Fantasy: 3 deep sleepers at TE

Target Seahawks TE Gerald Everett

By: Ravi Krishnan

So here we are, two days away from the much-awaited 2021 season of our favorite pastime, the National Football League. For many of us that follow the NFL, a big driver to our enthusiasm is our craziness towards Fantasy Football in general and looking for gold nuggets in the NFL marshlands, to be more specific. While everyone thinks, talks, and reads about the Top 100 players to be drafted, some of us are keener to unearth viable fantasy players for your roster from among the bottom-feeders in the NFL players’ universes.

Today’s article examines the Tight End (TE) position and looks at three potentially unseen heroes at the spot — or, super-deep sleepers, to be referential to fantasy football. So, without any further ado, here are 3 super-duper-sleeper TE picks for the 2021 fantasy football season.

  1. Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks’ new OC, Shane Waldron was the passing game coordinator with the Rams last season. He brings with him a quick-passing style of offense that should work wonders in a Russ Wilson-helmed offensive unit. And one of the biggest factors in this offense could potentially be its newest TE – Gerald Everett. He played under Waldron in LA, and is familiar with his system. He was already in line to pick up the 77 targets left vacant by Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister last year, but should garner many many more in Waldron’s TE-friendly system. Most significantly, Seattle has no clear No. 3 target in its passing offense behind DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett — Everett could very easily be the missing piece.

2021 Average Draft Position (ADP): #17 in Half-PPR

Projected Upside Ranking for Season: Top 8 among TEs

  1. Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

Two years back, Jarwin showed flashes of big-play potential in a limited role behind Jason Witten. His promise was attractive enough for the Cowboys to give him a four-year, $22 million extension in the offseason – but to his misfortune, he tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2020.  In his absence, Dalton Schulz was well on his way to a TE1 finish until Dak Prescott’s untimely injury. Now Jarwin is back, he’s healthy, and has been getting his due reps as a starter during pre-season practices and games. Yes, there is a slight chance of his getting Wally Pipped by Schultz, but fact is that Jarwin is the more athletic, more naturally skilled player at the position; also, he’s the one the team has invested in, and that ultimately matters. Even from an on-field data perspective, Jarwin’s upside is easy to see – Schultz was targeted 89 times last year and had luminaries such as Cooper Rush and Garrett Gilbert throwing to him; a healthy Jarwin getting passes thrown to him by a healthy Dak could very viably get past 100 targets and a potential Top 10 TE finish to the season.

2021 Average Draft Position (ADP): #21 in Half-PPR

Projected Upside Ranking for Season: Top 10 among TEs

  1. Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints

The NFL has changed over the years in player skills, athletic levels, talent pre-requisites and overall make-up of what it takes to be a star contributor. In this context, the TE position has probably seen the most radical transformation — from stodgy-blocking-experts-with-safe-hands to tall-basketball players-with WR hands. Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller and others have made the TE spot a unique differentiator. Many of these stars are as good, if not better, than top-level WRs, and some actually started as one. And this is the context behind my last sleeper of the day – Juwan Johnson. He was a WR until this past summer and is now a converted TE. On a team that uses TEs a lot and is now missing its top two players at the position (Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett) due to injuries, Johnson could be the sneakiest of sneaky picks for you in the late rounds. Oh, and the best part about Johnson is his position eligibility. Some sites have him as a WR, some as TE, and there are a few sites. that have granted him eligibility at both. 

2021 Average Draft Position (ADP): #48 in Half-PPR

Projected Upside Ranking for Season: Top 12 among TEs

Two sleeper TEs to target in fantasy

NFL TEs to target in fantasy

By: Brady Akins

NFL TEs are among the most confusing positions in all of fantasy football.

It’s far from glamorous. Just about every player at the position, with the exception of Kansas City’s Travis Kelce and Las Vegas’ Darren Waller on a good day, can’t come close to matching the production of other skill position players.

And yet, if you miss out on the top two or three players at the position, you’ll likely spend your season frustrated at inconsistent play and repeated low-scoring weeks. This is why finding sleepers is crucial when it comes to tight end.

Load up on running backs and receivers, wait until Round 12 or 13 to draft either of these two sleeper superstars and watch their surprisingly strong play reward your patience. 

Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (Average Draft Position — TE10)

As if the Rams’ offense wasn’t spoiled for skill position riches with their running backs and wide receivers in 2020, Los Angeles also had a deep and talented cast of tight ends, with Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett headlining a bunch that was difficult to comfortably bet on last season due to their tendency to take targets from each other. 

Between Higbee and Everett, the tight end duo combined for 122 targets last season– with the target share being nearly 50/50 (Everett with 62 targets, Higbee with 60). 

