As we start on the skill positions on the offence, the tide is starting to turn. The Panthers have been dominant so far, although the Saints have made a bit of a run at them. Now we are on offence, we are in the wheel house for the Buccaneers and Falcons to make a comeback. Looking at Tight Ends specifically, there is talent across the board, the question is, who will have a TE room that can compete across a full season?
4. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers drop out of the top two for the first time in this series with real question marks over their Tight Ends. Yes they have Greg Olsen, a player that I love and drafted in fantasy for years, but he has caught 44 passes combined over the last two years, having never been under 40 catches since his rookie year. If he is fit, Olsen will be a good option for Cam Newton but the Panthers can’t rely on the 34 year old who has played in half of the games since the start of 2017, after breaking the same foot twice. Ian Thomas was solid as a rookie with 36 receptions for 333 yards and a couple of TDs but needs to step up and lead the unit. Behind that, there is no depth at all with just five catches among the active roster.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons enter the season with slightly more depth than the Panthers, if not the outright potential. Austin Hooper has been a great option for the Falcons, flourishing as Atlanta has some of the best pass catchers in the league. Hooper himself has proven to be a big play threat, averaging 10 yards/catch during his career with 1457 yards in three seasons. Behind that, veterans Luke Stocker and Eric Saubert provide some depth on the roster, though both are blockers more than receivers, averaging seven catches a season between them. Ultimately, the Falcons have a higher floor but a lower ceiling than the Panthers at Tight End.
2. New Orleans Saints
The Saints make the jump to number two at Tight End with what was quietly one of the best moves of the offseason in signing Jared Cook from the Raiders. While he is entering his 11th season, he is getting better and better, posting a career best 896 yards and six touchdowns in 2018, and averages over 500 yards a season. Imagine what Cook can do with Drew Brees throwing to him, and he may help with Brees’ arm strength issues later in the season. Behind Cook, Josh Hill offers a solid option, averaging a reception a game as a blocking Tight End. Alize Mack was also drafted from Notre Dame and adds to the depth, alongside Dan Arnold.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs finally hit the front in the TE power rankings. The reason: depth. Cameron Brate returns for a sixth season in Tampa and averages 370 yards a season, a great contribution for a number two option. There is one concern for Tampa at Tight End, the fitness of their starter O.J. Howard, having missed two games as a rookie and six as a sophomore. Regardless, the Alabama alum has 997 yards over two seasons. Prior to his injury, Howard was on pace for 54 catches, 900 yards and eight touchdowns, ifs and buts I know but it shows the talent that he has. Jordan Leggett adds some further depth with 14 receptions for 114 yards with the Jets last year and regular starter Antony Auclair provides brawn in the blocking game. Short and simple, Tampa have all bases covered at Tight End and provide Jameis Winston the perfect platform in a ‘prove it’ year.
Here’s how they stand so far (with average ranking over the five categories in brackets).
Photo: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire