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Tight End Standard Rankings, Tiers and Analysis

It is never too early to start setting up your cheat sheet for your fantasy football drafts and auctions.

The 2020 NFL season is going to be interesting fantasy-wise at the tight end position. With longtime fantasy demigod Rob Gronkowski putting his pro wrestling career on hold and coming out of retirement to reteam with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, there will be an intriguing battle among top-tier tight ends for the title of No. 1 TE in standard fantasy leagues. One thing is for sure --- the depth at tight end in fantasy football has arguably never been better.

Here is a look at my analysis of RotoBaller’s early 2020 standard rankings at tight end!

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Tight End Standard Rankings and Tiers

Position Rank Position Tier Player Name Overall Rank Overall Tier
1 1 Travis Kelce 16 2
2 1 George Kittle 21 3
3 2 Mark Andrews 45 4
4 2 Zach Ertz 48 4
5 2 Darren Waller 58 5
6 3 Tyler Higbee 78 6
7 3 Hunter Henry 82 6
8 4 Evan Engram 96 7
9 4 Rob Gronkowski 99 7
10 4 Austin Hooper 103 7
11 4 Jared Cook 109 7
12 4 Noah Fant 127 8
13 5 Dallas Goedert 146 9
14 5 Mike Gesicki 149 9
15 5 T.J. Hockenson 152 9
16 5 Jack Doyle 154 10
17 5 Jonnu Smith 155 10
18 5 Eric Ebron 170 10
19 6 Darren Fells 183 11
20 6 Blake Jarwin 184 11
21 6 Hayden Hurst 193 11
22 6 Ian Thomas 196 12
23 6 Irv Smith Jr. 204 12
24 7 Chris Herndon IV 225 13
25 7 Dalton Keene 245 13
26 7 Kyle Rudolph 247 13
27 7 Adam Trautman 257 14
28 7 Will Dissly 258 14
29 7 Harrison Bryant 261 14
30 7 Jace Sternberger 262 14
31 7 Devin Asiasi 264 14
32 7 O.J. Howard 267 14
33 7 Greg Olsen 270 15
34 7 Dawson Knox 272 15
35 8 Ryan Griffin 279 15
36 8 Jimmy Graham 291 15
37 8 Jeremy Sprinkle 311 15
38 9 Jacob Hollister 321 16
39 9 C.J. Uzomah 322 16
40 9 Albert Okwuegbunam 329 16
41 9 Gerald Everett 333 16
42 9 David Njoku 336 16
43 9 Cole Kmet 351 17
44 9 Tyler Eifert 376 17
45 9 Vance McDonald 377 17
46 9 Cameron Brate 380 17
47 10 Kaden Smith 393 18
48 10 Brycen Hopkins 396 18
49 10 Nick Boyle 403 18
50 10 Josiah Deguara 405 18
51 10 Jason Witten 406 18
52 11 Trey Burton 412 18
53 11 Foster Moreau 413 18
54 11 Colby Parkinson 416 18
55 11 Jordan Akins 418 18
56 11 Josh Oliver 424 18
57 11 Delanie Walker 426 18
58 11 Drew Sample 438 18
59 11 Jared Pinkney 24 19
60 11 Jordan Reed 24 20
61 11 Mo Alie-Cox 24 21

 

Tier 1

No current tight end is coming off four consecutive 1,000-yard years like Kelce is, nor has anybody at the position been as durable (one missed game in six seasons). No other tight end has reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to them, either. To top it off, according to Pro Football Focus, Kelce led all pass catchers in 2020 by averaging 2.8 yards per route when lining up out wide and led tight ends with 274 deep receiving yards (yards on passes that traveled 20 yards in the air).

Name Team Deep Targets Deep Rec. Deep Rec. Yards Deep TD
Travis Kelce Chiefs 12 8 274 3
Mark Andrews Ravens 18 8 224 4
Darren Waller Raiders 12 5 160 0
Dawson Knox Bills 10 5 160 0
Jimmy Graham Packers 13 4 146 0
O.J. Howard Buccaneers 10 5 141 0
Mike Gesicki Dolphins 15 5 130 2

This is all why Kelce is numero uno at tight end.

Kittle does not have Mahomes as his QB and is stuck in a run-first offense, which makes his back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons arguably more impressive. He is the Julio Jones of tight ends because he does not find his way into the end zone as much as he probably should considering the volume of passes he catches (12 TD in three seasons).

 

Tier 2

Andrews topped tight ends with 10 touchdowns in 2019 and proved once and for all that he should have been the one drafted in the first round in 2018, not Hayden Hurst. Now that Hurst has been traded to Atlanta and Baltimore did zilch to upgrade its receiving corps, Andrews could be even better in 2020 as Lamar Jackson’s top target.

