Fantasy Football: 2015 tight end sleepers and busts


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?!


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


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]


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

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

Postcards from Camp: Bears Matt Nagy understands what coaching interns are going through

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Dear Stacey –

Well, I wanted to be head coach of the Chicago Bears and here I am, in charge of my first training camp, worrying about everything from Mitch Trubisky’s RPO footwork to whether Kyle Long is going to fall off his bike sometime in the course of camp. Probably don’t need to worry about Kyle – he’s always so safe about everything, and it’s not like he’s had all kinds of surgeries or anyth-- ….oh, wait, nevermind…

Besides all of that, we’ve got six coaches here as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship. They’re seeing how we do things and helping us out, and this is special. Remember back in Philadelphia when Andy Reid brought me into this profession through that program? Now it’s 11 years later and here I am, and this really represents a little pay-it-forward for me – I can understand where these coaches are because that was me once upon a time. Somebody gave each one of us a break that helped us along the way so our staff is more than delighted to have these fellows here.

Everybody was really pleased that some of our top vets – Mitch Trubisky, Allen Robinson, Chase Daniel, others – came down to camp early when the rookies reported. The coaches didn’t order that, and it says something about what you hope is forming inside the locker room. The young guys see the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 1 wide receiver coming in early and it sets both a standard and an example. When your best players are your hardest workers, then you’ve really got some leadership.

The pads’ll be on tomorrow (Saturday) so we’ll start seeing hitting by the fronts on both sides of the football, which takes the speed of everything up a notch. I’m going to pay close attention to how everyone is performing but also to how they’re holding up physically – circumstances set up beautifully for us, with an extra minicamp because I’m a new coach, then an extra practice week to go with the extra game Aug. 2 for the Hall of Fame.

Hope you and the boys are getting all the Chicago arrangements in place. Now, if I can just find my sunblock before practice…

Your coach husband,


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In search of an empty sick bay

After the obvious workload entailed in installing a new offensive system and coaching regime, Matt Nagy’s No. 1 concern is injury, which has plagued the Bears on an annual basis since the 2012 departure of Lovie Smith. So while Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt once made no secret of their approach using epically physical practices as a means of culling the roster, Nagy has laid out a balancing act between physical practices and knowing when to back off.

“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “That’s a big one. So you have to know where you’re at on that one. You have to have some luck involved in that. There’s some unfortunate injuries and there’s some that happen for certain reasons. Health is the biggest concern for us.”

Sadly, some position competitions and lineup decisions are inevitably dictated by injuries. A season-ending leg injury to Kevin White in 2016 opened a starting job for Cameron Meredith, who’d been the No. 5 wideout on the depth chart. Meredith’s own preseason season-ender made Deonte Thompson a starter. Safety Adrian Amos had fallen from two-year starter to backup by this time last year, and only started again because Quintin Demps suffered a fractured forearm in Week 3.

If there is a major health positive right now, it is that three pivotal starters – linebacker Leonard Floyd, guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Allen Robinson – all approach the start of practices fully cleared. Those represent two Pro Bowl players (Long, Robinson) and one the Bears expect to be (Floyd).

“One of the traits we look for in players is durability and availability,” said GM Ryan Pace. “Leonard is a very talented player with a lot of natural pass rush ability. But in order for him to reach that production, he needs to be on the field. I know he’s worked a lot on his body, he’s worked a lot on his techniques, so we just feel that if he can stay healthy, the production’s going to be there.”

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Weather or not….

Matt Nagy’s first practice as Bears coach came under a cloud – literally – as the threat of rain and thunderstorms had the team waiting until the last minute to determine whether the session would be held on an outdoor field as planned or indoors at a gymnasium on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University.

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The outlook for Roquan Smith when he signs….

Training camp has begun without the presence of No. 1 pick Roquan Smith as his agents and the Bears work out contract details. Few expect a protracted impasse and Smith’s development may be delayed but unlikely denied. Smith had been cycled in with the No. 1 defense, as were a number of the top newcomers to the ’18 Bears. That process is expected to resume whenever Smith’s deal is concluded.

Extended holdouts are never positive, for either side, but are not necessarily career-impacting. Quarterback Cade McNown missed the initial 11 days of his first (1999) training camp, eventually started, but whether because of shoulder injuries or talent shortcomings, or both, never played to his status as the 11th-overall pick. Cedric Benson’s rookie season (2005) was dramatically undermined by his 36-day holdout, but he had two more seasons after that and needed a move to Cincinnati where he averaged more than 1,000 yards over four Bengals seasons.

Defensive end Joey Bosa missed the first four weeks of the Chargers’ 2016 camp, then missed four weeks with a hamstring injury, but came off of that to be named defensive rookie of the month for October and finish with 10.5 sacks and defensive rookie of the year honors.


Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health


Training Camp Daily: Maintaining the balance between physicality and health

It is Day 1 of practice in Bourbonnais. Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin and producer Paul Aspan discuss how Matt Nagy's desire for a physical camp reconciles with the No. 1 goal of all training camps: stay healthy.

Plus, why there are only two real questions for the Bears in this camp - and they both involve QBs. And Akiem Hicks is one of the best Chicago free agent signings ever...but let's slow down with the Legion of Boom comparisons in the secondary.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: