Over the years, the tight end position has become increasingly more valuable and relevant in Fantasy Football drafts. Yet, we have seen that it pays to wait on drafting a tight end in recent years. Yes, guys like Travis Kelce and George Kittle are slam dunks, but each year there are late-round tight end standouts that can win your league. Look at Darren Waller in 2019 who finished as TE3, but his ADP was round 13. What about a guy like Gary Barnidge? He was going undrafted in 2015 and finished as TE4. George Kittle and Eric Ebron finished as the TE3 and TE4 in 2018, respectively. Both had ADP’s round 12 or later. It happens every year, and my goal to help you pinpoint who could smash their current ADP. Here are four current tight end fliers that I believe can finish within the top-5 at the position and you should remember come August.
*All ADP data in article pulled from Fantasy Football Calculator*
4. Jonnu Smith
FFC ADP: TE16 (13.8)
For me, this one is fairly straight forward. Outside of AJ Brown, Tannehill has limited pass-catching options. I’m already tired of the Corey Davis truthers. Delanie Walker is now a free agent. The rest of the depth chart consists of veterans Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond, and unproven players. They did not add any pass catchers through the NFL Draft either. The tight end that Bill Belichick himself once
There are a total of 103 targets vacated on the team from 2019. Smith already has a rapport with Ryan Tannehill, and they have been building on that working out together in the offseason, for what it’s worth. While Smith’s numbers were very pedestrian last year (35-439-3), the receptions and yards were both career highs. Smith’s yards-per-reception number came in at 12.5 in 2019, which was good for seventh-best at the tight end position. Bill Belichick has been on record saying Smith is “probably the best tight end in the league after the catch.” What it really comes down to is if Tannehill is forced to throw around 25-30 times in a game, Jonnu’s numbers will benefit greatly.
3. Dallas Goedert
FFC ADP: TE17 (13.12)
A back-up tight end? Really? Yes, really. Even as a “back-up tight end” he finished as the TE10 last season, albeit due to injuries to numerous Philadelphia pass catchers. Well here we are 12 weeks away from the start of the season and the Eagles receiving corps are still dealing with the injury bug. Alshon Jeffery’s lingering foot injury has his 2020 status up-in-the-air. 31-year-old Desean Jackson battled with an abdomen injury in 2019 and has yet to play a full 16-game season since 2013. Zach Ertz also only has played a full 16 in one season since 2015. We saw last year what Goedert can do given an opportunity with five targets in eight of his last nine regular-season games. Doug Pederson loves to run 1-2 (12 personnel) at a high-rate (a league-high 52 percent in 2019), Goedert should be on your radar for a late-round flier. With Jeffery still close to being ready, if there’s an injury to Ertz and/or Jackson, Goedert will walk into top-5 tight end status with ease.
2. Austin Hooper
FFC ADP: TE13 (11.8)
Next up is Austin Hooper. Many must be concerned with the current state of the Browns offense and/or Baker Mayfield because all of the Cleveland pass catchers are being heavily slept on in my opinion. Hilarious, considering the hype this offense had a year ago (“Browns are contending for the Super Bowl!), ha! I digress…look, Baker didn’t look great last year. He didn’t have a multiple-TD game until week 10 and had more interceptions than touchdowns. Baker wasn’t the only problem, though. Last year, both Odell Beckham and Landry were banged up. Baker lost his number 1 tight end David Njoku to injury by Week 2. Also, Kareem Hunt wasn’t put into the mix until week 8 coming off of suspension. Ok, but what does this have to do Hooper you ask?
Hello! The Cleveland offense is full of weapons and is due for a bounce-back season. Hooper factors into that bounce back. Cleveland didn’t give Hooper a four-year, $42 million contract to block. He’s going to be out there running routes and seeing plenty of targets, hopefully in pay dirt. Mayfield in his short NFL career has enjoyed targeting tight ends, especially in the red zone. With Njoku banged up last year, the Cleveland “replacement” tight end group still saw 17 targets in the red zone and scored on five. The year before, Njoku and David Fells saw 10 red zone targets, scoring six touchdowns. The red zone has been Hooper’s moneymaker for the past two seasons: 10 touchdowns on 31 red zone targets. It’s weird to think of Hooper as a “flier”, but especially at this current ADP, he would be a steal in August drafts.
1. Jack Doyle
FFC ADP: TE21 (15.3)
I have a problem, and it is consistently buying into tight ends who will catch passes from Philip Rivers. Here I am once again, buying in, this time touting Jack Doyle. He’s someone I’ve targeted in essentially every best ball draft I’ve done this offseason with his ADP bringing him in as the TE21, going in round 15. Last year he finished as TE15 with Jacoby Brissett throwing him the pigskin and essentially split a workload with Eric Ebron. Insert Rivers into the fold now, and Doyle has a chance to blow his ADP out of the water. Rivers no. 1 tight end option has only finished outside the top 15 one year since 2012. Hunter Henry just finished as TE9 last season in ONLY 12 games played.
One also important factor to keep in mind is that head coach Frank Reich has great success coaching tight ends in his career. This includes guys like Zach Ertz in 2016 (TE6) and 2017 (TE3). Oh, and Reich was Rivers’s offensive coordinator for two seasons from 2014-15. Tight ends have a target share of 23 percent or higher under coach Reich. Unless you believe Trey Burton signing is a threat to Jack Doyle’s target share, you should be targeting Doyle after round 10 in each draft you have this year. Doyle is undeniably my favorite tight end flyer of the year.
The TFA podcast with Kevin Steele (@fantasywrath13) and Cody Kutzer (@CKutzerFF) just broke down their top-12 tight ends for the 2020 season. Go listen and make sure to rate, review and subscribe the podcast with it being on most podcast platforms, YouTube and TheFantasyAuthority.com
Follow Ryan Williams on Twitter @RyanAlexander_W. He co-hosts TFA’s DFS DegeNation Pod with Kevin Steele for daily fantasy during the season each week. Ryan’s TFA contributions can be found here.