2021 Fantasy Football Preseason TE Rankings

Hello, fantasy friends. It’s year three of TDN’s fantasy football rankings and this season they’re out earlier than ever. If this is your first time coming to TDN for fantasy content, or if you just want a refresher, here is some background on how these rankings were determined. 

More than 40 hours of research went into the ranking process, starting with custom stat projections for more than 250 NFL players—those projections will be publicly available here on TDN in mid-June. After making those projections, I determined the order you’ll see below based on potential upside, injury risk, likelihood of reaching the projected total, how many games they’ll play, etc. Please keep in mind that the rankings below are not simply in descending order of projected fantasy points—although the rankings are very heavily weighted by those projections.

All of my rankings reflect the order in which I would take players if I were drafting today in a 12-team, full-PPR, single-QB league with ESPN scoring and no bonuses.

If you have any specific questions or want to know more about what I think of certain players, follow me on Twitter (@JaimeEisner) or Instagram (@JaimeEisnerTDN). I’d be happy to chat with you! Also, be sure to tune in to the TDN Fantasy Podcast for in-depth audio breakdowns of these rankings, my projections, and all the latest fantasy football news throughout the 2021 football season. 

Let’s get into the rankings! Here are my top 35 tight ends, broken down into tiers:

Other RankingsQB | RBWR

TIER 1

1. Travis Kelce (TE - KC)

2. George Kittle (TE - SF)

3. Darren Waller (TE - LV)

We’re not breaking any new ground here, as these three players are the consensus top three at the position. In fact, they’re really the only three tight ends we can pretty much guarantee will be productive enough to finish among the top five tight ends if not the top three. Kelce has proven to be a first-round talent, while Kittle and Waller should be off the board in the very early part of the third round—they’ll likely be gone sooner, but that’s when I’d draft them. While many fantasy managers will choose to wait on drafting a tight end, this trio is worth paying full price for.

TIER 2

4. Mark Andrews (TE - BAL)

5. Kyle Pitts (TE - ATL)

There will be some who believe this tier should be larger, but Andrews and Pitts have an upside that the rest of the tight end group simply can’t match—they’re worthy of their own tier. Andrews is a threat for double-digit touchdowns every season as Lamar Jackson’s top receiving threat, particularly in the red zone. Pitts should be in store for a monster workload in Arthur Smith’s offense in Atlanta that will soon be without Julio Jones. Both Andrews and Pitts should be able to cross the 200-point threshold this season.

TIER 3

6. T.J. Hockenson (TE - DET)

7. Noah Fant (TE - DEN)

8. Mike Gesicki (TE - MIA)

9. Tyler Higbee (TE - LAR)

If you haven’t grabbed your TE1 yet and aren’t in the “wait on the position” camp, you need to come away with someone from this tier—the difference between players in the next set of tight ends is quite small. Hockenson broke out last season but took a downgrade at quarterback this season. It would not be a surprise to see him finish as a top-five tight end, but I’m hesitant until I see how the new offense operates with Jared Goff. Fant also has top-five tight end upside, but he too is limited by poor quarterback play. He does have some chemistry with Drew Lock, which will help his target volume, but his upside is capped until the Broncos upgrade at quarterback.

Gesicki and Higbee are two tight ends I’m targeting heavily at their current ADPs. Gesicki started to show some chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa late in the season and I’m betting that carries over into 2021 as Tagovailoa progresses. Higbee is the clear TE1 for Matthew Stafford—a quarterback who likes throwing to tight ends—in Los Angeles and is a great value in fantasy drafts right now. 

TIER 4

10. Logan Thomas (TE - WSH)

11. Irv Smith Jr. (TE - MIN)

12. Dallas Goedert (TE - PHI)

13. Austin Hooper (TE - CLE)

14. Blake Jarwin (TE - DAL)

15. Rob Gronkowski (TE - TB)

16. Robert Tonyan (TE - GB)

17. Eric Ebron (TE - PIT)

18. Jared Cook (TE - LAC)

19. Evan Engram (TE - NYG)

Choose your fighter. This is the tier of personal preference for those who load up on other positions early in fantasy drafts. An argument can be made to move any of these players up or down a few spots, as all 10 of these tight ends carry upside with plenty of risk. Do you feel lucky?

TIER 5

20. Adam Trautman (TE - NO)

21. Anthony Firkser (TE - TEN)

22. Jonnu Smith (TE - NE)

23. Cole Kmet (TE - CHI)

24. Jordan Akins (TE - HOU)

This smaller tier may house a sleeper. Trautman is a popular pick in the fantasy expert community as the new TE1 in New Orleans. He shouldn’t have an issue finding plenty of playing time and could finish as high as No. 4 on the team in receiving yards. Firkser steps into the TE1 role in Tennessee, a team in which only A.J. Brown is an established pass-catcher. Akins has a chance to be the tight end safety blanket for Tyrod Taylor, a quarterback who has a history of frequently targeting the position as a starter. Kmet is an ascending talent in Chicago and could develop quick chemistry with Justin Fields or Andy Dalton. As for Smith, his value was sapped by going to New England and then subsequently getting paired with Hunter Henry.

TIER 6

25. Kylen Granson (TE - IND)

26. O.J. Howard (TE - TB)

27. Hunter Henry (TE - NE)

28. Jack Doyle (TE - IND)

29. Zach Ertz (TE - PHI)

30. Chris Herndon (TE - NYJ)

31. Dan Arnold (TE - CAR)

32. Hayden Hurst (TE - ATL)

33. Gerald Everett (TE - SEA)

34. Dawson Knox (TE - BUF)

35. Albert Okwuegbunam (TE - DEN)

You’ve scrolled too far down unless you’re in a 20-team league or something. There are a couple big names here (Henry, Ertz), but there’s no one worth rostering outside of bye week fliers. Keep an eye on Granson’s potential role in Indianapolis, though.

TOP 35 TEs

  1. Travis Kelce
  2. George Kittle
  3. Darren Waller
  4. Mark Andrews
  5. Kyle Pitts
  6. T.J. Hockenson
  7. Noah Fant
  8. Mike Gesicki
  9. Tyler Higbee
  10. Logan Thomas
  11. Irv Smith Jr.
  12. Dallas Goedert
  13. Austin Hooper
  14. Blake Jarwin
  15. Rob Gronkowski
  16. Robert Tonyan
  17. Eric Ebron
  18. Jared Cook
  19. Evan Engram
  20. Adam Trautman
  21. Anthony Firkser
  22. Jonnu Smith
  23. Cole Kmet
  24. Jordan Akins
  25. Kylen Granson
  26. O.J. Howard
  27. Hunter Henry
  28. Jack Doyle
  29. Zach Ertz
  30. Chris Herndon
  31. Dan Arnold
  32. Hayden Hurst
  33. Gerald Everett
  34. Dawson Knox
  35. Albert Okwuegbunam

Written By:

Jaime Eisner

Managing Editor

Managing Editor of The Draft Network. He’s a former editor for Sports Illustrated, FanRag Sports and Arizona Sports. He’s the co-host of the TDN Fantasy Podcast and has an extensive background covering fantasy sports and sports betting.

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