In a cruel twist of fantasy football fate, the tight end-dependent passing game of the Rams didn’t have a star fantasy player at the position. But two major changes in the status quo should change that.

The most important factor being, that once deep group of tight ends has significantly shallowed up. Higbee remains, but Everett is gone– leaving 62 targets and 41 catches unclaimed. Higbee will only benefit from having less talent around him at the position.

And, of course, the headline-grabbing factor, Los Angeles’ starting quarterback from last season is out, traded along with a handful of draft picks for the Lions’ Matthew Stafford, who should, in theory, be an upgrade at the position.

Between the absence of Everett and the addition of Stafford, Higbee should be in line for a masterpiece fantasy football season. One that exceeds the expectations of a TE10.

Irv Smith Jr, Minnesota Vikings (Average Draft Position — TE13)

Similar to Higbee, Minnesota’s Irv Smith Jr should be in line for a massive bump in production, thanks to some competition being drained from the Vikings’ tight end pool.

Gone from the Vikings roster this season is the Pro Bowl veteran anchor of the offense, Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph was the go-to for Minnesota in the games he played in 2020. Really, Rudolph has been the go-to at the Vikings’ tight end position since 2011. Now, he’s on the Giants roster, leaving the door open for Smith Jr. to take full control.

Smith Jr. has earned the ire of a few in the fantasy football community for not breaking out sooner. Between his high second-round draft status and his strong showing in college playing for the NFL skill-position factory Alabama Crimson Tide, many thought that Smith Jr. would be a star from the moment he stepped onto the field.

But Smith Jr’s 36 catches in his rookie season weren’t impressive to many, nor were his 30 catches in his sophomore season. And now, the Vikings’ tight end has fallen down draft boards– despite his newly favorable offensive situation. 

But this could be the breakout year that Smith Jr has needed, as the former Alabama star has set a precedent for thriving without Rudolph in the mix. Through the final four weeks of 2020, the only four games that Rudolph has been inactive since Smith Jr arrived in 2019, the current Minnesota TE1 thrived to the tune of finishing as the overall TE4 in PPR leagues, and the TE3 in standard-scoring formats. 

In those final four games, Smith Jr. recorded half of his total catches for the season, more than half of his yards, and saw a career-high for targets in a game with nine in Week 16 against the Saints, where the Vikings tight end rewarded his offense for the increased opportunity with two receiving touchdowns.

All is set for Smith Jr. to finally reach his potential of a definitive TE1 in any fantasy scoring format– and you could add him to your roster in the very late rounds of your league’s draft.

Dynasty TE Outlook For New England Patriots

What is the dynasty outlook of the Patriots TEs?

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @JMoeller05)

What a week it has been for the Patriots. Spending money as if it was going out of style. As of March 18th a whopping $222 million spent in free agency, over $70 million more than anyone else this offseason. Jonnu Smith was the first domino, as he signed a four-year $50 million contract on Monday. The Patriots then double-dipped one day later signing Hunter Henry to a three-year $37 million contract. The team has spent a combined $87 million on the tight end position alone in free agency. $56 million of that was guaranteed.

The instant comparison for anyone familiar with fantasy football within the last decade is to harken back to the 2011 season. The pinnacle for tight end stands, as Gronkowski and Hernandez finished top three at the tight end position. I wanted to take a look back at that historic tight end season and see how it compares to the Patriots for 2021 and beyond.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez revamped how we feel about tight ends in fantasy. Gronkowski was the main attraction of the two and put up the greatest individual tight end season. To the tune of 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns on 124 targets. This translates to 324.7 fantasy points in full Point Per Reception (PPR) Leagues. Hernandez was no slouch himself, as he finished with 79 receptions for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns on 113 targets. That reached 212 fantasy points and would have put Hernandez as the TE3 last year right behind Kelce, and Waller.

Now there is an elephant in the room when trying to translate the 2011 season to the 2021 room. Tom Brady is no longer the quarterback of the Patriots. The Patriots were a top 10 in passing play rate during the 2011 season in 58% of plays called ending in a pass. Fast forward to the 2021 season with Cam Newton as the quarterback and the Patriots passed it 47% of the time. That percent difference is equal to the team calling 107 fewer passing plays over the year. Broken down that is 6.7 fewer passes a game to go around, the equivalent of going from Roethlisberger who was 3rd in attempts to Bridgewater who was 16th in attempts last year.

These types of numbers cannot be denied when evaluating players moving into new situations. Let us break down both Smith and Henry as players, and how they will be used by the Patriots in 2021 and beyond.

