2013 Rookie Rankings: Tight Ends

2013 Rookie Rankings: Tight Ends

Dynasty & Keeper Rankings
By: Pete Davidson : July 27, 2013 3:43am

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Welcome to the rookie rankings for the tight ends. Again, as I have mentioned, these are long term rankings for dynasty and keeper leagues. We’ll be covering all of the rookies with redraft value in our normal rankings and in our Redraftable Rookies article in August.

This years class of tight ends is a very good group. There is depth at the elite level and more than a few projects with high upside. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see 4-5 long term TE1s from this group. That’s how good they are. And, please remember, with the depth of the tight end position in fantasy football, these rankings are skewed for upside potential. The solid 2-way tight end is no longer worth much in fantasy. Not being able to block in-line is a potential plus versus a fatal negative as teams continue to trend towards using tight ends as skill players and less as blockers.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue releasing our divisional reports to get you up to speed on all the offseason changes you may have missed.  

The write-ups for the tight ends are underneath the grid and you can find the rest of the rookie rankings here.


Rank Tier PLAYER TEAM Round College Height Weight 40 time
1 1 Tyler Eifert Bengals 1 (21) Notre Dame 6’6” 251 4.68
2 1 Zach Ertz Eagles 2 (35) Stanford 6’5” 249 4.76
3 1 Vance McDonald 49ers 2 (55) Rice 6’4” 267 4.69
4 1 Travis Kelce Chiefs 2 (63) Cincinnati 6’5” 255 4.62
5 1 Jordan Reed Redskins 3 (85) Florida 6’2” 236 4.72
6 2 Gavin Escobar Cowboys 2 (47) San Diego State 6’6” 254 4.84
7 2 Joseph Fauria Lions UDFA UCLA 6’7” 259 4.72
8 2 Dion Sims Dolphins 4 (106) Michigan State 6’5” 262 4.75
9 2 Nick Kasa Raiders 6 (172) Colorado 6’6” 269 4.71
10 3 Chris Gragg Bills 7 (222) Arkansas 6’3” 244 4.50
11 3 Luke Willson Seahawks 5 (158) Rice 6’5” 251 4.51
12 3 Jake Stoneburner Packers UDFA Ohio State 6’3” 252 4.65
13 3 Zach Sudfeld Patriots UDFA Nevada 6’7” 253 4.71
14 3 Levine Toilolo Falcons 4 (133) Stanford 6’8” 260 4.86
15 3 Mychal Rivera Raiders 6 (184) Tennessee 6’3” 242 4.81
16 4 D.C. Jefferson Cardinals 7 (219) Rutgers 6’6” 255 4.87
17 5 Michael Williams Lions 7 (211) Alabama 6’5” 278 5.40
18 5 Matt Furstenburg Ravens UDFA Maryland 6’3” 242 4.62
19 4 Justice Cunningham Colts 7 (254) South Carolina 6’3” 258 4.94


Tyler Eifert, Bengals, 6’6”, 251, 4.68

Eifert was our top TE after watching film on this class and if he’d gone to a team more ready to feature him, we’d be even more excited. There’s really very little not to like about the former Irish star. It’s all there ... hands, routes, size and speed plus the ability to block in-line and in space. And we’re not really that worried about the fact that Jermaine Gresham is already in Cincinnati, because we’ve seen that teams are more than willing to play two tight ends and use both in the passing game. There are two sobering factors to Eifert in Cincy. The first is Andy Dalton. Though Dalton is good enough to get it done, he is not Drew Brees. Then I look at the totality of quality options all over the field in Cincy and I think that it may take some patience early on. Still, over time, Eifert should take hold and, as much as we respect Gresham as a talent, we like Eifert more. He should be the first tight end off the board in rookie drafts.


2) Zach Ertz, Eagles, 6’5”, 249, 4.76

This is a good looking player. I like the way he separates out of his cuts. The routes are very solid and the hands look good. Ertz goes to a team led by HC Chip Kelly and Chip Kelly uses his tight ends--sometimes with three in the formation. Ertz should end up being the biggest factor offensively of all the Eagles TEs, but that may not happen right away as Ertz adapts to the NFL game. The long term looks great and it you are looking to develop a TE in a dynasty league, Ertz will do just fine. Kelly’s Oregon teams played against Stanford plenty. He knows exactly what he’s getting with this kid. In fact, Ertz dropped a 11/106/1 line on Oregon last November. Coach Kelly might just remember that one. He’s in my top tier for sure.


3) Vance McDonald, 49ers, 6’4, 267, 4.69

McDonald is underrated and SF was the perfect place for him to go. He could easily turn into a staple of the 49ers offense, and, with the target vacuum left by Michael Crabtree, he could end up having value as a rookie. He can be used as an in-line tight end or as a “joker” and he’s a really hard worker, which I am sure endeared him to his new HC Jim Harbaugh. At 267 pounds, V-Mac is a monster slot receiver, but if you watch his college tape, you’ll see he did quite a bit of it. Rice would use McDonald and Sam McGuffie in both slots and it was mismatch city for defenses. He and Vernon Davis will wreak similar havoc at the next level. Vance has more speed than you’d expect given his bulk. He ran a very respectable 4.69 at the combine, where he also showed off his plus strength and agility. It’s hard to imagine him doing poorly in San Fran. Draft this kid with confidence if you have need at the position.


