The NFL season is fast approaching. Now only one day away from the preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, the regular-season opener is only a little more than a month away.
Leading up to the start of the season, these rankings will be updated regularly.
Note: These rankings are for half-PPR scoring.
More scoring formats:
More 2021 fantasy football rankings:
- Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings
- Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings
- Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings
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.
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.
Missing exactly half of the 2020 season, Kittle had 48/634/2 in eight games, comparable to a 96/1,268/4 (16-game) pace. In the previous two seasons, Kittle had 85/1,053/5 in 2019 and 88/1,377/5 in 2018. As long as his health cooperates, Kittle should approach another 1,000-yard campaign even if the team transitions to Trey Lance early in the season.
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.
Hockenson basically doubled up his rookie production with 67 catches for 723 yards and six touchdowns. Given the turnover of the wide receiver corps, Hockenson could be forced into an even higher-volume role in 2021.
6. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
It's typically a difficult transition to the NFL for rookie tight ends, but Pitts isn't the typical tight end. The definition of a mismatch player in the mold of Darren Waller, Pitts has the potential to develop into fantasy's TE1 within a few years. The John Mackey Award winner, Pitts won't turn 21 until October, runs like a receiver (4.44 forty) and no pass-catcher over the past 20 drafts has had a larger wingspan.
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 Weeks 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) amongst tight ends. Last year's breakout tight end will enter 2021 as a viable top-10 option even with the team bolstering its receiving corps via the draft and free agency.
Following his breakout season -- correction: breakout month (December 2019), it was a disappointing 2020 for Higbee and his fantasy managers. The fifth-year tight end saw a year-over-year dip in targets (60), receptions (44) and yards (521), but he did set a career high in touchdowns (five), though three were caught in one game. That led to inconsistency as Higbee finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end in only two weeks last season.
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).
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). Earlier this offseason, expectations were that the Eagles would part ways with Zach Ertz, but that no longer appears to be the case.
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.
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 additions of Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle and Hunter Long put a damper on Gesicki's 2021 outlook.
Smith missed three games last season, but the second-year tight end set career highs in YPG (28.1), Y/R (12.2) and touchdowns (five). With Kyle Rudolph no longer on the roster, the arrow is pointing up for the third-year tight end.
14. Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not there to just "block," Gronkowski didn't score his first touchdown until Week 6, but he finished 2020 as fantasy's TE8 and ended the year with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. O.J. Howard tore his Achilles in Week 4, but his return limits Gronk's 2021 upside.
The team's overall passing volume is modest, but Cleveland's offense is TE-friendly with 27.74% of 2020 targets going to the position. Hooper, who has now missed three games in back-to-back seasons, underwhelmed in his first season in Cleveland as he averaged a career-low 6.2 Y/TGT and 33.5 YPG, a three-year low. With Odell Beckham sidelined (torn ACL), Hooper was more productive down the stretch -- 25/211/3 on 40 targets over his final five games including the playoffs.
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. While Engram led NYG in targets (109) last season, the addition of Kenny Golladay as the team's top pass-catching option and selection of Kadarius Toney in the first round could lead to less week-to-week consistency in targets for Engram.
Down the stretch, Kmet leapfrogged Jimmy Graham on the depth chart based on snaps played. In addition, the rookie out of Notre Dame averaged 6.0 targets per game over his five final regular-season games. There is some potential for Kmet to have a breakout sophomore campaign.
A breakout candidate set for an expanded role in year two, Trautman will be a popular sleeper pick at tight end. Not only are Jared Cook and Josh Hill no longer on the roster, but Emmanuel Sanders (82 targets) is also gone and Michael Thomas is likely to miss the start of the season following recent ankle surgery.
In his first season with the Steelers, Ebron finished with 56 catches for 558 yards and five touchdowns. Given the team's talented trio of wide receivers and the likelihood that the Steelers run more often in 2021, Ebron's year-over-year numbers will likely dip.
Smith scored more touchdowns in 2020 (nine including 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.
Given that he'll compete with Hunter Henry for TE targets, it's possible that Smith (and Henry) frustrate fantasy managers in 2021.
21. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots
One year after investing a pair of Day 2 picks at the position, the Patriots double-dipped in the free-agent tight end market with Henry and Jonnu Smith. Unfortunately for both, their individual upside may cancel each other out to a certain degree.
Missing multiple games in four consecutive seasons including all of 2018, Henry had 60 catches on 93 targets, both of which were career highs, for 613 yards and four touchdowns in 2020.
With the Cowboys moving on from Jason Witten before the start of the 2020 season, Jarwin was expected to see a big jump in target share and production, but he unfortunately tore his ACL in Week 1. As a part-time player in 2018 and 2019, Jarwin had a total of 77 catches for 672 yards and six touchdowns.
23. Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers
Cook replaces Hunter Henry atop the Chargers' depth chart, which disappointed fantasy managers hoping for a Donald Parham breakout season. Entering his age-34 season, Cook has 22 touchdowns over his past three seasons combined, but he averaged only 33.6 YPG -- a five-year low -- in 2020. At this stage of his career, Cook offers little more upside than a streaming option at the position.
24. Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks
Even though he was under-utilized in L.A., Everett posted career highs in targets (62), receptions (41) and yards (417) in 2020. Now in Seattle, Everett should be the 1(a) to Will Dissly's 1(b), but the volume in a run-heavy offense with a talented wide receiver duo of D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett means there may not be a significant bump in targets for the athletic tight end.
Moving to top spot on the depth chart with Jonnu Smith in Foxboro, Firkser enters 2021 with some sleeper appeal. Firkser had 39/387/1 in 2020 as a situational player and he should be heavily involved in the red zone. The challenge for Firkser is the run-first nature of the offense and the upgrades to the receiving corps with Julio Jones and Josh Reynolds in the WR2/WR3 spots.
26. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
27. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
31. Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks
34. Donald Parham, Los Angeles Chargers
37. Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears
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