Bears

Fantasy Football: 2015 tight end sleepers and busts

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Fantasy Football: 2015 tight end sleepers and busts

It's hard to hate Gronk. 

Like really hard. I mean, c'mon. Look at this.

Gronk and kittens?!

STOP BEING SO LOVABLE, GRONK! (Just kidding...be you, bro)

Unfortunately for everyone, there's only one Gronk to go around in fantasy football. So that means one team will get him and the rest will just wish they did.

So it's time for us to take a look at the rest of the tight ends outside of Gronk who could help or hurt your team this year. 

Top Targets

Martellus Bennett, CHI: Bennett may be the last receiver standing for the Bears after all the bumps and bruises the other wideouts have dealt with this preseason. He's already got great chemistry with Jay Cutler, and his desire for a new contract will give him some extra motivation this year. He led all tight ends in the NFL with receptions last year and had only one less target than Gronk. With Brandon Marshall gone, Bennett should move up on the red zone target chain. If you sadly miss out on Gronk, Bennett is a great choice as your starting tight end this year because I believe he could be the third best fantasy tight end this year. - John "The Professor" Paschall

Jordan Cameron, MIA: Remember when Jordan Cameron was supposed to build off of his 2013 career-highs in receptions (80), receiving yards (917) and touchdowns (7) and move into Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham tight end territory last season? Well, Cameron did the exact opposite in 2014 as he caught just 24 passes for 424 yards and a measly two touchdowns. But let's not forget, he dealt with concussions for most of the year and had a combination of Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel slinging him the rock. Luckily for Cameron he finally got out off a tough situation in Cleveland, trading in his snowblower for a jet ski when he signed with the Miami Dolphins this past offseason. Cameron now has a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill that will play to his strengths as a seam-stretcher and find a way to get him the ball. With a shortage of tight end production in the NFL these days, Cameron at his ADP of 90 is a steal in every sense of the word. - Scott Krinch

[MORE: Top targets, sleepers and busts at wide receiver]

Travis Kelce, KC: This one's pretty obvious. I've been talking up Kelce for the last year. Dude is a beast and if he actually plays more than 60-70 percent of the Chiefs' snaps, he will be a Top 5 tight end easy. I'm predicting he will be the No. 2 tight end after Gronk, which would be awesome considering you can get Kelce in the fourth or fifth round. - Tony Andracki

Delanie Walker, TEN: I picked up Delanie Walker on the waiver wire last season and couldn’t have been more thrilled with him. He slowed down some as the season went along but still managed to finish ninth among tight ends. Now with a rookie quarterback under center in Marcus Mariota and not too many real threats at wide receiver, Walker should be in prime position to finish in the top-5 among tight ends this season. I’d even consider making him the third tight end off the board to make sure I get him, though he’s being drafted far later than that. Tight ends are always hit-or-miss, but with Walker you’ve got a talented player in the right situation to make him an easy TE1 play all year. Plus, he won’t cost you much on draft day. Take him now and thank me later. - Mark Strotman

Sleepers

Jordan Cameron, MIA: Everybody is acting like Cameron's 2013 season (80 rec, 917 yds, 7 TD) didn't happen, but we should really just forget about his 2014 season. He only played in 10 games and even if he did suit up, he was banged up and dealt with concussion issues all year. Now he's in Miami as bascially the only tight end in a rising offense with Ryan Tannehill - one of the top QB sleepers. Bet on a rebound for Cameron. - TA

Josh Hill, NO: Somebody is going to have to replace Jimmy Graham's production at tight end in New Orleans, right? The 25-year-old Hill was a virtual unknown among NFL circles before he turned in career-highs in receptions (14), yards (176) and touchdowns (5) in 16 games with the Saints last season. After trading away Graham to the Seahawks, the Saints ignored drafting a tight end because of their faith in Hill as a playmaker for Brees. Hill likely won't come anywhere near Graham's production in Year 1 as a starter, but for a guy who’s expected to receiver around 100 targets, he needs to be on your fantasy radar all season. - SK

