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You can’t count on rookie tight ends in Fantasy. Everyone knows that. Well, everyone but Evan Engram and Hunter Henry. But when I was looking at the last ten years of tight end production, I noticed something I hadn’t before: The bar to be a top-12 tight end has been lowered, and it’s more than just a down year for the position in 2018. 

Now there are a couple of different ways to look at this. One would be that tight ends don’t matter unless you get one of the elite options. I’m willing to listen to that argument, but it’s not very helpful for evaluating the Fantasy prospects for rookie tight ends. The other would be that if it only takes 82 Fantasy points to be a starting-caliber tight end, we may need to start taking rookies more seriously. 

That’s probably not true.

While there has been a rookie tight end in the top-12 each of the past two seasons, Tim Wright was the only rookie to top 82 Fantasy points from 2011-1015. That doesn’t mean no one can do it this year, but it does show we still shouldn’t expect it. 

That’s all to say that much like quarterbacks, I’m not heavily weighing year one in these Dynasty rankings. I want talent and opportunity, yes. But all of these tight ends should be drafted as bench options who you hope grow into starters down the road.

16. Hayden Hurst

Let the controversy begin. Yes, I know Hurst, as a 25-year-old rookie, is nearly eligible for Social Security in football age. He should absolutely be a first round pick in AARP drafts. 

Okay, enough of the jokes. Hurst will turn 25 years old before the season starts, and that’s ancient for a rookie at any position. What took him so long? Well Hurst isn’t just an elite tight end, he was also an elite baseball player who was drafted in the 2012 MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a short experiment in the minor leagues, he chose football, and was taken in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens this year.

Over the past two seasons Hurst caught 92 passes for for 1,175 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 12.8 yards per reception. He landed on a team that targeted tight ends 135 times last year and 158 times the year before. There is no veteran on the roster to serve as a road block, either. Hurst will have to complete with fellow rookie Mark Andrews (more on him later) but if you value draft capital at all you have to give Hurst the edge early on.

Deal with Hurst’s age in a way that’s congruent with your overall Dynasty philosophy. Hurst’s age matters when projecting his upside, certainly. But I expect he’ll be the best tight end of this class over the next three years, maybe even five. Projecting past that is not something I try to do.

17. Mike Gesicki

While Hurst is a former baseball player, Gesicki (like so many recent tight end prospects) was a basketball star in high school. He’s the best athlete in this group, and a full two years younger than Hurst even though he played four seasons at Penn State. It is a bit odd that a player with his athleticism averaged just 9.9 yards per reception as a senior, but he averaged 14.1 yards per catch as a junior so I’m not concerned about it.

Gesicki was a beast in the red zone, scoring nine touchdowns in 2017. He also has a pretty clear path to playing time, at least in terms of who is competing against on the Dolphins. I have concerns if Gesicki can block well enough to stay on the field, but the Dolphins spent a second round pick on him so they either think he can or they don’t care. There are also concerns about this situation longterm, specifically at quarterback and with the way the Dolphins have used their tight ends recently. But Gesicki’s athleticism is too good to rank lower than this.

23. Dallas Goedert

I know a lot of people are a lot more excited about Goedert’s future than I am. That one of those people is Matt Waldman gives me pause. Goedert was dominant at South Dakota State, averaging 15 yards per reception and topping 1,000 yards receiving each of the past two seasons while scoring 18 touchdowns. The numbers are eye-popping, even if they do make you wonder what Hurst or Gesicki would have done in this same situation.

Goedert was even drafted by a team, the Philadelphia Eagles, that loves to target tight ends. They used a second round pick on him and many think he could contribute to the offense right away. But the Eagles already have one of the best tight ends in the game, Zach Ertz, under contract through the 2021 season. That is a major roadblock. I have a hard time spending a lot of rookie draft capital on a tight end who won’t be the best tight end on his own team for the next three seasons. By that time Goedert will be older than Hurst is now. 

24. Mark Andrews

As I mentioned before, Andrews was the other tight end the Ravens took in the 2018 draft. A third-round pick, Andrews grades out similarly to Hurst as an athlete and he had better college statistics. In three years at Oklahoma, Andrews caught 112 passes for 1,765 yards and 22 touchdowns. His 15.8 yards per reception is elite, as is the fact that he caught a touchdown every five catches. 

Like Gesicki, there are concerns about Andrews’ blocking, but my biggest concern is that the Ravens spent a first round pick on Hurst. There’s a chance he beats Hurst out and becomes a starting tight end in an offense that loves them, but not a good enough chance to rank him higher than this.

31. Ian Thomas

Ian Thomas is a good athlete with good size and good college numbers (15 yards per reception). He’s also one of the youngest tight ends in this class, as he won’t turn 22 until June. There’s nothing there to say he can’t be a starting tight end in the NFL some day. But it will have to be “some day”, because Greg Olsen just re-upped through 2020. 

If you’re the Olsen owner and Thomas is still there in fifth round of your rookie draft I’d consider taking him, especially if you don’t already have a young back up on the roster.

32. Dalton Schultz

I still prefer Rico Gathers as the tight end of the future in Dallas, but reports this offseason haven’t exactly been encouraging to that end. Enter Dalton Schultz, the fourth round pick out of Stanford. Schultz may already be a better blocker than Gathers and that could get him on the field in a hurry. I’m just not sure how much he’ll help you in Fantasy. Schultz caught just 22 passes as a senior and averaged less than 10 yards per reception each of his last two years in college. He’s a sixth round rookie pick at best. 

Others to watch in camp: Jordan Akins, Tyler Conklin, Durham Smythe, Chris Herndon, Troy Fumagali.

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