Fantasy Football 2017: Who’s the Top Tight End?

Rob Gronkowski no longer dominates the position, so who is the top tight end for fantasy football 2017? Do you favor touchdowns, yards, or balance overall?

Last week, we established who the best players are for fantasy football in 2017. This past season, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was in that discussion. He will not be for 2017, but is he even still fantasy’s top tight end option?

As Gronk fell from grace, several other players have risen up to dominate the position. Injuries must be considered and touchdowns weighted against receiving yards. Who is the top tight end for fantasy football 2017?

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, discuss Fantasy Football 2017 in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem:

Injuries sucked most of the value out of Gronk’s 2016. He was a first-round pick, far and away the first tight end off boards. Few owners will take that same chance this season. Even if the big man is healthy heading into preseason, he no longer feels trustworthy. There were even rumors about the Patriots moving on and trading him away in Bill Belichick’s patented move of dealing a player away a year too early rather than a year too late.

A trade is unlikely, but it goes to show that Gronk’s domination of the position may be over. He has some competitors for top tight end, including Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, and Jordan Reed, among others. Who would you take as the first tight end in fantasy football?

I have to rule out Reed in my book. He is just as, or more, injury-prone than Gronkowski. Reed falls into a tier with Tyler Eifert. If they are on the field, they are great. But for how many games will they be on the field? Reed played just 12 games last year and didn’t have a single 100-yard game.

It is hard to differentiate between Kelce and Olsen. They are both elite receiving options who don’t get into the end zone incredibly often. That is what had always separated Gronk from the pack: his propensity for scoring. In Kelce’s three-year career, he’s never scored more than five times in a season. Olsen has a number of seasons over that mark, but he has also played for much longer. He only scored three times last year and has never topped eight scores.

My answer is perhaps a dark horse, though he didn’t used to be. Jimmy Graham is back! It wasn’t too long ago that New Orleans Jimmy was the best tight end in the sport. It took him a year to get acclimated in Seattle, but in 2016 he was a focal point of the offense. I expect him to take yet another step up this coming year, perhaps getting back to his heights of a few years ago. I wouldn’t take him in the first round obviously, but Graham is the first tight end I would select in fantasy.

Dan Salem:

The tight end position used to be so simple. Several players, headlined by Gronkowski, would score a bunch of touchdowns and everyone else was mediocre. Now it seems that touchdowns are even harder to come by, but a group of players are reliable in the passing game. You picked Jimmy Graham as the best of both worlds, yet I believe in a slightly different philosophy.

Last season Cameron Brate and Hunter Henry led all tight ends with eight touchdowns each. Their average yards per game were not good, however. Jimmy Graham had a whopping six touchdowns, while Kelce scored four times. I’m being sarcastic, because anything less than ten TDs is barely worth mentioning. I don’t like to find balance in my fantasy players. I want them to absolutely dominate an aspect of their position. I want them to be reliable and consistent. I also want to see room for improvement. This is why Travis Kelce is the top tight end in fantasy football 2017.

Kelce led his position with 1,125 receiving yards last season, averaging 70.31 yards per game. In fantasy terms that’s over seven points a week. He only found the end zone every four games, but Kelce was consistently dominant in his team’s offense. As an owner you can trust Kelce to produce every week and he’s only getting better. The Kansas City Chiefs offense loves its tight end. With Alex Smith under center they make safe throws and high percentage plays. That means passing to the tight end a lot. You won’t go wrong picking Graham, but at his advanced age, he is second fiddle to Kelce.

The fall of Gronkowski may not be real, but New England proved their offense does not need him to succeed. In Kansas City its the opposite. They need Travis Kelce and that makes him a valuable commodity. Having had him on my team last season, there wasn’t a player I felt more comfortable starting week after week.

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