2015 Fantasy Football: Rookie Tight Ends

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2015 NFL season less then three weeks away, it’s past time to start the prep work for your fantasy football draft. Over the next two weeks I will be finishing up my fantasy preview with a primer, rankings, sleepers, busts, and rookie previews for every position. Check the links on the sidebar for more position breakdowns.

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It’s pretty rare to see a rookie tight end come into the league and make an impact, but the same was said about wide receivers before last season. After the instant impact of rookie WRs like Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin it’s hard to ignore the fantasy potential of rookie pass catchers. The problem with rookie tight ends is that the position is usually more complex, with more responsibilities in both the run and pass formations.

To give you a little perspective on how little impact rookie tight ends have had¹:

  • No rookie TE has ever had over 900 yards receiving
  • In the last 15 years only two rookie TEs have had 5 or more TDs (Gronkowski, Hernandez)
  • Jace Amaro led all rookie TEs last season with just 345 receiving yards and 2 TDs².
  • In 2012 & 2013 only one rookie TE had over 500 yards receiving (Tim Wright, Dwayne Allen)

There is some hope on the horizon for rookie tight ends. With the proliferation of passing offenses at both the high school and college level, rookies are coming into the league as advanced scheme-wise as ever. Plus with more NFL offenses going pass-heavy, there will be less need for run blocking TEs which will simplify the transition of rookie TEs into the league. I don’t think this is the year where rookie TEs break the historical pattern of ineffectiveness, but I do think there is a chance that a few rookie TEs could be relatively useful in fantasy this season.

Here is a breakdown of some rookie tight ends who have a chance to make a fantasy impact in 2015.

Rookie Tight Ends

Maxx Williams, Ravens – The first TE selected in this year’s draft (55th overall) and widely assumed the most NFL ready tight end, but reports out of training camp have Williams struggling to pick up the Ravens playbook. As I mentioned above that’s fairly common with rookie tight ends and with only Crockett Gilmore to beat out for the starters job, Williams has a chance to see significant playing time this season. The Ravens have one of the least talented WR groups in the league and a QB in Joe Flacco who targets the tight end often. Williams has a realistic shot to be the first rookie TE in years to break both the 500 yard and 5 TD barriers.

Clive Walford, Raiders – 3rd year TE Mychal Rivera is the current starter, but he was the worst run blocker among all starting TEs according to Pro Football Focus. Rivera had a solid year as a receiver (58/524/4) but Walford is already a better blocker and may be a more dynamic receiver as well. Reports out of Raiders camp are glowing so far on Walford and he could end up wining the starting TE gig and becoming Derek Carr’s safety valve. I’d probably draft Williams ahead of Walford, but it’s pretty close.