Tight End is a tricky position. You have some players come out of nowhere to become fantasy relevant after years of obscurity. You have other players that seem destined to break out every season yet fail to do so. And finally you have a group of Tight Ends who seem to be able to put consistent TE1 numbers every year.
In this series I’d like to examine the next wave of Tight Ends that I feel we as a Dynasty community should keep an eye on. First up, I’ll take a look at a few players that may have been unheralded coming into this season, but who have put themselves in a position of relevance.
Kyle Rudolph, 6’6” 265 lbs. 26 years old, Minnesota Vikings
Once upon a time Kyle Rudolph was going to be the next big thing at the Tight End position. In 2012, Rudulph had 53 receptions for almost 500 yards and 9(!) touchdowns on 93 targets. I’m not a mathematician, but that seems like a kick ass stat line. Since then though it’s been mostly crickets from Rudolph. By extension, every season since 2012 seemed to be “the year” Rudolph would break out. Alas, Rudolph never received anywhere near the 93 targets he did in 2012 and has been used largely as a blocker, while quickly becoming an offensive afterthought.
Going into this season there wasn’t much chatter about this being the season Rudolph would break out. Fate though has conspired to allow Rudolph to put together, through Week 4, a TE3 campaign. Namely the loss of Teddy Bridgewater to a gruesome leg injury and subsequent addition of Sam Bradford have played a part in that as well in addition to an injury to AP, this has turned the Vikings into a slightly heavier passing offense in 2016 moving all the way (sarcasm font) to 26th in passing attempts after being last in the league in 2015. He’s still the same 6’6’ behemoth of a human he’s always been, which makes him a goal-line threat anytime the Vikings are in the red zone, as evidenced by his 6 targets inside the redzone. In fact, his 6 red zone targets place him safely within the top 15 league wide and 3 his red zone touchdowns is tied for 1st at the Tight End position. Ultimately, the addition of Sam Bradford has bolsters Rudolph’s fortunes as Bradford has a well documented affinity for the Tight End position, see Ertz, Zach circa 2015.
At the end of the day, Rudolph is only 26 years old, even though this is his 6th year in the league. Typically, Tight Ends take a few years to have their breakout and play at a high level into their mid 30’s. If you own Rudolph you just might have a TE1 for the next five to seven seasons. He is a “buy” for me in every Dynasty league I play in and I would give up a low 2nd round rookie pick (projected) to a high 2nd round rookie pick depending on my level of need at the position.
Cameron Brate, 6’5” 235 lbs., 25 years old, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The undrafted Harvard educated, he’s like really really smart, 2nd year Tight End is another beneficiary of some fortuitous events this season. Austin Seferian-Jenkins poor performance, poor attitude and ultimately poor decision making led to his dismissal from the Buc’s and coupled with Vincent Jackson’s continued descent into the fantasy abyss it has left a target vacuum for Brate to fill. So far, Brate has been more than up to the challenge and is riding a low-end weekly TE1 value. Jameis Winston also has an affinity for targeting his Tight End going back to his college days so, I wouldn’t expect much change the rest of this season. Additionally, Brate has also been an efficient redzone threat securing three of six targets for 2 touchdowns.
As evidenced by his PlayerProfiler https://www.playerprofiler.com/nfl/cameron-brate/ breakdown, Brate is not especially athletic, but he has been able to produce when given the opportunity. The Tight End should continue to produce this season due to the fact that other than Mike Evans the Buc’s offensive targets are especially woeful. Although I’d expect the Buc’s to be in the market, whether via free agency or a high draft pick (13th overall as of this moment) for a legitimate wide receiving target to compliment Mike Evans next season and provide additional weaponry for Jameis Winston in 2017. Nevertheless, I’m still of the mind that Brate can and will provide low TE1 numbers for the foreseeable future. Even if Brate can’t sustain TE1 numbers weekly he will be a streaming option at a minimum who should feast on defenses that cover the Tight End position poorly.
Jack Doyle, 6’6” 267 lbs., Indianapolis Colts
Jack Doyle is another monster of a human being at the Tight End position who has flashed a bit this season. Even considering his cost (free), you may have already gotten all the utility you can out of Doyle up to this point. With the Colts losing Donte Moncrief for multiple weeks it was assumed Doyle would step up and help fill some of the void. After cresting at a season high 6 targets in Week 3 this seemed to be a reasonable assumption. Unfortunately, in subsequent weeks since Doyle has only garnered 1 and 3 targets. Perhaps this should have been the expected outcome, the 4th year veteran has never been anything resembling a focal point of the Colt’s offense in the past and has already or soon will best every season high he previously held for receptions, yards and touchdowns.
The biggest issue with counting on Doyle probably doesn’t even have much to do with Doyle and instead it’s the team he plays for. The Colt’s simply have too many weapons for a mediocre, undrafted, not particularly athletic Tight End to make a significant dent in the target/consistent production column. Ultimately, with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen, Frank Gore and Josh Ferguson it’s hard to see Doyle producing consistently as the 7th man in the pecking order. I am comfortably dropping Doyle in league’s I own him in as I have no use for a player that I’m unsure of when, if ever, I can actually plug into my lineups expecting production.
In the next installment of this series I’m going to take a look at a few Tight Ends who entered the league the last few seasons with a “high” draft pedigree and discuss what we should expect from them in the future. If you think you know who I’m speaking of, or have a Tight End you’d like me to examine further please feel to get at me @DFF_Shane.