4) Travis Kelce, Chiefs, 6’5”, 255, 4.62

Kelce has risk due to some character concerns and injury issues, but his upside in Andy Reid’s offense with no established 2nd option after Dwayne Bowe is sky high. Kelce is NFL-ready or close to it and could contribute significantly as a rookie. He displays toughness to spare and is very competitive, but he’s also a talented football player with top-notch ball skills and big play ability. He’s not a body-catcher and has soft hands. He’s got more than adequate speed for the position. He lacks the quickness of a guy like Jordan Reed, but he’s got 20 pounds on the Florida product. When compared against TEs of his size, I think Kelce’s agility is more than good enough. The doubts we have are really about his suspension in college with one NFL exec calling him a “trainwreck character-wise” according to PFW. The bottom line is that Kelce has the look and feel of a potential impact player from an offensive standpoint. If you need a tight end to make a quick impact, this could be your guy.


5) Jordan Reed, Redskins, 6’2”, 236, 4.72

A very interesting player. He switched positions several times at Florida, and, now that he’s a tight end, there are on-field comparisons to Aaron Hernandez. I can see it too, especially after the catch. Reed timed poorly at the combine in that I think he plays even faster. The poor time could be related to a thigh injury. More on that later. Reed makes outstanding cuts for a tight end and he could prove to be a lethal toy for RGIII as they can create matchup havoc for teams without depth and speed in the back seven. This guy was not drafted to block. The concerns with Reed are not minor ones. The first would be his lack of experience at the position. To me, this is no big deal and the least of his problems. Issue two would be his attitude, which got him yanked from his final college game, which happened to be the Sugar Bowl. No assumptions, but let’s give benefit of the doubt that the Redskins did their homework on that front. He is a competitive kid. That much is evident if you watch him play. The last thing is the big one. Reed has an odd injury to his thigh (near the knee) that kept him out through the offseason--costing him both OTAs and minicamp. Our inclination is to bank on him getting better, but this definitely has the feel of an injury that is somewhat open-ended. A lost rookie season seems possible though not probable. His rookie development has definitely been hurt to this point. Without the injury, I am really liking this kid in the Washington offense. If you can afford to take a TE and wait a bit for the payoff, this kid could be nice value in the middle rounds of a rookie draft. He’s a play-maker on a team that is salivating for play-makers. He’d be ranked higher most years, but this is a really good crop of rookie tight ends, especially at the top.


6) Gavin Escobar, Cowboys, 6’6”, 254, 4.84

Escobar is tricky for a few reasons. Clearly the Cowboys are prepping for Witten’s decline, but 2013 and probably 2014 are still Witten’s to own, especially if you look at his contract. Additionally, Escobar has the underrated James Hannah to compete with for snaps behind the eventual HOFer. What Escobar brings is pure receiving ability and good size for the position. He catches most everything with his hands and the hands are very solid. He has obvious appeal as a red zone option. There’s no doubt that Escobar can do it as a receiver, but when you look at 2013 and 2014, he could be developing more than playing, because his blocking is at best a work-in-progress and because there are other sharks in the water at his position and they are both dangerous receivers. We definitely like Escobar to succeed over the long haul, but you need to be patient if you are going to buy into him. Barring an injury to Witten, Escobar will take some time to become a real fantasy threat on a team that already has a lot of very big mouths to feed.


7) Joseph Fauria, Lions, 6’7”, 259, 4.72

Nephew of ex-NFL tight end Christian Fauria, Joseph is worth mentioning for a few very good reasons. He’s a tall option with a nose for the end zone. He’s potentially playing with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. He’s a pure offensive tight end and that’s what we’re really looking for. The depth chart in Detroit features no long term locks. Both Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are in their walk years. If Fauria can develop his blocking a little this year, he could be a potential breakout guy in 2014. Seriously, that’s the upside. Fauria is long, lean and shows some Jimmy Graham-like chops at times and has a similar wingspan. This guy has to be drafted in rookie drafts. He’s no lock, because he must learn to block more consistently, but the upside is really high because he is such a potent offensive threat. This kid caught 12 touchdowns in 2012.


8) Dion Sims, Dolphins, 6’5”, 262, 4.75

Sims is going to be a solid blocker at the next level as long as he can adapt to the grind of the NFL. His ability as a blocker and a pass protector will keep him on the field and that will lead to solid production as a receiver. Sims has NFL-quality hands and projects to be a serious threat in the red zone. He should play as a rookie in goal line and 2-tight end packages. His real value will be down the road, especially if the Dolphins let Dustin Keller go at the end of 2013 for cap purposes, as we suspect they will.