Jonnu Smith

Jonnu has been a tantalizing athlete at the tight end position. A player who had a breakout age of 18.0 (100th) paired with a speed and burst score above 84% screams one of the more talented players at the position. What has been perplexing about Jonnu is his lack of usage in the passing game in Tennessee. Jonnu was stuck behind Delanie Walker his rookie year, learning the ropes of the position. The following three years saw him struggle to make an impact while competing with the likes of Luke Stocker, and Anthony Firkser. (That’s not ideal)

What has been clear is his lack of usage in the passing game throughout his career in Tennessee. Jonnu averaged a 15% snap share in special teams his first three seasons. Last year it dropped to 3% as he became a much more important part of the offense. If a team values a player on offense they will minimize the number of snaps played on special teams. Look at any tight end snaps played. If that player is over 10% of special teams snaps, they are not viewed as an essential part of the offense.

Hunter Henry

While Hunter Henry is not the supreme athlete that Jonnu Smith is, he is no slouch. Henry has been one of the more productive tight ends in the league since his rookie year. The issue has never been talent, as Henry also broke out during his age 18 freshman year at Arkansas. Injuries are the worry, as Henry has never played a full season. Playing only 68% of his career games due largely to an ACL tear that cost him the entire 2018 season. His production has been constant In his young NFL career Henry has played he has averaged 49 receptions for 580.5 yards and 5.25 touchdowns on 71 targets. Henry had a career year in 2020, he was a top ten tight end in numerous categories this year such as targets, receptions, routes run, snap share, and slot snaps.

What to make of the Tight Ends Moving Forward?

The outlook for both players may seem murky at the moment, so let us help dispel that for fantasy players. Hunter Henry is your prototypical In-line tight end. He is set to emulate the role that Gronkowski dominated in his early years with the Patriots. He had not yet evolved into that “Big Slot” role that he dominated as later in the league. Henry has plenty of experience in the slot role, as he will spend some time off of the line, but the majority will be spent as an in-line tight end. He will be one of Newton’s primary passing options in 2021.

Jonnu Smith is a superior version of Aaron Hernandez in the Patriots’ offense. Hernandez lined up wide over 500 times during the famed 2011 season. He was the “Big Slot” before Gronkowski. Jonnu Smith has the ability to lineup everywhere on the field. As we have seen him used in the backfield, out wide, and in line with the Titans. Expect Josh McDaniels to deploy him everywhere during his tenure in New England. The Patriots will utilize both players a heavy amount this upcoming year.

Between them expect above a 40% target share. Why is this that easy to project? The lack of top-end receiving talent will make it easy for New England to highlight both players. Do the names of Harry, Meyers, Agholor, Borne, and Edelman scare you away? While everyone is worried about the ceiling for Henry and Smith, I would acquire either player with the intention of them being a backend TE1 in fantasy. Both players will have a 40 reception 500-yard floor in the Patriots offense. The change actually helps out each player. If all falls into place this year they could both finish as top 6 options at the tight end position. They are a much safer bet than the likes of Irv Smith, Adam Troutman, or Cole Kmet to make a jump to the tier 1 of dynasty tight ends.

Of the two, Henry does have the higher ceiling in my opinion. I see him being the number one option followed by Smith. Do you remember the Patriots receiving core of 2011? It was a Prime Wes Welker putting up 122 receptions. The trio of Chad Johnson, Deion Branch, and Julian Edelman combined for 1,012 on 70 receptions. Gronk and Hernandez were 2 of the best 3 options on that team. I see something similar for both Henry and Smith. They will be feature role of this offense., The receivers will be the supporting actors in this iteration of Belichick’s offense.

Buy both players in dynasty, and know your tight end position is secure for the next two to three years. Let everyone else overpay for the younger Hockenson or Fant, and while they wait for the breakout know you are getting top 12 tight end production from day one.

Fantasy Football: 3 TEs Over 30 to Buy

Here are the TEs over 30 to buy

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @jmoeller05)

After my last article about selling young tight ends that I do not see an upside on, I wanted to flip the script and focus on veteran tight ends that can help you win a title in the next two/three years. We are going to pick three tight ends over thirty that will give you an edge at the position.

Travis Kelce (Age:31.4 ADP:22.33)

Let us talk about the G.O.A.T. tight end Travis “freaking” Kelce. He is a player whose cost is utterly attainable in all leagues, slightly less so in tight end premium leagues (TEP). In dynasty, it is a yearly tradition to fade aging players (he will be 32 in October). When a team decides to trade away Kelce due to his age Make sure you are the one who is scooping him up onto your roster.

