- Someone in your fantasy league is going to have to take a shot on an unproven tight end. If that's you, here are your best bets.
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 name their sleepers at the tight end position.
Evan Engram, TE, Giants (ADP: Round 13)
Engram has the best chance of any tight end outside the top 12 in ADP to end the season inside the top 10 at the position. Wildly athletic for a 240-pounder, Engram will give Eli Manning his most dangerous pass-catching tight end since the glory days of Jeremy Shockey. The one big knock against Engram is expected target rate, with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and, to a lesser extent, Sterling Shepard, hogging so many of the looks from Manning. The Giants, however, should have one of the highest pass percentages again this season, with the team seemingly entering its 100th straight season looking for an answer in the backfield. That won’t single-handedly keep Engram’s target load afloat, but it does have him in a better position than one would expect for a rookie tight end on a team with a legit superstar receiver, a strong No. 2, and a promising No. 3. The fact that the Giants used the 23rd overall selection on Engram, despite the presences of Beckham, Marshall and Shepard, should tell you exactly how the team views its new tight end. — Michael Beller
Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers (ADP: Round 13)
The Buccaneers gave Brate the starting tight end gig in Week 3 last season, and he posted good enough numbers the rest of the way to finish at the sevnth-ranked tight end. Brate’s numbers might be somewhat touchdown-dependent—he caught eight in 2016—but he also managed 57 catches for 660 yards. Brate’s nine targets inside the opponent’s 10-yard line were tied with Mike Evans for most on the team. Tampa Bay added tight end O.J. Howard with the 19th pick in the NFL draft, but Brate’s TE1 status is secure, due to his comfort level with QB Jameis Winston. Rookie tight ends are notorious for failing to live up to fantasy expectations, so provided Brate continues to play starter’s snaps, he has a good chance to outscore Howard this season. — John Paulsen
Julius Thomas, TE, Dolphins (ADP: Round 14)
The two best seasons of Thomas’s career were with the Broncos in 2013 and ’14, during which he caught a total of 108 passes for 1,287 yards, scoring 12 touchdowns in both campaigns. Sure, that was in a Peyton Manning- and Adam Gase-led offense, but now that Gase is the head coach in Miami, owners can figure that Thomas will be a priority in that offense. The Dolphins will prize ball control thanks to Jay Ajayi’s emergence last year, but Thomas gives Ryan Tannehill a reliable weapon in the red zone. The fact that Gase has seen what Thomas can do in close to the red zone—11 of his 24 touchdowns during those two seasons in Denver came from inside the 10-yard line—makes it even more likely that the Dolphins prioritize him in the most lucrative part of the field. Thomas isn’t going to throw it back to the glory days of yore, but there’s enough upside here for him to turn in low-end TE1 numbers. — MB
Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons (ADP: Round 14)
Unsurprisingly, Hooper had a quiet rookie season, catching just 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. However, he was efficient in his opportunities, posting the fourth-highest yard-per-target average, and fourth-highest fantasy-point-per-target average at his position last year, and he capped his season off by leading the Falcons in targets in the Super Bowl (six), catching three of them for 32 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown. Matt Ryan has been effusive in his praise for the sophomore tight end, so look for Hooper to have a bigger role in the offense in 2017. — JP