Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle are the top fantasy tight ends heading into the season. I’m trying my best to snag one of them as a reliable addition to my squad. The tight end position has less opportunity cost compared to the quarterback, running back, or wide receiver, so prioritizing the “big three” makes for an effective strategy.
However, the position doesn’t end with these guys. There’s a chance you’ll miss out on an elite tight end. Even if you snag one, securing a high-upside TE2 isn’t a bad idea (especially in best-ball formats).
That’s where these guys come in. You can find these options later in your fantasy football drafts, and they all have an upside compared to their current draft position. So go ahead and add these names to your queue or make a mental note to check on these sleepers in the midnight hours of your draft.
Logan Thomas – Washington Football Team
Logan Thomas was on fire to finish the 2020 season. Over his last five games, the Washington tight end averaged 10 targets, eight receptions, 68 yards per contest. He only scored two touchdowns over that span, but we can’t blame him for poor quarterback play. The bottom line is that Thomas commands plenty of volume in this offense.
Equipped with more confidence and a better quarterback, Thomas is looking to make another leap in production. He could legitimately see double-digit targets every week, which is all you can ask for in a tight end. The fact that he’s ranked seventh at his position (according to the latest ADP) is baffling.
If you miss out on Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle in the first three rounds, then waiting for Thomas is probably the next move. His upside is similar to the median of those top tight ends, which creates a nice value situation when considering Thomas’ average draft position.
Jonnu Smith – New England Patriots
Smith has gained plenty of traction while we head into the season. Fellow tight end Hunter Henry will miss time with an injured shoulder. On top of that, the Patriots named rookie Mac Jones their starting quarterback. Both of these pieces will benefit Smith early in the season.
The Patriots will likely play “bully ball” with a hard-nosed rushing attack to set up play action. Smith is a large and experienced red-zone target for his young quarterback. You could argue that he’s the pass-catcher on the field for New England. WRs like Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor are fine, but you aren’t exactly force-feeding them targets.
I’m not saying Jones-to-Smith is the next Brady-to-Gronkowski, but there’s potential here. According to recent ADP data, Smith is listed as TE14. He should probably be listed somewhere closer to TE10 in my opinion. Noah Fant, Robert Tonyan, and Mike Gesicki are in the same range – but I would rather wait on Smith for extra value.
Gerald Everett – Seattle Seahawks
This is purely a speculative risk/reward pick. Gerald Everett hasn’t been a fantasy asset throughout his career. He played four seasons with the Rams while averaging two catches and 23 yards per contest. Everett came through with eight touchdowns in 61 total games. Not great.
However, a change in scenery could serve him well. Everett was splitting snaps and targets with Tyler Higbee in Los Angeles, and now he has Seattle’s tight end spot to himself. He’s getting plenty of glowing reviews from the Seahawks’ camp, which has generated excitement about his fantasy prospects.
Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll dusted off his fantasy pundit hat to predict that Everett would have a breakout season. It’s difficult to trust that due to an underwhelming track record for Seahawk tight ends. However, Everett is one of the most physically gifted players they’ve had at the position in recent memory.
Austin Hooper – Cleveland Browns
I really believe Hooper could be a tight-end sleeper this year. He’s a favorite TE2 choice on my best ball teams. If you find yourself prioritizing other positions, then Hooper makes for one of the best late-round choices available. Here’s why:
Hooper is in his second year with the Browns, meaning his role (and understanding) should grow. He scored double-digit fantasy points in six of 13 games played last season, which is more than serviceable for a filler tight end. He also averaged eight targets per contest in his last six games of the season. Perhaps that could spill into 2021?
Don’t be surprised if the Browns throw a little more than usual this year. Yes, they have a fantastic rushing attack, and that should set up an efficient passing game with exceptional play-action ability. Hooper stands to benefit.
Tyler Kroft – New York Jets
We are getting deep in the weeds now. These guys should only be considered in the last round or two of fantasy football drafts.
That doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice on the upside. Tyler Kroft could emerge as a breakout candidate in 2021. The Jets haven’t produced much from the tight-end position over the last few years, but we have a new coach, scheme, and quarterback in town.
Kroft snagged three touchdowns in the preseason, and he should see a majority of the snaps in New York. He has a clear rapport with QB Zach Wilson, who could favor his big safety valve while getting accustomed to the NFL. Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur’s scheme tends to favor tight ends, and Kroft could benefit.
Pat Freiermuth – Pittsburgh Steelers
When scraping the bottom of the barrel for a streaming tight end, you are trying to find a guy who can snag a touchdown (or two) on any given week. Pat Freiermuth isn’t going to record many catches for respectable yardage, but he’s a massive target who could find the endzone.
Eric Ebron will still see most of the tight-end snaps for Pittsburgh, at least to begin the season. However, Freiermuth makes for an outstanding red-zone target, as he showed with two touchdowns against the Lions this preseason. He’s also a better blocker than Ebron, so don’t be surprised if he’s the primary tight end as we roll through October.
Ben Roethlisberger has raved about the rookie’s ability to catch passes in traffic. It might sound strange to say, but Freiermuth could serve as Pittsburgh’s de-facto goalline option while seeing dedicated looks in the endzone.