It seems like one of the biggest mistakes fantasy players make is miscalculating players’ floors and ceilings. I see a lot of reaches early in drafts when fantasy players underestimate a players’ downside. Late in drafts, I am shocked at how many players are drafted despite having limited upside. That is why I find it so important—not to mention fun—to consider players’ best and worst-case scenarios. By considering their full range of outcomes, hopefully we can keep these players in proper perspective.
For my first tight end article of the year, I want to run through the best and worst-case scenarios for some prominent tight ends. One note before we begin: the worst-case scenario for any player could involve an injury, but unless that player has an extensive injury history, I didn’t include it here. We have to consider the chance of injury when evaluating Rob Gronkowski or Jordan Reed, but beyond that, we are evaluating the range of outcomes for these players assuming health.
Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers
Best case: Bennett is going from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another, and turns in another top-five TE performance.
Worst case: Bennett was arguably Tom Brady’s second-best receiver for most of the season. He is no higher than fourth in Aaron Rodgers’s pecking order, and finishes with fewer than 50 receptions for the first time since leaving Dallas in 2012.
Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Best case: Henry is the Chargers’ clear number one tight end from day one. He tops Antonio Gates’s 53 receptions from 2016 while still averaging 13.3 yards per reception. Henry leads tight ends in touchdowns for the second consecutive season.
Worst case: The Chargers are loaded at wide receiver, and even though Henry sees more work than Gates, he still takes a back seat to Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin, with Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams involved as well. Henry is a low-end TE1—along with a dozen similar players—who you overpaid for on draft day.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
Best case: Ebron was 10th among tight ends in receptions and eighth in yards last season despite only playing 13 games. Ebron caught just one touchdown all season and still finished 13th among tight ends in fantasy points. With Anquan Boldin gone, Ebron tops his career-high five touchdowns from 2015, and he is easily a top-10 fantays tight end.
Worst case: Ebron is the victim of an offense that rarely throws the ball down field, and he still trails Golden Tate and Marvin Jones in red zone targets. Ebron has misses at least two games for the fourth consecutive season, and he fails to live up to his billing as the 10th overall draft pick in 2014.
Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Best case: Graham is actually healthier in 2017, another year removed from a torn patellar tendon. Russell Wilson and the Seattle running backs are healthier as well, and Seattle has a top-five offense once again. Graham catches 9+ touchdowns for the fifth time in his career and first as a Seahawk, and finishes the season as the number one tight end in fantasy.
Worst case: Russell Wilson had a career-high 546 passing attempts last season, 104 more than in 2014. With Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise in the mix and relatively healthy, Seattle becomes a run-heavy team yet again, especially in the red zone. Graham fails to match his six TDs from 2016 and is a borderline top-10 fantasy tight end.
Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
Best case: Quarterbacks and receivers come and go, but Delanie Walker always catches at least 60 passes. Playing on the best offense Tennessee has had in his tenure, Walker sets a new career-high in touchdown receptions and finishes as a top-five fantasy tight end.
Worst case: For the first time since he got there, Delanie Walker is no longer the best receiver in Tennessee. Eric Decker is the top red zone target, and rookie Corey Davis lives up to his draft slot from day one. Walker even gets competition at his own position from rookie third-rounder Jonnu Smith.
O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best case: O.J. Howard lives up to his billing as the top rookie tight end not just of this class but in the last several years. He benefits from playing on a good offense with a good, young quarterback, and he makes one or two big plays every week to vault him to TE1 status.
Worst case: Only eight rookie tight ends have ever caught 50 or more passes, and only four of those came this century. Of those four, only Jeremy Shockey topped 650 receiving yards and none had more than five touchdowns. Howard isn’t even the best fantasy tight end on his own team—that distinction belongs to Cameron Brate—and Howard is dropped in all single-season leagues before the calendar flips to October.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Best case: Even in the worst season of his career, Gronkowski had a four-game stretch in October with at least 93 receiving yards including three consecutive games with a touchdown. There is no doubt Gronk is still capable of being the best fantasy tight end, by far, when he is healthy.
Worst case: A repeat of 2016. As bad as it was for Gronk to only play eight games, of far greater concern are the three games when he was active but had two or fewer targets. Gronk is so good that you have to play him when he is active, but there is always risk he is out there to block, or as a decoy. No other tight end has the potential to make-or-break your fantasy season.