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Fantasy football sleepers 2017: Tight ends to consider in later rounds

Which tight ends are undervalued in your draft? Check out our full 2017 fantasy football preview draft guide!

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Travis Kelce led all tight ends in standard scoring with 136 fantasy points last year. That’s the lowest total for the TE1 since Todd Heap in 2002. Six tight ends scored more than 136 points in 2015. It’s safe to say the position took a step back in 2016.

This year offers mostly the same candidates in the top five. Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham make up everyone’s top five tight ends in this year’s SB Nation rankings. But if you miss out on the top of the class, you’re probably better off waiting on a tight end.

With fantasy owners wanting to reach to fill their starting lineups, tight ends can fly off the boards once a run starts. If you’re looking for tight ends you can grab later on, though, take a look at these names.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

Doyle finished as the TE12 in standard and TE13 in PPR leagues last season. He played 68.4 percent of the Colts’ snaps, while Dwayne Allen finished at 55.7 percent. Allen left for New England earlier in the offseason, presenting an opportunity for more Doyle in Indy.

The Colts gave Doyle a new contract, signing him to a three-year, $19 million deal. Add in the reports of him becoming a locker-room leader, and you can already start to feel the hype building.

Fantasy owners are taking Doyle in Round 11. Somehow he’s behind rookie O.J. Howard in ADP.

Doyle is not known for his athleticism, as he ran a 4.91 in his 40, but he finished with the highest catch rate of all tight ends in 2016. He’s a reliable possession receiver for Andrew Luck. Doyle and Allen combined for the second-most targets inside the 10-yard line at their position. Now the clear No. 1 going into 2017, Doyle’s touchdown upside is well worth his late-round cost.

Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions

He was the TE14 in PPR leagues despite missing three games in 2016. Given his 11.1 points per game average, he could have finished as the TE7 if he played all 16 games.

Ebron feels like a perpetual sleeper as we read about his potential every year, but the numbers do add up. Only three tight ends saw a higher percentage of snaps that were routes last year. Ebron has run a route on 63.91 percent of his career snaps, which means the opportunity is clearly there.

Anquan Boldin hogged the red-zone targets in Detroit in 2016. He ranked third among wide receivers in targets within the opponent's' 10-yard line. His departure from the Lions’ slot could lead to more scoring opportunities for Ebron.

Ebron is one spot behind Doyle in PPR drafts, going off the board as the TE13 in Round 11. This appears to be the most promising year so far for the former first-round pick.

Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

The last time we saw Hooper on the field his rookie season, he led the Falcons in targets and scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Now solidified as Atlanta’s No. 1 tight end, Hooper’s upside is attractive.

Hooper ranked fifth among tight ends with 14.3 yards per reception. He showed flashes as a rookie that reinforced his impressive SPARQ score (third among tight ends in the 2016 NFL Draft). He’s only improving from here.

Atlanta did not re-sign Jacob Tamme. Levine Toilolo is Hooper’s main competition, but that’s only on paper, as the former saw 19 total targets in 2016.

Hooper is focusing on his chemistry with Matt Ryan. With an ADP of 14.03 (TE23) in 12-team PPR leagues, the second-year tight end is a free dart throw that you should feel comfortable taking.

Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

We won’t spend too much time here, because Rudolph was the TE2 in PPR leagues last year. Not really a sleeper, right? Well, why aren’t people drafting him higher?

Rudolph is currently the TE9 with an ADP of 8.07. He averaged 13.1 points per game (PPR scoring) in 2016, ranking third among tight ends and No. 27 among wide receivers. Yet on average, he’s the 91st player coming off draft boards.

Pat Shurmur took over as offensive coordinator for the Vikings in November, leading to a bigger focus on his No. 1 tight end. Rudolph averaged 11.7 points per game (PPR) in the first seven games of the year. He averaged 14.7 points per game in his last seven games. Don’t sleep on him.