We take a look at how the rookie class of tight ends stacks up in fantasy football.
The 2016 class of tight ends failed to make a major impact in fantasy football.
That was a class that didn’t see a single tight end drafted in the first round, so it came as no surprise when few rookies here became fantasy relevant at any point in 2016. We did see guys like Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper have their moments, but overall, it was a disappointing rookie class of tight ends.
Don’t expect a repeat of that in 2017, with two guys possibly being Round 1 picks and several others going on Day 2 of the draft. This is a much deeper class of tight ends, and you can expect several of them to be fantasy relevant.
Let’s take a look at which rookie tight ends are in the best position to make a fantasy impact in 2017.
1. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama Crimson Tide
There’s no question who the best tight end in this year’s draft is, even if he wasn’t used enough in college. O.J. Howard should hear his name called early in this year’s draft, possibly in the top 10.
Howard emerged as a full-time starter in 2015 and went on to catch 83 balls for 1,197 yards and five touchdowns over the next two seasons. His biggest games came in Alabama’s back-to-back national championship appearances, where he caught nine passes for 314 yards and three scores in two matchups with Clemson.
That’s a big reason why Howard will hear his name called early this year. He’ll be worth spending a fantasy draft pick on, but how high that pick should be will depend on where he ends up in real life.
2. David Njoku, TE, Miami Hurricanes
While Howard is getting most of the attention, David Njoku should also hear his name called in the first round of April’s draft. Njoku looks to be next up in the long lineage of Miami tight ends, though he could end up being one of the best of that group.
Njoku had a so-so 2015 season with 21 grabs for 362 yards (17.2 avg.) and one score in 10 games. He burst onto the national scene in 2016 with 43 grabs for 698 yards (16.2 avg.) and eight touchdowns.
But Njoku’s blocking leaves a lot to be desired, so that could hurt his playing time as a rookie if he doesn’t improve there. Even so, Njoku should be a viable fantasy tight end as long as he lands with a team that doesn’t have an established option there.
3. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss Rebels
One of the more intriguing tight ends in this draft class is Ole Miss’ Evan Engram. Standing at 6’3 and 234 pounds, Engram was used more like a wide receiver in the Rebels’ offense, catching 65 balls for 926 yards (14.2 avg.) and eight scores in just 11 games this past season.
But as good of a pass-catcher as Engram is, he’s a terrible blocker who really looks like a wide receiver trying to block. His receiving skills may be enough to get him drafted on Day 2, but he’s got a lot of work to do before he becomes a complete tight end.
That could keep him from having a big role in an offense as a rookie, but his pass-catching skills have to be utilized by whoever takes him, even if it’s just as a move tight end.
4. Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson Tigers
One of the most productive tight ends in college football over the past two years has been Jordan Leggett. The 6’5, 258-pounder racked up 86 catches for 1,261 yards and 15 scores across 28 games since 2015.
Leggett did this while playing in a loaded offense full of future NFL players, so his numbers could have been bigger if not for guys like Mike Williams and Artavis Scott getting so many targets.
But like Engram, Leggett has a lot of work to do as a blocker, which could prevent him from having a big workload as a rookie. His pass-catching skills should still make him fantasy relevant at some point in the 2017 season.
5. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech Hokies
Bucky Hodges was more of a weapon-type player than a true tight end for Virginia Tech. Hodges was used as a tight end and receiver during his 39 college games, in which he caught 133 passes for 1,747 yards (13.1 avg.) and 20 scores
He’s actually a converted quarterback who measures in at 6’6 and 257 pounds. Hodges is a little more raw than the aforementioned tight ends, so it may take a year or two before he becomes fantasy relevant.
But his potential to be a big-time pass-catcher in the NFL should make him a waiver wire pickup at some point in 2017, depending on which team drafts him.