What to Make of the Murky Tight End Position
(Image Source: Charles Goodman, ChiefsWire)
If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of the Tight End fiasco that exists in fantasy football today. There is a clearly defined top-tier *cough cough* *Travis Kelce,* and a great second-tier of Darren Waller and George Kittle.
After the top 2 tiers, there is a steep drop-off in overall production and fantasy value. Let's take a look at the top-10 PPR Tight Ends in 2020.
Data courtesy of FantasyPros (Weeks 1-16).
Looking ahead to 2021, it is clear that having a top-tier Tight End on your fantasy team can make a world of difference. To put this into perspective, if Travis Kelce was designated as a Wide Receiver, he would have finished 4th in total points, after Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stefon Diggs.
However, the number 10 Tight End, Eric Ebron, would have finished as WR48. That position puts him between Darius Slayton and Emmanuel Sanders... Not exactly the assets I’m looking for on a fantasy roster.
Besides panicking, what can you do about the Tight End conundrum?
First of all, draft an elite Eight End in the early rounds, if possible. If you can leave the third round with either Kelce, Waller, or Kittle, you can feel safe at the Tight End position excluding any injuries.
(Image Source: Bruce Kluckhohn, AP Photo)
If you are unable to snag any of those guys, try for someone you feel is going to have a potential breakout year. For example, T.J. Hockenson had a breakout season in 2020, jumping from the 29th ranked Tight End in 2019 up to the 3rd ranked Tight End in 2020.
Look for a similar Irv Smith Jr. breakout in 2021. In 2020, Smith Jr. was the 22nd ranked Tight End in PPR points on the season, but he was splitting targets with Kyle Rudolph (Smith Jr. had 40 targets, Rudolph had 37). With the lion’s share of TE targets in a blooming offense from Minnesota, it is 22-year-old Smith Jr.’s time to shine in 2021.
Besides the usual suspects and a projected breakout season for Irv Smith Jr, the Tight End position will be a dart throw from week to week. However, some names to target, especially in a redraft, are Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Tyler Higbee.
Jonnu Smith has agreed to a deal with the New England Patriots. In 2020, Smith was only targeted 65 times. In a Tennessee offense with Derrick Henry and AJ Brown, there was little room for Jonnu Smith to make a major impact. However, he may be a focal point of the New England offense. Bill Belichick has raved about Jonnu Smith. The quote below is from the 2020 playoffs.
"He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So he's a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He's great after the catch -- probably the best in the league."
In a shocking move, the Patriots acquired yet ANOTHER Tight End: Hunter Henry. Henry was the 8th highest scoring Tight End in 2020, and he could produce a similar, if not better statistical season in 2021. Henry and Jonnu Smith are oddly reminiscent of the 1-2 punch that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski packed in New England a few years ago, I expect an explosive season from those two.
Tyler Higbee is another name to target for the 2021 season. With Matthew Stafford under center for the Rams this year, Higbee could be a late-round asset to your fantasy team. In 2019 when the Rams made it to the Super Bowl, Higbee was the 8th best fantasy Tight End. He could easily reclaim his former glory in 2021, especially with an upgrade at the quarterback position.