According to PlayerProfiler Kelce’s value in 1 Quarterback leagues is 2021 rookie pick 1.05, and in Superflex league, it’s 1.10! (😍) As a team looking to contend I make that trade ten out of ten times. If you are trading a player equivalent it is a Derek Carr (Superflex) or Amari Cooper/Chase Claypool type.

Do you know when the last time Kelce was not the TE1 to finish a season? The year was 2015 and Barack Obama was on his second term as president of the United States. Can you guess the player that was TE1 that year? You probably guess it, Rob Gronkowski.

Kelce improved across the board in 2020. He finished with a higher number of routes ran, targets, slot snaps, yards per target, air yards, E.P.A., true catch rate, and Y.A.C. (yards after catch). I could continue to list statistics to back up the point, Kelce truly was as strong as ever in 2020.

Acquire him and enjoy the next few years of dominance he will give you at a position severely lacking it. Kelce is the type of player I am content letting them retire on your roster. What he does for your roster far outweighs anything you can get in return via trade.

Zach Ertz (Age:30.3 ADP:172)

Now, before you throw your phone in disgust hear me out. The cost to acquire Ertz is almost nothing in dynasty. He is being treated as a throw-in player in deals. He is worth a late 4th round pick in 1QB leagues, and in TEP leagues he is a mid 4th round pick. Would you rather have, Rhamondre Stevenson, Sage Surratt, Khalil Herbert, or Zach Ertz? As a contender its Zach Ertz every single time.

Ertz was one of the many players that took a hit due to the dumpster fire the Eagles offense was behind Wentz in 2020. Did you know that Ertz produced 45 targets through six games? Extrapolated to a full season we are talking about 120 targets. That would put him third, only behind Kelce and Waller. While it was a terrible year for Ertz, that was a bright spot for him in 2020. He suffered a high ankle sprain in week 6 and did not return until week 13. Slowly worked his way back until week 17 where he worked himself back to the same snap share he had before the injury.

There is also talk about Ertz being a possible cut/trade candidate for the Eagles. As of March 3rd, the Eagles are a projected $50 million over the salary cap. Either of those moves would save the Eagles a projected 4.7 million in cap space for 2021. If that were to happen Indianapolis seems like a logical fit. The Colts have cap space ($50 million in cap space), his old offensive coordinator as a head coach (Frank Reich), and his old quarterback (Carson Wentz), and desperate need at tight end.

No matter if Ertz is in Philly, Indy, or somewhere else in 2021 he still has plenty of left in the tank. Send over a 4th round rookie pick, or young player with dart throw potential to acquire Ertz. He can easily finish inside the top 10 at the position in 2021.

Rob Gronkowski (Age:31.8 ADP:205)

Three Second Year TEs to Sell

These Young Tight Ends Are Not the Solution

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @JMoeller05)

Tight End is notorious in dynasty for keeping dynasty managers waiting multiple years until the player develops into a relevant fantasy option. As the analytics god Peter Howard pointed out below, banking on young tight end production is a losing bet.

The 2020 tight end class is viewed as a lackluster group in general. There is no Noah Fant, T.J Hockenson, or Kyle Pitts in this class. The best dynasty option in my opinion would be Captain America AKA Adam Trautman. I am going to list three tight ends from this class you should sell but first let me breakdown the reasoning behind it.

The graph shows that you are much more likely to get a top 12 TE performance from a tight end in the 27-29 age range than you are a tight end with ages 21-23. Tight end is a notoriously difficult position to make an immediate fantasy impact, as it almost never happens. I would much rather sell these young players for an older established tight end like Logan Thomas, or Eric Ebron with a pick on top as the young guns are given the age boost in dynasty.

Cole Kmet

Kmet put up 28 receptions for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns on 44 targets. The way he is being talked about in dynasty it is as if he is the next big thing at the tight end position. Do you know who basically doubled his stats this year? 34-year-old Jimmy Graham! Graham finished with 50 receptions for 456 yards and 8 touchdowns on 76 targets.

Let us break down some more of the numbers. Graham ran 172 snaps from the snap Kmet had 72. Graham ran 378 routes to Kmet running 233. Graham ran a route on 61.7% of the time, Kmet did on 45.6%. This is odd, considering Kmet’s weakness coming out of school was his blocking.

As bereft of elite fantasy tight end options as the position is, I see no path for Kmet to be an elite tight end in fantasy going forward. Sell him now while he has hype, and buy him for a discount in two years when he not fully broken out.

