Monday, April 5, 2021

Post-Free Agency 2021 Fantasy Football TE Rankings

FantasyPros tracks fantasy football rankings accuracy and Kevin Hanson's 2020 rankings were 9th-most accurate (among 149 experts tracked). Hanson has now finished top 20 in accuracy six times since 2011.

The majority of free-agent signings are now behind us with the 2021 NFL Draft next up on the NFL calendar.

With (most of) free agency behind us, I have updated my fantasy football rankings for the upcoming season and I'll update these rankings after the NFL Draft and throughout the summer.

[Note: Our updated fantasy tight end rankings will be posted here.]

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 (16-game) 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. Given the turnover of the wide receiver corps, Hockenson may be forced into an even higher-volume role in 2021.

6. 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 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. The breakout tight end will enter 2021 as a viable TE1 (top-12 option).

7. 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). The Eagles are expected to part ways with Zach Ertz this offseason, which could allow Goedert to perform as one of the top five or six tight ends in 2021.

8. 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.

9. 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).

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. 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. While Engram led NYG in targets (109) last season, the addition of Kenny Golladay as the team's top pass-catching option could lead to less week-to-week consistency in targets for Engram.

12. Kyle Pitts, Free Agent

Playing a difficult position to learn that typically leads to modest rookie seasons, 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 the 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 has had a larger wingspan over the past 20 drafts.

13. 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 each other, 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.

14. Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots

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.

15. Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Not there to just "block," Gronkowski didn't score his first touchdown until Week 6, but he finished as fantasy's TE8 and ended the year with 45 catches for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. It's worth noting that O.J. Howard tore his Achilles in Week 5, but he's on track to participate in the team's offseason program.

16. Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons

Hurst performed as the TE9 in half-PPR and PPR formats and the TE11 in non-PPR formats as 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.

17. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams

Following his breakout season -- correction: 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) although three of them came in one game. Higbee finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end in only two weeks last season.

With Gerald Everett signing with Seattle and the team trading for Matthew Stafford, there is some optimism for improved numbers from Higbee.

18. 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 salary cap-strapped Bears release Graham, Kmet could be poised for a breakout sophomore campaign.

19. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

It's unclear where Ertz will play his football in 2021, but at this point, it appears that trade talks with any possible suitors have stalled. Ertz missed five games last season and didn't score a touchdown after Week 1 as he averaged a career-low 9.3 yards per reception and his 30.5 YPG were his lowest since his rookie season (2013, 29.3).

20. Irv Smith, Minnesota Vikings

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 released and now with the Giants, Smith has plenty of upside heading into his third season.

21. Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

22. Blake Jarwin, Dallas Cowboys

23. Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers

24. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

25. Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers

26. Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

27. Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks

28. Dan Arnold, Carolina Panthers

29. Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans

30. Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints

31. Chris Herndon, New York Jets

32. Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears

33. Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts

34. Kyle Rudolph, New York Giants

35. Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

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