Jake Ciely

Fantasy Football Rookie TEs: Avoid Eric Ebron

May 20, 2014 8:57 AM EST

I get it. As much as I cover rookies, whether fantasy or just draft related, I understand the excitement. Fans fawn over rookies every year, thinking those players can fix all of their team's problems. It's why the NFL Draft carries such high ratings.

It carries over into fantasy as well. Owners head into drafts looking to grab the "next best thing" and would rather reach on a rookie and his upside. Instead of taking the safe vet, owners view the unknown potential as more of a surety than the uncertainty it truly is.

Now, rookie running backs can certainly make an impact, heck, even quarterbacks are starter quality plenty of times. But, there is no position worse for the rookie status than tight end.

I bring this up because the love for the Lions Eric Ebron is already out of control. Currently, Ebron has an ADP of 14th on myfantasyleague.com, which is just ahead of Charles Clay (it can alternate daily). If history has taught us anything, it's that Ebron's ADP is way too high. As you know, I'm numbers oriented and am not going to throw out a fact like this without giving you some proof. So let's have at it.

As with most statistical gatherings, I've gone back a decade. These numbers encompass all drafts from 2004-13: a nice, solid 10 years. I also tried to be fair with the rankings, including tight ends drafted in the first four rounds. Originally, I had Rounds 1-3, but there were some nice finds in Round 4s, so I went deeper. That gives us 72 tight ends drafted in Rounds 1-4 from 2004-13.

Let's take just the first round rookie tight ends to start. After all, Ebron is a first rounder, and those are the ones that should bring guaranteed production. Of the 10 first round picks, none finished as a TE1 in standard leagues as a rookie. Not.a.one. Okay, to be fair, "standard" encompasses 10-team leagues. The best type of league, and the way you should be playing, is a 12-team league, so let's check those as well. Look, we have improvement! One tight end, Heath Miller in 2005, finished as a TE1… and barely. Miller checked in at 12th overall. The average finish for all first round tight ends in their rookie season is 37.6. It gets better after the first year, but more on that later.

For now, we'll go round-by-round for the rest. Round 2 picks (17 total) had two players finish as TE1s both in 10-team and 12-team leagues – John Carlson and Rob Gronkowski. Round 3 picks: 22, 0, 0. Round 4 picks: 23, 0, 1 – Aaron Hernandez. There you have it. In 10 years, we have four rookie tight ends out of 72. That's a mere 5.5 percent. Even if you just take the first rounders, we're still at 10 percent in a 12-team format.

It's not all doom and gloom for young tight ends. You should still grab them, just by waiting until the sophomore campaign or even their third year for best results. The average ranking for second year tight ends is 56.2, and it jumps to its highest at 48.3 in the third year. The number of TE1s increases to seven for 10-teamers and 11 for 12-team leagues in Year 2 and peaks at 14/17 in Year 3. The fourth year is still pretty darn good with seven and eight tight ends hitting TE1 value, and then it continues to drop from there.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8 Year 9 Year 10
TE1 Total 10-team 2 7 14 7 4 4 4 2 0 0
TE1 Total 12-team 4 11 17 8 5 4 4 2 0 0
TE1 % 10-team 2.8% 9.7% 19.4% 9.7% 5.6% 5.6% 5.6% 2.8% 0.0% 0.0%
TE1 % 12-team 5.6% 15.3% 23.6% 11.1% 6.9% 5.6% 5.6% 2.8% 0.0% 0.0%

Not only do we have proof that you should avoid the rookie tight ends, but we also found a sweet spot for them. Years 2-4 are the best when targeting tight ends in fantasy football. In fact, 10 tight ends held a TE1 status for at least two years within the Year 2-4 span.

Remember these numbers when drafting for 2014. Sure, there is a chance (10 percent) that Ebron could provide TE1 value, but the potential doesn't outweigh the cost and risk associated. If Ebron cost you a mid-TE2 price, then by all means, take the plunge. As proven though, you are better off waiting until next year before making that move. Hint, hint: Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz are in their second year by the way.