We live in a new dawn of football — an age in which tight ends argue that they are no longer worthy of that title, but that of a wide receiver (ahem, Jimmy Graham). In lieu, this new age of the NFL has spawned a new fantasy football world as well. For years, it seemed rebellious to draft a tight end above the sixth round. Now, there’s five tight ends who GMs are consistently drafting before that mark — yet it seems taboo to draft them that high.
Most analysts will tell you, the only TE worth taking early is Graham because his value above a replacement fantasy TE is incredible. After Graham’s projected 200-point mark, tight end production drops off and then “everyone is almost the same.” But are these players really all that alike to each other?
Take a look at the players who are being drafted in Rounds 3 and 4 in average mock drafts. Among those players are tight ends: Vernon Davis, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski. Now, using that same value-based drafting technique that analysts use to back up their arguments for only drafting Graham above Round 4, we begin to realize all the players drafted in this range are more or less the same value.
Looking at average projections, the aforementioned tight ends actually have higher value above replacement than half of the other players drafted in those rounds. That means that people are drafting wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks that are of lesser value than similarly-drafted TEs.
After this tier of tight ends drafted in the first six rounds (including Jordan Cameron, Jason Witten and Greg Olsen) that will rake in around or near 130 fantasy points, there’s another drop to the low triple-digits. This only happens in the tight end position. So, yes, tight ends aside from Graham are more or less, “the same.” But every other position is “the same” as well.
Branch out this season. Even if you don’t land Graham on your roster, all hope is not lost in getting a great tight end. You can always draft a QB in a later round (I suggest looking at Andy Dalton), and other positional players will be available later in the draft. After the sixth round, you’ll start running out of TE options. This isn’t your dad’s fantasy football world anymore (but if you still choose to live in it, look at Jordan Reed to blossom this year).