With the first and maybe even the second wave of free agency in the rearview mirror, the NFL of today already looks vastly different than it did a week ago. Players are set to earn millions, only to see this money disappear in roughly two years when teams realize they bought a fugazi. (In the case of Ryan Grant, this apparently took only days, instead of years.) They’ll be replaced by that season’s wave of shiny new things, and so the world turns.
But in the here and now, free agency has changed the fantasy landscape, including at tight end. We’ll look into players who’ve found new homes and also offer some thoughts on those still out on the street. Let’s get going.
Trey Burton to the Chicago Bears
While never being a full-time player during his tenure with the Eagles, Trey Burton provided an excellent streaming option in 2017 whenever Zach Ertz was missing. It should be noted of course that it’s not the largest sample size.
He offers the Bears and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky a playmaker at a position in which they were lacking in 2017.
The worry is that, while Burton sees a lot of work between the 20s, he may lose snaps to the likes of Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen in the red zone. Burton is not built for blocking in the same way as these two. Losing these high leverage snaps may hurt his fantasy value. The signing of Burton lessens the breakout chances for Shaheen, last year’s No. 45 overall pick and an impressive athlete out of Ashland.
Jimmy Graham to the Green Bay Packers
The Packers boasted one of the most efficient red zone quarterbacks in the NFL last season in Aaron Rodgers. But sadly they also boasted one of the least efficient in Brett Hundley. The Packers, not to mention fantasy owners everywhere, will hope that Rodgers can last a full 16 games in 2018. But whoever leads this offense into the red zone now has one of the league’s premier weapons in that area.
The Jimmy Graham signing should offset the loss of Jordy Nelson, who was no slouch in the red zone himself during his run with the Packers, scoring 41 red zone TDs in the last decade.
Critics of the move will claim the Packers have never been able to fully utilize the TE in the Rodgers era. He has hardly been blessed with a plethora of Hall of Famers at the position. But he has still been able to link up efficiently with a few players. Indeed, he’s averaged more than 7.0 AYA when targeting four different TEs since 2008.
Graham’s nose for the end zone should ensure that he remains fantasy relevant, but he has the exact opposite problem to Burton. Graham may offer little outside of the red zone. Twenty-eight percent of his receptions and 21 percent of his yards came inside the 20s in 2017.
Darren Fells to the Cleveland Browns
Darren Fells adds a further barrier to the unlocking of David Njoku as a fantasy force. Fells is far from a playmaker, with just 17 receptions for the Lions last season (albeit with three touchdowns). But he is known to be a solid blocker. These are snaps that the brain trust of Hue Jackson and Todd Haley will take away from Njoku, as well as maybe Seth DeValve. That being said, assuming that the Browns have any semblance of a plan for a player just because they signed him may be giving Jackson and his fellow cocoon keepers more credit than they are due.
Derek Carrier to the Oakland Raiders
The Raiders will be the fourth different uniform worn by Derek Carrier since entering the league in 2012. He is the proud owner of 36 career receptions, eight of which came last season. Carrier shouldn’t offer much opposition to Jared Cook in 2018. Should Cook miss any time for whatever reason, it is hard to imagine Carrier having1 any streaming appeal.
Virgil Green to the Los Angeles Chargers
One of the most athletic players at his position, Virgil Green hasn’t translated these skills into anything close to fantasy production. The 22 receptions he had for 237 yards in 2016 were both career highs. Green has scored one TD in each of the last four seasons. The Chargers already have a fantasy viable TE in Hunter Henry. While not smashing any records, Henry has two solid fantasy seasons under his belt to start his career. He has some favorable comps in this regard.
It is unlikely that Green will offer much of a challenge to Henry’s supremacy. But it could mean the end of the road for Antonio Gates with the Chargers.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul to the Jacksonville Jaguars
The TE corps was not a position group that delivered a whole for the Jaguars last season.
After myriad off-field issues, Austin Seferian-Jenkins was able to deliver a career season for the Jets in receptions (50) and receiving yards (357). For a four-week span between Week 3 and 6, Seferian-Jenkins was one of the top TEs in all of fantasy football.
Ultimately, he settled more into a middle of the pack streamer, but he was not without his moments. He led all NFL players in touchdowns called back by penalty or overturned by incorrect replay judgements with approximately 15.2
Niles Paul enjoyed a breakout of sorts back in 2014, with 39 receptions for 507 yards and a touchdown. But he has never come close to repeating this type of form. Paul missed the entire 2015 season with a serious ankle injury. He caught 13 passes for 94 yards for Washington last year.
With Marcedes Lewis still around and occupying a back seat in the Jaguars offense, and the fact that the Jaguars want to run the ball until they can’t run it anymore, and then some more, it’s hard to be too excited about any of the TEs on the Jaguars. Seferian-Jenkins will probably be the leading fantasy scorer of the three, but the presence of the other two caps any potential value one of them may have.
Ed Dickson to the Seattle Seahawks
Pressed into seeing more action than he normally would, Ed Dickson had a decent run of fantasy relevance after Greg Olsen’s injury last year.
As moderately impressive as these numbers are, Dickson will be 31 by the time the season comes around. He has exceeded 273 receiving yards in a season once since 2013, and after six TDs in his first two seasons in the NFL, he has managed six in the six seasons since.
It’s hard to think many people on the Seahawks offense, outside of Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, will be fantasy relevant here in March. There are question marks at most of the offensive skill positions, offensive line, and probably most notably at offensive coordinator.3 I’d be stunned if Dickson were able to deliver anything that exceeded a TE3 season in 2018.
Still Out There
Martellus Bennett – Bennett wanted to retire in 2017 but wants to play again in 2018. He’s been linked with the Eagles, especially since they traded for his brother Michael.
Julius Thomas –Once a fantasy stud at the position, Thomas has done little to dispel the myth that he didn’t need Peyton Manning to make him productive. If his former Bronocs OC and Dolphins head coach Adam Gase wasn’t able to get anything out of him, it’s doubtful if anyone can.
Eric Ebron – A strong finish to the 2017 season was not enough to save Eric Ebron with the Lions. The Lions now have a gaping void at TE and could be in the market for one early in the draft. Ebron will no doubt resurface somewhere, with reports that he was visiting with the Panthers on Friday. But he hasn’t shown enough consistency to be a player that fantasy owners need to own.