In this series, I‘m going to take a look at each offensive position’s free agent class and break them down for potential fantasy production going forward. The quarterbacks were underwhelming, and the running backs had a few exciting options. Tight ends, however, are an interesting mix, with quite a few names you’ve heard of, but nobody particularly exciting. It’s a terrible time to be a free agent tight end, as the incoming crop of rookies at the position is deeper and more talented than we’ve seen in some time. From a real football perspective, unless you have a legit shot at winning the Superbowl this year, a young player with upside on a rookie contract is a lot more attractive than an older player demanding a larger contract.
Tyler Eifert. I had to stretch to put anyone into tier 1. Injuries have destroyed Eifert’s career, limiting him to an astonishing 43 of 96 games over his 6-year career. He showed his upside in 2015, securing 13 touchdowns, good enough to finish the season tied for 2nd in all of football.
Fantasy Impact: Can you trust him to stay healthy? It’s quite challenging to gauge his value because of his propensity for injury. His time in Cincinnati is likely over, and where he lands and how he is used will have a massive impact on his fantasy future. I suspect wherever he signs, his new team will be placing him on a snap count to keep him healthy for the duration of the season. On a per target basis, Eifert may return to his TE1 upside. But, given his injury history and potentially limited role going forward, it’s hard to imagine him being anything more than a low-end TE2. My dream scenario: Signing a 1-year deal with the Patriots. Eifert could split snaps with Gronk, keeping both healthy, while both produce on limited touches.
Jared Cook. Cook will turn 32 in April, but despite my dislike of him over the years, I can’t deny his production- especially over the last two seasons as he averaged 164 fantasy points. He’s been very productive for four of his six seasons in the NFL.
Fantasy Impact: The best fit for Cook is probably a return to Oakland (or wherever they’ll be playing in 2019). The Raiders will have to address the wide receiver position via the draft or free agency- or both, and that will cut into Cook’s targets, but he’s still an integral part of the current offense as he led the team with 101 targets in 2018. Other potential upside landing spots include Jacksonville or Detroit. Given the sad state of the TE position league-wide, there’s no reason Cook can’t repeat at a TE1 in 2019.
Tyler Kroft. If the Marvin Lewis regime were still in place, I’d have assumed Kroft would stay in Cincy and take over the starting tight end job for the team as they were enamored with him coming out of Rutgers. Kroft was TE20 in 2017 when he started 16 games in Tyler Eifert’s absence.
Fantasy Impact: With at least eight teams in need at the position, the 26-year old Kroft has age and upside on his side. Kroft was the third tight end selected in the 2015 draft and can still develop if he can live up to his draft day expectations. Even if he were handed a starting job in an ideal landing spot, he’s probably no better than a low-end TE2, and most likely will be a fringe TE3/TE4.
Demetrius Harris. I didn’t know much about Harris initially, but my man Matt Walker sings his praises, and he’s not alone. Another raw, converted college basketball player, Harris’ potential upside may be sky-high. We’ve seen several basketball converts, so the range of outcomes is somewhere between Antonio Gates and Rico Gathers.
Fantasy Impact: Talk about a wild card. In the right spot, Harris could be a TE1. Harris might also be a bottom of the barrel TE5. He’s worth the risk given his potential, but a lot is going to depend on his landing spot and how his new team plans on using him.
Jeff Heuerman. Coming off of his best season as a professional, Heuerman was drafted just seven picks after Tyler Kroft in the 2015 draft. He compiled 31 receptions and 281 yards, good enough for a TE28 finish.
Fantasy Impact: Outside of him landing in New England and being declared by Bill Belichick as the heir to the Rob Gronkowski throne, Heuerman has a TE3 ceiling at best.
C.J. Uzomah. More Cincinnati rejects! Also selected by the Bengals in the 2015 draft, Uzomah got took over the top tight end job in Cincy in 2017 after Eifert was injured. Uzomah was primarily a blocking tight end coming out of Auburn but developed into a serviceable receiving option last year.
Fantasy Impact: Even in a best-case scenario, it’s hard to imagine Uzomah ever being anything more than a low-end TE3.
Impact in 2019 and Beyond
Fantasy football should parallel real football his year, with teams in need of help at the tight end position attacking their deficiencies via the draft, not free agency. With the exception of a rarely healthy Tyler Eifert and possibly, to a lesser extent Demetrius Harris, it’s hard to imagine any of these free agents becoming key parts of any fantasy championship rosters in 2019. If your dynasty rosters are shallow at tight end, this might be the year to stock up on several of them as your rookie drafts progress and hope one of the random late darts hit.