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Slow Your Rookie Roll: TE Edition
thegazette.com
thegazette.com

The real NFL draft is over, and fantasy draft season is ramping up. Now that we know the landing spots for all of our favorite rookies, let’s take a look at their future prospects.

Slow Your Roll

I don’t like being a downer, but in many mock drafts and MFL10s I’ve participated in this offseason, I see a lot of rookies being drafted before more established veterans. In redraft this usually backfires at the WR and TE positions. In dynasty, of course you want youth, but even so, older guys can win you championships. Let’s put rookie TE production in context. Over the past four seasons in PPR formats, the #12 TE1 averaged 153 points/season. From a points/game perspective, the #12 TE averaged 10.75 points/game. Since 1993, only two rookie TEs have posted a fantasy season with more than 153 points: Rob Gronkowski (2010) and Cam Cleeland (1998). On a per-game basis, only one rookie TE has averaged more than 10.75 points/game: Jordan Reed (2013). In other words, don’t expect any rookie TE to be a difference maker this year.

That said, some of these players may have situational usefulness this season, and many make good long term dynasty prospects.  Let’s start with a quick table that highlights where the relevant Tight Ends wound up, and a quick summary2 of their prospects for fantasy relevance.

Tight End Opportunity Matrix

PlayerPickTeamBlocked ByOpportunity
Eric Ebron10LionsBrandon Pettigrew, Joseph FauriaExcellent
Austin Seferian-Jenkins28BuccaneersTimothy Wright, Brandon MyersGood
Jace Amaro49JetsJeff Cumberland, Zach SudfeldExcellent
Troy Niklas52CardinalsRob Housler, Jake Ballard, Jon CarlsonFair
C.J. Fiedorowicz65TexansGarrett Graham, Ryan GriffinPoor
Richard Rodgers98PackersAndrew Quarless, Brandon BostickPoor
Crockett Gillmore99RavensDennis Pitta, Owen DanielsPoor
Arthur Lynch155DolphinsCharles Clay, Michael Egnew, Dion SimsPoor
Ted Bolser217RedskinsJordan Reed, Logan Paulsen, Niles PaulFair
Rob Blanchflower230SteelersHeath Miller, Matt Spaeth, David Paulsen, Michael PalmerFair

Commentary

To check up on any of these players, start with our Composite Rookie Rankings. For deeper insight, check the TE Model and the Phenom Index for TEs.

Eric Ebron, Detroit: After Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, the Lions really have no other reliable downfield pass catchers. More capable of big plays than either Pettigrew or Fauria, with a good QB and with a questionable defense, he should be on the field in all situations. Has the best chance of contributing immediately. Along with ASJ, posts one of the top ten all time Phenom index scoresAdditional Research: Eric Ebron to the Lions, Ebron’s catch rate not a concern, Ebron’s Player Profile.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay: The best red zone TE in the class, with Gronkonian upside. But the Bucs have 2 big WRs who are also good in the red zone, and ASJ will have to dispense with Tim Wright and Brandon Myers. Don’t get me wrong, I think he inevitably will. But it’s a bit of a temporary hurdle. Wright was surprisingly effective as a pass catcher last year, for example. With a good defense3 and viable options elsewhere, he may start out slower than expected. An obvious dynasty gem though, so if an impatient owner sours on him early, try and pry him away. Additional Research: ASJ Player Profile, Healthy & Fast, Early ASJ Preview

Jace Amaro, NY Jets: Arguably the best immediate opportunity of the big three. Only the underachieving Jeff Cumberland stands in his way. An offense desperate for playmakers has added a few this offseason, primarily Eric Decker and Chris Johnson. But after that it’s just Jeremy Kerley and a passel of late-round WRs. The threat of Chris Johnson and a mobile QB probably distracts LBs from coverage responsibilities, which should help him take advantage of his surprising agility. Their defense might be good though, and whichever QB starts4, he won’t be as good as Matthew Stafford. So I’d say his short-term upside is less than Ebron’s, but long term he’s a top flight prospect. Additional Research: Amaro Player Profile, Early Amaro Preview

Troy Niklas, Cardinals: Underwhelming Rob Housler, occasionally competent Jon Carlson, and grizzled vet Jake Ballard represent a decent obstacle to playing time. Worse, Arians’ led offenses don’t usually support elite TE numbers. The leading TE on the last six Arians’ offenses has only once topped 150 PPR fantasy points. Playing in a tough division with an iffy QB, I wouldn’t expect much from Niklas in the near term. Additional Research: Niklas ranks fourth in our composite rookie ranks, Niklas Player Profile, Niklas has an Above Average Phenom Score.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Texans: I guess Bill O’Brien really does like Tight Ends. C.J. joins former sleeper Ryan Griffin and former Owen Daniels replacement Garrett Graham in a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led “attack”. Interestingly, Fiedorowicz and Griffin compare pretty similarly as prospects coming out of college- perhaps an edge to Griffin, who  also has a year’s NFL experience. Fiedorowicz will have to earn playing time. Additional Research: Fiedorowicz Player Profile, Targets Inside the 10.

Richard Rodgers, Packers: Yes, Green Bay is a great offense. But Rodgers isn’t a great prospect. He’s not better than incumbents Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick, and the Pack’s strength is at WR. Since Aaron Rogers became the starting QB in 2008, Green Bay Tight Ends have combined for just 19% of the team’s pass targets and 17% of the yards. Based on his paltry collegiate production, it’s difficult to expect anything from Rodgers. Additional Research: Rogers our 12th ranked rookie TE.

Crockett Gillmore, Ravens: His outlook might actually be better than this. For now he’s stuck behind Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. Both are capable players, so as long as they’re healthy Gillmore’s opportunities will be limited. In the long run, Pitta and Daniels are both older players with injury histories, so if age or roster churning catches up with them, Gillmore could find a decent opportunity in a TE favorable offense. Additional Research: Gillmore Player Profile, Visualizing Tight Ends.

Arthur Lynch, Dolphins: Neither Dion Sims nor Michael Egnew would seem to pose much opposition, and Charles Clay is a free agent after this season. But Lynch is already an old rookie with terrible comps. His only chance is to make the roster, stick around after Clay leaves in free agency, then hope the Fins don’t draft or sign another TE. Additional Research: Lynch Player Profile.

Ted Bolser, Racial Slurs: Players drafted this late don’t often turn out to have great careers. Bolser does have some ability, but isn’t a great athlete and never commanded the target percentage indicative of future NFL passing game success. But scouting reports suggest he’s a good blocker and special teams player, which helps his chances to make the roster, and he’s blocked only by Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, neither of whom present a serious obstacle. Not worth acquiring, but worth monitoring as a potential Jordan Reed backup.

Rob Branchflower, TE, Steelers: Another player worth monitoring, but not acquiring. He’s an old rookie (24.5), but had impressive collegiate production. Heath Miller is 32 and Matt Spaeth 31. Neither Paulsen nor Palmer represent much of an obstacle. If he can stick on the roster, he could eventually be worth acquiring.

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