Fantasy football players probably hope the 2020 NFL season is better for tight ends than the 2019 season was. 2018 was arguably the greatest year for tight ends in the history of the NFL and fantasy football thanks to Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz setting the single-season record for receptions and San Francisco’s George Kittle setting the single-season record for receiving yards for tight ends.
2019 was not a season for tight ends to find their way into the Guinness Book of World Records, though. Only one tight end scored double-digit touchdowns (Baltimore’s Mark Andrews) and nobody caught 100 passes after Ertz and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce did it the year before. Plus, longtime fantasy stalwart Rob Gronkowski retired, which left a gaping void on many fantasy teams.
This should be a bounce-back year for tight ends in fantasy football. There is just too much talent out there at the position, especially now that Gronk has returned and been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with Tom Brady. Here is my analysis of RotoBaller’s early 2020 PPR rankings at tight end!Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Sign Up Now!
Tight End PPR Rankings and Tiers
|Position Tier||Position Rank||Player||Overall Tier||Overall Rank|
|6||21||Irv Smith Jr.||10||163|
|7||23||Chris Herndon IV||11||193|
All Kelce has done is post four consecutive seasons of at least 80 receptions and 1,000 yards. He has also never missed a game, is a key cog in the most explosive offense in the NFL and has MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him. He is the clear-cut No. 1 TE heading into the season.
Back-to-back 85-catch, 1,000-yard years make Kittle impossible to rank lower than No. 2. The only thing you can hold against him is that he has only scored 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons despite all the catches and yardage. In dynasty, Kittle might be the more desirable asset due to age but he has yet to surpass Kelce in redraft based on offensive context.
It was going to be difficult for Ertz to duplicate his record-smashing 2018 numbers, so his slight comedown in 2019 was no surprise. The issue is that tight end teammate Dallas Goedert is on the rise and proved he could be a No. 1 TE on most NFL teams, so he will continue cutting into Ertz’s time and targets.
Andrews topped tight ends in touchdowns in 2019 thanks to the improved play of quarterback Lamar Jackson, and now that running mate Hayden Hurst was traded to Atlanta it means Andrews will get most of the tight end targets. Baltimore’s run-first offense prevents Andrews from being ranked higher, though.
Waller was the breakout star at the position in 2019. He only had 173 receiving yards over his first three seasons before exploding for 1,145 last year. Waller’s pass-catching skills will keep him as a top-five fantasy tight end, though fantasy owners should be worried that Las Vegas drafted three wide receivers in the first three rounds of this past April’s draft, so that's why his fifth and not higher.
Higbee went from being a block-first tight end to becoming the biggest revelation at the position faster than Usain Bolt runs a 100-yard-dash. He ended the season with 43 receptions for 522 yards over his final five games and should remain a focal point of the offense now that he has proved his worth.
Henry could rack up 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns if he stayed healthy. The problem is he never does. The other problem is he no longer has Philip Rivers as his quarterback, so only time will tell if rookie Justin Herbert and/or scrambler Tyrod Taylor can get Henry the ball. Henry has also averaged just 3.3 receptions per game in his career --- not great for PPR leagues.
Engram has missed 14 games over his first three seasons and cannot be counted upon until he starts drinking more milk and taking more vitamins, but he has shown over the past couple years that he can be an elite fantasy tight end when he is not sharing the field with Odell Beckham Jr. He is a sprained ankle from falling two tiers, though.
We all know how well Gronkowski has performed in the past. His four 1,000-yard years and five double-digit touchdown seasons make him an all-time fantasy favorite. However, Gronk’s injury history, his one-year layoff, and the fact that he is part of a tight end trio in Tampa Bay force his ranking to be this low. Gronkowski is arguably the biggest risk-reward guy among all tight ends entering the season.
Cook’s 2019 campaign was a tale of two seasons. During the first month of the season while he was getting acclimated to Drew Brees and Sean Payton’s intricate offense, Cook only managed eight catches for 90 yards. Yet during the last 10 games he suited up for he supplied 35 catches for 615 yards and nine touchdowns. Expect more of the latter production from Cook in 2020 during what might Brees’ swan song.
Hooper’s numbers have quietly improved in each of his four seasons, but his fantasy value will likely take a hit going from Atlanta to Cleveland. Let’s hope he does not become another David Njoku and falls out of fantasy favor because wideouts Jarvis Landry and the aforementioned Beckham Jr. take all the targets.
Fant is a former first-round pick for a reason --- he has more tools than Lowe’s and Home Depot combined. If Denver can get decent quarterback play out of Drew Lock, Fant will be a prized asset in dynasty and keeper leagues for several seasons.
Gesicki did not score a touchdown in the first 25 NFL contests of his career, but the light finally clicked on inside his helmet during the second half of last season. Because of his combination of size, strength and speed he could end the year a tier or two higher than he is now.
Goedert could have found himself in a Top-three tier if he found himself on another NFL team that did have Zach Ertz as its top tight end.
Doyle should have an above-average year in PPR leagues now that Ebron has taken his talents to Pittsburgh. Fantasy players know how much Philip Rivers loves throwing to his tight ends.
Hockenson racked up 131 yards and a TD in his first pro game last year, then proceeded to score only one more time and have only one more 50-yard game before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Do not forget about the former first-rounder when making out your cheat sheet in August.
The Delanie Walker Era is over in Tennessee, so Smith will be the Titans’ top tight end for the foreseeable future. Smith has more big-play ability than most tight ends, but he also vanishes during games more than many tight ends.
Ebron could score 14 touchdowns in Pittsburgh like he did with Indianapolis in 2018 if everything goes right, or he might muster only three like he did last season if things go awry, and because of his history (and Vance McDonald) I see him ending up closer to the latter number.
Hurst was a major fantasy disappointment and totally outplayed by Mark Andrews during his two seasons in Baltimore, but he gets a new lease on life playing in a TE-friendly Atlanta offense where wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley always open up the middle of the field for their tight ends. If Hurst cannot post decent numbers in this situation, he is a bonafide bust.
mith Jr. will still have to split targets and touches with veteran Kyle Rudolph in Minnesota, which severely stunts his fantasy growth.
Thomas has the Carolina tight end job all to himself and is a sleeper after showing glimpses of what he can do when subbing in for Greg Olsen the past two years.
Tier 7 and Lower
Olsen was an iron man between 2008 and 2016 when he did not miss a game for nine straight seasons, but in recent years his body has betrayed him, costing him 18 game over the past three seasons. If he can stay injury-free, Olsen should thrive in Seattle as Russell Wilson loves utilizing his tight ends (especially in the red zone).
Knox has a bright future ahead of him in Buffalo, especially if Josh Allen continues improving as a signal caller, though his numbers will be tamped down thanks to Buffalo’s offense revolving around running the ball.
Fantasy pundits and players all assumed Howard would become a top fantasy tight end in 2019. Turns out Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians had other plans, and now the front office obviously has other plans as well.
More Fantasy Football Analysis
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