Tight end isn’t a position you normally want to look at during your fantasy football draft until the middle to later rounds.
There are a few exceptions, though, as Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed all are good options in the first three or four rounds.
Here are the top 20 fantasy tight ends entering the 2016 NFL season.
1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (Bye Week: 9)
2015 stats: 72 receptions, 1,176 yards, 11 TDs
Gronkowski is the best tight end in football — and maybe in the history of the sport, too. He’s also a touchdown machine who racks up a ton of yards after contact. The only concern is injuries, but Gronk has been pretty durable over the last two seasons.
2. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (Bye Week: 7)
2015 stats: 77 receptions, 1,104 yards, 7 TDs
Olsen was one of four tight ends with 1,000 or more receiving yards last season, and he should face less double teams with the return of the Panthers’ top receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, from injury.
3. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (Bye Week: 9)
2015 stats: 87 receptions, 952 yards, 11 TDs
Reed burst onto the scene as an elite tight end in 2015, emerging as Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins’ top target. Reed caught 11 touchdown passes and should reach double-digits again in 2016.
4. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (Bye Week: 13)
2015 stats: 94 receptions, 1,088 yards, 6 TDs
Walker led all tight ends with 94 receptions last season, making him a great option for fantasy owners in PPR leagues.
5. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (Bye Week: 5)
2015 stats: 72 receptions, 875 yards, 5 TDs
Kelce is the perfect tight end for Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who rarely targets wide receivers deep downfield or in the end zone.
6. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (Bye Week: 9)
2015 stats: 3 receptions, 37 yards, 0 TDs
Eifert led all tight ends with 13 touchdowns last season, but he missed a few games because of injuries. Durability concerns keep him from being a top-tier tight end.
7. Gary Barnidge, Cleveland Browns (Bye Week: 13)
2015 stats: 79 receptions, 1,043 yards, 9 TDs
Barnidge exceeded expectations with nine touchdowns last season, but he might not post the same numbers with star wideout Josh Gordon making his return to the Browns’ offense.
8. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (Bye Week: 11)
2015 stats: 56 receptions, 630 yards, 5 TDs
Gates isn’t an elite tight end anymore, but he’s still a pretty consistent player, with 50 or more receptions in 11 of his last 12 seasons. He’s a solid TE2 option.
9. Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots (Bye Week: 9)
2015 stats: 53 receptions, 439 yards, 3 TDs
Bennett joins Gronkowski to form the best 1-2 tight end punch in the league, and it should result in a sizable increase from his three touchdowns with the Chicago Bears in 2015.
10. Coby Fleener, New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 5)
2015 stats: 54 receptions, 491 yards, 3 TDs
Fleener has gone to New Orleans, where he’ll instantly be a top target for Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who led the league in passing yards last season. It’s quite possible Fleener will set career highs in several categories as a result.
11. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (Bye Week: 4)
2015 stats: 75 receptions, 853 yards, 2 TDs
Ertz is the top tight end in Philly and should be rookie quarterback Carson Wentz’s top target. Ertz isn’t a touchdown machine by any means, but he’s a great option in PPR leagues.
12. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 7)
2015 stats: 77 receptions, 713 yards, 3 TDs
Witten no longer racks up huge yardage or touchdowns, but his abundance of targets and receptions make him great for PPR leagues. He was tied for fourth among tight ends with 77 catches last season despite Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo missing most of the campaign.
13. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts (Bye Week: 10)
2015 stats: 16 receptions, 109 yards, 1 TDs
Andrew Luck missing most of the season certainly hurt Allen’s production, but there’s still plenty of fantasy potential for him if the Colts’ star quarterback is healthy in 2016. Allen also a good red-zone target at 6-foot-3 and 265 pounds.
14. Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye Week: 5)
2015 stats: 46 receptions, 455 yards, 5 TDs
Injuries prevented Thomas from matching his stellar 2014 numbers with the Denver Broncos, but the Jaguars have an excellent passing attack with Blake Bortles at quarterback, and the veteran tight end should benefit from that.
15. Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye Week: 8)
2015 stats: 37 receptions, 429 yards, 4 TDs
The Steelers have a prolific passing attack with elite quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the helm, and Green has shown the talent to be very good. Now he just needs to be more consistent and durable.
16. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks (Bye Week: 5)
2015 stats: 48 receptions, 605 yards, 2 TDs
A season-ending injury derailed Graham’s 2015 campaign, but he’s still too talented not to be selected in every fantasy draft. It helps that he plays with an accurate quarterback in Russell Wilson, who also excels rolling out of the pocket and targeting tight ends.
17. Zach Miller, Chicago Bears (Bye Week: 9)
2015 stats: 48 receptions, 527 yards, 4 TDs
Miller will replace Bennett in Chicago. Judging how often Bears quarterback Jay Cutler targeted Bennett, there’s a decent chance Miller will be a good TE2 this season.
18. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions (Bye Week: 10)
2015 stats: 47 receptions, 537 yards, 5 TDs
Ebron could be an even larger part of the Lions’ offense this season because of Calvin Johnson’s retirement. The high number of receptions and red-zone targets Johnson received will have to go somewhere else.
19. Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins (Bye Week: 8)
2015 stats: 35 receptions, 386 yards, 3 TDs
Cameron is a decent backup option or someone to serve as a bye -week replacement. He’s had one good season (2013) in his career and hasn’t been very consistent. You still could do much worse in your draft, though.
20. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye Week: 6)
2015 stats: 21 receptions, 338 yards, 4 TDs
Injuries prevented Seferian-Jenkins from enoying a breakout 2015 season, but he certainly has the talent and size (6-foot-5, 262 pounds) to be a productive tight end in what could be a prolific Bucs offense led by QB Jameis Winston, wide receiver Mike Evans and running back Doug Martin.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images