Every year Rob Gronkowski is viewed as the top fantasy football tight end and for the most part, he’s drafted as such. His laundry list of injuries have had that fluctuate at times, while the rise of viable alternatives has also led to his fantasy football ADP taking a slight dip.
Add in retirement and trade rumors – not to mention a down 2017 – and it’s easy to see why he’s pretty much neck and neck with Travis Kelce.
It’s still fair to balk and any other tight end being drafted ahead of The Gronk, though. Even Kelce wasn’t a touchdown machine last year (four scores), while he may be forced to go through some growing pains now that Alex Smith is on the Redskins.
Zach Ertz is the next guy up in round four according to the latest fantasy football average draft position data over at FFC, which tells us two things; the top tight ends are gone after four rounds, but a slew of viable pivots can be hand not too long after.
I’ve specifically got my eye on a few that stand out as tantalizing fantasy football sleepers this year. Here’s my favorite five:
Jimmy Graham – Green Bay Packers (Round 5)
Graham is a great place to start, as he heads over to Green Bay trying to chase a Super Bowl. He rolled with the Packers because he wanted to play with Aaron Rodgers, who has a history of making pedestrian tight ends look better than they actually are.
This is a very interesting union, seeing as Rodgers really hasn’t had an elite presence at tight end since the days of Jermichael Finley. Graham is slightly past his prime and isn’t quite as explosive as Finley once was, but he does bring monster red-zone chops to the table and he can still win individual matchups.
The fact that Graham hauled in 16 scores (10 last year) in Seattle’s offense the last two years is pretty impressive, while he finished as fantasy football’s 4th best tight end a year ago. In Green Bay with better quarterback play and a better system, Graham is going to be a serious threat to get back inside the top-five this year.
You’re still drafting Graham as the fourth best fantasy football tight end right now, but in round five, it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Evan Engram – New York Giants (Round 6)
Engram is almost as enticing as Graham, as he’s going to be even better than he was as a rookie and you can get him one round later. Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkely rule the headlines in New York, but Engram is a big bodied and athletic red-zone target for Eli Manning to use at will.
Engram wasn’t perfect in his first year, yet he still piled up a stout 64-722-6 line. The game has supposedly slowed down for Engram heading into his second season and with the G-Men getting back to full strength, he should also face less pressure from opposing defenses keying in on him.
Maybe that knocks his role down slightly, but I doubt it. Big Blue still wants to take advantage of mismatches and he was always a stud athlete coming out of Ole Miss. Nothing really changes for me, as Engram was the 5th best tight end in fantasy last year and may get even better.
The fact that you can nab him in round six of fantasy football drafts makes him a huge steal.
Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins (Round 8)
A true steal might be Redskins tight end, Jordan Reed. Held back by numerous injuries throughout his career, Reed still remains a dangerous athlete who can pile on the fantasy points. We only saw it in flashes last year, but that was evidence yet again that if he can stay healthy, Reed is a force to be reckoned with.
I’m certainly concerned about Reed’s long-term viability. He’s had toe and concussion issues, among other ailments. One more injury, and it’s quite possible his career could be over. That being said, he’s still just 27 years old and remains a very versatile offensive weapon.
Insert Alex Smith, who can be a checkdown marvel and helped make Travis Kelce into the monster he is today. Go back a few years and you can see how successfully Smith utilized Vernon Davis during his prime as well.
The point is Smith should be able to help Reed maximize his talent if he can stay on the field and in the eighth round, I don’t think you’re risking much to take a shot on him.
A top-10 fantasy tight end in 2016 and the #2 tight end in 2015, Reed is worth the risk in round 8.
David Njoku – Cleveland Browns (Round 13)
As you get deeper into fantasy football drafts you’re assuming more risk and that’s certainly the case with Njoku. While still fairly raw, Njoku has always been a freak athlete who brings a nice mixture of size and speed to the table.
It has to work in Njoku’s favor that he worked with some awful quarterbacks on a really bad Browns team, yet still produced a respectable 32-386-4 line as a rookie.
It’s also common knowledge that rookie tight ends notoriously struggle to adjust to the pro game due to blocking assignments and route knowledge, so all things considered, Njoku deserves a break.
The good news is he’s still got all of those athletic gifts and Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson anticipates a “big bump” in his role and overall production this season. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Cleveland and I don’t exactly trust Tyrod Taylor, but it’s tough to ignore Njoku’s upside as a deep sleeper in round 13.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars (Round 14)
Wait one more round and you’ll have a chance to nab one of my favorite sleepers in ASJ, who figures to be featured in Jacksonville’s passing attack. The Jags have moved on from their other tight ends and appear content rolling with Seferian-Jenkins, who again flashed his size and athletic ability as a member of the Jets in 2017.
Flash is the keyword with ASJ, as he’s always been immensely talented and has never been able to piece it all together.
Perhaps it finally clicks this year, though. ASJ serves as a solid checkdown option and has proven his ability in the red-zone, so barring a complete face-plant, he could be primed for that elusive breakout season.
The problem with the tight end position is it carries a ton of hyperbole. Eric Ebron, Trey Burton and a slew of other viable tight ends also carry the sleeper tag and could easily work out. The point here isn’t to draft all five of these tight end sleepers. You can’t and you shouldn’t. However, depending on your personal fantasy football draft strategy, this year’s fantasy football adp data could lead you to eyeing one of these options.
I love Graham, Engram and Reed this year and if you want a second TE to put behind your top guy, Njoku and ASJ look like worthwhile sleepers.