The Chiefs released Jeremy Maclin to make cap room on Friday and the impact on the field will definitely be felt. How, exactly, is still up for debate. We’ll keep a close watch on where Maclin ends up, but for now we’ll look at things from the Chiefs’ perspective.
One thing is clear and that is, as the roster stands right now, Travis Kelce is the best bet to have an increase in targets. He’s in the top-3 of tight ends and had a great season last year. What remains to be seen is how things will shake out with the wide receivers on the roster.
Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley and Albert Wilson are all likely to get more work, but the Chiefs must see something they like in their first-year receivers if they’re willing to lose Maclin. They drafted Jehu Chesson in the fourth round and one of their scout’s thinks he’s polished enough to play very soon, according to ESPN’s Adam Teicher.
Demarcus Robinson, entering his second year is another player who could possibly step up to get more playing time.
For now, it makes sense to move up Hill and possibly Conley in your rankings. Hill had 12 touchdowns as a rookie and Conley had solid, though not impressive numbers last season. Watch training camp and the preseason to see if taking one of the other options on the team makes sense with the final pick of your fantasy drafts.
This doesn’t really affect Alex Smith too much, since he’s only a streaming quarterback option at this point in his career.
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.
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.
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.