TE Sleepers and TEs to Avoid

For the past few seasons, tight end has been the shallowest position in fantasy football. Outside of the superstar tight ends (Gronk, Kelce, Kittle, Ertz), it was a struggle to find a consistent option. Breakout tight ends like Darren Waller last season were huge for people who missed out on one of the big superstars. While the position is a lot deeper than it has been in the past few years, quality tight ends are still hard to find. In this article, I go through 3 tight ends that I think are being overrated, and 3 that I think will blow their ADP out of the water.

TEs to Avoid:

Zach Ertz: I want to make it clear that I still think he is a solid fantasy option, but I think he is being drafted a couple rounds earlier than he should be. The Eagles have completely reloaded their offense this offseason, bringing back a healthy DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, and drafting Jalen Reagor (who will miss a couple weeks unfortunately). While this bodes amazingly for Carson Wentz, we can’t expect Ertz to continue to be the target hog he has been the past few seasons. With a starting receiver core of Greg Ward and Nelson Agholor, it made sense that Ertz would have to carry the offense. Now, with the continued development of Dallas Goedert, Ertz may take a much smaller role in the offense than he used to. 

To make things worse, the Eagles have lost OT Andre Dillard and OG Brandon Brooks for the season, along with minor injuries to OT Lane Johnson. Ertz could be called upon to block more often, further reducing his targets. It is not unreasonable to think Wentz may have to throw more short passes with the reduction in time to throw. Goedert tended to be Wentz’s preferred underneath target, with an ADOT (Average Depth of Target) of 5.8 yards compared to Ertz’s 8.6 yards. While Ertz will get his fair share of work, he likely won’t get enough to pay off his TE 3 ADP. On the flip side, Goedert definitely shouldn’t be going undrafted when he is in a good position to become a touchdown-dependent flex with great upside.

Rob Gronkowski: I think that Gronk tends to be extremely divisive in the fantasy community. I’ve heard many people expecting Gronk to be a top 3 TE and think he is a steal at TE 6, but I’ve also heard many people completely avoid him. I tend to side with the latter, mainly because history predicts Gronk simply won’t be used enough to pay off his draft position. Bruce Arians has essentially never produced a fantasy worthy TE (I still drafted OJ Howard last season. Sigh). Now Gronk enters a TE room with Cameron Brate and OJ Howard who have both proven themselves to be adept receiving options. It’s hard to envision Gronk getting enough targets on a Bruce Arians-led offense without two other competing tight ends.

 I totally understand the Brady-Gronk connection, and that Gronk solely came to play with Brady. That being said, one of the biggest reasons Gronkowski retired in the first place was the physical toll football took on him, which came with a comprehensive injury history. Arians will likely rotate the three tight ends to keep them fresh and reduce the physical strain placed on each player, and has already stated he plans on utilizing all three. While that is great for Gronkowski’s longevity, it isn’t great for his fantasy prospects. I’m a huge fan of Gronk and am excited to watch him and Brady come back together, but at TE 6 I am staying far away from him this season.

Tyler Higbee: In a lot of recent drafts, Higbee has gone either really late or undrafted, so its possible the winds are shifting on him. That being said, he has an ADP of TE 7 in the 8th round, which seems really dangerously early for a player who had four good games in four years. There’s no doubt that Higbee balled out at the end of last season, finishing as TE 1 during weeks 13-17 last season by a wide margin. He could potentially be a massive steal with his ADP, but all of the signs point to him disappointing fantasy owners. The most important difference between weeks 1-13 and 13-17 is the absence of TE Gerald Everett. The #1 TE for most of the season, Everett took the majority of passing work and was a semi-usable flex most weeks in deeper leagues. With Everett playing, Higbee is primarily used as a blocker, where he excels. Not to mention, 4 of those 5 games were against the 3 easiest TE defenses last year (AZ x2, SEA, DAL). As long as Everett is blocking Higbee’s path as a true starter, I don’t see him being able to pay off his price of TE 7.

Sleeper Tight Ends:

  1. Chris Herndon: The Jets offense does not look fantasy friendly at all. With an essentially brand new starting 5 on the offensive line, Sam Darnold is going to have his hands full in the beginning of the season. Brashad Perriman is already dinged up and the Jets have lost numerous depth pieces to injuries already. That being said, they have to put up points somehow, and I think Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon are the players to do it. Throughout camp, Herndon has been touted as a player set for a breakout season. The chemistry between him and Darnold has been electric, and should hopefully carry on to the regular season. He missed most of last season with a suspension and injury, but in 2018 he was on the verge of becoming an every-week starter. With an ADP of TE 17 in the 13th round, Herndon provides a high-upside budget pick at a position that still isn’t very deep.
  2. T.J. Hockenson: Hockenson was one of the most added players in fantasy after week 1 and proceeded to absolutely disappear and was later placed on season-ending IR. That being said, the whole Lion’s offense struggled after Matthew Stafford’s season-ending injury. Not to mention rookie TE’s almost always struggle their first season. With his first full season in the books and an offseason working with former college teammate George Kittle, Hockenson should be prepared for a huge second season. As the third target behind WR Kenny Golladay and WR Marvin Jones Jr., Hockenson should see enough volume to be a top 10 TE (especially with Stafford’s huge upcoming season which you can read about in our Sleeper QB article). The offensive coordinator for the Lions, Darrell Bevell, also stated he wanted to get Hockenson the ball a whole lot more. It seems reasonable that Hockenson should take a massive step forward this year and bust his 13th round ADP out of the water.
  3. Noah Fant: Fant faced the same rookie struggles as Hockenson last season, finishing as TE 16 last season. Currently he is being drafted as TE 12. I think the Bronco’s offense is going to take a huge leap forward and Fant should be a huge beneficiary. With the addition of route-master Jerry Jeudy and speed-demon K.J. Hamler, defenses will have to pay a lot more attention to the outside than last season. This should free up more space for Fant to get open and gain huge chunk plays with his 4.5 (!) 40 yard dash time. Fant may not receive the volume that higher ranked tight ends get, but he has the athletic profile of an athlete that can succeed with a low target share. He may not be the most reliable option but if he develops a good rapport with Drew Lock, he could combine volume and efficiency to piece together a very good season. At the very least, he should outperform his TE 12 draft position and provide you with a solid backup.

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