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

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”