Welcome to the Stock Watch. While the picture above might make you worried you’ve stumbled into a financial advice column, have no fear, this is about our fantasy football stock. Each year in dynasty leagues we look forward to rookie drafts, snatching up all the prospects we know will lead to glory. But it doesn’t always happen right away. Over the next few pieces, as this off-season draws to a close, I’ll be taking stock of prospects at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end for the 2018, 2019. and 2020 draft class. This isn’t about the stars that we already know are great, it’s about the players taken in the first three rounds that haven’t hit yet—and might never hit.
As the Stock Watch for the Class of 2020 comes in for a landing, the final group to consider is tight ends. The 2020 Draft didn’t produce a robust group of tight ends, with none going in the first round. A year later, it’s possible the class looks even worse, and yet there are a couple of bright spots. Let’s look at the five taken in the second and third rounds of the 2020 Draft.
Drafted: No. 43 overall by the Chicago Bears
Situation: Kmet was the top tight end grabbed and a year later is probably still the top of the class. That isn’t because he was stellar in his rookie season. Kmet saw 43 targets for the Bears, catching 28 passes for 243 yards and 2 TDs. He also got drafted to a team that had an entrenched veteran starter in Jimmy Graham. Graham had a strong season, catching eight TD passes and finishing as TE13 on the season.
Graham is back in 2021, but the Bears have a better quarterback situation with veteran Andy Dalton and rookie Justin Fields in the mix. The team also saw fourth-year receiver Anthony Miller traded, thinning out the pass-catching options. In addition, Kmet started to come on near the end of 2020, seeing 30 targets from Week 13 on. It takes a while for rookie tight ends to acclimate, but that’s a promising sign Kmet could be a bigger part of the offense going forward.
Stock Value: Rising. I think Kmet is poised to take a step forward in 2021 as Graham remains more of a red zone threat and veteran presence. If he can jump up into the TE2 range he’ll solidify his value and will have a chance to keep growing with the Bears’ new franchise quarterback. Now is the time to buy, if you can.
Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene
Drafted: No. 91 and No. 101 by the New England Patriots
Situation: I’m throwing these two together because they were drafted within 10 picks of each other in the draft, and their fate seems to be tied. The two young tight ends were drafted to fill a big need for the Patriots’ offense in 2020 and stepped right into a seemingly great situation with no competition. And yet, neither finished as the top tight end for the Patriots in 2020. The rookies combined for a dismal 12 targets and five receptions for 55 yards and a TD. The Patriots’ top tight end was veteran Ryan Izzo, who saw 20 targets, catching 13 passes for 199 yards.
Tired of lackluster production, the Patriots went on a spending spree to fix the offense. The team signed veteran receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor and grabbed the top two free-agent tight ends on the market, signing Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to long-term deals. Those two are expected to be the focal point of the offense while Asiasi and Keene remain distant afterthoughts.
Stock Value: Null. Both had a chance to establish something in 2020, but neither showed anything. Now, the Patriots have Smith and Henry on long-term, big dollar deals. They will be the tight ends for the Patriots and it’s hard to imagine both these rookies even make the final roster in New England.
Drafted: No. 94 overall by the Green Bay Packers
Situation: The Packers had an interesting draft in 2020, taking Jordan Love in the first round, A.J. Dillon in the second, and Deguara in the third. In each case, the player was taken where there was no clear path to getting on the field. That was certainly true for Deguara, who appeared in just two games and saw just two targets as a rookie. He caught one pass for 12 yards. To start Training Camp, Deguara is on the PUP list and it’s unclear if he’ll be healthy when the season kicks off. Even if he is, he’s in a position group that features 2020 break-out Robert Tonyan, veteran Mercedes Lewis, and prospect Jace Sternberger.
Stock Value: Null. Deguara seems like more of a blocker than a receiver, so for fantasy purposes that was always going to be a sunk value. But with the rise of Tonyan in 2020, it seems unlikely he’ll get many, if any, targets this season.
Drafted: No. 105 overall by the New Orleans Saints
Situation: Trautman was the fifth tight end off the board in the 2020 Draft but he has a chance to return the best fantasy value in 2021. As a rookie, he faced plenty of competition, sitting behind veterans Jared Cook and Josh Hill, while Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill also lined up at TE. Despite that, Trautman flashed when given a chance. He saw only 16 targets but caught 15 of them for 171 yards and a TD.
Heading into 2021, things look brighter. Josh Hill is gone, Taysom Hill is vying to be the team’s starting quarterback, and Cook is in Los Angeles with the Chargers. Trautman figures to be the starting tight end and the primary pass-catching tight end with veteran Nick Vannett primarily a blocker. With receiver Michael Thomas to miss the start of the season and an inexperienced receiving corps, there’s a great chance for Trautman to take the leap.
Stock Value: Soaring. This could change if he can’t make an impact on the field, but I think he’s an easy TE2 this season with some TE1 upside, especially given the Saints’ lack of passing game weapons. If you haven’t already acquired him, the price is likely too high at this point.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, part of the Campus2Canton Network.