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Fantasy Insider: 2017 Tight End, Defense/Special Teams, Kicker Preview and Position Rankings

Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com returns for his seventh season of Fantasy Football analysis on seahawks.com. Scott is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association’s Hall of Fame and a former FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year Award Winner. He can be heard on FNTSY Radio every morning and seen on FNTSY Sports Network daily on CenturyLink’s sports package.

Running backs and wide receivers are generally considered the most important Fantasy positions, but to field a true Fantasy winner, you must be ready to address all positions at all points of the draft. A few quarterbacks will sneak into the earlier rounds of some drafts, but the position is deep. The same can be said for tight ends, as you only have to start one in most formats, similar to QBs in a lot of league settings. TEs also tend to score less than WRs in most leagues. Defense/special teams units and kickers tend to be less predictable from season to season, and those positions usually are left for the end of a draft.

When he is available, Rob Gronkowski is the one tight end that can consistently rival the production of many top WRs, and he is annually the top TE off the board. This season, his NFL.com Average Draft Position (ADP) is 21.91, putting him in the third round. If he can play 16 games, Gronkowski can give you a first-round return, so the ADP makes sense. If you do take the leap to draft a TE that early, do not take a QB in the early rounds as well, as you will weaken your RB and WR outlooks with such an approach.

Travis Kelce led all TEs in NFL.com standard scoring last year with 138.00 points, and is the second player at the position off the board overall with an ADP of 40.96, putting him in the fifth round. Kelce is durable and is especially dependable in PPR formats. If he can boost his TD production a bit he will certainly be even more worthy of such a selection in standard formats. A TE that went over 1,100 yards like he did last year, though, is hard to pass on when you get to that point of the draft. He’ll be taken even earlier in PPR leagues.

Jordan Reed, at 45.08, is the third TE being drafted overall, and if he can stay healthy, he has shown he can actually be among the best players at the position. Greg Olsen was second at the position last year with 127.30 points on NFL.com. He is annually durable and dependable and is one of the safest picks you can make at the position. Olsen has caught 70-plus passes in each of the past four seasons and has gone over 1,000 yards in each of the last three campaigns.

The Seahawks’ Jimmy Graham has been a top-level TE in Fantasy circles throughout his career, and was the fourth-best scorer at the position on NFL.com last year with 124.30 points. Graham’s ADP is 55.03, putting him in the sixth round. With a continually improving on-field relationship with Russell Wilson and an offseason free of any health concerns, Graham could have his best season so far as a Seahawk, and should push to be a Top 3 Fantasy TE this year. He is a very attractive selection at his current NFL.com ADP.

Delanie Walker was fifth at the position last year with 123.10 NFL.com points and has an ADP of 59.92. Walker had 13 TD catches in the past two years and has been over 800 yards in each of the past three seasons. He should still maintain Fantasy respectability even with some additional pass-catching pieces added around him in Tennessee.

Tyler Eifert has an ADP of 65.50, and if he can stay healthy, he is one of the better TD producers at the position. Kyle Rudolph was the third-ranked scorer at TE on NFL.com last year with 126.00 points, yet his 70.43 ADP puts him in the eighth round. That is pretty good value for a guy that scored seven times last year and should continue to be a consistent scoring threat for Minnesota.

Martellus Bennett has a very fair ADP of 87.31, as he moves to another powerful offense, but with the Packers, he is their clear No. 1 TE and could be their best in a long time. He was seventh at the position with 113.10 points and should finish in that range again. The TE may not be the most preferred target in  Green Bay, but should be featured more now with Bennett in the mix.

Jack Doyle (105.9) is a popular pick to take another step forward this season, and is be considered as a TE1 type by many Fantasy analysts. Zach Ertz (120.21) will be a chain mover in a potentially prolific Philadelphia passing attack. If you lurk until later for your TE, especially in a PPR format, he should deliver good enough numbers overall for you to start him most of the time.

Eric Ebron (126.46) can be one of the very best bargains at the position. In his fourth season, there is an opportunity for him to step forward as more of a consistent pass-catcher and TD threat for Matthew Stafford. Hunter Henry (132.55) caught eight TDs in his rookie year, and some Fantasy types believe he can improve more overall this year. Rookies O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Evan Engram have significant dynasty league appeal, and should be monitored closely for their first-year progress. Many players at the position don’t make a major Fantasy splash in their debut seasons, but this trio is very promising.

