During the spread offense days, teams rarely used more than a single tight-end. Some teams didn't use tight-ends in their offense. But, as always is the case in the NFL, defensive coordinators discovered how to stop spread offenses from going up and down the field.
Now, teams like New England and New Orleans play two tight-end formations. The tight-end has become one of the most important positions on the gridiron. Teams that don't have a viable tight-end, one that can both block and catch the football, are at a disadvantage.
In most NFL Fantasy Football season long leagues, you must play a tight-end. What it means is that if you don't grab one of the Top 5 tight-ends, you could be in some trouble. See below for my early Top 5 TE list.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
For Kelce to be a Round 1 pick, he must get his TD totals up from last season to this season. The Chiefs' talented tight-end only scored 4 TDs last season. He did catch 83 passes for 1,125 yards. But, the TD total just wasn't where it should be.
The Chiefs will target Kelce in every game this season. He, along with WR Tyreek Hill, are KC's two most dynamic offensive players. The fact that KC drafted a QB in Round 1, says that they figure to lean on Kelce even more in 2017. I think he's deserving of being the first TE taken in your season long draft.
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Gronk only started 6 games last season. No wonder he only caught 25 passes for 540 yards. Gronk also only scored 3 TDs. Should 2017 be better for the great tight-end?
It's hard to say. Gronkowski goes into the season having had back surgery. There's no telling if he's ever going to be as dominant as he once was. Not only that, but the Patriots traded for WR Brandin Cooks, and signed former Indianapolis tight-end Dwayne Allen. How often are the Patriots going to utilize Allen? Also, does Cooks's addition mean that Gronk's numbers diminish?
I'm not telling you to stay away from Gronk in your drafts. I'm just pointing out some obvious things that you'll want to think about before taking Gronk in Round 1.
3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Washington's ultra-talented tight-end caught 66 passes for 686 yards last season. He caught 6 TD passes. What's amazing is that he did all of it while starting only 9 games. What's worrisome is that he did all of it while only starting 9 games.
Reed appears to be injury prone. When he's healthy, he's one of the best tight-ends in the NFL. But, he's no use to his fantasy football owners if he can't get onto the field. Keep that in mind before spending a Round 1 or even a Round 2 pick on Reed.
4. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans drafted Corey Davis from Western Michigan in Round 1 this past April. Davis has the potential to be QB Marcus Mariota's favorite target. That's the way it should be.
Jay Novacek wasn't Troy Aikman's favorite target. Michael Irvin was. But, man, Novacek sure was a great fantasy football tight-end! Tight-ends aren't often the focal point of the offense. In most cases, the tight-end probably shouldn't be. That's why I believe if you can draft Walker in the middle rounds, you'll be more than okay. Mariota is always going to look for Delanie when he gets in a bind.
5. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
Olsen's numbers could take a hit because the Panthers drafted RB Christian McCaffrey in Round 1. Although adding a terrific offense player can often help a tight-end's numbers, McCaffrey is so talented, it's difficult to see the Panthers not utilizing him as much as they can.
Olsen had 80 catches for 1,073 yards last season. He scored 3 TDs. The TD total might actually go up while the catch total goes down. That could work for you if you end up drafting Olsen. Like everyone else on this list, just make sure you don't draft him too early.
5A. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have a great tight-end on the roster in Cameron Brate. Brate had some big games last season. He scored 8 TDs. That makes him a good tight-end.
It doesn't mean that Howard doesn't produce excellent numbers in his rookie season. First, Howard doesn't play like a typical tight-end. The Buccaneers might play Howard out wide. Second, the Buccaneers often play with two tight-ends.
I think O.J. Howard is the best TE prospect I've ever seen. The Bucs should use him as much as they can in their quest for an NFC South Division Championship.