Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Zach Ertz are firmly established as the top three tight ends of the draft. They bring WR1-type numbers to the table and look to be the clear-cut favorites in targets for their respective teams, which is perhaps the most important statistic when evaluating a tight end’s fantasy value. Other guys that figure to have a prominent target share in their offenses are Evan Engram and Delanie Walker, granted they stay healthy.
The tight ends to be wary of, for the most part, are those that will struggle with a consistent target share. Here are four bust candidates at tight end heading into the 2019 season.
4. Delanie Walker
The only player on this list that appears primarily for another reason than his potential targets, Walker was the epitome of durability throughout his 12-year career before fracturing and dislocating his ankle in the first week of 2018. 34 isn’t exactly the ideal age for this type of devastating injury to occur, but Walker has claimed he feels good. A bounce back season could be in store for the three-time Pro Bowler.
However, there are reports that he might spend some time on the PUP list, and the Titans would be smart to ease him back onto the field if they want to truly conserve the health of their offensive mainstay. Even if he’s able to start the season, his snap count could be low and only gradually increase in order to play it safe. Jonnu Smith was a viable TE in Walker’s place, including a four-game stretch where he caught 13 balls and found paydirt on three of them, so there may not be a need to rush him back.
3. Jared Cook
Cook exploded out of the gates in 2018, hauling in 12 balls for 180 yards in the season opener. He was Derek Carr’s preferred target even while Amari Cooper was still around, and ended up being the only Raiders receiver to exceed the 100-target mark. Oakland’s offense, while paltry overall, was a good fantasy fit for Cook. The 6-5 veteran enjoyed career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
He’s in a better offense this year with the Saints, and that could be exactly what hurts his fantasy performance. Drew Brees has done great things with tight ends before, but Cook enters the NOLA system at a time when they’re throwing less than ever. Brees threw the ball fewer than 500 times for the first time since 2004, and that figure should only continue to go down this season. More than half of that target share went to the immensely talented duo of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, and the Saints really don’t need to change much about their offense considering their 13-3 record and top-10 offensive output. Cook isn’t a bad option, but he won’t produce as much as he did last year.
2. David Njoku
Last season was a better opportunity for Njoku to break out than this season, and it isn’t too much of a stretch to call him a bust after 2018 turned out to be a slightly disappointing campaign. He seemed to be the definite No. 2 option after Jarvis Landry, and his 6-4, 246 lb. frame should have been an unstoppable red zone presence. Instead, Njoku had eight red zone looks, trailing Nick Chubb’s 30, Jarvis Landry’s 20, and tied with Antonio Callaway (via Football Guys). His final statline (56 receptions, 639 yards, 4 TDs) wasn’t bad, but a modest 5.9 standard points per game didn’t quite live up to his breakout expectations.
Odell Beckham is in town this year, and he should take over a huge portion of targets. Kareem Hunt’s eventual return will add yet another big offensive presence. Njoku could realistically be the fourth option in the pecking order, something that might scare you away from taking him at his No. 9 TE ranking.
1. Eric Ebron
13 touchdowns in 66 receptions (19.7 percent) is a very impressive stat. Besides the fact that Ebron scored more in 2018 than he did in the rest of his five-year career combined, he ranked first among all tight ends and second in the league in TDs. Only one player in football (Mike Williams, 23.2 percent) had a higher percentage of his catches go for TDs, and the second-highest tight end was Trey Burton (11.1 percent).
Don’t expect a repeat performance. Even if Ebron’s target share (110) stayed the same in 2019, it would be hard to sustain such a high scoring rate. But 2017 Pro Bowl TE Jack Doyle is back from an injury that set him aside for most of last season, and when he did play, he was a more prominent target for Andrew Luck. He averaged 5.5 targets per game, and Ebron only averaged 3.7 in the games that Doyle played. In fact, Doyle might be the better tight end to draft this year despite the fact that he is ranked as the No. 15 TE compared to Ebron’s No. 8 ranking.
Between new acquisitions Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, established threats T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle, and up-and-comers Nyheim Hines and Mo Alie-Cox, and there just so many mouths to feed in the red zone in Indianapolis.