With free agency still a few weeks away let’s take a look
each skill position and highlight some of the biggest names available.
I’ll match each player with a team that I think would be a
best-case scenario for his fantasy value in 2018. Up first are the
Jimmy Graham became a valuable redzone
target for the Seahawks. Exactly what the Ravens need.
Graham is no longer the top-tier fantasy TE he was during his
heyday as a young, dynamic playmaker in New Orleans. In fact,
heíll turn 32 next season, in what will be his ninth year as a
pro. His targets dropped precipitously (at about a 25-30 percent
rate over his three years in Seattle from his time in New Orleans)
after he was acquired via trade by the Seahawks in 2015, and he
hasnít been the same explosive player since tearing his patella
tendon later that season. Heís still capable of big games but
is much less of a consistent option at the position, and heís
enough injury risk to warrant considerable caution on draft
day. Last season he played about 68% of the Seahawks snaps, and
caught just 57 passes for 520 yards Ė though 10 of those were
converted for TDs. While itís likely weíre done seeing the days
where he logs over 75 percent snap rate, he can be a major contributor
in the right system.
Best fit: Ravens
Thereís not a team in the league that desperately needs
a red zone playmaker more than Baltimore, who made do at the TE
position last season with 37-year-old Ben Watson because Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams were mainly blockers and inexperienced
pass catchers who had just 46 receptions between them. While itís
not a rich free agent market for the position, itís likely
Graham will command the most attention among the five listed here.
If he doesnít cost too much to sign, Joe Flacco could benefit
from having the big-bodied Graham Ė whoís expressed
a desire to be more involved in the passing game Ė as his
main red zone target.
Other possibilities: Texans, Packers, Jaguars, Falcons
The enigmatic Seferian-Jenkins (ASJ) has had a tumultuous career
in the NFL, and continues to fluctuate between breakout and bust.
The Jets showed some faith in him in 2016, when he was waived
by the Buccaneers following a DUI arrest. He quit drinking, lost
30 pounds and turned in a few solid performances in 2017 after
serving a two-game suspension for a substance abuse violation
from his time with Tampa Bay. Though he finished with just 50-357-3
on 74 targets (13 games) last season, he could easily be a second-tier
fantasy TE if he could see 100 or more targets over 16 games.
Best fit: Jets
Itís not exciting, but thatís not what ASJ really
needs, is it? The 25-year-old says he wants to stay with the Jets
in 2018, and itís likely they could use his talents again
since he flourished under Josh McCown, whoís also entering
free agency and will likely end up as a backup somewhere if he
doesnít retire or resign in New York. There are downsides
to the Jets retaining ASJ, and thatís because of the air
of uncertainty around the QB position, which may have played a
role in the talented TE seeing just nine targets over a three-week
stretch toward the end of 2017. Increasing frustrations with the
organization and his role could further damage ASJ as an NFL commodity,
and I hope that doesnít happen if he resigns with New York.
But if McCown signs, it makes sense to bring back ASJ right along
Other possibilities: Bears, Broncos, Patriots, Packers
The Eagles didnít lose much in terms of athletic ability
when Zach Ertz was forced to miss a couple games due to a concussion
and other injuries last season, and thatís because Burton
stepped in and produced. He finished the season with 23-248-5
as a backup and at 6-3, 235 pounds, he projects as the pass-receiving
TE on any team he goes to. His Super Bowl TD pass to Nick Foles
launched him into the national consciousness a bit, and heís
likely to earn a few more dollars this season with that positive
exposure. In college at Florida, Burton played QB, FB, TE and
WR, and his versatility could make him a useful red zone weapon
wherever he lands. Heís also a standout special teamsí
contributor. Unfortunately, heís not an every-down type
player and his size limits his ability to handle the rigors of
blocking NFL defensive ends and OLBs.
Best fit: Patriots
I know it sounds ridiculous, but Burton would fit perfectly into
this offense with his skill set and the presence of Rob Gronkowski
as the starting TE. The Patriots arenít afraid to use smaller
receivers around the goal line, but a TE with WR abilities (and
some QB skills) had to have caught the attention of Bill Belichick.
Itíd be just like the Pats to snap up one of the guys that
beat them, and thereís a definite need for a capable second
TE in Beantown.
Other possibilities: Bears, Falcons, Bengals, Cowboys
Eifert is a talented pass catcher and game-breaker type TE who
has really struggled with injuries during his five-year NFL career.
A torn ligament in his elbow that ended his 2014 season after 1 game
A back injury that sidelined him after 8 games in 2016
A nasty back injury that required surgery in late December 2017
In the 39 games he has played, Eifert has racked up 127-1537-20
Ė impressive totals. His 13 touchdowns during his Pro-Bowl
2015 season were especially remarkable considering he caught just
52 passes that season. But none of that matters if heís
not on the field, and his 2018 status, including his return to
practice or training camp, is still in doubt.
Best fit: Bengals
I know, I know Ė Iím boring. But you know who else
is? The Bengals, a team that inexplicably kept Marvin Lewis on
for another season despite a massive amount of evidence that pointed
to them moving on. They have a hard time saying goodbye, and as
embattled a time Eifert has had in Cincinnati with his injuries,
I doubt theyíll cast him aside. Just look at the statement
Lewis made in support of re-signing Eifert in January:
ďObviously, Tylerís career is not what he wanted,
or what we expected. He has had some injuries he has continually
had to overcome, and he is fighting back from some this year.Ē
Yes, Marvin. Eifert did not expect this to be his career, or
for you to be his coach in 2018, so he may just decide to move
along. But nobody needs Eifert perhaps as much as A.J. Green,
who gets hammered with smothering defense in the absence of the
playmaking TE. If the injury picture thatís haunted Eifert
remains cloudy heading into the spring and summer, it might just
make the most sense for Eifert to stay with the Bengals.
Other possibilities: Falcons, Texans, Packers, Jaguars
Brate is a fine receiving TE with plenty of fantasy upside and
the ability to dominate targets against defenses that canít
handle double-TE sets. At the start of the season, when Jameis Winston and O.J. Howard were both healthy, Brate was consistently
productive as defenses were forced to guess which TE would run
a pass route and which would block. Once the defense tipped its
hand, Winston would just call the play that favored the mismatch.
As a move-around, short-to-intermediate option, Brate is perfect
for pairing with an even taller, more physical and rangy TE with
explosive downfield ability. No team does that quite as well as
the Patriots did with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but
a few teams may be looking at developing more of those plays with
a guy like Brate playing the Hernandez role.
Best fit: Steelers
If the Patriots donít go for Burton, Iím almost certain
theyíll make a play for Brate. But the Steelers are also
being bandied about as a possible landing spot for the Harvard
alum, and with good reason. Heíd pair quite well with Jesse James and provide a dual receiving threat option at the position
alongside Vance McDonald. The Steelers will be needing some of
those intermediate options if RB LeíVeon Bell signs with
another team in 2018. Pittsburgh has been not-so-quietly looking
for a vaunted TE since Heath Miller retired, and Brate makes sense
considering all the cap space that would be freed up with Bell
out the door. Thereís also the possibility that the Bucs
decide Brate is indispensable to the offense, and pay him what
he would command in the free market.
Other possibilities: 49ers, Patriots, Bucs, Broncos