It wasn’t that long ago that you had Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham and then everybody else at the tight end position. Thankfully, that has changed and there is value to be had here. Sorting out where that value may be hiding is a little harder and if you ask five people how to do it you’ll probably get five different answers. I’ve always heard it said football is all about opportunity and I agree.
Around the NFL: Jets claim recently released former Patriots’ DE, Kony Ealy
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay
Brate had 16 targets in the red zone. Only one fewer than Uber-stud Mike Evans. That tied him for fourth most last year at his position. That’s good chemistry with your quarterback. A chemistry that won’t go away because they drafted O. J. Howard. Brate is definitely the superior pass catcher of the two at this point in their careers. Look for Brate to continue to be a red zone opportunist as the signing of DeSean Jackson shouldn’t impact him around the goal line
Antonio Gates, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
Gates has been on lists of top tight ends for years. Gates is on the backside of a wonderful career but with the drafting of Hunter Henry, it seems everyone is ready to all but forget about him. Not his quarterback Phillip Rivers. In 2015 Gates was thrown to 19 times in the red zone. In 2016, he was targeted 22 times or an increase of three times with Henry sharing time. Gates hauled in eight passes for seven touchdowns. I see only a slight downturn this year.
Julius Thomas, TE, Miami
A big deal has been made about Jay Cutler playing for Adam Gase again in Miami. You may not realize this but, as cover32’s own Chad Miller pointed out, Thomas played for Gase in Denver. During the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he averaged 76 receptions and 12 touchdowns per year. Thomas will get his shots with Gase as his head coach.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, New York Jets
Seferian-Jenkins has never lacked the talent or physicality to be a top tier tight end. He will be serving a suspension for a DUI the first and second games this year. Reports from the Jets’ camp seem like he is finally ready to step into that talent. He is reportedly in the best shape of his career after dropping around 20 pounds to get to the 260-pound range. Let’s face it, the Jets will be playing from behind and don’t have an abundance of options to throw the ball too. Seferian-Jenkins can put himself in position to be the best option.
Ben Watson, TE, Baltimore
After a career best year in New Orleans, Watson disappeared thanks to an Achilles tendon injury in the preseason with the Ravens. The veteran has now healed from that. Danny Woodhead will grab some of the red zone looks but Watson will see his share of the 16 targets that Dennis Pitta and Crockett Gilmore had last year. Let’s look at his schedule. Watson has six games against defenses weak against tight ends and only two against top flight tight end defenses.