Fantasy football position rankings: Tight ends

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesday and wide receivers Thursday. Tight ends are next with defenses to follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Tight ends

Tier 1

No surprise at the top of this tier, but Rob Gronkowski isn’t in a tier of his own anymore. Zach Ertz was outstanding last year, catching 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. That made for three straight years of at least 74 receptions and 816 yards for the sixth-year tight end. Ertz has the edge over Travis Kelce for me since the Chiefs will have a new quarterback in Pat Mahomes. Kelce will still have a big year, but I don’t think he tops 1,000 yards like he has in the last two seasons.

1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
2. Zach Ertz, PHI
3. Travis Kelce, KC

Tier 2

I still like Evan Engram even though he’s not the only reliable target in New York anymore. Last season he had to lead the way with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard all missing time. Engram led the team with 64 receptions and was second on the squad with 722 yards while scoring a team-best six times. Something you rarely see is a rookie tight end having a lot of fantasy production. Engram was able to do that and then some. Also in this group is Jimmy Graham, who could be special if he stays healthy. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t used the tight end effectively but he’s never had a tight end like Graham. I have to also mention Trey Burton, who looks to be a big part of the Bears offense. With a second-year quarterback and a shaky wide receiver corps, Burton should lead the passing attack.

4. Evan Engram, NYG
5. Jimmy Graham, GB
6. Greg Olsen, CAR
7. Trey Burton, CHI

Tier 3

Delanie Walker has been so solid for the last four years, gaining at least 800 yards while catching at least 63 passes in each of those seasons. Someone in this group who I’m high on is Ricky Seals-Jones. I’m out on a bit of an island (pun intended) on this one, but I think he has a lot of upside. He would be nearly free in drafts so you don’t have to draft him as your starter. In 2016, when Sam Bradford played 15 games for the Vikings, Kyle Rudolph caught 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Bradford could help Seals-Jones have that kind of production.

8. Delanie Walker, TEN
9. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
10. Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI
11. Jared Cook, OAK
12. Jordan Reed, WAS

Tier 4

I nearly had Jordan Reed and George Kittle swapped, but the talent of Reed is a little too much to overcome. If he can stay healthy, and it’s always a huge if, then he’s still definitely a TE1. Kittle, depending on his chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, could take the next step after a solid rookie season in which he caught 43 passes and gained 515 yards. David Njoku, another second-year tight end, could be productive with Tyrod Taylor tossing him the ball in Cleveland. Also in this tier is Tyler Eifert, who really should be in a higher tier based on talent. Injuries and having to play with Andy Dalton has him as a bye week sub in my opinion.

13. George Kittle, SF
14. David Njoku, CLE
15. O.J. Howard, TB
16. Jack Doyle, IND
17. Benjamin Watson, NO
18. Tyler Eifert, CIN
19. Charles Clay, BUF

Tier 5

There are a lot questions surrounding the Colts offense, mostly due to the play of Andrew Luck, a bad offensive line and the rest of the backfield. But I also think there’s a question of which Colts tight end will be more productive. Eric Ebron has the size and talent you want in a tight end but he just hasn’t delivered. Someone who could surprise in this group is Austin Hooper of the Falcons, but it depends on how successful the offense is. Hooper was the third most targeted receiver for Atlanta last season, but the team added Calvin Ridley in the draft.

20. Eric Ebron, IND
21. Austin Hooper, ATL
22. Cameron Brate, TB
23. Luke Willson, DET
24. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, JAC

Tier 6

For the most part these guys are going to be replacements during bye weeks, but Hayden Hurst could end up having some value. He should start for the Ravens, but I can’t rank a pass catcher from Baltimore very highly.

