- Miss out on drafting Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce? Any of these four tight ends could be the answer for your fantasy football team this season.
The Staples Series of the SI/4for4 Fantasy Football Draft Kit will cover the three labels fantasy owners have come to know and love over the years: breakouts, sleepers and busts. In this installment, SI’s Michael Beller and 4for4’s John Paulsen give their breakouts at the tight end position.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: Round 9)
Henry bucked the conventional wisdom surrounding rookie tight ends, catching 36 passes for 478 yards and eight touchdowns, ending the year as the No. 11 tight end in standard-scoring leagues. His standing in PPR formats took a hit because of his target share, but he was still 18th among tight ends in those leagues. Henry still has to deal with Antonio Gates’s presence this season, but it’s clear who the more explosive tight end is for Philip Rivers. Henry played just 58% of the Chargers snaps a year ago, topping out at a single-game snap rate of 68% in weeks during which both he and Gates were healthy.
That’s not going to be the case this season. Henry’s role in the offense will grow significantly, and with rookie Mike Williams already dealing with a back issue, the second-year tight end should be the third option in the passing attack, behind Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams. That’s going to help lead him to an easy TE1 season, with potential to finish in the top five at the position. — Michael Beller
Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers (ADP: Round 6)
If it seems weird to see a player entering his 10th season listed as a breakout candidate, that’s because it is. Bennett is a well-known commodity in the fantasy community, a solid option at the position who has never quite turned to corner toward being a safe, reliable, weekly starter. His best year came with the Bears in 2014, when he caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns, finishing the season as the No. 5 tight end in standard and PPR formats. Now teamed up with Aaron Rodgers, he should approach, or even surpass, those numbers this season.
The last Packers tight end who could hold a candle to Bennett’s receiving skills was Jermichael Finley. Before concussions and a spinal cord injury robbed Finley of his career, he was well on his way to being one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. Back in 2011, he had 55 receptions for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. It’s not that Rodgers doesn’t like throwing to his tight ends, it’s that he hasn’t had one who commanded his attention since Finley. Bennett will command his attention this season. He has had a significant role in three top-10 scoring offenses in his career, and has been a top-12 fantasy tight end in all of those seasons. With Rodgers on the other end of passes thrown his way this year, another top-five season is within reach. — MB
Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (ADP: Round 11)
Doyle finished with 59 catches for 584 yards and five touchdowns in 2016. He played especially well when Dwayne Allen missed Week 7, one of the few games he was left to himself at the tight end position for the Colts, posting nine catches for 78 yards and a score against the Titans. Doyle boasted the highest catch rate at his position, and was in the top five in red zone receptions in 2016.
Approximately one-third of Andrew Luck’s pass attempts in the red zone in his career have gone to tight ends, which is an extremely high rate relative to the league average. Typically, a single tight end does not command a large target share from Luck, but as 4for4’s TJ Hernandez noted in his profile of Doyle, Doyle accounted for 15.4% of the Colts’ targets over the final 10 games of 2016, as well as 24.4% of their red zone targets—a red zone share that was only bested by three tight ends during in the entirety of the 2016 season. With Allen out of the way, Doyle should see more consistent snaps and targets. He’s looking like a very good value in the 11th round of fantasy drafts. — John Paulsen
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (ADP: Round 9)
Young tight ends tend to disappoint in fantasy circles, so we need to be patient with highly drafted tight ends who fail to live up to inflated expectations early in their career. Ebron is entering his age-24 season—his fourth in the league—after finishing 14th in total fantasy points and 12th in points per game in 2016. He only caught one touchdown, but with red-zone target hog Anquan Boldin out of the way, he’s due for positive regression. Ebron set career highs in targets (85), receptions (61), and yards (711) in 2016, finishing with the ninth-most targets per game at his position. In fact, Ebron saw at least five targets in all but one of the 13 games he played last season, which is unusual consistency for a tight end. — JP