Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

Rookie Analysis

Fantasy football rookie preview: Tight ends

(Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports)

Now that we have had some time to digest the NFL draft and its aftermath, us fantasy footballers are excitedly waiting to add some of the rookies to our fake teams. Deciding which players have fantasy worth in 2017 comes down to assessing the likelihood of playing time. The following players are ranked in order of anticipated opportunity and corresponding value.

Rookie previews: QB | RB | WR

David Njoku | Cleveland Browns | 6-4, 246 | Miami (Fla.) | Pick 1:29

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
MIAMI
21
362
17.2
58
1
2016
MIAMI
43
698
16.2
76
8

Essentially a one-year wonder for the Hurricanes, Njoku’s sheer athleticism gives hope for a chance of early contributions at the pro level. Miami is known for its tight ends, after all. The big-play rookie will be thrust into the spotlight for the Browns after tight end Gary Barnidge was shown the door. It would not be surprising to see Cleveland add another tight end — a veteran of the blocker variety. With four young quarterbacks on roster, and a cast of unproven receivers behind journeyman Kenny Britt, Njoku may be targeted early and often. He has low-end TE2 draft worth with potential to reach the status of being a matchup play.

O.J. Howard | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 6-6, 251 | Alabama | Pick 1:19

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
ALA
14
269
19.2
52
2
2014
ALA
17
260
15.3
53
0
2015
ALA
38
602
15.8
63
2
2016
ALA
45
595
13.2
68
3

Denying Howard’s tremendous skill set and overall potential in the NFL would be nothing short of foolish. He’s a wonderful athlete who wasn’t utilized enough with the Crimson Tide. Howard steps up in huge moments and is an all-around talent with the ability to block in line. Tight end Cameron Brate caught Jameis Winston’s attention in 2016 and mustered a 57-660-8 line in 15 games. Howard won’t be asked to replace Brate right away, and the learning curve for tight ends can be steep. At least he comes from a pro-style system to ease the transition and can be flexed out wide. The time share, plus so many weapons around him, translates into inconsistency. He will flash at times in 2017 and deserves a fantasy roster spot in cavernous leagues. Knowing when to start him won’t be easy.

Evan Engram | New York Giants | 6-3, 234 | Ole Miss | Pick 1:23

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
MISS
21
268
12.8
64
3
2014
MISS
38
662
17.4
83
2
2015
MISS
38
464
12.2
36
2
2016
MISS
65
926
14.2
63
8

Engram contributed all four years in college and did a little bit of everything as a receiving tight end. He isn’t much of a blocker, but the Giants won’t ask that of him too often. Engram is a lot like the Washington Redskins’ Jordan Reed — wideout first, blocker a distant 42nd. The Giants have so many weapons and capable receiving targets that it is tough to envision Engram having a large enough role to matter in 2017. Draft him late as a total flier if he has a strong offseason.

David Dorey’s top 12 rookies

Gerald Everett | Los Angeles Rams | 6-3, 239 | South Alabama | Pick 2:12

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
USA
41
575
14.0
57
8
2016
USA
49
717
14.6
79
4

Everett is sound but unspectacular. A gifted athlete who may be more wideout than tight end, Everett could carve out a minor role in the red zone. Unless second-year tight end Tyler Higbee struggles mightily, there is little reason to consider Everett in single-year fantasy drafts.

Adam Shaheen | Chicago Bears | 6-6, 278 | Ashland | Pick 2:13

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2014
ASH
2
85
42.5
43
0
2015
ASH
70
803
11.5
76
10
2015
ASH
57
867
15.2
70
16

A freakish athlete for his size, Shaheen’s basketball background has taught him how to box out in jump-ball situations and win in the red zone. Chicago will need to groom him for a larger role, and without an injury striking down Zach Miller, Shaheen’s 2017 role will be minor. Miller becomes a free agent in March of 2018. Shaheen is undraftable in conventional leagues.

Jonnu Smith | Tennessee Titans | 6-3, 248 | FIU | Pick 3:36

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
FIU
39
388
9.9
38
2
2014
FIU
61
710
11.6
75
8
2015
FIU
36
397
11.0
67
4
2016
FIU
42
506
12.0
40
4

Smith is a move guy and will be given a chance to replace Delanie Walker down the road. Tennessee focused a pair of earlier receiver picks, including a first-rounder, on improving its stable of weapons. Smith may score a few times this year, but he shouldn’t be rostered as long as Walker is healthy.

Jake Butt | Denver Broncos | 6-5, 246 | Michigan | Pick 5:01

YEAR
TEAM
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2013
MICH
20
235
11.8
37
2
2014
MICH
21
211
10.0
29
2
2015
MICH
51
654
12.8
56
3
2016
MICH
46
546
11.9
37
4

Coming off a late-season ACL tear, Butt may not contribute in 2017. Even if he plays, his development should be stunted after missing so much time on the field to learn. Denver drafted him as a value pick in the fifth round who can eventually move into the starting lineup beyond 2017. Expect nothing from him this season.

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