Albert Okwuegbunam

The player who blew everyone away at the combine last year by running a 4.49 forty-yard dash at 258 pounds! That gives him a speed score of 129.6 which is in the 99th percentile of NFL players. The guy’s athleticism stands out in the NFL. The problem for Albert O is twofold. He is coming off an ACL tear after four games into his rookie year and has one of the better TE in the league infront of him on the roster.

Look at Fant’s player profiler page above. It is 👀 The guy’s comp is George “The People’s Tight End” Kittle. Albert O. will always be the 1B to Fant’s 1A in the Denver passing attack. With the names of Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler I cant see a path for Okwuegbunam to be a consistent fantasy option in Denver. Go ahead and shop him to a rebuilding team, to see what they would be willing to pay.

Harrison Bryant

One thing that is incredibly important for scoring fantasy points at the tight end position is size and athleticism. Big athletic tight ends produce top 12 seasons. Here are the top 10 players at the tight end position from the 2020 season.

  • Travis Kelce
  • Darren Waller
  • Robert Tonyan
  • Logan Thomas
  • T.J. Hockenson
  • Mark Andrews
  • Mike Gesicki
  • Rob Gronkowski
  • Noah Fant
  • Hayden Hurst

The average size of players on this list is 6’5″ and weighs 251 pounds. Every player also has speed scores and burst scores over the 70th percentile with two exceptions. Gronkowski and Andrews are the only two with sub 70th percentile burst scores. Why does this matter for Bryant? He fits the size aspect, yet he falls woefully short in athleticism. His percentiles in speed score (57th), Burst Score (26th), Agility Score (28th) are all sub 60 percent.

Harrison is also battling with Austin Hooper in Cleveland. Cleveland surprised many by signing Hooper to a 4 year $42 million contract before the start of the 2020 season. Hooper’s contract makes him the fourth highest-paid tight end in the league, as Cleveland showed via the pocketbook how much they value him. Hooper will make it extremely difficult for Bryant to be a reliable fantasy option with the role he plays.

Flip Bryant for a pick or a running back/wide receiver that the community is low on. Someone like Jarvis Landry can be had for very little. His fantasy upside is far superior to a player like Bryant for the next few seasons.

Overall for the tight end position, I want the guys at the position with clear paths to major involvement in the passing attack. I would prefer the 2019 or 2021 tight ends to the 2020 tight end class as a whole. If you cannot get a Pitts, Friermuth, or Jordan in your rookie draft this year go grab one veteran tight ends in the 27-29 age range for the instant production.

3 Fantasy Second-Year Breakout Candidates: Adam Trautman Can Replace Jared Cook

Saints TE Adam Trautman will impress next season

By: Joe Mason @JosephMason94

Rookies that have quiet or disappointing first year offer opportunities for a discount on their fantasy value. In 2019, guys like Josh Allen, Mark Andrews, and D.J Moore all made giant step ups from their 2018 rookie campaign. Last year in 2020, guys like T.J. Hockenson, Diontae Johnson, and Kyler Murray all made significant strides moving near the top at their position.

There are some obvious guys that I believe will bounce back such as Tua or Jeudy, but I want to call out some guys who are under the radar that have low risk high reward returns.

Quintez Cephus (DET)

Cephus had a relatively quiet rookie year putting up 20/349/2 on 35 targets but he did so in the shadows of Golladay, Jones, Amendola, and Hockenson. The reason he is on the year two breakout list is because the talent is there, and he’s the only wideout currently under contract for the Lions in 2021.

Cephus received a second/third round grade but fell to the fifth round out of Wisconsin after some off the field issues. He missed his entire 2018 college campaign but returned in 2019 after the charges were dropped. He is not a fast receiver, but his play style dictates physicality and he makes the contested catches.

Pre-2020 NFL draft, Ohio States Jeff Okudah, who some regarded as a top five talent and top cornerback in the class, gave his thoughts on who gave him the most trouble in college.

Cephus has the potential to be the next Cooper Kupp for Jared Goff. With the departures of Golladay and Jones likely, Cephus will have all the opportunity in the world to contribute in 2021. The Lions likely take a WR in the upcoming NFL draft, but even if they go with Ja’Marr Chase at seventh overall, I still like Cephus’s chances to contribute. It will just mean that his price would be even cheaper to acquire. He can be had for a 2021 third round pick and has top 36 WR upside.

Adam Trautman (NO)

Trautman did not play much in his rookie year, putting up 15/171/1 on 16 targets in 15 games. He came from Dayton which is a smaller school but hung 70/916/14 in his last year in college.

2020 was not a great class for tight ends, especially with the upcoming 2021 class led by Kyle Pitts. Pre-draft a lot of analysts were split between Trautman and Kmet for which TE was going to lead the class. Trautman ended up being the fifth TE selected in the 2020 NFL draft in the third round to New Orleans. We know coach Sean Payton likes his tight ends, so Trautman instantly was on the radar after being selected.

He slotted in behind Jared Cook on the depth chart but was very impressive in camp. Coaches and players nominated him as the best rookie performer in camp during the 2020 pre-season. With the Saints in trouble with their current cap situation, look for Jared Cook to sign elsewhere. I fully expect Trautman to be the TE1 for the Saints in 2021.

DeeJay Dallas (SEA)

In a fantastic running back class in 2020 led by guys such as Swift, Taylor, and Dobbins, Dallas is somewhat of a hidden gem. DeeJay was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft out of Miami, where he put up 833 all-purpose yards with eight touchdowns in his final year in college.

Seattle decided to invest in a running back in the middle rounds knowing Rashaad Penny would most likely not be able to play after he tore his ACL in 2019. Dallas began the year and the third RB on the depth chart behind Carson and Hyde. As injuries pilled up at the RB position in Seattle, Dallas got his chance to start in week eight.

Dallas finished as the RB3 in week eight in his first NFL action. The reason why he is on this list is he has a chance to either lead or split the backfield work with Penny with the unknown future of Carson and Hyde who are both UFAs this upcoming offseason. He can produce on the ground and through the air, and any RB on the Seahawks is a player I want in fantasy especially after Pete Carroll commented he wants to commit more to the running game for the Seahawks in 2021. Dallas can be acquired for a third-round rookie pick.

3 Rookie TEs to Target in Fantasy Drafts

Kyle Pitts Is a Generational Talent

By: Rich Maletto

There are three rookie tight ends to target that, I believe, are head and shoulders above the rest of the field as we head into the NFL draft season. Below I will discuss who they are and why you should target them in your upcoming fantasy drafts. We will even cover when you should look for them in your drafts. Rookie tight ends are rarely impactful their rookie year, but they can also give you an edge if you hit on one. 

Kyle Pitts

This first tight end is the only one I would consider targeting in any of my redraft leagues. Kyle Pitts is a complete freak of nature. He measures over 6’5″ tall and around 235 lbs. For those asking, yes, he’s roughly the same size as Calvin Johnson, who was 6’5″ and 237 lbs. Megatron also ran a 4.35 40 yard dash time at the combine. No one believes we will see anywhere near as fast of a time from Pitts if Pitts were able to get into that sub 4.5 range; wow, lookout. The last official time I could find online was 4.70 seconds from 2017

Let’s be clear about a few things. Currently, Pitts is listed as a tight end. I have read somethings that state some teams see him more as a receiver than a tight end. In my honest opinion, he plays all over the field, and I don’t care what teams list him as. It’s all going to depend on two things. Do teams think Pitts can put on enough size to take on edge rushers consistently, or does he have enough speed to play on the outside regularly? 

How teams list, Kyle Pitts will determine where we can play him on our rosters. The fact remains, it doesn’t matter what position he will play. He’s too talented not to be on the field. In college, Kyle played inline, split out wide and even out of the slot. He is a complete mismatch nightmare. Pitts may not be the best blocker for a tight end, as he tends to get bulled over by larger edge rushers, he does have decent technique. Pitts will be a solid blocker on the outside, though. 

Depending on Kyle’s 40 time, and depending on how the pro days go, we could see teams taking Pitts in the top five on the NFL draft. Unlike most rookie tight ends, I don’t think you have to worry about Pitts not seeing enough snaps. Don’t be surprised to see him lineup all over the field, especially in three-wide sets. Pitts is also a tremendous red-zone target. There is so much to be excited about that I can’t stand it!  

Pat Feiermuth

Pitts is a receiving mismatch, but he is by no means a prototypical tight end. On the other hand, Pat Freiermuth is maybe the most complete tight end in this class. At 6’5″ and 258 lbs, he has the size and ability to play inline. Immediately for an NFL team, Freiermuth is much more ready to play as a full-time tight end. 

The curious thing for me is how fast does Freiermuth run the 40 at his pro days. He’s projected to be right around that 4.70, but if he can run a little quicker, it would be huge for Freiermuth. Not to be crass, cutting few tenths of a second getting down to a 4.67 could be a big difference for Pat in both contract pay and where he gets selected. Freiermuth has been labeled with a moniker referencing Gronk because he can be a blocking tight end and split out wide. 

When you Pat Freiermuth at Penn State, you notice something about him that you also see with Pitts. Both of these gentlemen bails out their quarterbacks. Freiermuth has some incredible catches down the sidelines catching balls that looked they were headed out of bounds. Pat has excellent hands, and he also goes up and high points the ball. I don’t know if you can count on a lot of fantasy points in year one. He’s ready to start for an NFL franchise, but typically tight ends need a little time to come into their own. 

