Using the Past…
Every off-season, we see the hype in the TE position. We all want to draft the next Darren Waller before the rest of our league mates catch on. For most, the hype is unwarranted because they don’t have the situation to support a break-out. For young tight ends, fantasy success comes from the lack of WR1 or WR2 options, a high volume passing offense, or sometimes a combination of the two. Let’s take a look.
Top 12 TEs in fantasy PPR scoring (2020)
- Travis Kelce – 312.8 20.9 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Darren Waller – 278.6 17.4 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Robert Tonyan – 176.6 11.0 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Logan Thomas – 176.6 11.0 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- TJ Hockerson – 175.3 11.0 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster (after early injury to Golladay)
- Mark Andrews – 170.1 12.2 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Mike Gesicki – 159.3 10.6 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Rob Gronkowski – 149.3 9.3 FP/G High volume passing offense
- Noah Fant – 149.3 10.0 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster (after early injury to Sutton)
- Hayden Hurst – 149.1 9.3 FP/G High volume passing offense
- Dalton Schultz – 146.5 9.2 FP/G High Volume passing offense
- Hunter Henry – 145.3 10.4 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
Top 12 TEs in fantasy PPR scoring (2019)
- Travis Kelce – 254.3 15.9 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- George Kittle – 222.5 15.9 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Darren Waller – 221.0 13.8 FP/G No reliable first WR option on roster
- Zach Ertz – 215.6 14.4 FP/G No reliable first WR option on roster
- Mark Andrew – 207.2 13.8 FP/G No reliable first WR option on roster
- Austin Hooper – 191.7 14.8 FP/G No reliable third WR option in high volume passing offense
- Jared Cook – 167.5 12.0 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Tyler Higbee – 160.4 10.7 FP/G Wild 5 game record setting streak
- Hunter Henry – 150.2 12.5 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
- Dallas Goedert – 144.7 9.7 FP/G No reliable first WR options, second TE option
- Jason Witten – 139.9 8.7 FP/G No reliable third WR option in high volume passing offense
- Mike Gesicki – 136.0 8.5 FP/G No reliable second WR option on roster
To Predict the Future…
My TE rankings this year
- Travis Kelce
- Darren Waller
- George Kittle
- TJ Hockerson
- Kyle Pitts
- Mark Andrews
- Robert Tonyan
Everyone’s top seven should be some combination of these players. Beyond them, the tight ends that I believe can round out the top 12:
Dallas Goedert / Zach Ertz
Dallas Goedert is the guy to own here. I can’t precisely predict when the wheels will fall off Ertz, just that the day is coming. I can also tell you the Eagles do not have an established reliable WR1 or 2. Devonta Smith should slide into one of those roles early. Who else could Jalen Hurts throw to? The big-bodied guys running through the middle.
I believe in this hype. Michael Thomas had late surgery. Alvin Kamara will be fed, but we can see Adam Trautman return back-end TE1 value without any other established WR options on the roster. The big question will be the quarterback situation. The Saints need a QB for the future, so they need to see something out of Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill. If you like Trautman, you should be rooting for Winston, as the passing volume should rise with him under center.
He has the opportunity for volume. Mike Williams is acrobatic but can’t stay healthy, and this offense did not add talent to the WR room. Jared Cook may be aging, but he slides into that Hunter Henry role while rookie Tre’ McKitty learns the offense and adjusts to the NFL.
Jonnu Smith / Hunter Henry
If one of these TEs goes down to injury, I want to trade for the other. New WR group in NE, can one emerge and absolutely smash their ADP? Two talented TEs on the same roster will eat into each other’s workload, but if one goes down, the other can establish himself as a top option in this offense.
Gronk is on here because of the high passing volume. He should carry over his momentum from last season, and his chemistry with Tom Brady is undeniable.
Blake Jarwin / Dalton Schultz
The Cowboys’ duo is also a product of a high passing volume offense. This one is a real dart throw. Schultz established himself, but Jarwin is still the higher paid TE and more talented.
Opportunity and Volume is King
To reiterate, chase the opportunity for volume. Noah Fant and Irv Smith are two great examples. They are both first-round TEs and very talented.
Denver has a crowded WR core in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler. Denver also has questionable QB play with Drew Lock or Teddy Bridgewater. Fant is the third option at best for QB Drew Lock, who completed 53% of his passes last season. Fant will have great weeks, but I won’t feel confident starting him every week.
Similarly, the Vikings crowded WR room but a much more capable QB. Viking’s targets should go to Justin Jefferson, Adam Theilen, and then Irv Smith Jr. I do not want the third read in a talent-filled, rushing-first roster.
So how do we take advantage of this knowledge? First, if you can, draft elite TEs early. It seems obvious, but investing strong draft capital will give you a massive weekly point difference each week. Travis Kelce and Darren Waller were clearly league winners in 2020, giving owners a 6-10 point advantage each week. If you miss out on the early TE run, the production dropoff after TE7 lets managers then take their shot on late-round targets who may see high volume. Fade all the hype on who is underrated, or the most talented, chase the opportunity of volume.
Credit to Michelle Magdziuk of Ball Blast, this tweet from her inspired these thoughts:
These were the top 10 TEs in fantasy pts/game (PPR) in 2020:— Michelle Magdziuk (@BallBlastEm) June 6, 2021
What do they all have in common? Their offense did not have a reliable WR2.
Don’t draft a “sleeper TE” on a stacked offense.