Tight end has always been a position where nine times out of 10, I’m looking for a value to fall in my lap. I’m not drafting just any old player of course. Given the position’s scoring volatility year-to-year and the steady stream of rising stars, I’m content to roll out what amounts to a fantasy afterthought.
You can snag Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron around Round 14 thanks to his bottomed-out 158 ADP. Making him the 18th TE off the board on draft day. I think your best bet when digging deep at this position is to double-up at it when you finally put your toe in the tight end pool. So for example, in Round 12 or 13, I might draft Mike Gesicki of the Dolphins or T.J. Hockenson of the Lions. The following round I’m going straight to Ebron.
Well, maybe I should first explain why I like Ebron.
First and foremost, any time we’re talking about a bench player (that isn’t a handcuff), it’s an entirely different set of risks, almost all of which are mitigated in my mind by that player’s expandability. I’m totally fine absolutely whiffing on these bench guys since they’re typically the first up to be cut. So, if Ebron doesn’t do anything in the first three weeks of the season. I’ll probably cut him loose as one of my top drops when submitting FAAB bids. At the TE2 position, you can afford to assume a ton of risk and shoot for upside.
In 2018 (the last full QB Ben Roethlisberger), Pittsburgh targeted their tight ends 117 times for 86 receptions, 1,119 yards, and six TDs. That was the year Vance McDonald and Jesse James led the way at the position.
So the primary risk here is a big divide in who gets the better snap share. I feel McDonald is the preferred blocker as the bulkier option between the two. This likely leads Ebron to assume the athletic pass-catching role. If I’m wrong, and Ebron fades and the production isn’t there this year, so be it. He’s not an integral piece of my starting lineup.
In an article about Ebron’s desire to mesh well with Roethlisberger from Steelers reporter Noah Strackbein, the 27-year-old tight end is willing to go the extra mile for his new QB:
"If I can be Big Ben's best friend like I was with Andrew [Luck], just always in his ear, in his pocket trying to figure out the game through their lenses because they're elite minds at this level," he said. "I want to understand his language, see from his view, from his focal-point on how things are in the playbook, how he sees defenses … I think Ben has been through more injuries than anybody, and for him to tell us, the people, that he's throwing without pain that he has felt for years, I think we should all take into account what he's been through and that if he says that than he means that, because he has been beat up; he's played this game for a very long time," Ebron said.
Ebron said back in April he was still recovering from a late-season ankle surgery last year. In May, he updated that he was running and cutting with no pain. Injuries have been a theme of his career and we have to hope he can realign with the fantasy gods to stay healthy this year.
Given Ebron’s 2018 glory days, where he had a monster season in his first year in Indianapolis, with 110 targets for 66 receptions with 750 yards and 13 TDs (finished TE4 behind Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz), I actually prefer him in standard scoring leagues because of that high touchdown ceiling. WRs JuJu Smith Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington are 6’1”, 5’10” and 5’11," respectively. Our guy Ebron is 6’4!" I’m looking for him to be the Steelers’ top target in the red zone. Not a top target, the top target.
Pittsburgh finished 2019 ranked last in red-zone TD scoring, only getting in for six on 35-percent of drives. In 2018, Big Ben had them scoring TDs in the red zone at a 73.5-percent clip. To give that stat its proper due, it requires some context. The lethally efficient Tennessee Titans scored TDs on 75.6-percent of their drives last year. The return of Roethlisberger paired with a big red zone threat like Ebron should be a nice fit and well worth a taste as your TE2.