For the first time in what feels like an eternity, there are more than five tight ends to get excited about heading into a fantasy football season!
Breakout seasons from Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, and more propelled the position to new heights in 2019. Fantasy players will no longer be overcome with a sense of dread if they don't land a tight end before Zach Ertz gets selected. In years past, players would be talking themselves into Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen as passable starters. Those guys still start in the NFL, but we have them ranked in the mid-20s rather than the early teens this year. We've got a new group of promising tight ends to talk ourselves into.
There's a lot to like from the tight end position this year. We'll be breaking down each tier of tight ends from our RotoBaller Rankings. You can find the full list here.
Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings
|Position Rank||Position Tier||Player Name||Overall Rank||Overall Tier|
|21||6||Irv Smith Jr.||168||10|
|22||6||Chris Herndon IV||171||11|
Fresh off two massive paydays, Kittle and Kelce find themselves once again a tier above the rest of the pack. RotoBaller has Kelce ranked as the 18th overall player, with Kittle following behind at number 21.
Both guys seem like safe bets to finish as top-five tight ends. Kelce notched 97 receptions for 1,229 yards and six total touchdowns, somehow regressing in each of those numbers from the previous season. He's a top option in a passing game led by a quarterback who's on pace to be one of the all-time greats. He should be the first tight end off the board in 2020, but Kittle is a fine consolation prize for owners looking to grab an elite tight end.
Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller
Fantasy players who chose to wait on a tight end in 2019 were rewarded if they grabbed Mark Andrews late in their draft. Andrews broke out in a big way last season, leading all TEs in touchdowns with 10. Even if Andrews doesn't reach double-digit touchdowns again, he's a top pass catcher in an elite offense and belongs in this tier. Don't be surprised if he crosses the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Waller broke out in an even bigger way than Andrews last season, finishing as the TE3. His 90 receptions and 1,145 yards were second only to Travis Kelce among tight ends. Many have pegged Waller as a regression candidate, noting the numerous pass-catchers the Raiders added this offseason in addition to his low touchdown total last season. But Waller clearly still has a place in the passing game. He has valuable experience playing with Derek Carr and the Raiders made a big financial commitment to him. Even if he doesn't finish as a top-three tight end again, it would be a shock if he doesn't finish as a TE1 this year.
Zach Ertz has finished as a top-four tight end for the past three years and has been a top-10 tight end for the past five years. There's no reason to expect any serious regression here. He's one of the safest fantasy choices you can make in 2020.
For the final five games of last season, Tyler Higbee was the best tight end in the NFL. He averaged 21.4 PPR PPG, nearly five points more than the next highest tight end. The problem is that he was 35th among tight ends for the 12 weeks that preceded that. He has an incredibly high ceiling and a dangerously low floor in 2020. He's easily the riskiest option of the tight ends so far, but as we saw last year, his ceiling may be the TE1.
Will Gerald Everett's return impact Higbee's targets? Will the departure of Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley II impact Higbee's targets? Were the last five games of the season a fluke, or did we witness Higbee's true form? These are all questions fantasy players will have to consider when selecting Higbee.
Evan Engram might be the top pass catcher on the Giants if he plays all 16 games this year. The problem is that he has missed 13 games over the past two seasons. Unfortunately, Engram may be shaping up to be this generation's Jordan Reed. But he managed to rank seventh among tight ends in PPR PPG last season, and will always be a "set it and forget it" type of player when he's active. The injury risk is going to be baked into his ADP.
The more casual the league you play in, the higher Rob Gronkowski's ADP is going to be. Just don't forget that Gronk had the worst year of his career before retiring in 2018 and that he's playing for a coach who's more likely to get his punter consistently involved in the passing game before he gets his tight ends involved. Having Tom Brady and Gronk might force his hand to use his tight end more, but there's a lot of risk with Gronk this season.
Austin Hooper finished third among tight ends in PPR PPG last season with 14.7. He left Atlanta for Cleveland in the offseason and his replacement, Hayden Hurst, falls just two spots below him in our rankings. Choosing between the two is simple: did Hooper blow up last season because he's talented, or did he blow up because of the situation he was in?
Hooper joins a talented, and crowded, group of pass-catchers in Cleveland. The Browns gave Hooper a nice payday when they signed him, but it doesn't even sniff what they have invested in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, the team's top two receivers. Hurst will also have to compete for targets with a talented group of receivers, but 2019 proved that Atlanta has no problem getting the tight end involved. Both guys have big question marks. But the upside is much more promising than some of the tight ends you'd be drafting in this range in previous years.
Tier five is filled with young, talented tight ends who will all be seen as blow-up candidates
College teammates Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson were both drafted in the first round of last year's draft. Neither guy has a chance to be the team's top pass-catcher in 2020, and it's unlikely that either one is even the second option in the passing game. Fant specifically has to compete for targets with Courtland Sutton, two rookie receivers who the team spent high draft capital on, and an incoming Melvin Gordon III out of the backfield. But both guys showed promise in 2019 and tight ends have historically taken to the NFL slower than other skill positions.
Both Fant and Hockenson have a ton of promise. Still, that's all it is, promise. There's a reason they're available this late, but don't be surprised if one of these guys finishes as a TE1 this season. If I had to bet on one of them, I'd bet on Hockenson, simply because he has less competition for targets and a better quarterback.
If you're looking to find this year's Mark Andrews or Darren Waller, Miami tight end Mike Gesicki fits the mold better than anyone. The Dolphins have one proven wide receiver after a few players opted out due to COVID-19. Gesicki finished second among Miami pass-catchers last season in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns, and he somehow has even less competition for targets in 2020. Gesicki is a former second-round pick who has been quietly coming into his own as a solid NFL tight end. Quarterback play is going to be a question mark in Miami this season, but somebody has to catch passes from these guys. If you plan on waiting on tight end, Gesicki might need to be a priority. His ranking as TE14 feels a bit low to me.
Like Gesicki, Tennessee tight end Jonnu Smith finds himself out of Delanie Walker's shadow and in position to be the No. 2 pass-catcher on the Titans, but his ceiling doesn't feel quite as high. The Titans are going to feed Derrick Henry as much as possible and their receiver room is a bit deeper than Miami's. Still, Smith certainly has appeal at his ADP for those waiting on tight end in deeper leagues.
Pittsburgh acquisition Eric Ebron rounds out the top 20. Ebron has some appeal due to his name value and his memorable 13 touchdown season just two years ago, but I'm not buying into any hype here. Maybe there's a chance that Ebron picks up where Vance McDonald left off in 2018. Does reading that sentence really get you excited about anything? I see much more value in Chris Herndon (TE22) and Ian Thomas (TE23) than I do Ebron in 2020.
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