The past several seasons featured a golden era for college fantasy tight ends, with Adam Breneman, Jaylen Samuels, Mark Andrews and Mike Gesicki all scoring above average points. All four of these guys are gone, so there are big shoes to fill in 2018. With spring training on the horizon, these are the top-10 returning starters at tight end for 2018.
10. Louis Dorsey, Illinois
Illinois doesn’t have the most appealing offense, but Louis Dorsey may be the anomaly. Dorsey finished 2017 with just under 400 yards receiving on 22 receptions. If Lovie Smith can develop plays to get Dorsey the ball, there is no reason that he can’t be a top-flight tight end in 2018. He averaged 18 yards per catch last season as a freshman, and he will only get better as time goes on.
9. Dax Raymond, Utah State
After redshirting his sophomore season, Dax Raymond led all Mountain West Conference tight ends in receptions and receiving yards. Dax was fairly hit or miss in the final games of the season, but with Jordan Love finally overtaking Kent Myers at quarterback, Raymond will likely provide a more consistent effort in 2018. The key for Raymond’s value in 2018 is his total touchdowns. He scored only once last season, but he’ll need to find the end zone more consistently this year.
8. Harrison Bryant, FAU
Harrison Bryant benefits from a Lane Kiffin offense that finished top-10 in the nation last season. Bryant finished second in receiving yards and third in receptions in the CUSA last season, but considering he was behind the third and fifth best fantasy tight ends, he’s in good company. The one downfall that FAU faces is the sudden loss of Jason Driskel. With Driskel gone, the quarterback competition in Boca is wide open, and this could be beneficial or detrimental to Bryant’s value. Bryant finished with 32 receptions, 408 yards, and five touchdowns in 2017.
7. Matt Bushman, BYU
Matt Bushman did surprisingly well in a bottom-15 offense last season. Of the 4,227 yards BYU produced in 2017, Bushman accounted for 520 of them and led all Cougars in receiving yards and receptions. Tanner Mangum returns in 2018, and I have yet to figure out if that is a positive or a negative after a promising freshman campaign led to an atrocious junior effort. Bushman has a high floor considering his numbers last season, but the lack of quarterback play is disappointing.
6. Noah Togiai, Oregon State
There wasn’t a tight end that I was more excited to see last season than Noah Togiai, but the Oregon State staff left me greatly disappointed. Togiai caught 12 passes for 162 yards in the first two contests and looked to be a top-five tight end before catching just two passes for 18 yards in the next three games. A new coach in Jonathan Smith may be the answer I’m looking for in a successful Togiai season. Whether it’s Mason Moran or Aidan Willard, the Beavers are going to be a pass-first offense in 2018, and the loss of Ryan Nall only cements that fact. Togiai is the most talented returning receiver in the Beaver offense this season with Seth Collins, so expect him to hit his full potential in 2018.
5. Kaden Smith, Stanford
Fish are going to swim, and Stanford is going to produce a fantasy-relevant tight end. Kaden Smith was exactly that guy for the Cardinal last season, with the second highest receiving touchdown total and the fourth most receiving yards on Stanford’s roster. Stanford’s quarterback situation is still an unknown, but the picture certainly cleared slightly with the transfer of Keller Chryst. Whether Ryan Burns or KJ Costello take the starting role this season, Smith will have an improved performance in 2018, and Bryce Love’s return will provide a power run game to open up the Cardinal passing game.
4. Caleb Wilson, UCLA
Oh, what could have been in 2017. Caleb Wilson began the year with a 15-reception, 205-yard game against Texas A&M and topped 100 yards again against Stanford in Week 4 before suffering a foot injury in Week 5 against Colorado. Chip Kelly’s offenses haven’t historically utilized tight ends, but Wilson’s pass-catching ability essentially makes him a big wideout for either Devon Modster or Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
3. Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
Tommy Sweeney began the year universally undrafted before a late-season boom skyrocketed his fantasy value. Sweeney finished last season leading all Boston College receivers in receptions yards. Darius Wade may not have the best arm, but with all the attention that AJ Dillon will demand from opposing defenses, he doesn’t have to. Expect Sweeney to take a big step forward after a big late-season spurt that featured two 20+ fantasy-point games.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Noah Fant served as one of the more consistent fantasy options at tight end last season, and the return of Nathan Stanley will continue the cycle. Fant scored fewer than 10 fantasy points only five times last season in 12 games and finished as the ninth-best tight end in 2017. Fant may have been the second leading receiver for an Iowa offense that finished 117th nationally, but he had the 11th most receiving touchdowns of anyone in the country. His red zone presence is something to be desired by any fantasy owner going into the 2018 season.
1. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
You don’t need to know how to pronounce his last name to know that Albert Okwuegbunam is the best returning option at tight end. Okwuegbunam benefits from having one of the best quarterbacks in college football in Drew Lock and operates in 2017’s eighth-best offense. The tight end from Springfield finished just outside of the top-10 tight ends last season and was 11th in the nation in receiving touchdowns. The loss of J’Mon Moore opens up more touches for Albert, which only makes him more valuable. Okwuegbunam finished second in Receptions and Receiving Yards for an SEC tight end last season, and with Hayden Hurst gone, there’s no doubt he’s the best SEC tight end in 2018.
Working on your fantasy big board for the 2018 season? Check out the other top-10 returning lists: