Tight ends offer
marginal minimal moderate nothing some fantasy points for your team, but the problem is that every year there are usually only three or four elite options for your roster. And they are largely the same ones every year. Bottom line, you either draft Travis Kelce (first round), Darren Waller and George Kittle (second or third rounds), or you accept your tight ends will not be difference-makers. Or – you have to get lucky.
Let’s explore “lucky.”
By that, I mean those players that exceed expectations. The ones that could step up into that difference-making realm of the Top-3. One of the challenges to determining which tight ends are most likely to step up is that they need an offensive scheme that will focus on them. Most do not. Tight ends are blockers first and receivers second on most teams. That is not to say that in-season injuries and dynamics won’t prop up a tight end for that year, but those players enjoy their magic year and then regress back into the pack. Think Evan Engram, who was the No. 5 fantasy tight end as a rookie in 2017 and has never been better than the No. 13 in his other three seasons.
The way that 2021 shakes out, every draft will have Kelce, Waller, and Kittle taken first. Somewhere around the sixth or so round, T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts are taken. Hockenson is first, but occasionally someone buys into the hype of Pitts as an uber-weapon and takes him. But it almost always happens just like that for the first five tight ends in your fantasy draft. But maybe you didn’t want to spend that early pick on a tight end because you know that sets all other starters back a round and that is tough to make up ground.
Where do you turn?
Look for the tight ends with upside. The run on the position typically happens in the eighth or ninth round, after the entire league has already feasted on running backs, wide receivers, and most starting quarterbacks. Here are four tight ends to consider with the talent, experience and situation to merit fantasy consideration after the big guns are gone.
Dallas Goedert (PHI) – The third tight end drafted in 2018 showed progress when he ended his second season with 58 catches for 607 yards and five scores for the Eagles. And that was in a season when Zack Ertz turned in 88 catches for 916 yards and six scores in the tight-end friendly scheme. But both Ertz and Goedert struggled with injuries in 2020.
The 30-year-old Ertz appeared destined to change teams in the offseason (still not an impossibility), and his departure would clearly boost the talented Goedert into a very favorable situation. Regardless, Ertz looks like he has lost a step, and turns 31 years old this year. Goedert has the talent to be a difference-maker, and a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts who needs a tall friend on a short route over the middle. There’s a new offense under head coach Nick Sirianni but he comes from the Colts, where tight ends have always mattered.
Noah Fant (DEN) – The second tight end selected in 2019 (1.20) hasn’t been a factor in the red zone with just three touchdowns in each of his two seasons. Both he and T.J. Hockenson were drafted out of Iowa as the first two tight ends that year. Team injuries and poor quarterback play impacted 2020 but he still ended with 93 targets for 62 receptions and 673 yards. Those came during the first year with OC Pat Shurmur.
Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater are battling to see who starts and there are two talented wideouts in Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton if they can stay healthy. But Fant was already No. 6 in yardage and No. 7 in receptions last year among tight ends. He still has unrealized potential on a team with only two other notable receivers.
Mike Gesicki (MIA) – The second tight end drafted in 2018 (2.10) by the Dolphins posted career highs last season with 53 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns. Encouraging was his final five games while playing with Tua Tagovailoa when he averaged five catches for 58 yards and totaled four touchdowns over those games. The Dolphins upgraded their wideouts with the talented and oft-injured Will Fuller, and Jaylen Waddle who will become the No. 1 wideout there sooner than later.
But Gesicki established chemistry with Tagovailoa and was a receiving tight end at Penn State with around 50 catches in each of his last two years there. The Dolphins rushing offense already appears below average and those wideouts will draw plenty of attention from the defense. Gesicki was already the No. 12 and No. 7 fantasy tight end the last years and has the potential for more.
Cole Kmet (CHI) – This is your backup tight end, provided you believe such a thing can exist on a fantasy team. Kmet was the first tight end drafted in 2020 when the Bears spent their 2.11 pick. His rookie season was fairly nondescript with 28 receptions for 243 yards and only two touchdowns. The tall Notre Dame star is poised to take that typical step up in his second year. There’s not enough proven production to merit him being a fantasy starter yet, but he had more talent than any other tight end drafted last year.
The Bears enter their second season with OC Bill Lazor though HC Matt Nagy also involves himself in the offense. The Bears already ranked in the Top-12 in targets and receptions for the position last year. Jimmy Graham remains but Kmet is expected to become the primary. Also, in his favor – the Bears are expected to turn the reins over to the rookie quarterback Justin Fields at some point. And a 6-6 tight end that can still run a 4.7 40-time can be a much-needed outlet.