2017 Fantasy Football Tight Ends: Preseason Movers
Steve Pimental tells you three Tight End targets that have moved in the rankings during the preseason and why.
It has been nearly two months since we started the preseason tight end analysis with a look at the best and worst case scenarios for several of the top tight ends. A lot has changed since then, and while tight ends have largely avoided preseason injuries, there are three whose fortunes have changed significantly since the start of training camp. In our last tight end article of the preseason, we examine those three players and how we should evaluate them in light of the changes around them.
Julius Thomas hits fantasy myth bingo all by himself. Jay Cutler made Martellus Bennett into a fantasy star and Zach Miller into a fantasy starter; Julius Thomas is probably better than both of them. Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator when Thomas was a fantasy stud in Denver, and the Dolphins wouldn’t have traded for Gase’s former player if they weren’t going to use him. Blake Bortles held Julius Thomas back in Jacksonville and now that he is liberated, he will be much closer to the touchdown maker we saw in Denver.
I don’t know that any of those things are true, but they could be. No one going as late as Thomas can match his ceiling, and the nature of the tight end position is such that you can easily find a replacement if Thomas busts or is injured. Thomas climbed up my draft board quite a bit when Jay Cutler replaced Ryan Tannehill, but that has as much to do with my lack of faith in Tannehill’s ability as any of the potential myths listed above. I would much rather take a chance on Julius Thomas than settle for guys like Coby Fleener, Jason Witten and Charles Clay who are fine options but offer little upside. I would rather swing and miss on Thomas and then grab one of those guys a couple of weeks into the season if I have to.
Speaking of the Devil, I was relatively high on Charles Clay a month ago, but I have since dropped him down to TE19 on my draft board, below Fleener and Witten. As I pointed out in that article, Clay was better with Sammy Watkins on the outside to open up the middle of the field. It is certainly possible Clay finds success with Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews getting most of the defensive attention, but that feels like wishful thinking. Clay failed to step up when Watkins was out last season, so there is little reason to believe his ceiling is particularly high in the event Jones or Matthews are injured. Clay is a better real-life tight end than a fantasy tight end, and his floor is low enough that I am avoiding him if I can.
Miller entered training camp in danger of losing his roster spot, but now he has a chance to be a waiver wire darling yet again. Miller appears to have regained his place atop the tight end depth chart, and barring another injury, he should have little trouble holding off Adam Shaheen while the rookie adjusts to the NFL game after playing for Division II Ashland University.
Miller caught 47 passes for 486 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last season, taking advantage of the Bears’ lack of other established receiving options. It looked like that had changed in the offseason, but with Cameron Meredith and Reuben Randle on IR, Miller has a chance to lead the Bears in receiving touchdowns while getting a very healthy target share yet again. Chicago’s offense may be even worse than last season, and Kevin White, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton will all compete with Miller for targets. That being said, Miller is certainly capable of being a top-10 fantasy tight end. At the very least, he should probably go ahead of the rookies who would have to buck history to be fantasy relevant this season. I have Miller ahead of Fleener, Witten and Clay as well.