Sunday, February 21, 2021

Way-too-early 2021 Fantasy Football TE Rankings

The 2020 NFL season is now two weeks behind us.

Even so, it's arguably never too early to look ahead to the upcoming season. NFL free agency in March and the NFL Draft in April will certainly alter our early fantasy football rankings and we will update these rankings after the start of the NFL free-agency period and the NFL Draft.

More way-too-early 2021 fantasy football rankings:

For now, here are our early fantasy tight end rankings for 2021 season:

1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay's Rob Gronkowski finished as fantasy's TE8 (126.8). Kelce was so good in 2020 that he actually doubled Gronk up (260.26, TE1).

Kelce extended his 1,000-yard streak to five seasons and broke the single-season receiving yardage record (1,416) for tight ends in the process. In fact, he set career highs across the board (105/1,416/11) in his age-31 campaign. Kelce ended the regular season with eight consecutive games with at least seven catches.

Regardless of how you slice it, Kelce is not only the slam-dunk TE1 heading into 2021, but he's worthy of drafting in Round 1.

2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

The only thing that can slow Kittle down is injury. Missing exactly half of the 2020 season, Kittle had 48/634/2 in eight games, which is comparable to a 96/1,268/4 pace. Meanwhile, Kittle had 85/1,053/5 in 2019 and 88/1,377/5 in 2018.

3. Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

Waller set career highs across the board -- 107 receptions on 146 targets for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns -- and was dominant down the stretch. Not only did Waller have a 13/200/2 game in Week 13, but he exceeded the 100-yard mark in four of his final five games of the season.

4. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

Andrews missed a couple of games and Marquise Brown (58/769/8) outproduced Andrews (58/701/7) over the full season, but the third-year tight end led the team in YPG (50.1). Even if he gets the biggest slice of the pie, the team's passing offense ranked last in the NFL (171.2 YPG) in 2020.

5. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions

Hockenson basically doubled up his rookie production with 67 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns. With so many impending free agents in the wide receiver corps, Hockenson may be forced into an even higher-volume role in 2021 depending on who's re-signed or added.

6. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Goedert missed five games including Week 17 last season, but he was a consistent producer following the team's Week 9 bye through Week 16. Over that stretch, Goedert scored the sixth-most fantasy points among tight ends and ranked top five in both receptions (32) and yards (371). If the Eagles part ways with Zach Ertz this offseason, Goedert could perform as one of the top five or six tight ends in 2021.

7. Noah Fant, Denver Broncos

Playing at less than 100% in 2020, Fant averaged only 10.9 Y/R after averaging 14.1 in 2019. Fant's ADOT (7.6 to 6.7) and YAC/R (8.3 to 6.1) both declined year over year, but he also set career highs in receptions (62) and yards (673).

8. Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

Thomas was the only tight end in the league to have a minimum of four targets in every game last season. While he was consistent throughout the season, he was especially productive down the stretch. From Week 6 to 17, Thomas scored the third-most fantasy points with 58 receptions (third-most), 564 yards (third-most) and five touchdowns (tied fifth-most). The breakout tight end will enter 2021 as a viable TE1 (top-12 option).

9. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

There was a stretch (Weeks 3 to 8) last season where Gesicki had only zero or one catch in all but one game, but he was highly productive outside of that five-game span. The third-year tight end posted career highs across the board with 53 receptions, 703 yards and six touchdowns. The freakishly athletic tight end should be drafted as a top-10 option in 2021.

10. Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

Entering 2020 with 14 career receptions, Tonyan scored nearly as many touchdowns (12 counting the playoffs) as he had career receptions prior to last season. While teammate Davante Adams led the NFL with 18 touchdown receptions, Tonyan's 11 regular-season scores tied a position high with Travis Kelce.

11. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Missing multiple games in three consecutive seasons, Henry had 60 catches on 93 targets, both of which were career highs, for 613 yards and four touchdowns in 2020. Henry is slated to become a free agent in March.

12. Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans

Smith scored more touchdowns in 2020 (nine counting a rushing score) than he did in his first three NFL seasons combined (eight). And while he set career highs in targets (65), receptions (41) and receiving yards (448), Smith likely frustrated his fantasy managers as he was held to 20 receiving yards or less in more than half of his games last season. Smith is an impending free agent.

13. Evan Engram, New York Giants

After two injury-plagued seasons, Engram was able to play a full 16-game slate and finished with 63 catches for 654 yards and only one touchdown. Not only was the single touchdown disappointing for fantasy managers, but Engram's YPG (40.9) and Y/R (10.4) were both career lows.

14. Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

Hurst performed as the TE9 in half-PPR and PPR formats and the TE11 in non-PPR formats and he set career highs in targets (88), receptions (56), yards (571) and touchdowns (six) in year one in Atlanta. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, his weekly performance was inconsistent as he had five games with single-digit receiving yards.

15. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Down the stretch, Kmet moved ahead of Jimmy Graham on the depth chart in terms of snaps played. The rookie out of Notre Dame averaged 6.0 targets per game over the five final regular-season games. Especially if the Bears release Graham in the offseason, Kmet could be poised for a breakout sophomore campaign.

16. Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
17. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
18. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
19. Kyle Pitts, Free Agent
20. Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings
21. Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns
22. Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys
24. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
25. Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
26. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints
27. Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams
28. Chris Herndon, New York Jets
29. Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears
30. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

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