Rookies are always en vogue in the months following the NFL Draft. Keeping that same energy for players the following year is a little more difficult, but can be the key to fantasy success.
Tight end is becoming more of a glamor position with each passing season. Superstars like Travis Kelce and George Kittle (and Rob Gronkowski) have brought the spotlight back to the tight end position, but the influx of young players from the last few draft classes is keeping that flame burning bright.
It takes some time for pass-catching tight ends to be productive enough to be fantasy-relevant. That’s why there’s so much optimism that the 2019 class of tight ends can emerge as starting options in year two.
Sixteen tight ends were taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. They are broken down into five categories below: Stars, Productive, Intriguing, Hanging on by a Thread, and Irrelevant. Let’s take a closer look at those 16 TEs to evaluate their average draft position (ADP) and what they could bring to your fantasy team in 2020.
This is unsurprising. No rookie tight end finished in top 15 at the position in total fantasy points or the top 24 in average fantasy points per game. Despite some fantasy managers drafting a rookie as a TE1 (particularly T.J. Hockenson) last season, none emerged as a viable fantasy option on a weekly basis.
-- Noah Fant, Denver Broncos (ADP: TE12)
-- T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (ADP: TE13)
The top two players in last year’s draft class are the top two fantasy options this year. Hockenson’s ADP is very similar to last year’s, but is more appropriate this time around. Fant, who flashed at times in the back-half of last season, is the top sophomore off the board in early drafts.
Fant finished 2019 as the TE17 overall and TE25 on a points-per-game. He started slow, as expected, but got everyone’s attention with a 3/115/1 performance in Week 9. Unfortunately for his fantasy stock, the Broncos had a bye the next week so it limited the number of teams that added him off the waiver wire. He had a 4/60/0 game on 10 targets immediately following the break and a huge 4/113/1 game with Drew Lock as his quarterback in Week 14. However, he had only four games all season with eight or more fantasy points. I have no issue where he’s going among tight ends, but I’d wait the extra three rounds and take either Jack Doyle, Dallas Goedert, or Eric Ebron at a value.
Hockenson was a top-10 real-life draft pick and was taken as the 13th tight end off the board in fantasy drafts last season. Fantasy managers were patting themselves on the back (a little too hard) after Hockenson had 9/131/1 in his NFL debut. That turned out to be his biggest game of the season and he had only one other double-digit fantasy performance the rest of the way. He’s supremely talented and should be more productive in his second year in the Lions offense, especially with the return of a healthy Matthew Stafford. His current ADP is more than fine.
-- Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings (ADP: TE22)
-- Jace Sternberger, Green Bay Packers (ADP: TE27)
The two tight ends in this category are likely TE2s or bye week fill-ins, but there is some upside. Are either of them worth drafting in single-TE leagues?
Smith might see an expanded role with wide receiver Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo. Smith averaged nearly three catches per game over the final 10 weeks of the regular season. While that’s nothing to write home about, he finished with only one fewer target than fellow Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. A larger role in the offense and more red zone opportunities could propel Smith into the top 20 tight ends.
Sternberger will likely take over as Green Bay’s top pass-catching tight end, but how valuable that position actually is remains to be seen. Jimmy Graham wasn’t all that productive and neither were a litany of other options before him. However, Aaron Rodgers has to throw the ball to somebody not named Davante Adams at least a few times per game. Maybe Sternberger emerges as a bye week fill-in.
HANGING ON BY A THREAD
-- Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills (ADP: TE28)
-- Foster Moreau, Las Vegas Raiders (ADP: N/A)
Knox was the most productive of this bunch last season, barely edging out Smith in fantasy points (79.7 to 77.0), targets (50 to 47), and receiving yards (38 to 311). Still, that placed Knox as the TE30 overall and TE35 on a per-game basis. He ranked third on the Bills in targets, but it’s hard to see him increasing that total with Diggs in the mix. He’s a top 30 tight end and nothing more.
Moreau’s five touchdowns were nice and he’ll continue to get red zone looks for Derek Carr, but he had essentially two targets per game last season and is coming off left knee surgery. He’s worth a flier in best ball leagues if you wait on tight ends, but that’s the extent of his fantasy relevancy.
-- Josh Oliver, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: N/A)
-- Drew Sample, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: N/A)
-- Kahale Warring, Houston Texans (ADP: N/A)
-- Trevon Wesco, New York Jets (ADP: N/A)
-- Zach Gentry, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: N/A)
-- Kaden Smith, New York Giants (ADP: N/A)
-- Isaac Nauta, Detroit Lions (ADP: N/A)
-- Tommy Sweeney, Buffalo Bills (ADP: N/A)
-- Alizé Mack, Free Agent (ADP: N/A)
-- Caleb Wilson, Washington Redskins (ADP: N/A)
The final 10 players on this list are either blocking tight ends, practice squad guys, or just don’t have the pass-catching workload to even consider drafting. There is no league format in which any of these players should be drafted.
New York Giants
- May 17, 2022
- May 16, 2022