9) Nick Kasa, Raiders, 6’6”, 269, 4.71

He’ll be competing with fellow rookie Mychal Rivera. Kasa is raw, but he has a size/speed combo that teams like. Kasa is a mammoth at 270 pounds, but still ran a very respectable 4.71 at the combine. He didn’t really start playing tight end until last season, so early returns are almost out of the question, but when you look at the Raiders’ depth chart, you have to give him a chance to do something in 2014. His blocking potential is outstanding and he has seam-stretching ability as a receiver. Kasa is worth a late pick in deep dynasty leagues for sure.


10) Chris Gragg, Bills, 6’3”, 244, 4.50

Gragg is a player we really like for fantasy purposes. He can flat-out run and with his size, he could be an excellent receiving option in Buffalo’s potentially high powered offense. With all the speed in Buffalo, Gragg will be seeing tons of single coverage if he gets on the field. The reports we read question his ability to block, but we see this is as being overblown. He makes plenty of good blocks on film and he’s probably going to be more of a “joker” tight end anyway. That’s not a problem for fantasy GMs. Not a problem at all. Gragg is a nice late pick for his upside due to his speed and athleticism plus his receiver-first skill-set.


11) Luke Willson, Seahawks, 6’5”, 251, 4.51

You want big and fast? Meet Mr. Willson. He lit up Rice’s pro day and elevated his draft stock immensely after being stuck behind Vance McDonald at Rice for the last few years. Seattle’s bought in and HC Pete Carroll likes what he sees so far. Willson is a developmental player, but one with a feasible future as Seattle has no great threat at the position. He’s worth a late pick for upside. Seattle used a 5th rounder on him and they don’t throw away their draft picks.


12) Jake Stoneburner, Packers, 6’3”, 252, 4.65

Stoneburner is a good overall player and he’ll be a good player for the Packers. If Jermichael Finley departs as a free agent after this season, the rookie could end up with some fantasy value by 2014. He slipped out of the draft, probably because of his height, but we like his overall game and his speed. He’s worth a late flier.


13) Zach Sudfeld, Patriots, 6’7”, 253, 4.71

Sudfeld’s stock is on the rise in the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s departure. He’s a flier in rookie drafts but a worthy one. His college career was injury riddled to put it mildly, but he found health in his final year and responded to the point where he was a potential late-rounder on draft day. He ended up in NE as a UDFA, but with Hernandez gone and Gronkowski out, he is getting valuable snaps in camp and is rumored to be doing well with a serious chance of making the final roster. Given his freakish size/speed combo and the Patriots’ penchant for using tight ends well, Sudfeld is an obvious guy to keep an eye on, but he’s still a kid with a long history of injury, so draft accordingly. He’s definitely a player to watch in preseason action. In addition to the size and speed, I liked how light he is on his feet and the fact that he was used in various places in the formation. This is an obvious plus in New England. So are his smarts. Sudfeld will complete his MBA this year, which leads us to his age. Due to injury, Zach red shirted twice in college and attended Nevada for six years. He’s now 24 years old. One thing you can count on is that this kid will be a very mature and focused rookie.


14) Levine Toilolo, Falcons, 6’8”, 260, 4.86

A project player on a team that needs one at the TE position. Levine has a lot of work to do, especially on his hands, but at 6 foot 8, he has upside as a red zone option. He’s a late-round flier for Gonzo owners, who want to prepare for life without the Hall of Famer. We like Toilolo’s upside, but his floor has some cracks in it. He’s not a guy we like during the middle round of rookie drafts.


15) Mychal Rivera, Raiders, 6’3”, 242, 4.81

Rivera is a good football player with good hips and hands. He runs solid routes and makes all the catches, but he lacks speed and size. He looks like a nice complimentary talent. He doesn’t have a stud in front of him on the depth chart, so he might be worth a flier.


16) D.C. Jefferson, Cardinals, 6’6”, 255,4.87

D.C. is a project but a project with some merit. He makes a nice add for those who own Rob Housler in long term formats as a hedge, but to take him as a stand-alone option means you are willing to wait a bit. Jefferson is a converted QB that played tight end at Rutgers after his freshman year. He’s a good athlete and he can block some. He turned a few heads at the East-West Shrine game when he showed he could do more than block during the week of pre-game practices. He has a lot to learn as far as routes go, but he has a chance. For those in deep leagues.


17) Michael Williams, Lions, 6’5”, 278, 5.40

He’s a solid prospect and he can do some things offensively, but Lions brought this massive dude in to block. That he poses a threat as a receiver is a bonus. Not a guy to draft.


18) Matt Furstenburg, Ravens, 6’3”, 242, 4.62

He’s worth keeping an eye on because he has good hands and deep speed for the position, but he’s got two young and talented tight ends ahead of him on the roster and he’s no lock to make the team. Still, he’s an interesting player given the nature of the TE position these days. Not worth a flier in rookie drafts at this point.


19) Justice Cunningham, Colts, 6’3”, 258, 4.94

So many things are working against Cunningham for fantasy purposes. He’ll probably make the team, but he’s more blocker than receiver and he’s got two very good offensive tight ends ahead of him on the roster. He’s not worth a dynasty selection.

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