New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski is the consensus number one tight end without question. Gronkowski is in a tier on his own and is the only tight end fantasy owners should draft before round four. However, this isn’t about fun Rob so let’s move on. In the next tier there is three tight ends who are all fourth or fifth round picks.
Tier two contains Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olsen, Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and Washington Redskins’ Jordan Reed. Each player has their own reasons for and against being the second tight end selected. All three are plug and play tight ends every week no matter the matchup. Barring an injury, all three of these players usually finish in the top five among tight ends in scoring, yearly.
Greg Olsen has seen a career revival in Carolina pic.twitter.com/C16FrHVbq6
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 24, 2017
The Case For Greg Olsen
Entering his eleventh season in the league, Olsen is the focal point of the Panthers’ passing game. Around Olsen on offense is two inconsistent wide receivers and two rookie hybrid running backs/slot receivers. Given the lack of consistent proven weapons around him, Olsen should have another strong season as the centerpiece of the passing game. Over the last four seasons, Olsen averages about 79 catches for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns per season. The biggest selling point for Olsen is his lacking injury history. After missing two games as a rookie, Olsen hasn’t missed a game since.
The Panthers have been a run-first team for the past few season. Always one of the league’s best teams at running the ball in part thanks to Olsen’s excellent blocking ability. For the 2016 season the Panthers ranked seventh in rushing attempts, tenth in rushing yards and tenth in rushing touchdowns. Those rankings are still very good but a drop from the 2015 season where they ranked first in attempts, second in yards and tied for first in touchdowns. When in the redzone the Panthers primarily either run the ball or take advantage of their two big and athletic wide receivers; leaving Olsen as the third option in the redzone limiting his touchdown opportunities.
Travis Kelce is gonna have a huge year. If Gronk doesn't stay healthy then Travis will be the best TE in football
— Chris Kern (@chriskern11) July 20, 2017
The Case For Travis Kelce
A two-time Pro Bowler, Kelce enters the 2017 season with high expectations after the offseason release of Jeremy Maclin. Even though second year receiver Tyreek Hill is expected to take on a bigger workload on offense, Kelce is the focal point of the Chiefs’ passing attack. Coming off a career season with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns; Kelce has even more pressure on his shoulder to take on much of Maclin’s workload. Last season Kelce had 117 targets while Maclin had 76 targets in 12 games played. Don’t be shocked if Kelce has closer to 150 targets this season, cementing him as the star of the offense. After a knee injury ended his rookie season before he could take an offensive snap, Kelce hasn’t missed a game over the past three seasons. Much like Olsen, injuries aren’t a concern for Kelce.
Much like the Panthers, the Chiefs are a dominant run-first offense. In 2016 the Chiefs finished 14th in rushing attempts, 15th in rushing yards and 13th in rushing touchdowns. While finishing in the top half of the league in all three categories, it was a dip in production from the 2015 season, finishing 12th in attempts, sixth in yards and tied for first in touchdowns.
Kelce has 14 career touchdowns in three healthy seasons, averaging just under five per season. However, the last three seasons the league leader for touchdowns among tight ends averaged 11 touchdowns per season. While Kelce’s career average is less than half the league leader average, it would surprise me if Kelce didn’t finish in the top five in touchdowns among tight ends this season.
— Anthony Amico (@amicsta) July 29, 2017
The Case For Jordan Reed
Jordan Reed is the best player on the Redskins’ offense and focal point of the passing attack. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2016, Reed produced 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns in only 12 games. Reed is the centerpiece of one the best passing attacks over the past couple of seasons. In 2016 the Redskins ranked fourth in completions, second in passing yards and 14th in passing touchdowns. The team improved from its 2015 rankings of 10th in completions, 11th in yards and 13th in touchdowns. The ‘Skins are expected to be a top five passing attack again this season.
The knock against Reed has always been his health. During his four year career Reed has never played 16 games. On average Reed misses 4.5 games a season; missing 18 out of 64 career games. If Reed can play a full 16 games this season, that would be a surprise, but it also could push him to finish the season as TE1. While injury history is Reed’s biggest concern the Redskins have a lot of mouths to feed on offense and that will cut into Reed’s fantasy production. Terrelle Pryor comes over as a free agent to pair with young receivers Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. All three are expected to play critical roles for the team this season and that will affect Reed’s production.
Who Is TE2?
In conclusion, all three of these tight ends are excellent options and should be drafted in the fourth/fifth round range in 12 team leagues. I would rank Olsen as TE4 as I expect the Panthers to be a top five rushing attack this season. Between Reed and Kelce it is very close, both present a strong case to be TE2. The two very well could rank right next to each other in my final top 150 fantasy player board later this summer. However, given that Kelce has Alex Smith throwing to him while Reed has Kirk Cousins, that separates the two enough to rank Kelce as TE3 and Reed TE2. Happy hunting fantasy friends!