You want a difference maker at tight end, but you don't want to sacrifice the opportunity to grab a top-five wide receiver to grab Travis Kelce, or a high-end No. 2 running back to take Zach Ertz or George Kittle. I get it. That's why we're here, to provide you with our breakouts at tight end.
You may not get Ertz-level production from these guys, let alone Kelce, but there are more than a few here with legitimate 1,000-yard potential if everything goes right. And the rest all certainly have the potential for the kind of 65-catch, 800-yard, eight-touchdown season that can make you a standout at a tight end position that gets pretty barren pretty quickly.
Our staff of Fantasy Football analysts have put together their favorite breakouts for the tight end position, so make sure you put these guys on your draft board.
Here's who you'll be hearing from:
- Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Dave Richard, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Heath Cummings, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Ben Gretch, CBS Fantasy Editor
- Chris Towers, CBS Fantasy Senior Editor
If you're looking for the No. 5 tight end to draft this season behind Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle and Evan Engram in any format, Howard is your guy. He has the chance to be a monster Fantasy contributor this season -- if he can just stay healthy. Howard has missed eight games in his two-year career, but he's now, which is exciting. Last season, Howard was on the verge of a breakout campaign before being placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury prior to Week 12. He scored at least 11 PPR points in seven of 10 games, and he averaged 12.0 PPR points for the season. That ranked No. 6 in PPR among tight ends behind only Kelce, Ertz, Kittle, Eric Ebron and Jared Cook, and I think Howard is capable of more. It will help if he averages more than the 4.8 targets he had last season, but there are 179 targets to replace on offense from 2018 with Adam Humphries and DeSean Jackson gone. I'm excited for Howard in 2019, and he's someone to draft as early as Round 5 in most leagues.
McDonald had a career season in 2018 in targets (72), catches (50) and yards (610), and he tied his career high in touchdowns (four). But he should exceed all those numbers in a big way in 2019. The Steelers have to replace a lot of production from last year with Antonio Brown and Jesse James gone. That's a combined 207 targets for 134 catches, 1,720 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Steelers signed Donte Moncrief this offseason, and James Washington should take a bigger leap in his sophomore campaign. And obviously there's JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, as well as the team selecting rookie Diontae Johnson in the third round of the NFL Draft from Toledo. But McDonald should have a bigger role as well, and I expect him to end up as a top 10 Fantasy tight end this year.
You already know Engram has been pretty good without Odell Beckham (10 of 14 games with at least 10 PPR Fantasy points). You're about to see Engram put up a career year. He's basically a giant receiver lining up at tight end -- he's fast, big, very difficult to cover and tough. Best of all, he improved on his drops in his second season (from 11 to 3) as well as his yards per game and yards per target. The Giants are going to need him in a major way to stay competitive and he should finish as their receiving savior. I am not afraid to fill my tight end spot with a 1,000-yard candidate like Engram in late Round 4.
Mark Andrews TE
BAL Baltimore • #89
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
This was Lamar Jackson's best target when he played last year, connecting for a 64 percent catch rate and an unheard-of-for-tight-ends 21.2 receiving average. Andrews has looked smashing in training camp so far and figures to be an every-down fixture for the Ravens. The real allure is in his schedule -- the Ravens play at Miami in Week 1 and versus the Falcons in Week 2 before playing at Kansas City in Week 3. These are not tough matchups, which means he's not only suitable as an early-season streamer, but also as a potential long-term stud to carry your Fantasy roster. I could easily see him finish as a top-12 option.
It's pretty ridiculous how efficient O.J. Howard has been his first two years in the league. He's caught 69% of his passes and averaged 16.6 yards per reception. Those are numbers even Gronk would be envious of. In fact, Howard's 11.46 yards per target is the best in the NFL over the past two seasons (minimum 50 targets). Yes, even better than Tyreek Hill. The problem has been the number of targets, not what Howard has done with them. But with 234 targets available in Tampa Bay, there's plenty of room for both Howard and Chris Godwin to break out. Howard deserves to be in that second tier below the big three at tight end, but if he gets 100 targets and comes close to maintaining his efficiency, he'll be in the first tier by the end of the season.
Evan Engram should be the consensus No. 4 tight end by the time draft season gets here, which might make him the second-most popular breakout pick behind Chris Godwin. While it might look like he took a step back last season, that's simply not true. He just got hurt. Engram's catch rate (70.3%) was much better, his yards per catch (12.8) was considerably better and even his yards per game (52.5) improved. That's even more impressive considering he left two games early with injury. Plenty of people have written about Engram's splits without Odell Beckham, and they are very impressive no doubt. But if you just take out those two games he got hurt last year, you see another remarkable pace; 75 catches, 875 yards, five touchdowns.
From an efficiency standpoint, Howard's profile is pristine. He's been over 11 yards per target in both of his seasons, both of which are top-six single-season marks for a TE with his volume since targets were first tracked in 1992. He's scored on over 10% of his targets both seasons as well, giving him the top touchdown rate of any TE with at least 50 targets since 2000. With more targets available in the offseason, 2019 could be the season we see the ascension of the league's next great tight end.
Much like Howard, McDonald's efficiency over the past four seasons since he first started getting consistent work has been very good. It's not on Howard's level, but it's good enough to buy into his ability, and to recognize that even if increased volume leads to an efficiency drop, he should be a productive player. Also much like Howard, the opportunity to set a career high in targets is very much there after the departures of Antonio Brown and Jesse James.
Evan Engram is an elite athlete who has a chance to be the No. 1 receiver in his offense. Sure, that offense will be helmed by either Eli Manning or Daniel Jones, which is hard to get too excited about, but Engram is good enough to overcome that. He had a historically good rookie season, becoming just the second rookie tight end to top 700 yards in the last 30 seasons, and has always been productive with Odell Beckham out of the lineup. Beckham is gone, and Engram could be in line for his first 1,000-yard season.
Jimmy Graham TE
CHI Chicago • #80
Age: 34 • Experience: 11 year
What was the difference between Jimmy Graham's 2017 and his 2018? Well, he was actually more productive in terms of his catch rate, yards per target, and total yards, but he went from 10 touchdowns to two. And it's not like Aaron Rodgers is a scrub, obviously. Graham is a forgotten man in Fantasy circles, but he played the final seven games of the season with a broken thumb and went from averaging 49 yards per game to 28 after that, with no touchdowns post-injury. It seems fair to give him the benefit of the doubt that the injury played a bigger part than that he just lost it.
So which Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.