Written by: Cody Manning
The tight end position is tricky to figure out, as the players who end up finishing as top 10 fantasy tight ends tend to fluctuate year to year due to injury or overall failure to meet expectations. While guys like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce are locks to be every week starter, if you wait too long to draft one of the better tight ends in the next tier then you may have to take a swing on the potential of a player you think is a sleeper. Trey Burton is the consensus sleeper among the fantasy football community, but I look at some other young tight ends I believe have the potential to explode onto the fantasy scene.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
Rookie tight ends can struggle to produce, especially ones who were mainly known for their blocking in college like Kittle. But he was an exception, as Kittle went on to have the best season for a rookie tight end drafted in the 5th round or later. He finished with 43 receptions, 515 yards, and 2 touchdowns. After impressing the 49ers organization, it appears he will be their starting tight end for the 2018 season, and after showing chemistry with the franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, the signs are pointing up for him to continue his fast development at the position.
In his 5 games with Jimmy G, he had a total of 15 receptions, 224 yards, and a touchdown. They both closed out the season strong as Kittle had 4 receptions for 100 yards in the last game of the year. San Francisco doesn’t have someone you can point at and call the number one receiver in their passing game. It may be a group effort, which could allow more targets thrown Kittle’s way. With an ADP that places him in the 11th round, he could provide great value if he works his way into being a top 10 fantasy tight end.
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
Njoku showed flashes of his potential throughout his rookie season but didn’t show any consistency throughout the year. Some could point to his quarterback play, but he did finish with 32 receptions, 386 yards, and a team-high 4 touchdowns. With the additions of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield, he should see better balls thrown his way. Hue Jackson has said that they expect him to be one of their big playmakers, so they have plans for him to be a large part of their offensive scheme.
He will compete with targets with Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, but his quarterbacks may still look his way even with those guys on the field. Taylor isn’t known for his deep ball, so he could come across Njoku running his shallow to intermediate routes. If Mayfield plays, rookie quarterbacks are known to tend to favor their tight ends. So I like his chances to see targets no matter who is the quarterback for Cleveland this year. Njoku has an ADP in the 12th round, so he is a great pick to take a gamble on if you need a tight end as you get to the bottom part of your roster.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Arizona Cardinals
Seals-Jones one of my deep sleepers at the tight end position this year. He isn’t well known by the average NFL fan, but he showed flashes of the potential he has during his rookie year. He finished with 12 receptions, 201 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Those aren’t eye-popping stats, but he looked the part and was a great find as a UDFA for Arizona. The Cardinals didn’t address the position during the offseason, so it looks like the team is comfortable entering the 2018 season with Seals-Jones as their starting tight end.
He also finds himself in a favorable position because outside of Larry Fitzgerald, it is an open competition to earn targets in the passing game. If he can develop chemistry with his quarterback, then he could provide a great return on investment as a stash pick. When he is healthy, Sam Bradford is a reliable quarterback to get the ball into Seals-Jones’ hands. Like with Njoku, if Arizona’s future franchise quarterback, Josh Rosen, ever takes over, there may be a tendency to look towards his tight end. With an ADP in the 13th round, he could be that late round steal that helps take your team to the fantasy football playoffs.