I approach the tight end position in much the same way I approach drafting a quarterback.
Sure, I would love to select Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Zach Ertz, but I'm not willing to spend such an early pick to do so.
I like to spend my early picks on running backs and wide receivers. This is not to say I haven't seen what my team might look like should I draft a TE early.
Mock drafts can be a valuable tool in determining your draft strategy. We know by ADP (average draft position) that Kelce is generally going in the top 8-15 picks of a draft. Kittle and Ertz about a round and a half to two rounds later.
If you were to take part in several mock drafts, you can get an idea of how happy you would be with your team if you draft one of these tight ends early.
The next tier of TEs is where I'm much more interested in investing in. I'll take an O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, or Hunter Henry in rounds 5-7 in every draft. At that point, you should already have at least one starting running back and wide receiver, the building blocks have already been set. Tight end is deep, maybe not as deep as QB, but you will run out of RBs and WRs much quicker than you will a TE.
If you wait until double-digit rounds in your draft to select a tight end, I'm good with this strategy as well, you're likely looking at Vance McDonald, David Njoku, Jared Cook, and Delanie Walker. Sure, each one has some question marks, but there is also upside associated with each one. McDonald could be third on the target list behind Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner, the upside is there. Will there be enough passes to go around to make David Njoku a top TE this season? Will Jared Cook be able to develop chemistry with Drew Brees?
Walker is up there in age and coming off a season-ending injury, can he still be the top target for Tennessee? How good will Eric Ebron be now that Jack Doyle is healthy and should play a full season? Not to mention, it's unlikely he'll have the same TD to reception rate that he had last season.
As for my rankings, here we go at TE.
— Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
— George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
— Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
— O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— Evan Engram, New York Giants
— Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
— Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
— David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
— Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
— Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans
— Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
— Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts
— Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
— Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
— Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
— Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers
— Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
— Jimmy Graham, Green Bay Packers
— Chris Herndon, New York Jets
— Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
So, what do we do about kickers? I'm of the belief that we should get rid of them in fantasy. They are impossible to judge week in and week out. For the most part, you want a kicker with a strong accurate leg (obviously), one who plays on a good offense, but not a great offense. What we mean by that is that you want an offense that will get bogged down.
Touchdowns are no good as we only get a point. We want field goals, preferably long ones as we usually get bonus points for those.
I play in a league in which you get points depending upon the length of the field goal. A 42-yard FG is worth 4.2 points, a 37 yarder, 3.7 points, and so on. At the very least this makes the position much more interesting, but in all honestly, get rid of the kicker and go with another flex spot. Your league will be better for it.
If that's not an option, however, like anyone else you will ask, don't draft a kicker until the last or next to last round. There are plenty to go around and you can even stream kickers week in and week out of you like.
— Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
— Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
— Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots
— Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs
— Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
— Ka'imi Fairbairn, Houston Texans
— Mike Badgley, Los Angeles Chargers
— Jake Elliott, Philadelphia Eagles
— Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
— Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
— Brett Maher, Dallas Cowboys
— Matt Prater, Detroit Lions
What was stated about kickers also holds true for the defense/special teams position. You can wait until late in the draft to take one. It is our hope that you wouldn't take one until the last round or two, but that is also dependent upon your league rules. If your league awards more points than your standard league for that position, then we can understand taking a D/ST a round or two earlier than normal.
Have you ever thought of abandoning the D/ST position and starting defensive players instead? Yes, an IDP league. We start goaltenders in fantasy hockey, pitchers in fantasy baseball, and award points for blocks and steals in fantasy basketball.
Why, for the most part, do we ignore defensive players in fantasy football? No one is saying you should play in a league in which you start three linebackers, two safeties, a cornerback, and three defensive linemen, but why not start small. You can start one LB, one linemen, and one defensive back. Your league would be better for it and when everyone gets used to the position, you can expand.
That being said here are your top D/STs this season.
— Chicago Bears
— Jacksonville Jaguars
— Los Angeles Rams
— Los Angeles Chargers
— Buffalo Bills
— Minnesota Vikings
— New Orleans Saints
— Philadelphia Eagles
— Tennessee Titans
— New England Patriots
— Dallas Cowboys
— Houston Texans
This column was provided to The Associated Press by SportsGrid Inc., www.sportsgrid.com