The tight end position in fantasy football is a tricky one once you pass the top five elite and most reliable options. I gave my five here, but now I want to focus on the later rounds of your fantasy draft. Unless one of those five guys falls into my lap at a reasonable round, I like to wait until the later rounds to choose my tight end. Last year, Tyler Eifert was a guy who was being drafted in rounds eight or later. I snagged him in two of my three leagues and he was essential to my team’s’ success.
Obviously, it’s not easy to find those guys every single year. I went for Jordan Reed in previous years, and while he finally broke out and stayed healthy last year, he failed me in previous seasons and I was stuck on the waiver wire weekly looking for guys to fill in. I want to offer five late-round options who sound most appealing to me.
1. Julius Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Thomas never lived up to the mile-high expectations he set in Denver in 2013 and 2014 when he caught 12 touchdowns from Peyton Manning in each season. In his first year with the Jags last season, he missed the first month with a broken hand but finished the season strong; he caught touchdowns in four of his last seven games.
I’ve talked plenty about the 2016 Jaguars and my expectations for them. I think they’re going to be an explosive offense, and I think Thomas will be a big reason why. He was supposedly “unstoppable” in OTAs, which don’t mean much, but it’s definitely worth considering since we’ve seen what he’s capable of. He’s projected to go in the 10th round, and I’d have no problem waiting until then to take him as my no. 1 TE.
2. Dwayne Allen (Indianapolis Colts)
With former Colts’ tight end Coby Fleener making the move to New Orleans, Allen is in great position to hold down the position duties for the entire season. The Colts are confident in him doing so as proven by their four-year deal given to him in the offseason.
Colts OC Rob Chudzinski has promised an increased role for Allen this season. Allen only saw 57 percent of snaps last year, but with Fleener gone, he should see a ton more. The Colts have three solid receivers in TY Hilton, Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief, and Allen should see a ton of great targets from Andrew Luck. He’s an athletic receiver-type who caught eight of Luck’s 40 touchdown passes in 2014, and he’s in a great position to have his best year yet in 2016. He’s projected to fall to the 13th round, which shows some really promising value.
3. Jared Cook (Green Bay Packers)
Cook’s been in the league since 2009, but he’s never been able to fully emerge as a top tight end option. Maybe it’s because he’s played in Tennessee and St. Louis for the duration of his career, or maybe it’s the injuries that have so often sidelined him. Either way, Cook was activated off PUP last week and has been reportedly impressing in Green Bay at training camp. It helps that Cook will be with the best quarterback on the planet in Aaron Rodgers.
Cook’s certainly a risk, but considering his non-existent ADP, he’s definitely worth a late-round flier. Fantasy Football Calculator doesn’t even have him projected, but tight ends can be drafted out of nowhere considering the lack of reliable options in the later rounds.
I assume Cook will continue to make noise in camp, and if he can stay healthy, he will certainly be a lot of people’s favorite sleeper target for fantasy football. If you can find him in the later rounds, he can end up making a huge difference in your fantasy league.
4. Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Brate’s been in the league for only two seasons, and you’ve probably never heard of him until this year. Ever since presumed starter Austin Seferian-Jenkins rubbed new head coach Dirk Koetter the wrong way in spring camp, Brate has emerged as a sleeper for fantasy football leagues.
Koetter named Brate the current starter a couple weeks ago, and he’s been impressive in camp ever since. Second-year QB Jameis Winston is expected to make a big leap this season, and the tight end position will be a big reason why. Instead of falling for the Seferian-Jenkins trap, take a flier on Brate, who isn’t even projected to be drafted.
5. Tyler Higbee (Los Angeles Rams)
Higbee is my only rookie to make the list, and he may be a long shot to put up consistent TE1 numbers in 2016. His first NFL action was promising, though, and I think his stock will rise as the preseason moves forward (currently not projected to be drafted). He fell to the third round of the draft because of character concerns, but nothing so far says that he’s been trouble in the Rams locker room.
Higbee caught five of his six targets for 49 yards against the Cowboys this past weekend, and he looked like a guy who is going to step right in as Jared Goff’s security blanket. He’s expected to play a lot, and he’s definitely worth your last pick in your fantasy league to keep as a stash until we see if he can consistently put up numbers.