Fantasy football: What to know about TE position amid rash of injuries

So few TEs are considered reliable starters in fantasy football. So, when the position becomes depleted by injuries, it’s a major drag on managers’ roster management.

Seven of the 15 highest-drafted tight ends, based on ESPN’s average draft position (ADP) one week before the season began, are hurt to varying degrees. Preseason consensus top TE Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) is battling an ankle injury, and his status for Thursday is up in the air. That’s better than Delanie Walker (Titans, sixth in ADP), who suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 1. Those who selected Greg Olsen (Panthers, fourth in ADP), Evan Engram (Giants, seventh in ADP), and Jack Doyle (Colts, 10th in ADP) aren’t any happier.

The result is a TE landscape that boasts a few high-scoring, must-start players and a bunch of filler. Jared Cook (Raiders), Travis Kelce (Chiefs), Zach Ertz (Eagles) and George Kittle (49ers) all average between 14-19 PPR points. Among the players entering Week 5 without a known injury concern, seven other players are producing about 9-12 points per game.

That leaves 11 players producing at least nine points per game. Two of them — Jesse James and Vance McDonald — both play for the Steelers, creating the tricky situation of an even split at TE. One of them, Trey Burton (Bears), is on a bye this week. The pool of viable players is thin right now, and it’s bound to get worse as some weeks have more than two teams on a bye; Week 7 byes look to be the roughest on positional depth.

Ten-team leagues should be able to just barely scrape by right now with every team having a shot at an acceptable-to-awesome starter. Deeper leagues, especially those with 14 or more teams, are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Those in such situations might be better off gambling on weekly matchups than sticking with the 14th-best healthy TE.