Brevin Jordan

The last tight end is probably not someone you would consider drafting in any redraft league. Bervin Jordan is a heck of an athlete and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Jordan is listed at 6’3″ and 245 lbs. He’s a little undersized to play consistently inline. He can put on the size and strength and work on his passing technique, which needs improvement. The power of his game, though, is out in the open field.

Even though he’s dynamic with the ball in his hand, getting the ball in his hands might take a little time at the NFL level. He’s a bit raw with his route running. He does project to be under that 4.67 forty time, and he looks plenty quick enough on the field. There’s plenty to like about Jordan, and I think we might need a second or third year to see a real breakout. Jordan reminds me of Irv Smith in some ways. 

Where to Target these TEs in Drafts

As fantasy players, these incredible athletes are only somewhat important to us no matter how good they are at football. We need to invest players that will be on the field and involved or have no value on our rosters. That’s just the fact of the matter. Once they are on the field, they also need to be involved in the game plan.

Kyle Pitts, I firmly believe, will do that. He’s going to be a first-round pick, and Pitts is going to see the field early. There is an opportunity for immediate return on investment with Pitts. As such, in redraft leagues, I would be willing to draft Pitts as an upside TE2. That puts you taking him in the 15th round or so. You may have to take him sooner, but I don’t think I would want Pitts any earlier than after the first 12-15 tight ends were selected.

For dynasty, if this was a rookie draft, you better be ready to select Pitts in the top five spots. Regardless if it’s just hype, Kyle Pitts is going early and often in rookie drafts. For your startup fantasy drafts, while I wouldn’t condone it, I have a feeling Pitts is going to be selected in the first three rounds. There is a lot of hype around him, and it’s all going to depend on how early you are willing to go on an unknown entity. 

Pat Freiermuth will see the field, I believe, early. Since he can be counted on blocking and being split out, he can be used in many ways. I think in redraft, you could get Freiermuth a bit later than Pitts. Freiermuth would be your TE2 that you could pick up as your last pick or even as a free agent pickup. It’s a name you should watch, though, because he will see the field.

In dynasty rookie drafts, he will be available in the middle to end of round two, maybe slips a little further back depending on if it’s a Superflex league or not. In startup drafts, this is a name that might fall a little. I would target him as the second rookie tight end taken. Pat Freiermuth doesn’t have the hype surrounding him that Pitts does. You might be able to snag Freiermuth in the double-digit rounds. 

Brevin Jordan does have plenty of upsides, but I would rather have him sitting on my taxi squad instead of my active roster. I mentioned earlier that I see some Irv Smith similarities, and as excited as I am about Irv Smith, it will be a three-year project come this fall. We might see the same from Jordan. So, I am avoiding him for redraft leagues. Note the name and watch the numbers, but do not target Jordan in the draft.

Jordan does offer some exciting upside at the tight end positions for dynasty leagues. Ideally, you would have a taxi spot for Jordan to sit on for the year to see what happens. If this is a rookie draft and not a Superflex league, you can probably wait until the end of the third round and into the fourth round before drafting Jordan. In a startup league, it’s tough to say. You will have to draft based on when you see some of the second or third tier wide receivers come off the board.

One thing to remember about any draft, every draft is different. No matter how much you mock, you will never know how a draft will go. You have to have some feel for the draft and try to keep more than one target in mind. Once we see the NFL draft, we will have a much better idea of how the fantasy committee will rate these talented tight ends.

  • By Rich Maletto @BodaciousBeer

Fantasy Football: Non-Top 5 TEs to Target in 2021

By Ravi Krishnan (@masalaESPN)

In fantasy football, tight ends (TE) are hard to bank on, and there only are 3-5 dependable contributors every year. Travis Kelce is a perennial stud and has always offered, at worst, a WR2/RB2 value.

Slightly below him in recent seasons is an all-time legend, Rob Gronkowski. Zach Ertz has had a few elite seasons, and then there is the potent duo of George Kittle and Darren Waller, both of whom are season-influencers at the position.

Other than these guys, there have always been effective contributors in recent years — Evan Engram, Delanie Walker, Mark Andrews, Austin Hooper, Hunter Henry, to name a few. Even within this relatively scarce skill span, the 2020 fantasy football season was an absolute nightmare. Kittle got injured, Engram dropped almost as many balls as he caught, Hooper dealt with niggles, and Andrews was inconsistent.

