Fantasy: Which TEs will exceed expectations in 2017?
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Get ready for your season with theScore's 2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

Fantasy owners who miss out on one of the top four tight ends often wait till much later in the draft to address the position, confident they'll find the next breakout star.

It's a good plan, if you can pinpoint which tight ends will return value in the later rounds.

Who will exceed expectations?

Eric Ebron

Many fantasy owners have already given up on Ebron, a 2014 first-rounder who has struggled to make a major impact on the Lions' offense. However, Ebron is just 24 years old and is coming off his best season as a pro, a campaign that might have been a fantasy breakout if the Lions hadn't signed Anquan Boldin.

Despite appearing in just 13 games, Ebron caught 61 passes for 711 yards, but scored just one touchdown. He finished as the TE15 in standard formats, and did we mention he scored just once? Had Ebron bumped that number up to three, it would have pushed him into the top 10 among fantasy tight ends.

Boldin's presence in the middle of the field stole targets from Ebron, especially around the red zone, where the veteran wideout hauled in eight touchdowns. His departure creates a massive opportunity for Ebron to become a bigger TD threat, something he's more than capable of being after scoring five times in 2015.

Tight end is a position where players often take time to develop in the NFL. Rookie tight ends rarely produce big statistical seasons, with breakouts often taking place after players have spent a couple years in the league. Ebron's athleticism was always evident, but his maturity and knowledge of the game may finally be catching up.

The Lions are also working out of more two-tight end sets in training camp, which should benefit Ebron by allowing him to focus on his role as a pass-catcher while teammate Darren Fells handles blocking duties.

Everything is lining up for Ebron to vastly outproduce his current ADP as TE14 in the 11th round. Fantasy owners who may have been burned by him in the past need to wipe the slate clean and accept his breakout wasn't cancelled, but simply delayed.

Austin Hooper

Hooper has a much shorter resume than Ebron, and as such, he's a far more speculative buy in fantasy, but there's low-end TE1 potential for him as the starter in Atlanta.

As a rookie, Hooper played limited snaps on the Falcons' high-powered offense, resulting in 19 receptions, 271 yards, and three touchdowns. His playing time grew as the season went on and Matt Ryan showed faith in Hooper during Super Bowl LI, targeting the young tight end six times, including on a 19-yard score.

In an effort to improve chemistry with his MVP quarterback, Hooper worked out with Ryan during the offseason. Ryan gushed about his tight end in June, talking up his role in the offense and his poise on the field.

There are plenty of passing weapons on the Falcons' offense, which limits Hooper's ceiling, but there's really no downside to selecting him in the 15th round. Don't rush out and make Hooper your fantasy starter - he's more of a bench stash or one half of a quality tight end committee, with a chance to blow up if Atlanta decides to push the ball his way.

Jason Witten

Let's be clear, there's nothing exciting about drafting Witten. Yet, the 35-year-old keeps delivering steady performances year after year.

As Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros recently pointed out, Witten has finished as a TE1 in fantasy every season since 2007. It's an impressive feat for a player most fans mock for being the epitome of a "dad runner."

While he lacks the upside of other players on this list, Witten, who is annually written off due to his age and lack of field-stretching ability, could easily exceed expectations.

It didn't take long for Witten to build an on-field rapport with Dak Prescott, and since Jerry Jones continues to disregard the wide receiver depth chart behind Dez Bryant, the tight end spot will remain important in the Cowboys' passing game.

Explosive second-year tight end Rico Gathers looks like the future at the position for Dallas and could earn snaps in the regular season, but Witten is the safety net in the offense.

Drafting Witten locks you into low-end TE1 numbers at best, but that's still a value given his 13th-round ADP.

Deep Shots

Evan Engram - As mentioned earlier, tight ends don't often make an impact in their first season in the league. Good thing that Engram isn't a real tight end. The rookie profiles as more of a big-bodied wide receiver with incredible speed and athleticism for someone with a 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame. Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall will soak up a ton of targets, but Engram was drafted for a reason and the Giants could put him to use immediately.

Erik Swoope - The Colts' No. 2 tight end is another physical specimen, who is hoping to use his gifts to make his mark in the NFL. Jack Doyle is the starter in Indianapolis, but Swoope will see plenty of snaps in two-tight end sets and should be primed to break out if Doyle misses time.

Dwayne Allen - After being traded to the Patriots, Allen lands in an excellent spot as the backup to Rob Gronkowski. Everyone hopes Gronk makes it through the year healthy, but his injuries have piled up in recent seasons. Last year, Martellus Bennett filled in when Gronk was sidelined and ended the year as the TE7 in fantasy. While he isn't as talented as Bennett, Allen is capable of posting big numbers if an injury occurs ahead of him on the depth chart.

Who will exceed expectations?

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

Fantasy: Which TEs will exceed expectations in 2017?
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