Fantasy Football 2015: Top 20 Tight Ends

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#6 Zach Ertz / Philadelphia Eagles / Bye Week: 8

Dec 7, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks during the second half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Damn you, Brent Celek! Let me just start there. After an impressive preseason in 2014 made Ertz look like a lock for a top-level fantasy tight end, Chip Kelly and the Eagles proceeded to use Ertz inconsistently in the regular season while Celek remained the every-down tight end. All of this to the dismay of fantasy owners nationwide, myself included.

Another year, another proclamation of ascendance for the young tight end out of Stanford. To be fair his usage did go up incrementally in 2014 and he saw increases in his receptions and yards gained over his 2013 outputs. It just felt like Ertz could do so much more if he were truly unleashed.

Now onto 2015 and gone are LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles and Jeremy Maclin. New faces Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray and Nelson Agholor are in the mix, creating a fresh start of sorts for Ertz. Another offseason spent working on his blocking should yield more playing time and maybe that breakout we’re waiting for.

Count me as one who is buying Ertz as a top-level tight end in 2015. Grab him in the fifth round or sooner.

#5 Martellus Bennett / Chicago Bears / Bye Week: 7

Sep 7, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Our very own Martysaurus Rex makes it into the top 5 fantasy tight ends for me in 2015. His production in 2014 was as good as the Bears had ever seen at the position and fantasy owners were in good shape with Marty in their lineup. On 128 targets Bennett caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.

The big change for Bennett in 2015 and what should give fantasy owners some pause is the departure of Marc Trestman as head coach. And throw in the departure of Mel Tucker, as well. The Bears were so bad on defense last year that they needed to catch up, and that played right into the pass-centric offense that Trestman liked to run.

Bennett, among others, was a beneficiary of the pass-first attack.

Now John Fox is in town and Vic Fangio is leading the defense, so there’s a good chance that the Bears run more and pass less. And maybe, just maybe, the defense can stop somebody. Despite all of this, Bennett is still a beast and he’s a favorite target of Jay Cutler‘s. He’s in a contract year and I expect him to go out and earn it. Look out for the Black Unicorn in 2015.

#4 Greg Olsen / Carolina Panthers / Bye Week: 5

Oct 12, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) catches the ball to score a touchdown in front of Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker

Vontaze Burfict

(55) during the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals and the Panthers tie in overtime 37-37. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We segue from Jay Cutler’s current tight end BFF to his former one, Greg Olsen. With statistical outputs that met or exceeded any in previous years, Olsen had his best season as a pro. Steve Smith was off to Baltimore and Brandon LaFell to New England, so Olsen assumed the role of the Panthers’ top pass-catcher.

On the year Olsen saw 123 targets, catching 84 of them for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He was awarded with a big contract extension during the season and along with rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin, formed a solid pass-catching duo for quarterback Cam Newton.

The Panthers added another big target thru the draft in the form of University of Michigan standout Devin Funchess, and between him and a more seasoned Benjamin in his second year — Olsen could be due for fewer targets.  That said, he’s still about as safe a bet as you could make in choosing a fantasy tight end.  I think Newton is in for a big year, and Olsen is going to be a part of it.

Next: Top 20 2015 Fantasy Tight Ends: 1-3