Quag OOOHHHH
I am not referring to the character on Family Guy who was a neighbor to the Griffin’s when I refer to “Quagmire” but I do own a dynasty team whose tight end situation is scary close to that of Glenn Quagmires’ life. After having had a dynasty divorce with Julius thomas and Jordan Reed and numerous affairs with other’s, I am left with a hope and a prayer at the position in a league I finished runner up to an owner who rosters both Greg Olsen and Tyler Eifert in what is now a tight end premium league that rewards TE’s 1.5 PPR as opposed to 1.0 PPR for all others.

In one controversial episode of Family Guy, Quagmire’s dad (Dan Quagmire) had a sex change and became known as Ida Davis which leaves Glenn unsure if he can deal with the change.  Well I can relate to Glenn as I still own Martellus Bennett who recently had a team change and is now known on my team as Ida know leaving me a bit unsure as well? As a matter of fact, I have quite a few TE’s on my roster right now that I don’t know about.
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Let’s just say when I stare at the TE’s on my roster, I’m not saying “giggity, giggity, giggity” as Quagmire did when he was excited nor am I saying boogity, boogity, boogity as Darrell Waltrip does at the beginning of a Nascar race!

So some of you may be asking just what is a “quagmire”? According to Merriam – Webster, it is a situation that is difficult to get out of, a situation that is full of problems or a difficult, precarious or entrapping position which all remind me of my situation at TE.

In standard PPR leagues last year the top five tight ends (in order) were Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker, Gary Barnidge and Greg Olsen with Ben Watson, Travis Kelce, Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Jason Witten rounding out the top ten. At least two of these players (Barnidge and Watson) were not expected by most to be anywhere near the top ten tight ends in fantasy but somehow found there way to the top with one of them actually landing in the top five and the other just outside at #6.

I fully expect this list to look different yet again this year but find it challenging to picture how I expect it to look a year from now so I thought I’d break it down as to my first thoughts on how I expect the TE quagmire to look after the 2016 season ends.

So here is my best shot at what I believe will be the top ten TE’s (in no particular order) in 2016:
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Rob Gronkowski: I have heard some owners who are hesitant to take Gronk in re-draft leagues with Tom Brady likely missing the first four games (and Gronk likely gone in the first 5 -10 picks) but I don’t believe that will have much of an impact on a stud tight ends’ performance and could actually inflate his stats due to an inexperienced quarterback looking for that quick relief from pressure by being able to dump off the ball to the tight end (or running back).

So yes, I am still counting on Gronk to remain amongst the top five TE’s if not at the very top again and have no doubts in doing so as this should not be a question for any fantasy owner but amazingly it is as some insist on dwelling over the loss of Brady for four measily games so don’t be one of them!
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Coby Fleener: The same guy that will be replacing Ben Watson in the Big Easy is the same guy who will be replacing him in the top ten. Yes, there was a ton of hype surrounding another TE playing for the Saints in Josh Hill last year but luckily I wasn’t buying what others were trying to sell me when it came to Hill just one year ago.

Coby Fleener gets a new start with an old but experienced QB who likes to throw to his TE on a team that really provides no other legitimate competition at the position unless you still consider Josh Hill a threat but I obviously do not.

The big difference between Josh Hill and Coby Fleener is that Coby has actually been productive in the NFL even though his opportunities were limited due to the fact that he had to split time and targets in Indianapolis with TE Dwayne Allen whom the Colts just signed to a four year extension. I fully expect to see Coby Fleener have a top ten TE season in 2016 and beyond as he signed a five year deal with the Saints.

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Delanie Walker: Walker had too good of a season last year to leave him off this list as he was one of four TE’s to eclipse 1000 yards last year and not only finished first in targets (133) but caught 70% of those targets to also lead the league in receptions (94) for a TE. Those stats are too difficult to ignore and are the main reason he is on this list. Those same stats are also the reasons the Titans agreed to sign him to a two year contract extension back in March.

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Jordan Reed: The only thing that will keep Jordan Reed from this list is his health as he has all the ability in the world to accomplish top ten stats (not to mention top five) and a QB who can deliver the ball as Reed and QB Kirk Cousins made each other better. As a matter of fact, Cousin’s stats greatly improved with Reed on the field as his QB rating was 111.9 with Reed and just 73.3 without him.

The Redskins did bring Vernon Davis on board but after watching his last couple seasons in San Francisco and witnessing his lack of production with the Broncos after he was traded mid-season last year, it would be foolish to consider him any type of threat to Reed’s production.

If Reed is healthy for at least 14 games, he will likely be in the top five TE class this year just as he was last year after playing in 14 games while only being listed as a starter in 8 of them. Reed actually had more catches (87) from fewer targets (114) than Gronk (72 cathes out of 120 targets) while scoring equal TD’s (11) in one less game. He may not have that same “big play” potential as Gronk but Reed is every bit as good when it comes to consistency and production.

