New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is definitely your first tight end off the board. But when should you draft him? After Gronk, who’s the best option available? What about the tight ends returning from injury?
Gronk continues to set the gold standard at the tight end position. He’s led the position in receiving yards the last two seasons and an outstanding 65 touchdowns in six seasons. Barring injury, he’ll lead tight ends in touchdowns and receiving yards again this season. If he falls to the second round in your draft, grab him. He’s worth being drafted in the first round but make sure it’s part of your overall draft strategy and not just a whim.
If you miss out on Gronk, there are plenty of options available and you can wait until at least the middle of your draft to take one. You can’t go wrong with Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen or Travis Kelce. Reed comes with an injury risk but has serious receiving skills. He’s a favorite target of Kirk Cousins and it’s because he creates mismatches against safeties and linebackers. Olsen and Kelce are steady and reliable tight ends. They consistently post high totals of receptions and yards. Their weakness is a lack of a red zone presence.
Tyler Eifert had his best season as a pro in 2015 and led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns. He missed three games last season and then suffered a serious ankle injury in the Pro Bowl. The Bengals have lost a lot of receiving talent, so Eifert will remain a key part of their passing game. Be wary because he’s questionable for Week 1. Jimmy Graham is returning from a torn patellar tendon. His move to Seattle has already been considered a disappointment and this injury has done him no favors. He’s expected to be ready for Week 1 and will be available at a steep discount. Ladarius Green signed with the Steelers in the offseason and immediately became their starting tight end. He missed the team’s whole offseason program but steps into an amazing Pittsburgh passing offense.
A strategy that I’ve used with success is to stream the tight end position. If the matchups are not in your favor a certain week, grab a high-upside tight end off the wire. Will Tye, Charles Clay and Zach Miller should post some big games at certain times throughout the 2016 season.