“Sleeper” is a complicated and often misused word spout ceaselessly in fantasy. Anyone who tells you Trey Burton qualifies is a run-of-the-mill Captain Obvious who deserves decisive ridicule. For this exercise, we’re focused on UNDERVALUED options available outside the overall top-75, according to ADP.
Brad: RICKY SEALS-JONES, Ari (174.7 ADP, TE23). Mike Jurecki, one of the most plugged-in sources on all things Arizona, recently disclosed Seals-Jones is expected to see an increased role in Mike McCoy’s offense, provided his untimely arrest doesn’t become a major stumbling block (Sidebar: Break the Seals is a fantastic fantasy team name). The intrepid reporter couldn’t be more accurate. During the McCoy’s tenure in San Diego, tight end was a point of emphasis. Holding Antonio Gates and, later on, Hunter Henry in your hand is parallel to drawing ace-queen in poker, a likely winning proposition. It’s why his TEs scored No. 5 or better every year during the coach’s four seasons at the helm. Heck, even Julius Thomas, at his career zenith, thrived in the OC’s scheme. Given Arizona’s few premier options outside of Fitzgerald, ratcheting up RSJ’s role is only sensible. At a minimum, he’s bound to finish atop the hyphenated TE ranks (Wink). Sorry, Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Seals-Jones was occasionally useful during spurts in 2017. When targeted five times or more, he averaged an employable 2.8-45.3-0.8 line. And that was achieved seeing a lowly 27.8 percent snap share. Toss in he ranked No. 1 in fantasy points per opportunity at the position along with his appreciable 7.2 yards per target and it’s easy to project a breakthrough campaign. He certainly owns the size and field-stretching skills to slice and dice defenses. At his dirt cheap price (174.3 ADP, TE23), give him a shot.
Andy: George Kittle, SF (113.1 ADP, TE11). If you’re bullish on Jimmy Garoppolo entering 2018, then by extension you need to be at least semi-excited about Kittle. This pair clicked last season, particularly in the closing weeks. Kittle caught 11 balls for 194 yards over his final three games, finishing with a 100-yard effort against the Rams. He actually led all first-year players at his position in red-zone targets (16), a promising sign for his future scoring upside. The snap-count patrol wants me to warn you that Garrett Celek received plenty of playing time last season (560 snaps to Kittle’s 592), but here’s the thing: When Kittle is on the field, he gets the ball. And when the Niners are near the end-zone, he’s a frequent target. (Also, you probably don’t play in a point-per-snap league.) If you miss out on Gronk, Kelce and Ertz, Kittle is a terrific late-draft option.
Scott: Vance McDonald, Pit (162 ADP, TE21). If this were an intellectually-honest exercise (bahahaha), we’d all be writing about George Kittle. Behrens gets that privilege. He’s an Iowa grad, after all, and he signs up for his assignments quicker than Tracy Enid Flick. We’ll work with the scraps left over, knowing Kittle is the prime target. (See previous Kittle propaganda here, here, and especially here. He looks like a super soph.)
McDonald is one of those guys who pops every so often, making you wonder what’s possible. He only has eight touchdowns on his three-year resume, but he rang up 65- and 75-yard touchdowns two years ago, with the Niners. Tight ends rarely make those types of splash plays. And although McDonald was hurt and ineffective for most of his Steelers debut last year, he did throw a 10-112-0 line at the nasty Jaguars in the playoffs.
Drops have plagued McDonald in the past, but he’s a former second-round pick and the most talented tight end in Pittsburgh. He’s ready to take over the position. Perhaps the timing is right for McDonald to post one of those sneaky Heath Miller lines, nudging inside the TE1 cutline.
Matt: ERIC EBRON, IND (153.5 ADP, TE17). Eric Ebron moves from the primary tight end position in Detroit to the No. 2 spot in Indianapolis this season. While that might seem like a potential downgrade, new head coach Frank Reich made good use of his two tight end sets last year in Philadelphia. The Eagles threw out of their 12-personnel set (one RB, two TEs) 57 percent of the time, well north of the NFL average 45 percent. The Colts have 31.9 percent of their 2017 team targets available (12th most) and a largely unsettled wide receiver depth chart after T.Y. Hilton. Regardless of what you think about his ability, it’s clear Ebron is walking into some opportunity in what should be a pass-happy Andrew Luck-led offense. Not the worst plunge you can take at this miserable position.