In the NFFC scoring format in 2012, Coby Fleener was the top scoring rookie tight end (25th). In 2011, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph held the honor (34th). Even the dynamic duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez only ranked 11th and 14th in scoring their first season, fringe No. 1 tight end or high-end No. 2 territory. They returned a profit to anyone that invested in them, but they hardly carried anyone to a fantasy championship by themselves. Remember how Jermaine Gresham was going to make an immediate impact for the Bengals as a rookie? He finished ranked 16th. During camp back in 2007, Greg Olsen was hyped as being the best receiver on the team. He finished 23rd among TE’s. Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and most elite tight ends were all non-factors their rookie seasons. Why even waste time looking at rookies at this position? Good question. The true answer is that there’s really no good reason. You should stop reading this article now. It’s of no fantasy value for sane people in 20-round redraft leagues.
Sill reading? Fair enough, but you’ve been warned. The rookies:
Tyler Eifert – 6-foot-6, 251 pounds (4.68 40) – Tyler should get some looks in two tight end sets. He displayed good leaping ability at Notre Dame and combined with his size and height, that makes him a good red zone target, particularly with A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and others drawing the attention of opposing defenses. He’s certainly more attractive in deeper draft champions leagues in which you don’t have to decide which weeks to start him.
Travis Kelce – 6-foot-5, 255 pounds (4.64 40) – Kelce possesses good lateral quickness and speed for someone his size. He’s a load to take down and can punish those who tackle him. Perhaps the most important thing in his favor is that no standout player is firmly entrenched ahead of him on the Chiefs depth chart.
Zach Ertz – 6-foot-5, 249 pounds (4.76 40) – Questions about his blocking ability and a lack of speed will likely keep him from getting enough snaps to make a fantasy impact for the Eagles this year. He possesses good size and good hands but he’s probably at least a year away.
Jordan Reed – 6-foot-2, 236 pounds (4.72 40) – Reed is yet another athletic tight end with great receiving skills but no blocking prowess. He is a playmaker with quick feet and tremendous ability to make defenders miss. He changes direction quickly and runs faster in pads than his 40 time would seem to indicate.
Gavin Escobar – 6-foot-6, 254 pounds (4.84 40) – He has good hands and will eventually be a decent possession receiver on shorter routes, but he is slow and his blocking skills need work. He’ll need an injury to Jason Witten to have any fantasy relevance this year.
Since the crop of rookie tight ends is usually so barren, at least initially, here are a couple of youngsters with two years experience about to come into their own.
Rob Housler – 6-foot-5, 250 pounds (4.46 40) – Mastersball.com’s own Perry Van Hook warned me, saying that Arizona doesn’t use their tight ends, that they don’t even know they have any. Unfortunately, I did not heed his advice and took Housler often as a late-round flier in 2012 fantasy drafts. All the junior out of Florida Atlantic did was burn a roster spot and tease me with occasional flashes of brilliance. I still think the third year pro has an extremely high ceiling. As an offensive weapon, he reminds me of Jason Witten, only a little smaller and faster. Now that the Cardinals have Carson Palmer under center, Housler’s stock is on the rise. Questions about the offensive line remain, even though they tried to address it in the draft
Jordan Cameron – 6-foot-5, 235 (4.53 40) – Cameron played basketball in college for BYU and then transferred to USC to display his football talents. His former hoops talent has led to many Antonio Gates comparisons. Ben Watson has moved on to the Big Easy, so the former Trojan sits atop the depth chart ready to put his skills on display. I’m buying.