Finding a solid fantasy tight end on a week-to-week basis in 2016 was like trying to predict the next king of Crap Mountain.
With little consistency to be found at the tight end position this past year, and guys like Rob Gronkowski and Tyler Eifert being hit with injuries, where were fantasy owners to turn? How were they to determine who to turn to? Not to worry, help has arrived!
If you haven’t done so already, perhaps the best way to start this article would be to go back and read the one that started it all, where the top 10 red zone wide receivers were evaluated for the 2016 season. Like the previous article, this one also takes aim at seeing which tight ends converted the highest percentage of red zone targets to touchdowns (min. 10 targets) for last season. Or what we have affectionately dubbed RZTD here at PlayerProfiler.com.
Red Zone Targets/Red Zone Touchdowns = RZTD (red zone targets and red zone target share available via PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis Tool).
Without further delay, let’s blow the lid off of these top 10 RZTD tight ends in 2016!
10. Jacob Tamme – Atlanta Falcons (27-percent RZTD)
Veteran tight end Jacob Tamme is a free agent heading into the 2017 season and will soon be ceding power to rookie tight end Austin Hooper, but his performance in the red zone was good enough to land him at number 10 among tight ends in RZTD in 2016. Most of Tamme’s production for last season was found strictly within the red zone. Of the 31 targets Jacob Tamme received on the season, 11 of them came in the red zone, and all three of his touchdowns were scored inside the red zone.
Having played in only eight games last season, and with Austin Hooper in the rear view mirror, it wouldn’t be surprising to find Jacob Tamme at no. 2 on the team’s depth chart at the start of 2017, or perhaps even getting cut altogether. At just 22-years old, Hooper, has the athleticism to take over as the top tight end for Atlanta in 2017 with an upper percentile 11.32 Agility Score and 101.8 Height-adjusted Speed Score (HaSS), and 10.06 Catch Radius. While the tight end of the future is Austin Hooper, it’s Jacob Tamme who gets the praise for his RZTD performance in 2016.
9. Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans (29-percent RZTD)
The story of Delanie Walker is one that starts with a quarterback who ranked ninth in the league in red zone completion percentage in 2016 with a 61-percent red zone completion percentage. That quarterback of course is none other than Marcus Mariota. During Marcus Mariota’s rookie campaign in 2015, Delanie Walker was his favorite target (26.2-percent Target Share).
Delanie Walker didn’t fall too far from Marcus Mariota‘s graces in 2016, as he still received the third-highest target share on the Titans in 2016 (22.3-percent), while also finishing sixth among tight ends in targets (103) and fantasy points per game (12.5). With a +7.5 Production Premium (no. 22 in 2016) and 800 total receiving yards (no. 6th in 2016), Delanie Walker is a sight to behold at tight end. He also finished the season ranking third among tight ends in air yards (553) and 10th in yards after catch (247).
With an average Target Distance of 9.8 yards (No. 11) and a 34.1-percent slot rate in 2016, it’s no wonder that Delanie Walker put up the kind of numbers he did last season. Fortunately for the Titans and Delanie Walker owners, he is under contract with the team for the 2017 season, and his fantasy production, like him, shouldn’t be going anywhere.
8. Jared Cook – Green Bay Packers (30-percent RZTD)
What’s to love about Jared Cook? His 40-yard dash time of 4.50 (98th-percentile)? Maybe it’s his 121.9 HASS (96th-percentile) and 133.3 Burst Score (98th-percentile)? And who can forget his 10.38 Catch Radius (97th-percentile) and 125.6 SPARQ-x Score (89th-percentile)? Jared Cook is like the hottie with the bad personality. Everything on the outside, or in this case his advanced metrics profile, immediately draws you to him, but it’s only once you get to know his on-field performance, that you immediately fall out of love with him despite his features.
Through eight NFL seasons, Jared Cook has been a model if inconsistency. Even with his athleticism, his 6-5, 248-pound frame, Jared Cook seems to underwhelm fantasy owners everywhere. Even his 35 3/4-inch arm length (100th-percentile) isn’t enough to help him haul in one touchdown pass after another. The only thing Jared Cook does consistently is not score touchdowns (17 touchdowns in eight seasons). With a career RZTD of 17-percent, it’s amazing that Jared Cook even cracked the top 10 in RZTD this year. But that’s the kind of fantasy season it was for tight ends.
If you need one more thing to not love about Jared Cook, look no further than his teammates Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams combined for 55 red zone targets in 2016 (Nelson 32/Adams 23), good for the first and third highest total among all wide receivers.
7. Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts (31-percent RZTD)
In the ever-revolving carousel that is the Indianapolis Colts tight end situation, Jack Doyle came out on top with the highest RZTD (min. 10 targets) on his team among tight ends. Doyle converted four of his 13 red zone targets into touchdowns in 2016, and could be a hot commodity on the free agent market given his recent string of red zone success.
Last season, Jack Doyle finished 11th among tight ends with receptions (59), fifth in red zone receptions (10) and 10th among tight ends with total touchdowns (5). Doyle’s +13.4 Production Premium (no. 15th) outscored the likes of players like Zach Miller (+12.5 PP), Jordan Reed (+11.4 PP), Travis Kelce (+8.9 PP) and Delanie Walker (+7.5 PP) in 2016. Jack Doyle also finished inside the top 20 among tight ends in fantasy points per game with 9.8 (no. 18th in 2016).
If the Colts elect to not bring back Jack Doyle for the 2017 season, whatever team lands him could have a solid red zone threat on their hands for next season.
6. Antonio Gates – Los Angeles Chargers (32-Percent RZTD)
For the last 2,000 years, Antonio Gates has been a major touchdown threat down in the red zone for the Los Angeles Chargers, and last season was no exception. The future hall of famer turns 37-years old in June, but that has stopped him from turning out yet another productive season. Throughout his career, Antonio Gates has dominated down in the red zone, posting a career RZTD of 38-percent. Of his 111 career touchdowns, 87 of them were hauled in down inside the 20-yard line.
Antonio Gates finished last season with 93 receptions (No. 9 among TEs), 11.4 fantasy points per game (No. 11 among TEs) and seven receiving touchdowns (no. 3 among TEs). During last season, Antonio Gates did have to give way to rookie tight end Hunter Henry, however he still saw 67.9-percent of the team’s snap share in 2016.
Despite being in the twilight of his illustrious career, anybody looking for a potential touchdown threat at the tight end position should have felt comfortable slotting Antonio Gates into their starting lineup in 2016. It remains to be seen if Antonio Gates will play in 2017, and even if he does, it may not be with the Chargers. At this point in his career, Antonio Gates is nothing more than a touchdown dependent tight end in any fantasy format, but is a reliable one at that.
5. C.J. Fiedorowicz – Houston Texans (33-percent RZTD)
One perk to playing with a completely defunct quarterback is that the tight end tends to be a player who flourishes in fantasy football. C.J. Fiedorowicz is no exception to that benefit, as he was a key benefactor of check down passes being thrown to him by either Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage. While his 6.3 yards per target average in 2016 is incredibly underwhelming (No. 41 among TEs), his 89 targets put him at 10th most in the league among tight ends. When speaking strictly on red zone efficiency, C.J. Fiedorowicz foots the bill perfectly, given that all four of his receiving touchdowns came in the red zone.At 6-6, and 265-pounds, C.J. Fiedorowicz is a man among boys on the field. Additionally, his 105.4 HaSS (75th-percentile), 11.36 Agility Score (74th-percentile) and119.8 SPARQ-x Score (92nd-percentile) are enough to make him a potential breakout candidate for tight ends in 2017. The tight end position played a key role for the Texans last season, as teammate Ryan Griffin managed to haul in 50 receptions of his own for 442 yards and two touchdowns.
The Texans will need massive improvement at quarterback next season to propel their offense forward, and improve the play of C.J. Fiedorowicz. That being said, a team led by Brock Osweiler will still yield plenty of opportunities in the passing game to tight ends, if for no reason other than numerous check down opportunities.
4. Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins (36-Percent RZTD)
When he was on the field (12 games in 2016), Jordan Reed was one of the most productive fantasy tight ends out there, which can be proven by his 14.1 fantasy points per game (No. 1 among TEs in 2016). Reed cracked the top-10 in several categories among tight ends in 2016 including receptions (66), receiving yards (686), air yards (447), red zone receptions (9), and total touchdowns (6). In addition to his top 10 stats, Reed also boasted a +11.4 Production Premium score last season, good for the 17th highest total among tight ends in 2016. The Redskins ran the eighth most pass plays last season (630), and have the weapons and quarterback to open up the passing game for a player of Jordan Reed’s caliber.
This is now the second season in a row where Jordan Reed ranked first in fantasy points per game, after posted a whopping 17.6 fantasy points per game in 2015. He will be 27-years old at the start of next season, and will be in line for another top 10 campaign if he can manage to stay healthy.
3. Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers (41-Percent RZTD)
Props to you if you predicted prior to the season that rookie tight end Hunter Henry would lead all tight ends in receiving touchdowns (8) in 2016. What makes his league-leading touchdown numbers that much more impressive is the fact that Hunter Henry did it despite playing on the same team, and same position as Antonio Gates.