Despite having to share some time and targets with upstart Dallas Goedert, Ertz still led all tight ends in targets per game. As long as Carson Wentz is his quarterback and the Eagles wide receivers are the most injury-prone in the NFL, Ertz will remain a fantasy force.

Waller was a darling of fantasy pundits and prognosticators at the start of the season, but who had him finishing second among tight ends in receptions and receiving yards? His WR-like skills make him virtually uncoverable in open space. Waller just needs some of his big plays to translate into touchdowns before he puts pressure on the big boys at the position (3 TD in 2020).

 

Tier 3

There were a couple weeks last season when everyone thought the L.A. Rams tight end who was a breakout star was Gerald Everett. Then Everett got injured, and Higbee ended the season with 43 receptions for 522 yards over his final five games to cement himself as one of the most valuable waiver-wire pickups in fantasy leagues. There is some risk with Higbee as he had never shown that ability before and has a scattershot quarterback and a revamped offensive crew surrounding him, but I do not believe he is a five-hit wonder.

It is hard to invest emotionally in Henry. He has scored more touchdowns than Kittle over the past three seasons and has a longer track record than Higbee, Andrews or Waller, but Henry has only suited up for 41 games in four years and has an unsettled quarterback situation instead of having Philip Rivers as his rock behind center.

 

Tier 4

Engram averaged a career-high 8.5 targets per game (2nd among tight ends) in 2019 thanks to ball hog Odell Beckham Jr. being traded to Cleveland. Beckham not being around did not help Engram stay any healthier, however. He has missed more games (14) than scored touchdowns (12) over his three-year career.

Gronkowski has returned from retirement and has five double-digit touchdown seasons and four 1,000-yard years to his credit. Will he be recharged after a year away and teaming with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, or will he be a shell of his former self that has to cede many of his tight end targets to O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate? The risk might be greater than the reward with Gronk, especially if a WWE superstar powerslams him to win his 24/7 championship he still holds.

Hooper became the highest-paid tight end in the NFL during the offseason and has improved his numbers in each of his pro seasons, yet his fantasy stock actually takes a hit because he had it slightly better in Atlanta than he will in Cleveland. Quarterback Baker Mayfield holds Hooper’s fantasy value in his hands.

If you want a projection of what Cook could do in his second season with the Saints, look at what he did last November and December (28-537-7) and not what he did during September and October (15-168-2). Fant has more value in dynasty and keeper leagues because of his youth and upward mobility. He has a better chance of having a breakout season in 2021 than he probably does this year.

 

Tier 5

Goedert would probably be good for 800 yards and eight touchdowns if he did not have the role as the best second-fiddle tight end in the league behind Ertz in Philly.

Gesicki played like a second-round bust for the first 25 games of his career but then finished last year on the highest of notes by scoring five times over the final seven games of the season.

Hockenson’s rookie campaign was ruined by injuries after he tantalized fantasy owners with 131 yards and a TD in his very first pro contest. Let’s hope he is not another Engram.

Doyle is better suited for PPR leagues because he does not exactly rack up yards or touchdowns but should be a solid TE2 with tight-end-lover Rivers as his quarterback and target stealer Eric Ebron now in Pittsburgh.

The jury is out on whether the inconsistent Smith can be productive as Tennessee’s top tight end over the course of a full season. He is a top-five tight end in terms of big-play ability and speed. Smith just needs to prove he can post decent numbers week in and week out.

Ebron is a humongous boom-or-bust option in deep leagues as he is only a year removed from his scintillating 14-TD season but had five mediocre-at-best years sandwiched around it.

 

Tier 6

Fells set career-highs across the fantasy board last season but will be hard-pressed to find open spaces in secondaries without DeAndre Hopkins running routes and attracting double teams anymore. That being said, Fells is ranked three tiers higher in the standard league rankings than the PPR rankings because he does not need a compass to find the end zone (seven TD in 2019).

Hurst did not get a fair shake in Baltimore, so it will be intriguing to see what he can put up in Atlanta with the middle of the field wide open thanks to wonderful wideouts Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley distracting defenders.

Smith cannot be ranked any higher when Kyle Rudolph is alongside him in Minnesota’s offense and is signed for multimillions for the next several seasons.

 

Tier 7 and Lower

Remember that Herndon was second to Mark Andrews in receiving yards among rookie tight ends back in 2018 before a drug suspension and injuries ruined his sophomore season.

Keene was not even listed in RotoBaller’s PPR rankings at the position, but he could stumble into some touchdowns since he does not have much competition facing him on New Eangland’s depth chart.

Howard’s fantasy growth has been severely stunted by Tampa Bay head honcho Bruce Arians and now the arrival of Gronkowski. He deserves better.

Chicago has been the place where tight ends watch their fantasy value fall flat (ask Trey Burton owners), so between that and Father Time stripping the speed from his legs, we should not expect more than 500 yards and four touchdowns from Graham.

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.