Tier 1: Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle
Tier 2: O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, Hunter Henry
Tier 3: Jared Cook, David Njoku, Vance McDonald, Trey Burton, Delanie Walker
Tier 4: Mark Andrews, Austin Hooper, Eric Ebron, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed, Dallas Goedert, Jack Doyle
Tier 5: Chris Herndon, Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Mike Gesicki, Gerald Everett, Tyler Eifert
Analysis & Draft Strategy:
Tight end has evolved into a stronger fantasy football position than ever before, and look for this trend to continue in this new age of offenses. With 12 personnel (one RB and two TEs) becoming more prevalent, teams are more dedicated than ever to developing tight ends as weapons in the passing game. Even with Rob Gronkowski gone, we’ve got a strong list of tight ends to work from this year.
How to approach tight ends in your draft? I would suggest one of two paths. The first path entails grabbing one of the stud TEs from tiers 1 or 2 (but not too early), while the second route is to punt until the late rounds. So in other words, avoid grabbing a tier 3 or 4 TE in the mid rounds. If you want to shore up TE early, then tier 1 options Kelce (mid-to-late round 2) plus Ertz and Kittle (starting late in round 3) make sense, and the tier 2 guys (Howard, Engram and Henry) are sensible picks starting around round 6. Otherwise, a few tier 3 options, and several TEs from tier 4 will be available towards the end of your draft, so there’s no need to select from that group in the mid rounds. The variance in scoring among the non-elite TEs is small, and as such you should wait if selecting from that group.
Finally, quick hits on two TEs whom I expect will outperform their ADP, and are therefore reflected higher in my rankings:
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers: As you’ll hear time and time again, much of football production is a question of opportunity. Looking at the Steelers, there’s no more Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown…or Jesse James for that matter. So who’s Ben Roethlisberger throwing to besides JuJu Smith-Schuster? Look for Vance McDonald to help fill that void in a major way. McDonald has always had good athleticism for a tight end, and he’s a great target in the short and immediate passing game. Roethlisberger will look for McDonald often this year (note that he targeted McDonald 72 times last year, which will only go up), and he’ll put up top 10 numbers at a low cost on draft day.
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens: Now for a tight end a bit further down the draft board, we take a look at Baltimore for our rising star. Mark Andrews had a solid rookie season in 2018, with 552 yards receiving and 3 TDs over 34 catches. So will Andrews make a notable jump in his sophomore year? Note when Andrews did his damage last season – 308 of his yards came in the seven games which were started by QB Lamar Jackson. Over 16 games, this would put Andrews on pace for just over 700 yards – and not to mention that both Jackson and Andrews will improve in their second years in the league. If decide to wait on drafting a TE, Andrews is a fine option in the late rounds, with upside to leap into the top 10 TEs.
And one TE whom I consider to be overdrafted with respect to his ADP, and is therefore reflected lower in my rankings:
Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts: Eric Ebron emerged from the shadows last season to post a top five TE year. Ebron scored a career high 14 TDs to go along with 750 yards over 66 catches. Safe to say that no one saw that season coming! So here’s the deal…significant regression is coming. First off, that TD rate is absolutely not sustainable, and with Jack Doyle returning to health this year, plus Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell joining the Colts receiving corps, it’s likely that Ebron’s targets, and thus his yards and catches, will drop as well. Now with the news that Andrew Luck has retired, Ebron becomes a TE2. Hard pass as your top tight end unless you're in a very deep league (16 plus teams).
- Neema Hodjat is RealGM's Fantasy Football expect. Follow him on Twitter at @NeemaHodjat where he will also answer any question you have to help you win your league.