Welcome to the Tight End Workshop. Today we’re going to discuss one of my favorite positions in Fantasy Football – Tight End. Whether you’re the type who aims to capture an elite level TE early in your draft or the type who likes to wait until the double-digit rounds of your draft, knowledge is key when it comes to your decision making. Let’s start by reviewing the top 12 TE’s from 2020 in terms of FPTS as well as FPTS/G.
2020 PPR Stats
From this simple data its easy to see that the separation between the Elite tier and the rest of the pack is substantial. Right off the bat you could draw comparisons between Travis Kelce or Darren Waller and championship finishes from 2020. The gap between TE2 and TE3 on the season was >100FPTS. On the flip side, players like Logan Thomas and Robert Tonyan went undrafted in most formats but finished inside the top 5 TE’s in total FPTS. Pair these two examples together and you can comfortably take a position that if you don’t land a Tight End from the ‘Elite Tier’, you’re just as well off to wait until the later rounds of your draft and reassess through waivers early on.
I look at 4 different tiers of Tight Ends for the 2021 season and reference FantasyPros latest ECR. While we are on each tier we are also going to take a look at the associated cost in terms of ADP for each player and range. For reference we’re using a standard 12TM PPR, single TE, no premium redraft format.
Tier 1 – Elite TE’s
“Value above replacement superstars”
- Travis Kelce – ADP 8
- Darren Waller – ADP 25
- George Kittle – ADP 26
- Draft Range: 1.08 – 3.02
- 2020 Scoring Range: 15.6 – 20.9 FPTS/G
These are the elite names at the position for 2021 and acquiring these players during the season via trade is nearly impossible. You’re key to getting these players is going to be through the draft or by overpaying in trade. Since 2018, Travis Kelce has led the NFL in FPTS/G and he finished the 2020 season with a career best 20.9FPTS/G. He’s your quintessential “Ace in the hole” at the position. Drafting from this group doesn’t come cheap. You’ll look past drafting your RB1/RB2 or WR1/WR2 to solidify a player from the elite tier at this position. The value above replacement in this tier is league-winning. To put that into perspective TE7-12 scored an average of 149.8 FPTS in 2020. Kelce smashed that average by 163 FPTS while Darren Waller beat it by 128.8 FPTS. If you value the TE position these are the players you want to select early in your draft.
Tier 2 – Stud’s
“Your team strength can take a big hit if this pick doesn’t turn out”
- Mark Andrews ADP 48
- Kyle Pitts ADP 53
- TJ Hockenson ADP 57
- Draft range 4.12 – 5.10
- 2020 Scoring Range: 11.0 – 12.2 FPTS/G ***Kyle Pitts enters his 1st NFL season in 2021
In the second tier at the position we have a mixed bag which includes one of the most exciting Tight End prospects in NFL history – Kyle Pitts. He projects as one of the future Elite’s at the position and is the highest TE ever drafted. Andrews was 4th in the NFL in 2020 averaging 12.2 FPTS/G despite coming in below the expectations relative to the draft capital invested to acquire him. Lastly, TJ Hockenson checks in as the overall TE5 from 2020 who appears heavily favored to lead the Lions in targets amidst a sub-par group of wide receivers.
This group has the upside to win you a league but comes with some questions as to whether they are worth the investment of a draft pick. At a 2020 range of 11.0 – 12.2 FPTS/G we are getting production comparable to the WR50 range or the RB 30 range. By that evaluation the draft price associated with these players is quite high. In order to return value in terms of FPTS/G, this group needs to take a step forward in 2021 and climb towards the 15.0 GPTS/G range. The best way to draft TE’s from this group is after they have fallen below ADP. An injury or a poor season from a player drafted in this range could significantly reduce your chances of success. Rather than draft from this group I’m going to look towards some of the valuable wide receivers like Diontae Johnson, Tee Higgins or Tyler Lockett.
Tier 3 – Middle of the Pack
“This is where you try to justify a pick by saying – Yeah he’s got a safe floor though”
- Dallas Goedert ADP 75
- Noah Fant ADP 78
- Logan Thomas ADP 85
- Robert Tonyan ADP 106
- Irv Smith Jr. ADP 115
- Mike Gesicki ADP 119
- Rob Gronkowski ADP 122
- Draft Range: 7.03 – 10.02
- 2020 Scoring Range 7.6 – 11.0 FPTS/G
I look at this as an extremely boring tier of players for redraft purposes. Players in this group are typically missing an element to success. Whether it be the QB throwing them the ball, more competition at the position or a lack of usage in a key area this group doesn’t check all the boxes.
I prefer to stay out of this range all together and I don’t view any of these players as league winners. Players available in the same range are WR33 – WR47 / RB30 – RB41 / QB10 – QB13. Rather than selecting from the list of reasonable TE options here I’m looking towards some high ceiling plays like Jaylen Waddle with an ADP of 111.
Tier 4 – Late Round Options
“Late round plays and Free Agent adds”
- Evan Engram ADP 128
- Hunter Henry ADP 129
- Jonnu Smith ADP 137
- Tyler Higbee ADP 138
- Zac Ertz ADP 162
- Jared Cook ADP 166
- Adam Trautman ADP 171
- Gerald Everett ADP 182
- Blake Jarwin ADP 191
- Austin Hooper ADP 193
- Anthony Firkser ADP 196
- Cole Kmet ADP 204
- Draft Range: 10.02 – 17.12
- 2020 Scoring Range: 2.5 – 10.4FPTS/G
In the last section of today’s topic we’ve got a large group of players who have a double-digit draft round cost associated with them. This category is comprised of mainly “TE2” level players who we hope will see a significant uptick in TD receptions, red zone usage and targets for various reasons. The range of outcomes from the players in this tier is as low as 2.5 and goes all the way up to 10.4FPTS/G in 2020. When you compare the 2020 upper end scoring of 10.4FPTS/G with the Tier 2 options ranging between 11.0 – 12.2 its makes these picks seem very economical. Strategically speaking, by coming away with 2 TE’s picked from this tier and staying open to waiver wire options in week 1-4, it’s possible to come away with a TE that can still finish inside the top 12 at the position. Finding the 2021 version of Logan Thomas or Robert Tonyan is the goal as you go deeper into this tier.
I recommend this tier in redraft formats to everyone who doesn’t land a top-3 TE. By waiting until this round you allow your RB and WR groups to fill out and become your positions of strength. The more flex spots your league format includes the better that strategy will play out.
To wrap things up I want to reiterate the top heavy aspect of the TE position going into 2021. Drafting from the Elite tier gives you the best chance at holding an advantage in value above replacement. If you miss out on this group, your next best option is to wait until the later rounds of your draft and to keep your eyes on the waiver wire in weeks 1-4. The 2020 TE4 – TE12 group were separated by only 4.6FPTS/G so don’t start to feel like your missing out at the position and force a pick. Instead, sit back and understand that the RB’s and WR’s from this range are more likely to win you a championship than any of the Tight Ends in that range.
David Carey – @87_Carey