Also, don’t overlook Cameron Brate, who caught eight TD passes last year and finished sixth at the position with 114.00 NFL.com points. His 15th round ADP makes him a great late rounder to nab. Coby Fleener will look to improve in his second season with the Saints, and Antonio Gates should still draw interest as a TE2. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a quality TE2, and Austin Hooper and Tyler Higbee are sleeper selections. Hooper could move forward to a more prominent role in a great Atlanta offense.

When drafting Defense/Special teams units, you cannot get too caught up in last year’s results, for a few reasons. D/ST scoring is often unpredictable in terms of turnovers and touchdowns. Plus, so many teams make important changes on 11 man units every offseason. Some Fantasy owners even choose to stream different defensive units each week based on opponent. So it is likely that you may draft a defense that may not match last year’s production, and you might not even keep that unit on your team for the entire season. Use the earlier picks on more important skill position players, and draft your defense in the final three rounds or so.

The Chiefs led NFL.com scoring with 166 NFL.com points last season, and have the highest ADP, but 68.08 is way too early to take a unit when many important skill position players are still available. Kansas City had 18 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries last year, both best in the league. While much of their key talents remain intact, you cannot guarantee such turnovers again, especially on a week to week basis. Plus, other viable units should still be available a few rounds later.

Denver (69.56 ADP) has the best secondary in the AFC and should be a top unit again, and Minnesota (79.67) was second best on NFL.com with 156 points and boasts a terrific defensive line. But these units are being drafted too early on NFL.com right now, and are going later in some other leagues and formats. You can still get a solid unit later and can even “stream”, or change starting defenses on a weekly basis depending on what is available. Rarely does a Fantasy team start the same unit every week.

The Seahawks always have one of the best defenses in Fantasy, and have an ADP of 72.66. The team ranked fourth in sacks last year with 42, are still led by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on the line, and the return of Earl Thomas should boost the secondary back to familiar heights. The unit should improve on its 12th place finish from last year (113 points), and a healthy Tyler Lockett should add another dimension in the return game.

A returning J.J. Watt is great for the Texans (84.33 ADP) , but we’ll have to see how changes in the secondary work out. Arizona (95.33) led the league in sacks with 48. The Giants (101.90) were best in the NFC in points allowed (276) and are imposing on the defensive line and in the secondary. If you wait around to draft them, you could end up with one of the best units in Fantasy this year for a later choice. Carolina  (115.40) has a formidable front seven.

It is pretty much customary for kickers to be the final picks for smart owners in Fantasy drafts. Their production can vary  a lot from week to week, and even season to season. Matt Bryant was the most productive kicker last year with 158 points, but he had not topped 130 in the three seasons prior and just twice since 2008. Justin Tucker is the most dependable Fantasy kicker from season to season, but his ADP of 73.31 is way too early. Dustin Hopkins was the third best kicker in Fantasy last year, yet you can get him in the 15th round of NFL.com drafts.

Here are my Top 10 Fantasy TEs for PPR players this season, plus defenses and kickers, with full ranks available in the RotoExperts.com Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package. Use promocode “seahawks” at checkout for a special discount at rotoexperts.com/discount.

TIGHT ENDS

  1. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
  1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

3. Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks

  1. Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
  1. Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
  1. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
  1. Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals
  1. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
  1. Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions
  1. Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers

DEFENSE/ST

  1. Denver Broncos

2. Seattle Seahawks

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  1. Minnesota Vikings
  1. N.Y. Giants Giants
  1. New England Patriots
  1. Houston Texans
  1. Arizona Cardinals
  1. Carolina Panthers
  1. L.A. Chargers

KICKERS

  1. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
  1. Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
  1. Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys
  1. Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
  1. Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
  1. Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
  1. Matt Prater, Detroit Lions
  1. Cairo Santos, Kansas City Chiefs
  1. Will Lutz, New Orleans Saints
  1. Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders

For more rankings and insights from Scott Engel and his team, register now for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package right now at rotoexperts.com/discount. Seahawks.com readers get 10 dollars off with promocode “seahawks” at checkout.

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