We continue with our breakdown of RotoBaller's early 2020 draft rankings for Half-PPR leagues by looking at everyone's favorite position - tight end!
While the names at the very top are no surprise, the next tier looks vastly different from a year ago. There are also some young, upcoming players that could make a fantasy splash in 2020.
Let’s dig deeper into the Half-PPR TE Rankings where we’ll take a look 2019 production and attempt to forecast outlooks based on changes in team context or whether that production was sustainable.
Tight End Half-PPR Rankings and Tiers
|Position Rank||Position Tier||Player Name||Overall Rank||Overall Tier|
|21||6||Irv Smith Jr.||177||11|
Travis Kelce catches passes from the best quarterback in the most prolific offense in the NFL. He’s put up 115+ targets, 80+ receptions and 1000+ yards in four consecutive seasons. We’ll also likely see some positive regression on the five touchdowns from 2019. George Kittle is a great tight end as well, but Kelce’s status as one of the top options for Patrick Mahomes makes him the clear TE1.
Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, Darren Waller
Mark Andrews established himself as one of the best tight ends in the NFL with an impressive breakout season in 2019. The Baltimore Ravens led the NFL with a 43.6% target share for tight ends. They just traded Hayden Hurst (39 targets in 2019) to the Atlanta Falcons, so Nick Boyle (43 targets) is the only tight end on the roster who will take away some targets from Andrews. This makes it likely that Andrews (98 targets) will see an increase in volume. Andrews looks like the best bet of the Tier 2 tight ends to make the jump to Tier 1.
Zach Ertz (21 less targets in 2019) is on a downward trajectory at age 30, while Darren Waller could see a decrease in target share in an upgraded Raiders’ pass-catching group.
Tyler Higbee, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram
Evan Engram (89th-percentile in SPARQ score) is one of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL, but he’s had trouble staying on the field, with only 34 of 48 career games played. However, he was in the middle of a breakout season before it was cut short due to injury, with 44 receptions, 467 yards, and three touchdowns in eight games. Unlike Tyler Higbee and Hunter Henry, Engram is the top option in his team’s passing game. The Giants don’t have a clear-cut WR1 like the Rams and Chargers do. While Engram is certainly an injury-risk, he has the most upside in this group.
Higbee had a dominant late-season stretch, but his previous career-high in yards was 295. Henry is in a run-heavy offense with Tyrod Taylor at the helm. Roll the dice and target Engram.
Rob Gronkowski, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper
This is an easy tier to avoid, with Gronk and Cook as declining veterans and Hooper adapting to a new team. On the surface, Gronk’s comeback looks promising: re-joining Tom Brady in a stacked Bucs’ offense. But this is a player with significant injury concerns - it’s likely that the team will opt to give him a reduced role to save him for the playoffs, especially with capable tight ends like O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate still on the roster. Jared Cook still has downfield ability (10.85 yards per target in 2019), but he’s headed for negative regression in those nine touchdowns.
Entering his age-33 season, Cook is on a downward trajectory. Hooper joins a Browns team that will likely convert to a more balanced offense with an emphasis on the running game under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. Hooper (10.5 yards per reception in 2019) needs high volume to be successful - he’ll likely see regression on his 97 targets from 2019.
Noah Fant, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson, Jack Doyle, Jonnu Smith, Eric Ebron
If you prefer to wait on your tight end, this is the tier to attack, as it’s filled with athletic tight ends with upside. Noah Fant (94th-percentile SPARQ) had an impressive rookie season, including two 100-yard games.
Mike Gesicki (97th-percentile SPARQ) finished the season strong, putting up 20 receptions for 244 yards and four touchdowns in his final five games. He should also see a bump in targets as the number two option for the Dolphins, behind DeVante Parker.
Dallas Goedert nearly doubled his rookie production as a sophomore - he would jump to Tier 3 if Zach Ertz would miss time due to injury.
T.J. Hockenson had an underwhelming debut season, but he’s a former top ten pick who can dominate in the red-zone (10.5% of his targets were inside the 10-yard line).
Jonnu Smith (93rd-percentile SPARQ) no longer has to compete with Delanie Walker for targets, so we can expect an increase in volume. Each of these five tight ends are terrific upside picks.
Jack Doyle is more of a floor play with low upside, while Eric Ebron is a clear avoid as he adjusts to a new team in Pittsburgh.
Hayden Hurst (Tier 6) looks poised to breakout in Atlanta as he takes over Austin Hooper’s high-volume role as the main tight end.
Blake Jarwin (Tier 6) showed downfield ability (8.90 yards per target) and plays in a Cowboys’ offense that projects to be one of the best in football.
Irv Smith Jr. (Tier 6) enters his sophomore season on a Vikings team that just traded Stefon Diggs (94 targets). Smith should establish himself as the top tight end in Minnesota over a declining Kyle Rudolph.
Chris Herndon (Tier 7) had a great rookie season, but last year was wiped out due to injury and suspension. He appears headed for a big role on a Jets’ offense with no real WR1, so the opportunity is there for a breakout season.
Gerald Everett (Tier 8) and David Njoku (Tier 8) are dart-throws who can see a huge bump in value with an injury to Tyler Higbee or Austin Hooper, as their offenses figure to be more tight end-centric this season.
Cole Kmet (Tier 10) has potential as a first-round rookie and is worth taking at such a late stage in your draft.
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