What do you get when you cross a power forward with an offensive tackle and a wide receiver? My answer would be a Freaky Talented athlete, also known as a tight end.
When you look around at other people’s rosters you will notice that everyone has a starting caliber running back on their team; everyone has multiple starting caliber wide receivers; and quarterback is the deepest position in fantasy football. The biggest gap in talent for any position in the NFL occurs at the tight end position. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the rankings for tight ends. Compare No. 1 ranked – Rob Gronkowski to No. 32 ranked – Jace Amaro and see if you can keep them in the same universe. On the contrary when you compare the top options to the lower ranked options with any other position, you will find that the gap is not nearly as big.
The talent gap among tight ends really does give the fantasy teams with a good tight end an advantage, but at the same time none of us want to take a tight end too early.
These are all factors to consider with this position, but I believe many will overlook one of the most important factors there is when it comes to tight ends–nearly all the good tight ends have significant injury history!
As I said earlier, the tight end position by nature is Freaky Talented. Those who are familiar with my theories know that this label usually means high injury probability, and the tight end group proves this very well. Here are the top ten tight ends according to fantasy pros.com:
Rob Gronkowski – surprisingly Gronkowski heads into this season with no serious injury concerns. However, if history has taught us anything, it is that Gronkowski will miss some time this season. He has not played a complete 16 game season since his second year in the league, but his production ceiling will likely outweigh his injury risk for at least a couple more years. You will not hear me tell anyone to not draft Rob Gronkowski, but I almost never target him as his price is usually too high for me.
Jordan Reed – Jordan Reed is reported to have a thumb injury that is causing him to take it easy this pre-season. I am not worried about his thumb, but I am worried about his history with the “Michael Myers” of injuries. Jordan Reed has had multiple hamstring injuries in his career and has never completed a full season. I simply don’t see how you can trust Reed as a season long fantasy option. I watched some video of Jordan Reed’s offseason training and found it to be impressive; but if he was on my fantasy team I would rather see him in a yoga or Pilates class. I know these trainers and rehab teams are top-notch in the NFL and I hope that these players with recurrent strains are balancing their explosive workouts with eccentric muscle control focus.
Greg Olsen – Greg Olsen appears to have been bothered by back spasms this pre-season, but other than that I have very little negative to say about Olsen’s injury outlook. Olsen’s career stats are how I like them, with a long row of 16’s. Olsen hasn’t missed a game in forever and when you look for a little insight into Olsen’s training regimen, you can see why. Olsen and his team seem to focus on the big picture which includes hydration, nutrition and a variety of training methods; which is what a Freaky Talented athlete needs to stay healthy. Despite Olsen getting a little up in age at 31-years old, I would be happy with him as my tight end.
Travis Kelce – Travis Kelce seems to be one of the safer options at tight end, but don’t forget he missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury that required surgery. With age on his side and two seasons having passed since his injury, I would feel pretty good with him as my starting tight end.
Coby Fleener – Coby Fleener has not missed a game since his rookie year and his upgrade to a more tight end friendly system is clear with his move to the New Orleans Saints. I can not say that I am much of a Coby Fleener fan, but looking at him through lenses focused on comparing injury floor to production ceiling reveals him to be a great tight end option this season.
Delanie Walker – Delanie Walker reminds me a lot of Greg Olsen. They are about the same age and although Walker has missed a few games here and there, you can generally count him in for 15 games every season. He also gets it when it comes to how to treat his body, as he is relying on cycling for much of his conditioning these days. Delanie Walker would not be my first pick for tight end, but he would be no lower than five. I hope some of the young tight ends get with players like Walker and Olsen so our pool of tight ends can stay healthy.
Gary Barnidge – Barnidge is a tough one for me, as I did not know he existed before last year. 2015 is the first year he has put up any meaningful statistics and his injury history seems to be minimal to none (unless no one bothered documenting it because they didn’t know he existed). The only thing I know is that Robert Griffin iii is his quarterback and that is worth 3 injuries to me.
Zach Ertz – Ertz has not missed much time so far in his career but did suffer a groin injury about a year ago. I worry about players with muscle strains, and groins and hamstrings are the absolute worst. If the hamstring strain is the “Michael Myers” of injuries, the groin is definitely “Jason Vorhees”. No matter what you do, they are always lurking and ready to return.
Julius Thomas – Thomas has missed more than a third of the games in his career due to injury. If not for the 2013 version of Peyton Manning, I doubt we would even know Julius Thomas by name. I would not touch Julius Thomas in any fantasy football setting as he is literally an injury waiting to happen.
Dwayne Allen – Allen has more missed games than he had receptions last year. Despite the departure of Coby Fleener, I don’t think he is a tight end you can trust to stay healthy or stay productive.
Tyler Eifert (honorable mention) – Many current list don’t include Eifert as he will miss at least the first four games of the season as he recovers from ankle surgery, but I am including him as the reports on his projected return is what inspired this post. All of the information around Eifert’s injury is vague, but I think it is safe to say that he is not a good tight end option for this year. Regardless of the specifics of his ankle injury, I can just about guarantee you that he does not hit the field as his normal self. It will likely be late in the season before we see any glimpses of the dominance that Eifert showed last season. This is now Tyler Eifert’s second serious injury and while many will attribute this to coincidence, I believe being 6-foot 6-inches, 250 lbs, and running a 4.6 second 40 yard dash is a great contributor to any injury of his past or future.
As the list of tight ends goes on, so does the injury history. Keep in mind that tight ends are probably only second to running backs in regard to injury probability. The biggest difference is that when a running back like LeVeon Bell goes down, a back up can realistically come in and maintain a good portion of that productivity; but when your tight end goes down there is a good chance that you are looking at a tremendous drop off in production.
Use Injury Science to pick your tight end wisely as he may literally be the difference between winning and losing.