3 tight end breakout candidates flying way under the radar

by Neil Dutton ·

The 2017 rookie tight end class produced several players who are at the very forefront of the forthcoming Tight End Renaissance that will be hitting the NFL very soon. Players like O.J. Howard, David Njoku, and Evan Engram are already flying up dynasty ranks after the advanced stats, metrics, and analytics profiles posted in their respective rookie seasons.

These three first-round picks are generating most of the buzz, and there were other first-year performers who offered a hint as to what they can bring to their offenses in 2017. If things break right this offseason they could find themselves primed for bigger roles moving forward. If you want a piece of the young tight end pie, but don’t want to pay the full cost to achieve it, these players could interest you. They won’t cost the earth, and the end of your roster could certainly stand the inclusion of at least one of them. ADP data is courtesy of My Fantasy League.

Gerald Everett (Los Angeles Rams) – ADP TE24

A mega-producer at the college level, Gerald Everett posted a 31.7-percent (90th percentile) College Dominator Rating. This was as well as a 14.3 yards per reception mark (69th percentile) during his time at South Alabama. He finished his time in college with 107 receptions for 1584 yards and 13 touchdowns. 90, 1292 and 12 of these coming came after UAB ended their football program. Everett also tested remarkably well, with the highlight being his 93rd percentile Burst Score of 128.6.

When on the field in his first season with the Rams, Everett was certainly a usable asset. He posted a 12.5 percent Hog Rate, nearly double that of fellow tight end Tyler Higbee. Everett saw 12.5 percent of the teams total red zone targets, as well as 19.0 percent of their end-zone looks. His 1.34 yards of separation showed he was able to get open, a useful trait in the scoring area.

Check out Gerald Everett on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Dynasty Rankings:

For reasons best known to themselves, however, the Rams saw fit to deploy Everett on just 28.75 percent of their offensive snaps. Higbee was out on 70.67 percent of plays. Sean McVay, a former tight end coach who coaxed the best seasons of Jordan Reed’s career out of his oft-injured body, will hopefully be looking to get more out of Everett in year two. Given the Rams devotion to 11 personnel, making Everett the sole tight end just makes too much sense. His size and ability make him an ideal red-zone weapon.

Ricky Seals-Jones (Arizona Cardinals) – ADP TE32

Ricky Seals-Jones was one of the most sought-after high school players in Texas prior to his enrolling with Texas A&M. His journey is chronicled in “The System“, and makes for one of a number of staggering stories surrounding college football. Between then and 2017, Seals-Jones posted a 76th percentile Breakout Age with the Aggies, as a wide receiver. His rookie season, after signing with the Cardinals as an Undrafted Free Agent saw him catch a mere 12 of 28 targets, a catch rate of 42.9 percent, for 201 yards and three touchdowns. All but three of his targets came in a five-week span in the middle of the season. Small sample aside, 160 PPR points would have been good enough for a TE8 finish in 2017. Seals-Jones posted a 20.7 percent Dominator Rating, which would have seen him finish 10th among tight ends if he’d played enough. He also had a 21.5 percent Hog Rating. Seals-Jones commanded the ball when he was on the field last season.

There is more than enough evidence to support the theory that the Cardinals pass-catching corps is not exactly one teaming with star talent. Larry Fitzgerald continues to defy the aging process, finishing with the second-most receptions in the NFL in 2017 with 109. But aside from him, the cupboard is pretty bare. J.J. Nelson caught 29 of his 46 targets for 508 yards last season. Rookie Chad Williams had three receptions. Another tight end, namely Jermaine Gresham, did catch 33 passes but at a piddling 9.8 yards per receptions. David Johnson‘s return to fitness will help the Cardinals quarterbacks, given his skills as a pass catcher. But even if the Cardinals continue to re-tool through the draft (they did sign former Cowboys receiver Brice Butler in free agency), Seals-Jones looks like a receiver with high upside potential. Assuming he can stay healthy, Sam Bradford should play the majority of games for the Cardinals at quarterback. His recent past shows he is not afraid of targeting his tight end. Both Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph saw more than 100 of Bradford’s targets in his last two seasons. This can only be further good news for Seals-Jones.

Stephen Anderson (Houston Texans) – ADP TE41

Boasting an incredible 86th percentile Burst Score, a 94th percentile Agility Score, and 88th percentile Catch Radius, Stephen Anderson is poised to break out in 2018.  Anderson was there in 2017 to pick up the slack for the Texans after Will Fuller got injured. Anderson’s 13.7-percent Hog Rate was No. 7 among NFL tight ends, making him a better value than the hype-soaked Trey Burton in Chicago.

Deshaun Watson has shown that a Texans team under his command could be a high powered aerial offense. DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the top wide receiver in the NFL and is pretty close to being quarterback-proof. Will Fuller was producing at a record-breaking level with Watson last year. Behind Hopkins and Fuller, the cupboard is pretty bare for the Texans. Braxton Miller has 34 receptions in two seasons. Sammie Coates was cut loose by both the Steelers and the Browns in the last two seasons. Trusty receiving tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was forced to retire, which has left Ryan Griffin and the recently claimed Matt Lengel accompanying Anderson in the tight end room. Griffin has only caught more than 20 passes once in five seasons, a disappointing return for a player with a 97th percentile College Dominator coming out of Connecticut. Lengel has two career receptions. These two will be doing the blocking that Anderson won’t be expected to do in 2017. This is Stephen Anderson’s job to lose now.