2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Tight end breakouts

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
Tight end Preview
Breakouts
Jamey Eisenberg's breakouts
Projections powered by Sportsline
TB Tampa Bay • #80
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
52nd
TE RNK
5th
PROJ PTS
187
SOS
9
ADP
57
2018 Stats
REC
34
TAR
48
REYDS
565
TD
5
FPTS/G
12
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.
PIT Pittsburgh • #89
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
127th
TE RNK
12th
PROJ PTS
137
SOS
16
ADP
101
2018 Stats
REC
50
TAR
72
REYDS
610
TD
4
FPTS/G
8.9
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.
Dave Richard's breakouts
Projections powered by Sportsline
NYG N.Y. Giants • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
43rd
TE RNK
4th
PROJ PTS
178
SOS
5
ADP
60
2018 Stats
REC
45
TAR
64
REYDS
577
TD
3
FPTS/G
11.4
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.
BAL Baltimore • #89
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
139th
TE RNK
12th
PROJ PTS
129
SOS
21
ADP
141
2018 Stats
REC
34
TAR
51
REYDS
552
TD
3
FPTS/G
6.7
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.
Heath Cummings' breakouts
Projections powered by Sportsline
TB Tampa Bay • #80
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
52nd
TE RNK
5th
PROJ PTS
187
SOS
9
ADP
57
2018 Stats
REC
34
TAR
48
REYDS
565
TD
5
FPTS/G
12
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.
NYG N.Y. Giants • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
43rd
TE RNK
4th
PROJ PTS
178
SOS
5
ADP
60
2018 Stats
REC
45
TAR
64
REYDS
577
TD
3
FPTS/G
11.4
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.
Ben Gretch's breakouts
Projections powered by Sportsline
TB Tampa Bay • #80
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
52nd
TE RNK
5th
PROJ PTS
187
SOS
9
ADP
57
2018 Stats
REC
34
TAR
48
REYDS
565
TD
5
FPTS/G
12
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.
PIT Pittsburgh • #89
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
123rd
TE RNK
11th
PROJ PTS
136
SOS
16
ADP
103
2018 Stats
REC
50
TAR
72
REYDS
610
TD
4
FPTS/G
8.9
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.
Chris Towers' breakouts
Projections powered by Sportsline
NYG N.Y. Giants • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
59th
QB RNK
3rd
PROJ PTS
339
SOS
24
ADP
46
2018 Stats
REC
45
TAR
64
REYDS
577
TD
3
FPTS/G
11.4
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.
GB Green Bay • #80
Age: 32 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Fantasy Breakdown
OVERALL RNK
168th
TE RNK
17th
PROJ PTS
132
SOS
20
ADP
152
2018 Stats
REC
55
TAR
90
REYDS
636
TD
2
FPTS/G
8.1
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.

Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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