Kelce remained Kelce though, and in fact, he raised his game to a level where he is now seen on par with elite WRs/RBs, and in some ways, is a more impactful value-changer than anyone else in any other position. Waller was elite as well and was the lone rival to Kelce in terms of a stud TE.

Despite the sparse season for TEs, it was not all doom and gloom. Among those springing surprises were Rob Tonyan, TJ Hockensen, Logan Thomas, and Mike Gesicki. The emergence of these value TEs has led me to my latest article.

My piece today looks at players at the TE position whom you can wait on beyond the first six rounds but could bring you high-end value by the end of the season. What this means is that you will NOT find the Kelce/Kittle/Waller/Andrews/Henry/Hockensen group, nor will we look at other usual names who we always rate as starters, like Engram, Hooper, Hayden Hurst, and Eric Ebron.  Instead, we will focus on potential golden nuggets at the next level and beyond.

Noah Fant

Final 2020 Half-PPR Ranking Among TEs: #12

Projected TE ADP in early-2021 Mock Drafts: #8

Potential 2021 Ranking: Top Seven

The Denver Broncos offensive makeup is likely to look much different in 2021 as the team will look to upgrade at the QB spot. The same goes for the coaching staff/system that hopefully will implement more of a ball-control offense that leverages its duo of running backs (Gordon and Lindsay) and wide receivers (Jeudy & Sutton). The wild card in this system is Noah Fant. This is the one guy whose reputation came out unscathed this past season.

He was the most consistent pass-catcher on an average offense; under a better QB, his stock should rise even higher. In the last three games of the regular season, Fant was targeted 26 times (93 for the whole season). That is a sizeable volume at TE, and again, with a more accurate QB at the helm, Fant has the chance to be among the top-seven TEs in 2021.

Robert Tonyan

Final 2020 Half-PPR Ranking Among TEs: #3

Projected TE ADP in early-2021 Mock Drafts: #11

Potential 2021 Ranking: Top Five

The unheralded Tonyan was a scoring machine, grabbing 11 TDS. The problem was that he caught only 52 catches overall, so volume was an issue. Clearly, his TD conversion ratio is not sustainable. Still, the reason for my optimism is that his 52 catches came off 53 targets, for a league-leading 98.2% catch-rate. In Green Bay, you thrive if and only if you earn Aaron Rodgers’ trust. Tonyan did that in heaps and bunches this past season.

Four of his TDs came on 3rd and Goal situations, so it was clear that Tonyan was sought out by Rodgers as their most reliable pass-catcher after DeVante Adams. If and when the target share goes up, Tonyan can be a bonafide top-five player at his position.

Mike Gesicki

Final 2020 Half-PPR Ranking Among TEs: #7

Projected TE ADP in early-2021 Mock Drafts: #8

Potential 2021 Ranking: Top Ten

Ok, so this is admittedly a bit unfair — Gesicki is more of a WR than a TE. In fact, he was on the field running far more pass-routes than any other TE in the league. In terms of opportunity, here is a prime candidate to be a truly elite player. To further substantiate this opportunity, Gesicki had some ridiculous games in 2020. He had three games of over 20 fantasy points. So, what’s the issue? It is two-fold, actually.

One, Gesicki is still rather inconsistent. He makes the craziest of catches look easy, and then runs the wrong route and/or drops a dolly all in one game! Second, there was a clear bifurcation in his productivity in games quarterbacked by Tagovailoa versus Fitzpatrick. The latter was a blessing for Gesicki, as Tagovailoa had a tough time finding his bearings as an NFL-level thrower in 2020.

The hope for 2021 is that Tua elevates his own passing game, as that will enable Gesicki to realize his potential to match the aforementioned opportunity.

Irv Smith

Final 2020 Half-PPR Ranking Among TEs: #22

Projected RB ADP in early-2021 Mock Drafts: #20

Potential 2021 Ranking: Top Ten

Not too many fantasy league owners felt the need or desire to add Irv Smith off waivers in 2020. Even fewer are targeting him in next season’s draft. And that might be a mistake, in my humble opinion. Smith is an uber-talented pass-catcher and a fair route-runner. He has improved in blocking as well. His main obstacle thus far in his NFL career has been the presence of Kyle Rudolph to split his role. The Vikings coaching staff continued their undeterred loyalty to the steady Rudolph in the first half of 2020, but things started looking up for Smith in the second half.

In the first seven games of last season, he averaged just 3.1 fantasy points per game. In the last four games, the average shot up to almost 12 points per game. Often, the future value of pass-catchers can be gauged by the last quarter of the prior NFL season. In this vein, Irv Smith promises to be a game-changer for the Vikings and for your fantasy teams in 2021.

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