The tight end position has massively transformed in the NFL over the last 10-15 years. As players like Tony Gonzalez revolutionized the position by revealing its potential as a new type of offensive weapon, the rate at which teams started utilizing their young tight ends as also changed. Where it used to take multiple years before the majority of rookie and young tight ends to see the field, we are now seeing these players as viable fantasy options much earlier on.
The 2 Year Mark
We charted out the fantasy production of some of the top tight ends over the last 10 years. Even though these were some of the top players, we weren’t expecting them to show much value until their 3rd or 4th year. However, what you end up seeing is that most of them have hit near full fantasy potential by year two.
The one anomaly above is with Tyler Eifert, however that was due to injury in year two, and he then hit stride in his 3rd year (his 2nd year of a full season). These are of course the cream of the crop tight ends, so let’s look at a more broad group of people, viewing the development cycle of the some of the top fantasy TEs of 2018.
Here (above) you’ll continue to see a big jump from these guys from their first to second season, and continue to see them more fully developed by year 3 and 4. You’ll may notice that we omitted Eric Ebron from this list. This is mostly because of what an anomaly he was. He was stuck on a terrible Detroit Lions team for the majority of his career, and then got traded to a pass-heavy Indianapolis team that was deep with injury. His data just doesn’t play well with others because of the surrounding circumstances, and leaves him a mystery going into 2019.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!?
The two main conclusions you should take away from this data are the following:
If you are in a re-draft league, simply don’t bother with taking rookie tight ends.
This is an especially important to note this season, as we saw some TEs go especially early in the NFL draft. Rookies are always sexy and intriguing options, but the odds are on your side to steer away from them. If you are in a deep-keeper/dynasty league this is of course not the case, but just be aware that you will be sitting on them for a year or two before you start really seeing results.
Look at the trends of the tight end you are targeting
If the tight end you are targeting hasn’t shown an impressive progression from year 1-3, don’t expect a big turn-around in their 4th season. However, this may be the time to start really looking into those 2nd and 3rd year players who do have potential for breakout.
Searching for value in the 2nd year Tight Ends
Looking for a potential steal at this year’s draft? Look no further than the 2018 draft class. These are the guys who are ready to make that big jump, but because of their low points in 2018 will go later in the draft.
Take note of the highlighted players above, because those are the ones who show the kind of first year performance that today’s studs had in their first season. Situationally, the clearest to read appears to be Chris Herndon (NYJ). With 74.2 fantasy points, he is ripe to jump to the mid/low 100s. Goedart was a 2nd round pick, so obviously the Eagles loved him enough to take him early despite already having Zach Ertz. The biggest issue there is split time, unless Ertz gets injured. Ian Thomas’ situation is a mirror image of Ertz, where he’ll be battling with Greg Olsen. However, at 34 years old and his injury history, the likelihood of Olsen making it through a full season is unlikely. Mark Andrews is the last in the mix. While we don’t like the throwing ability of his quarterback, it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine him also making a big jump in 2019.