Richard Rodgers, GB: When Jordy Nelson suffered a torn ACL in the Packers’ Week 2 preseason game against the Steelers, questions were raised about who would become Aaron Rodgers’ No. 3 wide receiver. Well, what if it’s not a wide receiver at all? A third-round pick in 2014, Rodgers caught 20 passes for 225 yards and a pair of scores while splitting time with Andrew Quarless; he also caught the game-winning score in the Packers’ Wild Card win over the Cowboys. Now the clear-cut No. 1 tight end, Rodgers has had a phenomenal camp and could be a sneaky target toward the end of drafts. Playing in Green Bay’s offense, Rodgers has TE1 upside and, if anything else, is great depth on your bench. - MS

Maxx Williams, BAL: The two X's in his name means he's an EXXTREME SLEEPER!! Okay, but seriously. Consider Williams a pretty deep sleeper this year but a must-get in keeper leagues. Let’s start connecting some dots with Williams. Outside of Steve Smith, Joe Flacco doesn’t have a lot of weapons to throw to. Flacco also loves tight ends as seen by Dennis Pitta’s success in previous years. You know who else loves tight ends? Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. He used Martellus Bennett a lot in Chicago and Williams could gradually see more targets as the year goes on. Consider him a high upside TE2 with potential for a low-TE1. - JP

[MORE: Top targets, sleepers and busts at running back]

Busts

Zach Ertz, PHI: In two seasons the hype hasn’t really matched the production, as Ertz finished 14th among tight ends in fantasy points last season in what was supposed to be a breakout campaign. He doesn’t add much in the run-blocking department - Brent Celek is a “vulture” of sorts because of it - and after the Eagles invested major money in DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews this offseason Chip Kelly is going to stick with the run game. Jeremy Maclin is gone, but Jordan Matthews could make a leap to stardom and Nelson Agholor is one of my favorite sleepers at the wide receiver position (based on his ADP). Ertz will be a borderline TE1 most weeks, but his ADP of 108 is above guys like Dwayne Allen, Delanie Walker and even Heath Miller. I’d much rather have those guys on a weekly basis, meaning Ertz is going to cost you more than his true value on draft day. - MS

Jimmy Graham, SEA: Graham is still going in the second/third round, and he still has the physical tools that has made him one of the top tight ends in fantasy football history. But the truth is, that's awfully early to take a guy that has so much risk attached to him. Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense like to spread things around and I'm sure Graham will get his this season, but will it be enough to warrant a second or third round pick? I don't believe so. - TA

Greg Olsen, CAR: I hate to label Olsen as a bust because he should still post above-average fantasy production at the tight end position, especially with No. 1 Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin out for the season with a torn ACL, but his ADP of 48 is way too rich for my blood. Olsen had a monster season in 2014, hauling in 84 receptions on 122 targets for 1,008 yards and six scores. It's hard to see Olsen repeating that same stat line in 2015, particularly with Benjamin out and defenses keying in on Olsen, the only playmaker for Carolina outside of quarterback Cam Newton. The only tight ends worth drafting in the Top 50 are Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, and if you don't get one of them, you'd be better suited to grab one in the later rounds. - SK

Julius Thomas, JAX: Nagging injuries and a product of Peyton Manning's special talent? I'm buying a setback year for Thomas. Eric Decker did pretty well when he left Manning but I just don't see the same for Thomas. I'm excited by the promising reports coming out of Jaguars camp about Blake Bortles but defenses will key on Thomas and try and take him out of the game. He's never carried an offense before and he might have to in Jacksonville if they are really going to surprise people. I'm more excited about guys like Dwayne Allen and Vernon Davis (just listen to CSN Bay Area 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco's glowing review of Davis' camp so far). I'll pass on Thomas as my TE1. - JP

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.