Fantasy Focus: TE
Tight ends often offer completely different value in real life vs. in fantasy. Coaches may be more inclined to gain value from tight ends by having them block rather than serve as a receiving option. The best fantasy options at the position are the ones who transcend the blocking background of the position and put up receiver-like numbers. A few teams are dealing with this balance and trying to figure out who to start at tight end and how to use them as options for their teams' offense. This week, we focus on a few of the more interesting tight end situations in the league and analyze them in more detail.
Fantasy Updates at the TE position.
New York Jets
The original training camp depth chart lists Jeff Cumberland as the starting tight end. Cumberland, a 28 year-old out of Illinois, has been consistent as the Jets’ second tight end in recent years, putting up 3 or 4 TD’s in each of the last three seasons on between 20 and 30 receptions while averaging over 10 yards per catch. His yardage numbers fell from 398 yards in 2013 to 247 in 2014. Still, if Cumberland is the starter, he should put up decent numbers. Despite that, the tight end to own on the Jets is second-year man Jace Amaro. Amaro, a Texas Tech product, is recovering from a sprained shoulder but is expected to be ready for the regular season after a rookie campaign with 38 catches, 345 yards, and 2 TD’s. He is listed as the third tight end on the depth chart, but will find his way into the offense on a fairly regularly basis since he will be used as an H-back. Amaro is not too fast, but he stands to gain from new coach Chan Gailey’s spread scheme, similar to the one Amaro played in at Texas Tech. Although he is likely only a marginal TE2 in most leagues, Amaro offers good potential and is worth a look.
The Lions happen to have two particularly intriguing options at tight end. This week, 6’7” target Joseph Fauria took reps with the first team at training camp. Fauria, the UCLA product, missed nine games last year and had a weak sophomore campaign, but dominated fantasy news in his rookie campaign by putting up 7 TD’s on only 18 catches. Fauria has room to improve, but if he takes the starting tight end job, he has the potential to be a touchdown-dependent red zone target. Sophomore Eric Ebron had a disappointing rookie campaign, with only 25 catches, 248 yards, and 1 TD last year, but has the raw skill and athleticism to serve as a breakout candidate. He has size at 6’4”, 260 lbs, and speed, and tight ends have a tendency to improve in their second year. If Ebron can win the starting job and become a target of Matt Stafford, he’ll have a great opportunity to make a second-year leap. Veteran Brandon Pettigrew is a wild card here, but considering he only had 10 catches in 14 games, there appears to be little upside to him as a fantasy asset.
Zach Ertz looks like he will provide solid fantasy value as a tight end in Chip Kelly’s Eagles offense. Ertz had surgery last week to repair a partial groin tear, and although reports are optimistic, there’s a chance he may not be ready for Week 1. A healthy Ertz may be able to carve out more playing time, which should make him a top-10 TE come season’s end. He could improve on the 58 catches he made last year, tied for 12th in the league if he plays more than 50% of snaps, as he did in 2014. But Brent Celek is still an option to eat into Ertz’s playing time thanks to his blocking skill. Ertz is still worth rostering in almost all leagues, while Celek is a good deeper league option who could serve as a good waiver wire replacement in shallower leagues. For those looking for the deepest of deep fantasy sleepers, former undrafted Florida product Trey Burton has a wide-ranging skill set and natural athleticism that allowed him to make it onto the Eagles' roster last season. He's a third-string tight end right now, but could have an early-season opportunity if Ertz is unable to recover from his injury in time. With 20 TD's in his four-year college career, Burton profiles as a receiving tight end and thus could become a viable fantasy option eventually.
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