25. Vance McDonald, PIT
26. Stephen Anderson, HOU
27. Vernon Davis, WAS
28. Hayden Hurst, BAL

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

2017 fantasy football position rankings: Tight Ends

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at the top 24 tight ends before turning to defenses next week. We’ve ranked the QBs 1-32running backs from 1 to 36 and wide receivers 1 to 36. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

Any of the top four tight ends listed here could end up being the best in the league this season. There’s even a chance any of the top seven could end up being TE1. In addition, a mix of rookies and second-year players are in good situations to contribute.

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots—He might as well change his first name to “if he’s healthy” because it seems like every year we say, “if he’s healthy, he should be the best tight end in the game.” His new contract is full of incentives, so he should do everything he can to stay on the field to dominate.

2. Jordan Reed, Redskins—Another tight end that needs to find a way to stay on the field is Reed. He was on the injury report more than a handful of times last season. He’s going in the middle of the fourth round in mock drafts so you might as well wait on the position unless he falls to the fifth.

3. Travis Kelce, Chiefs—He’s getting drafted in the fourth round as well, and he may end up being a safer pick than Reed. He had a late-season streak of games in which he had at least 100 yards receiving. His biggest week came against a tough Broncos defense in fantasy championship week.

4. Greg Olsen, Panthers—His success is somewhat dependent on Cam Newton being able to complete more than just 53 percent of his passes. Olsen had a terrible second half of the season and didn’t score a touchdown after Week 9. The addition of Christian McCaffrey could end up taking pressure of Newton, allowing him to connect better with his receivers.

5. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks—He struggled in the first week of the season last year, but picked it up after that. And that was with a hobbled Russell Wilson slinging the ball around while under a lot of pressure. With Wilson back healthy enough to scramble things should improve for the veteran.

6. Tyler Eifert, Bengals—He’s bound to play a full season, right? Eifert hasn’t played all 16 games in his four years. Here’s hoping he can get it done in his fifth. There’s no doubt that when he’s on the field he’s incredibly tough to cover. Eifert scored five touchdowns in just half a season last year.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) catches the ball during an NFL Football game between Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

7. Delanie Walker, Titans—Marcus Mariota is entering his third year and looking like the real deal. That’s good news for Walker, who had 800 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016. He didn’t have fantasy-relevant numbers until his 8th year in the league but has been solid ever since.

8. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings—He’s currently going in the ninth round of fantasy mock drafts and that’s outstanding for the type of production he’ll be capable of this year. Rudolph had the second-most targets last season—not for tight ends—overall. Short-passing Sam Bradford targeted the tight end 132 times, allowing Rudolph to catch 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns.

9. Hunter Henry, Chargers—The 22-year-old may end up making it ok for Antonio Gates to ride off into the sunset. Henry caught eight touchdowns in his rookie season to go with 478 yards. The Chargers improved their offensive line and that should allow Philip Rivers to find his receivers.

10. Martellus Bennett, Packers—He’s coming off a season in which he filled in for a hurt Gronkowski, amassing 701 yards and seven touchdowns in New England. Only one tight end in Green Bay has had over 500 yards receiving in the last four years, but Bennett is possibly the most talented one they’ve had since Jermichael Finley.

Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

11. Zach Ertz, Eagles—He caught four touchdowns last season with a rookie quarterback at the helm. That matched a career high. Ertz had 816 yards receiving and was targeted over 100 yards for the second year in a row, signaling that he’s a clear weapon in their offensive scheme.

12. O.J. Howard, Buccaneers—The rookie enters a situation in which he can become one of many weapons for Jameis Winston. The Bucs added DeSean Jackson to help stretch the field and take pressure off of Mike Evans. Defenses should be worried about covering those two outside options, leaving Howard to do some damage in the middle of the field.

13. Austin Hooper, Falcons

14. Julius Thomas, Dolphins

15. Jack Doyle, Colts

16. Eric Ebron, Lions

17. Evan Engram, Giants

18. Vance McDonald, 49ers

19. Coby Fleener, Saints

20. Jesse James, Steelers

21. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Texans

22. Jason Witten, Cowboys

23. Tyler Higbee, Rams

24. David Njoku, Browns