In this wild NFL offseason, without a preseason, fantasy football owners are tasked with paying closer attention to training camp than usual. Rookies tend to have the most to gain from positional duels, but this offseason makes it even more difficult for first-time players to leave their mark.
Some of these “battles” aren’t what we’re used to considering but more of a fantasy football role definition that will be explored in a similar fashion.
Fantasy football tight ends
Kyle Rudolph vs. Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
This is a role situation … Smith has impressive receiving skills, and Rudolph is the veteran presence in the red zone. Do we begin to see a changing of the guard as the season wears along? Does the loss of Stefon Diggs lead to more from both tight ends as Minnesota finds its way at wideout after Adam Thielen? There’s a good deal of reasons to like both players, but consistency figures to be an issue from a week-to-week perspective. A substantial jump in targets for Smith doesn’t need to come at the expense of Rudolph when one considers no team ran a three-wide base less often than the Vikings in 2019. Sure, it was under a different coordinator, but the man running the show now was heavily instrumental in such a design.
Projected outcome: The likelihood of Smith outright taking the starting job from Rudolph is just about zero. However, as mentioned, both will be heavily involved and can co-exist. Both players have matchup utility in all formats.
Devin Asiasi vs. Dalton Keene, New England Patriots
It’s arguable Ryan Izzo could be tossed into the mix, too, because two rookies are tasked with holding down the fort after this whirlwind offseason. Keene is more polished and could be the first to step up if given the opportunity, but Asiasi has turned heads in camp and is on the right track. He was no slouch at catching the rock during his 2019 season at UCLA. Keene is heady and could make a nice complement.
Projected outlook: There’s reason to believe which ever is the starting tight end is also interchangeable with the top reserve. Either way, there’s little immediate fantasy football value to be found.
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Vance McDonald vs. Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
Role or true battle? That’s a great question, considering we’ve long waited for McDonald to develop into a fantasy asset. This one leans role, since Ebron is a proven veteran who wasn’t signed to sit around, but he also isn’t durable enough to handle all aspects of being an inline tight end. But neither is McDonald — notoriously a poor blocker. Ebron’s skills in the red zone set him apart.
Projected outcome: There are too many fantasy weapons in this offense to consistently rely on either of these options. It really doesn’t matter whether it is Ebron or McDonald as the starter in name. This one is all about compartmentalized roles, such as being a target near the stripe, which is where Ebron will be the more productive of the two for fantasy.
Drew Sample vs. C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals
Sample was a second-round pick in 2019 and finished the year on IR after hurting his ankle. He barely saw the field as the third tight end. He wasn’t a true tight end in college and is more of an H-back. Uzomah has experience and size, but he’s athletically limited. The position combined for barely 17 percent of the total team targets in 2019, and that was without A.J. Green, prior to drafting Tee Higgins.
Projected outcome: Blatantly put, there isn’t enough volume in this offense’s design to sustain a fantasy football tight end as a viable option. There are too many mouths to feed to expect consistent involvement from the tight ends. Uzomah’s relative experience gives him a shot at being the primary option, which is meaningless in fantasy.
Tight end injury news
- Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz is day to day after suffering an upper-body injury, according to Mike Kaye, of The Newark Star-Ledger.
- Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert is week to week with a hairline thumb fracture.
- Seattle Seahawks TE Will Dissly dressed in pads Tuesday, Aug. 18, after tearing his Achilles tendon last season.