Don’t forget to pick a tight end.
While most of your attention understandably will be on selecting the perfect combination of running backs and wide receivers (and pairing them with a good quarterback) there are some tight ends who could put you over the top in fantasy football this season.
And no, we’re not just talking about Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, who have solidified themselves as game-changing weapons capable of posting receiver-like numbers.
Here are the top 20 tight ends entering the 2018 season:
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (Bye week: 11)
2017 stats: 69 receptions, 1,084 yards, 8 TDs
Gronkowski didn’t retire, which means he’s still the top tight end in fantasy football. Injuries always are going to be a concern with Gronk, but he’s an absolute beast when he’s on the field. He should have plenty of opportunities to replicate his usual stellar numbers this season as Tom Brady’s top weapon.
2. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (Bye week: 12)
2017 stats: 83 receptions, 1,038 yards, 8 TDs
Kelce built on his excellent 2016 campaign by having another great season in 2017. One could make the case he’s as good as Gronkowski in the fantasy realm, but the Chiefs are leaning on a rookie quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Still, Kelce’s a stud.
3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye week: 9)
2017 stats: 74 receptions, 824 yards, 8 TDs
Ertz has been a really good player since the Eagles drafted him in the second round in 2013, but he took his game to another level in 2017 by recording a career-high in touchdowns. Another step forward this season seems plausible given Carson Wentz’s return. Ertz has recorded three straight 800-yard seasons and figures to be a key part of Philadelphia’s offense.
4. Evan Engram, New York Giants (Bye week: 9)
2017 stats: 64 receptions, 722 yards, 6 TDs
Engram, a first-round pick in 2017, was a popular preseason fantasy pick last season, and he showed why by recording the third-most receptions for a rookie tight end in NFL history. Odell Beckham Jr.’s return to the Giants’ receiving corps might cut into Engram’s targets, but it also could take some attention away from the skilled 23-year-old, resulting in a breakout season.
5. Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers (Bye week: 7)
2017 stats: 57 receptions, 520 yards, 10 TDs
Graham never quite had the same success in Seattle that he enjoyed in New Orleans. He also turns 32 this November. But the five-time Pro Bowler is coming off his first double digit-touchdown season since 2014 and should see plenty of red-zone targets in Green Bay, especially with Aaron Rodgers losing one of his favorite receivers in Jordy Nelson.
6. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (Bye week: 4)
2017 stats: 17 receptions, 191 yards, 1 TD
Sure, he’s 33 years old. And sure, he’s coming off a wasted season in which he was limited to just seven games. But Olsen had long been a hallmark of consistency, recording three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and finishing in the top seven among fantasy tight ends for five straight seasons until 2017. A bounce-back performance in 2018 is possible, if not likely.
7. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (Bye week: 8)
2017 stats: 74 receptions, 807 yards, 3 TDs
Walker is so underrated. His game isn’t always sexy, but he’s been very consistent, reeling off three straight 800-yard seasons, including a 1,088-yard breakout on a career-high 94 catches in 2015.
8. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (Bye week: 10)
2017 stats: 57 receptions, 532 yards, 8 TDs
Rudolph took a step back last season in terms of receptions, yards and targets, suggesting his 2016 usage might have been a fluke. But he still was productive, in large because of his nose for the end zone, and he could flourish with Kirk Cousins now throwing him the ball in Minnesota.
9. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (Bye week: 9)
2017 stats: 80 receptions, 690 yards, 4 TDs
Doyle is a difficult tight end to gauge because he’s coming off a career year as Jacoby Brissett’s security blanket. In theory, Doyle’s numbers should rise with Andrew Luck returning, but we’ll see if he’s used quite as frequently if the Colts show more of a willingness to air it out down the field.
10. Trey Burton, Chicago Bears (Bye week: 5)
2017 stats: 23 receptions, 248 yards, 5 TDs
Burton never has had more than 37 receptions or 327 yards, so drafting the former Eagles backup requires faith in the Bears’ desire to get him involved in their offense after signing him to a four-year contract. That said, Chicago seems like a good fit for Burton.
11. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (Bye week: 4)
2017 stats: 27 receptions, 211 yards, 2 TDs
You know the deal with Reed by now: Tremendous talent; can’t stay on the field. If he can stay healthy, though, the 28-year-old has the potential to be among the best fantasy tight ends in the game. He’s worth a gamble, as long as you’re aware of the risks associated with him.
12. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (Bye week: 11)
2017 stats: 32 receptions, 386 yards, 4 TDs
Njoku, a first-round pick in 2017, is a breakout candidate at age 22. He’s a terrific athlete, and the Browns finally seem to have quarterback stability with Tyrod Taylor slated to start and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield waiting in the wings.
13. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye week: 9)
2017 stats: 4 receptions, 46 yards, 0 TDs
Eifert, like Reed, has had a hard time staying healthy throughout his career. But who could forget him scoring 13 touchdowns in 13 games in 2015? The upside’s still there with Eifert about to turn 28.
14. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers (Bye week: 11)
2017 stats: 43 receptions, 515 yards, 2 TDs
Are you buying into the Jimmy Garoppolo hype? If so, you might want to target Kittle, who showed promise playing alongside Jimmy G down the stretch last season.
15. Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye week: 5)
2017 stats: 48 receptions, 591 yards, 6 TDs
Brate’s situation in Tampa Bay is complicated by the presence of fellow tight end O.J. Howard, who was drafted in the first round in 2017. But Brate scored eight TDs in 2016 and got off to a solid start last season. The Bucs rewarded him with a contract extension this offseason, suggesting he’ll still hold a prominent role in Tampa Bay’s offense.
16. Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons (Bye week: 8)
2017 stats: 49 receptions, 526 yards, 3 TDs
Hooper didn’t meet expectations in his sophomore season with the Falcons, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on the 2016 third-round pick. Matt Ryan and the Falcons still like to sling it, which could open the door for Hooper to make significant strides in 2018.
17. Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders (Bye week: 7)
2017 stats: 54 receptions, 688 yards, 2 TDs
It’s been an interesting career for Cook, who has bounced around and been relatively productive despite often falling below expectations. The Raiders are coming off a disastrous season, but Cook posted decent numbers that could improve if quarterback Derek Carr returns to form.
18. Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills (Bye week: 11)
2017 stats: 49 receptions, 558 yards, 2 TDs
Clay has long been a classic waiver-wire guy — never someone you plan on drafting but typically is productive relative to other tight end options across the league. You could do worse than plugging him in on a weekly basis, even if he’s not your first choice.
19. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye week: 9)
2017 stats: 50 receptions, 357 yards, 3 TDs
The Jaguars are going to pound the rock. They also still have the ever-polarizing Blake Bortles under center. Those two factors limit Seferian-Jenkins’ upside, but both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are gone, so there should be an opportunity for the tight end to get some looks in Jacksonville’s offense.
20. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (Bye week: 11)
2017 stats: N/A (rookie)
Admittedly, this is a dart throw, especially since it’s rare that a rookie tight end makes a sizable impact in the passing game. But Gesicki is a freak athlete who turned heads at the NFL Scouting Combine en route to a second-round selection. He’s a decent sleeper pick in the later rounds.
Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images