With an 18.7 Breakout Age (96th-percentile) and 14.5 college yards per reception (71st-percentile), is it really a surprise that Hunter Henry adjusted to the pro game so easily? Henry posted an impressive rookie campaign this year, not only with his touchdowns, but his 41-percent RZTD score, 11 red zone receptions (No. 3 in 2016), and 10.1 fantasy points per game (No. 17) were even more impressive.
Hunter Henry finished last season with 482 receiving yards, and made an almost even split between his air yards (267) and yards after catch (215). His +31.5 Production Premium was the highest rated among any tight end in the league, along with his 45.1% target premium which also led the league.
Putting aside is play-making ability for a moment, the fact that Hunter Henry has Philip Rivers as his quarterback goes a long way in making Henry such a sexy acquisition in 2017 fantasy football drafts. Rivers helped turn Antonio Gates into a hall of fame tight end over the last 13 seasons, and now has the chance to get Hunter Henry started in the same direction. It may be too early to tell, but should the Chargers and Antonio Gates part ways, there is no reason to think that the top fantasy tight end for the 2017 season can’t be Hunter Henry.
2a. Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals (45-percent RZTD)
2b. Martellus Bennett – New England Patriots (45-percent RZTD)
Martellus Bennett and Tyler Eifert both tied for the second best RZTD of 2016 with a 45-percent conversion rate. Bennett played a key role for the Patriots last season given the injuries suffered by star tight end Rob Gronkowski, and could be in for a big pay day once free agency starts. With a career RZTD of 23-percent, and uncertainty about his future for the upcoming season, the focus for these two players will be directed more toward Eifert.
Not many tight ends in the league have Tyler Eifert’s advanced metrics profile, which features a 106.8 HASS (78th-percentile), 121.6 Burst Score (69th-percentile), 11.24 Agility Score (84th-percentile), and a 10.23 Catch Radius (88th-percentile). After posting an exceptional 26.9-percent College Dominator Rating (81st-percentile) at Notre Dame before earning a first round draft grade, it’s no surprise that Tyler Eifert became an elite NFL tight end.
Tyler Eifert is only one year removed from leading all tight ends in touchdowns (13 TD in 2015), and is a prime candidate to bounce back to his old form in 2017 if healthy. Even on a bad day, Eifert is a reliable tight end. He is the kind of player who could finish with two catches for two yards and two touchdowns, and sneak his way into a top 10 performance for the week. It’s just the way things seem to work for him.
There’s no question that Tyler Eifert is a top red zone target. There may not be a better scoring threat in the red zone in all of the NFL, as Tyler Eifert has a ridiculous 53-percent RZTD over his career. Despite playing in only eight games this past season, Tyler Eifert managed to find the end zone five times, and averaged 12.3 FPPG in 2016 (no. 7th in 2016). Tyler Eifert finished last season with a +14.9 Production Premium (No. 12 among NFL tight ends) and boasted a +27.7-percent Target Premium (No. 8).
1. Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (47-Percent RZTD)
Cameron Brate is quite the anomaly in every since of the word. His advanced metrics profile doesn’t even crack the 50th percentile except for in 19.7-percent College Dominator Rating (59th-percentile), 16.1 college yards per reception (87th-percentile), 20.2 Breakout Age (79th-percentile) and 107.1 SPARQ-x Score (50th-percentile)
That being said, it is Cameron Brate who is your top performer in RZTD for 2016. Brate, like Hunter Henry, also found the end zone eight times last season, and shared in the same number of red zone receptions as Henry (11).
At the end of the season, Cameron Brate walked away with a +17.4 Production Premium (No. 11) and +31.5-percent Target Premium (No. 4). What’s more impressive with Brate given his underwhelming advanced metrics profile, is that he also converted on 100-percent of his contested catches, hauling in all eight contested targets thrown his way. Cameron Brate’s 527 air yards ranked fifth in the league among tight ends last year, and his 11.4 fantasy points per game was good for the 11th highest total for players at his position.
Behind wide receiver Mike Evans there is a huge drop-off in talent at receiver for the Buccaneers. This lack of talent at receiver opened the door for Cameron Brate, who took advantage of nearly every opportunity thrown his way. Brate saw 17 red zone targets in 2016 and turned eight of them into touchdowns. Having been one of Jameis Winston‘s favorite targets last season, the stock for Brate could be on the rise in 2017 if the Buccaneers fail to bring in any additional wide receiver talent for next season.