, I would likely move Eifert up a handful of spaces on this list. For now, he is still a TE1, but one with a lot of question marks if he can make it through the year.
10. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
47 catches, 537 yards, 5 touchdowns
Here is a guy that I definitely have my eye on in 2016. Ebron was a top ten pick a couple years ago, but hasn’t come anywhere near his expectations. He finally showed some life last season and ended the year strong, giving fantasy players some hope for the future. With the loss of Calvin Johnson, Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has said that Ebron will take a larger role this year. He didn’t say that, but I wanted to put the name Jim Bob Cooter into this article. However, it does only make sense that the Lions would look Ebron’s way more often. He is a big target for Matt Stafford at 6’4” and 255 pounds, but he runs like a guy much smaller. His high ankle sprain shouldn't be a factor when the season starts. If Ebron can show some consistency, he could finish the season as a top ten tight end.
11. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
48 catches, 605 yards, 2 touchdowns (11 games)
I have two words when it comes to Jimmy Graham and fantasy football. Stock Down! People got all excited when he was traded to Seattle, but his skills just don’t match the Seahawks system. They don’t really feature the tight end, even if he is really good. He sucked most of the season, and then a serious knee injury ended his year early. The news hit yesterday that he is definitely going to miss Week 1, and perhaps more. Unless you can get him very late, he isn’t worth the risk.
12. Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots
53 catches, 429 yards, 3 touchdowns (11 games)
A rib injury and a disagreement about a contract made Bennett’s final season with the Bears a colossal disappointment with fantasy players hoping he would repeat his 2014 output. He moves to New England who really likes to spread the ball around, but also really likes to throw to the tight end. Not since Aaron Hernandez went to prison for murder, have the Patriots had such a potential force as a second tight end. However, being his first season with the team, his usage is a complete unknown. Will he fill the same role Hernandez did and be a fantasy commodity? Or will there not be enough balls after Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Lewis and the rest all get theirs? I’m really hopeful for the first one of those, but trying to figure out Bill Belicheck is like trying to figure out if a woman really means it when she says she doesn’t want anything extravagant for her birthday. Your guess is as good as mine my friend!
— The Ringer (@ringer) August 8, 2016
13. Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars
46 catches, 455 yards, 5 touchdowns (12 games)
Thomas got off to a bad start in Jacksonville with a broken hand and then never really got on track. He had two or three really strong games but was never really a major part of the offense. I could not be higher on the Jaguar offense, and that includes Thomas. I think there is a 50/50 shot that he reverts to his Denver totals of double digit touchdowns and should be a bigger part of the offense going forward. I’d like to believe that Bortles is going to look to Thomas a great deal, but until I see it I can’t depend on it. Thomas has a good chance of finishing higher than this ranking, but the conservative part of me puts him here.
14. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
56 catches, 630 yards, 5 touchdowns (11 games)
The injury bug bit Gates again for the first time in a few years, but the Chargers still think he has enough in him to give him a two year contract and let Ladarius Green go to Pittsburgh. I have my doubts however. It has been six years since he had a 1,000 yard season, and his touchdown production has been all over the map over the past five years. If Gates can stay healthy I can see him having 65 catches, 800 yards and five touchdowns, but I don’t think he still ranks among starting fantasy tight ends.
15. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
77 catches, 713 yards, 3 touchdowns
While still getting a decent number of receptions, Witten is a shell of what he once was. It has been three years since he had 1,000 yards receiving, and his touchdown total has fallen each year since 2013. It didn’t help that he didn’t have Tony Romo last season, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter if he did. The Cowboys are a run first team, and the opportunities just aren’t there for Witten like the used to be. He’s 34 years old and has a lot of mileage on that body. Let someone else draft him for his name value while you take someone who will actually perform better.
16. Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins
35 catches, 386 yards, 3 touchdowns
Miami’s new head coach Adam Gase made stars out of the last couple tight ends into studs. Gase was in Jacksonville during the hey day of Julius Thomas and last season in Chicago he made journeyman Zach Miller into a viable fantasy tight end. Cameron already has the skills, and has an 80 catch season on his resume. The opportunity is there for Cameron to be a great fantasy contributor, but his past lack of success and injury history has me skeptical. He is a great high risk/high reward type of player, but I would be cautious of putting all of my eggs into his basket.
17. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
21 catches, 338 yards, 4 touchdowns (7 games)
This guy has a world of talent and at 6’5” and 262 pounds he is a load to take down. He has the ability at 23 years old to be among the best at the position. However, in his two years in the NFL he has missed a combined 16 games, and he has spent those two years butting heads with his coaches. In fact he was removed from OTAs back in the beginning of June. Can he get himself together? I’d like to think so, but I am not willing to risk the role of my starting tight end on him. I can see putting him on your bench in case of injury insurance or a possible trade chip if he performs really well.
18. Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills
51 catches, 528 yards, 3 touchdowns (13 games)
Clay has the ability to be a much bigger fantasy force as he has good hands and good speed for a guy his size. He has had a few game where he has been a major part of the offense, but more often than not he was a forgotten target. Case in point he had two games where he had nine catches, and on the other hand four games where he had a single catch. With Sammy Watkins possibly injured, Clay could possibly have a larger role, but even then I don’t think he will be worthy of being a starting fantasy tight end. At the same time he could be worth a spot on someone’s roster in your league.
19. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
49 catches, 495 yards, 5 touchdowns
Rudolph has had a hell of a time staying healthy before last season, and even then he wasn’t a big part of the offense. The Vikings don’t have a prolific passing game, and it doesn’t really lend itself to any of their receivers being a hot fantasy commodity. Rudolph is a decent pass catcher, but he is incredibly injury prone and very inconsistent. I could see Rudolph being insurance against an injury to your starter but no one that I want being a week to week starter.
20. Jacob Tamme, Atlanta Falcons
59 catches, 657 yards, 1 touchdown
Even with the unbelievable number of injuries to their offense, Tamme still ended up with pedestrian numbers despite playing 15 games last season. He’s big, but he’s not fast, and he’s very white. He showed a flash here and a flash there, but I have never witnessed anything in Tamme’s career that says he will be a tight end you need to have on your roster. He could be a good pickup if you lose your starter for a week or two, but if you are counting on Jacob Tamme for any kind of consistent production you are in a world of trouble at tight end.
21. Jared Cook, Green Bay Packers
49 catches, 481 yards
I could have put any number of guys last on this list, but I am going to go with Cook. He never really produced at the level he is capable of with the Rams, although it could have been that he was mired with some of the worst quarterbacks and passing offenses throughout his time there. He goes to Green Bay who has perhaps the best quarterback and a great passing offense. His new problem there is that there are so many options for Rodgers to throw to. Between three or four wide receivers, a couple running backs, and even Richard Rogers at tight end, it is hard to see how Cook is going to get enough catches to warrant fantasy attention. The potential is there, but I’m not betting on Cook on Draft Day.