Risk management is fundamental to any fantasy football strategy. Hey, no one wants to endure heartbreak. To help owners avoid sob sessions we’ll unveil our top bust candidates position-by-position throughout the week. Friday’s topic: Tight ends.
Dalton – KYLE RUDOLPH (84.33 ADP, TE8). He’s a steady option on a strong offense that added Kirk Cousins during the offseason, but Rudolph’s draft price is too high. His 2016 looks increasingly like a big outlier season, as last year’s targets predictably regressed and fell by more than 50 while playing in all 16 games. With arguably the league’s top defense and WR duo in all of football, the situation isn’t ideal for Rudolph to see a bigger target share in 2018, especially with Dalvin Cook returning to the backfield. Rudolph will remain a red-zone threat, but last year’s modest 57 receptions and 532 receiving yards were both actually the second-highest marks of his career. I’d much rather gamble on the upside of Trey Burton or George Kittle, both of whom I have ranked higher.
Brad – ROB GRONKOWSKI (22.3 ADP, TE1). One gyration away from a permanent shelving, Gronk is the definition of “high risk/high reward.” No doubt when healthy he’s an untamed beast. The four-time All-Pro has scored 76 times in 102 games and finished No. 5 or better at the tight end position six times in eight seasons. Equally remarkable, his 14.7 fantasy points per game average in .5 PPR ranked No. 4 among tight ends and wide receivers in 2017, trailing only Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins and Odell Beckham. With Julian Edelman sidelined for the season’s first four games and Tom Brady still performing at an elite level, many are willing to invest a Round 2 pick in Gronk’s services. To buyers, his red-zone potential is too mammoth to pass up.
However, Gronk sports multiple downsides. He suited up all 16 games in a season only twice and hasn’t logged a complete campaign since 2011. The punishment he absorbs is frequent, which accelerates the risk. What happens if he misses games during the fantasy playoffs? The odds of him standing on the sidelines in street clothes are rather substantial. It’s probably why the battered tight end flirted with retirement this past offseason. Tack on the Patriots’ desire to run the ball more and assuming Eric Decker, a premier red-zone threat during his heyday, carves out a role, Gronk loses some luster.
Personally, within the top-24 picks of a draft, safety is the primary motivation. Gronk’s ceiling is astronomical, but his injury susceptibility is too chancy for my blood. Aim for discounted options like Delanie Walker, Trey Burton or George Kittle (Assuming the shoulder injury isn’t serious) some 50-80 picks later instead.
Scott – GREG OLSEN (ADP 67, TE6). Olsen missed nine games last year and had plenty of rust upon his return. A 44.7 percent catch rate, a modest 11.2 yards per grab, that’s not the Olsen we know. He only scored once in seven games, though he did post pinball stats in the playoff loss at New Orleans.
Olsen’s physical resume before last year’s busted foot might inspire confidence, but tight end is an attrition position and the NFL is, at most positions, a young-man’s game. If the room were willing to float me a discount on Olsen into his age-33 season, I might cut the check. Instead, he’s priced as if last year was smooth sailing.
The NFL fan in me wants to see Olsen make another Pro Bowl run, work on that Hall of Fame resume. I also eagerly anticipate his broadcasting career — he’s a natural in the booth, an insightful, thoughtful observer. But the pragmatist in me can’t pony up an expectant ADP, given his recent lost season and where he’s at in his career. Also consider the Panthers have multiple reinforcements joining the offense, including C.J. Anderson and D.J. Moore. More mouths to feed in Carolina this year.
Liz – TREY BURTON (ADP 84.2, TE9). Before anyone goes calling me a hypocrite, I fully admit to spending $17 on Burton in #StopaShiningArmor. In my defense, I threw out a big number hoping to tempt The Noise into overspending. For once, he showed a modicum of restraint.
I understand the former Eagle’s appeal. Matt Nagy clearly knows how to elevate the position, and even admitted that Burton would assume the Travis Kelce role in the Bears’ offense. But the Chiefs didn’t have as many mouths to feed.
And even if you want to yell about position scarcity, Chicago has a younger and bigger pass-catching TE named Adam Shaneen. In fact, Nagy praised Shaheen in May, noting his “natural hands” and how well he fits the team’s offense. While we all would love to see Burton absorb 120 targets, that sort of volume is unlikely.