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Zack Ertz: Zach Ertz quietly finished the season as the #9 fantasy TE in PPR leagues last year and is destined to improve on that after having another year of experience in the NFL. Like last year, I am really high on Ertz again this year and offered the 1.08 for him before the rookie draft and was denied without so much as a counter offer as I am convinced it is the league’s goal to insure I don’t get the ring at the end of the year which is probably more true than I know. I would be willing to bet that Ertz will be a top ten TE this year and has the potential to break into the top five.

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Julius Thomas
: Just as the former Bronco got off to a slow start in the NFL due to injuries, Julius Thomas got off to a slow start in his first year with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the same reason as he missed the first four games of the 2016 regular season due to a broken hand but was able to finish the season healthy and has had a great start to his offseason being deemed “unstoppable” in the local media and WR Allen Robinson recently went as far to say that Julius is the best pass-catching TE in the NFL. Julius is set to have a banner year and is a great asset to any fantasy roster.

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Travis Kelce: Truth be told, I have never been a big fan of Travis Kelce and have never owned him in any league but the lack of depth at the position results in him potentially landing in the top ten for the third year in a row as he advances his career in the NFL and matures at the pro level.

Don’t get me wrong, Kelce has the measurables and the talent for sure but I have a hard time trusting anyone in the Chiefs offense and I know I am not alone. No matter if it’s Jamaal Charles and his struggles to stay healthy or the Chiefs insistence on having that ball-controlling lackadaisical offense that doesn’t seem to have any intentions of being that high-powered offense that produces fantasy studs as we have seen with other teams, fantasy owners are often hesitant when it comes to rostering a Kansas City Chief.

But it apparently doesn’t matter what kind of offense the Chiefs are displaying in the case of their starting TE, what matters is that Kelce has had back to back top ten seasons at TE and is looking to gain that hat trick at the position this year and is likely to do so.

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Greg Olsen: Greg Olsen is pretty much a shoe-in as he has been one of the most consistent TE’s over the last few years after coming off back to back top five seasons and finishing in the top four the last 4 years. He has a young stud at QB in Cam Newton and an offensive coordinator in Mike Shula that likes to throw the ball to the TE. Until Olsen shows signs of slowing down, he will be on this list annually.
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Gary Barnidge: I really struggled with this one but couldn’t find it in me to not include him as he saw a ton of targets (125) last year, made some incredible plays and has absolutely zero competition at the position and not much as a receiver for that matter.

Last year may or may not have been a fluke for Barnidge but we will have a better idea after seeing if he can repeat his production last year because he should get plenty of opportunities in Cleveland.

No doubt that the Browns will be a run first offense with rookie WR Corey Coleman and second year RB Duke Johnson as the only other big threats in the receiving game but Barnidge will get plenty of opportunities to produce similar stats (79 receptions, 1043 yards, 9 TD’s) as he did last year. His stats may not be as great as they were this past year but they will be good enough to earn him a spot in the top ten.

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Antonio Gates: This will be the last year we see Antonio Gates in the top ten after finishing last year just outside and could very well be his last year in the league depending on how he feels at the end of the season after just signing a two year deal with the Chargers this Spring.

I realize that the Chargers just spent an early second round pick on TE Hunter Henry in the 2016 NFL Draft but it is not common for a TE to enter the NFL and start producing immediately leaving Gates with one last hurrah.

We all witnessed former NFL TE Tony Gonzalez finish his career on top and I fully expect another NFL TE to do the same as long as he can remain healthy……..that TE is Antonio Gates!
Those are my early projections for tight ends who will finish the 2016 season in the top ten at the position. It is your job to put them in order as you see fit or even replace one or more of these guys with one of your own 2016 targets as this is only meant to be a starting point to get the wheels turning with ten potential top TE’s before the start of the season.

Those in the top ten last year that did not make my list this year are Watson, Eifert and Witten as Watson is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens whose tight end situation is a complete mess for fantasy owners and it’s sounding more and more likely that Eifert will miss some time (2 – 4 games) at the beginning of the season after having to have surgery on an ankle injury he suffered in last years Pro Bowl. As far as Jason Witten goes, well I think father time is finally catching up to Jason as his aggressive play has forced his body to take a beating and I have a feeling that Jason’s career is coming to an end as his better years are now behind him. He should have another solid year if he can stay healthy but just not a top ten year for TE’s.

So what are your thoughts? Do any of the guys not listed from last year’s top ten (Watson, Eifert and Witten) deserve to be mentioned this year or do you have that lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket that is whispering another TE’s name?

There are some other TE’s that tempted me to include them in my list such as Kyle Rudolph who seems to be determined to be a top player in Minnesota, Eric Ebron who is challenged to take the next step this year after the departure of Calvin Johnson, Zach Miller now that he is “The Man” at TE in Chicago with Martellus leaving, Jimmy Graham who has not been the same stud TE after spraining his shoulder during his last year with the Saints and tearing his patellar tendon last year with the Seahawks and Vance McDonald whom I believe will take advantage of his opportunity in San Francisco this year with Vernon Davis out of the picture but they are still long shots for me as are the rookies entering their first year in the NFL.