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4 Sleeper Tight Ends for 2015

When it comes to drafting tight ends, there are generally three schools of thought: Rob Gronkowski, mid-round options, and late-round options. You can win using any of them, though I think in any particular year one tends to be better than the rest. This season, I’m a proponent of the late-round option. Here are four late-round TEs to give you the leg up in 2015.

Josh Hill, Saints

When Fantasy Douche broke down the Jimmy Graham trade, he stated that the Saints pass catchers should get a bump (including Hill), but that he didn’t expect the depth chart to be the same after the NFL Draft and free agency. Well, he was right, but probably not in the way the statement was intended. The Saints have since traded Kenny Stills and failed to sign or draft anybody at wide receiver or TE, leaving Hill as the most prominent TE on the roster, and perhaps one of the better options for Drew Brees overall:

Saints AYA 2014

 

It may be a small sample size, but Hill was very effective last season when Brees targeted him according to the AYA App. A 13.8 AYA is far from sustainable, and it shouldn’t be the biggest reason to draft him, but at least we know that Hill is capable of experiencing some level of success in this offense. It is, however, very important to note that his role will expand in an offense that was very successful for Graham:

“It just depends on how much two tight end sets we’re in, how much sub.  I couldn’t say specifically that he is going to have 25 percent more playing time but certainly his playing time will increase.  We utilize multiple tight end sets and obviously that’ll affect him with his number count (of snaps).  He has good position versatility.  We think he is a guy that can run and stretch the defense.  A lot of it will be by game plan and what we are trying to do.”

When Sean Payton says good things about a player, I usually listen. The Saints have over 330 targets to replace and Hill is still going as TE10 in the 10th round. Yes please.

Tyler Eifert, Bengals

Here are some things that I know about Tyler Eifert and the Bengals offense under Hue Jackson:

1. After Eifert was lost for the year in Week 1, Jermaine Gresham was an integral part of the of the Cincy offense:

Gresham Career Graphs

2. A.J. Green missed 3 games, but that did not impact Gresham’s usage. He still saw 16.6 percent of the targets in the 13 games played with Green.

3. Eifert was selected with pick 21 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. The only TE taken higher in the past five drafts is Eric Ebron.

4. In the world of small sample sizes, Eifert recorded 3 targets before being injured at the 4:07 mark in the first quarter of Week 1.

5. Right now, Eifert is coming off the board as TE15 in the 12th round. Enjoy.

Kyle Rudolph, Vikings

In just one year, it appears as if everyone has forgotten how big a Norv Turner offense is for TEs, as Kyle Rudolph is just TE18 off the board right now in drafts. Justin Winn has already advocated for Rudolph to be 2015’s bargain breakout TE, and I agree with most of his points. He has missed 17 games over the past two seasons, which is horrible, but you also aren’t paying anything near full price for his talent and situation. Read Winn’s piece, as it really contains all you need to know about a potential Rudolph breakout, then pray for him to stay healthy. If he doesn’t, you can drop him at no cost and proceed to stream the position.

Virgil Green, Broncos

Talk about zero draft cost. Virgil Green is going off the board as TE27 right now in drafts, something that should make fantasy owners jump for joy. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning really loves tight ends. Here is the TE usage for the last five Manning-led offenses:

Manning Offenses - TE Usage

YearPaAttPaTDTE TargetsTE TDTarget %TD %
Average628.0039.80142.4010.8022.7%27.1%
201460340961515.9%37.5%
2013670551361420.3%25.5%
201258737149725.4%18.9%
201067933162823.9%24.2%
2009601341691028.1%29.4%

The tight ends in this offense are all but guaranteed to see a good bit of targets and to find the all-powerful end-zone at a good rate. So why am I pushing for Green and not his teammate Owen Daniels? The answer lies in the upside. Daniels is a 32 year old TE who has never posted more than six touchdowns and has reached the 800 yard mark just once. Meanwhile, Green owns jaw-dropping athleticism. Check out his spider graph from Mockdraftable:

Green lacks elite height, but is similar in weight to the departed Julius Thomas, who was also an athletic specimen. If I had to choose a Bronco tight end to truly go off and win you your league, it would be him, and he will cost you only one of the last picks of your draft.

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