2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Tight End Tiers 4.0 and strategies

There's a lot of hullabaloo about tight ends, but it's a position that's basically stuck in Fantasy purgatory. The top-12 tight ends in PPR averaged 11.3 points per game and 7.0 in Non-PPR, and the top dozen finishers at tight end have been scoring about that many points for years.

And you know it's weighted heavily by those rare tight ends who put up numbers like top-15 wide receivers — Travis KelceGeorge Kittle and Zach Ertz combined to average 10.5 Fantasy points per game in non-PPR and 16.9 points per game in PPR last season. 

The rest of the tight ends are kind of annoying. Most of them are only good if they score a touchdown, and you're lucky if a tight end scores six times in a season.

In addition to knowing your lineup requirements and scoring system, you must answer this one simple question:

  • How badly do you want a reliable starting Fantasy tight end?

If you're like me, you want one bad enough. That means targeting Kelce, Kittle, or Ertz in the first two (three if you're lucky) rounds to lock in the statistical equivalent of having Stefon Diggs or Julian Edelman in your tight end roster spot every week. Having one of them differentiates your lineup from the majority of your league and gives you a tight end who puts up bonkers stats. That's a lot better than a tight end who puts up stats that drives you bonkers.

So it should pay off if you take a stud tight end early. The only drawback is missing on a very good player at another position, but so long as you're comfortable with the depth at running back and receiver, you shouldn't care.

It's not exactly unpopular to chase one of these big three guys early. A lot of folks will do it, so you might not even get the chance to take one depending on your draft position. Are you prepared to take Kelce in early Round 2 if you're picking in the 10th, 11th or 12th slot? Are you prepared to make a sad panda face if you're building a team from the first or second overall draft positions and potentially see all three go before you make a choice in Round 2?

If you find yourself without one of the elite studs, don't fret … yet. Evan Engram and O.J. Howard both have enough potential to put them in the same category as Kelce, Kittle and Ertz, but at a cheaper price — typically between 40th and 60th overall. They're in their own tier and are the must-grabs if you want a differentiator at tight end and miss on the big three.

So what happens if you miss on a top-five tight end? Depends. If you like Hunter Henry, you'll take him next, but he's been a little too touchdown-dependent for my liking. His only eight-score season came when Keenan Allen didn't play. If you like Eric Ebron, even understanding that he won't match last year's totals, know that the Colts have added a lot of receiving help that should take his volume down a notch. If you like Jared Cook, you're probably a daredevil — and you might expect him to be a factor in the Saints offense. If you have to choose from this brood, promise yourself not to reach.

You'll probably cry on the inside if you miss on everyone I've already mentioned. Resign yourself to streaming the position and hope to luck out on someone you latch onto. I know, not exactly the most reassuring plan, but what else can you do with so many guys who carry so much uncertainty? 

One idea: go young! Second-year tight end Mark Andrews and rookies Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson figure to see a bunch of playing time right away and at the very least have favorable early-season matchups. Why not take a risk on their fresh legs versus the unexciting guys who are either has-beens (Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham) or potential never-will-bes (Chris Herndon, David Njoku)?

Non-PPR Tight End Tiers

  • Elite (Top 10-30 overall): Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz
  • They might be elite (Rounds 4-6): Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry
  • Very good (Rounds 7-8): Jared Cook , Eric Ebron
  • Start-worthy (Rounds 9-10): Mark Andrews, Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker
  • The rest (Rounds 11+): Vance McDonald, T.J. Hockenson, David Njoku, Noah Fant, Austin Hooper, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, Darren Waller, Tyler Eifert

PPR Tight End Tiers

  • Elite (Top 10-30 overall): Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Zach Ertz
  • They might be elite (Rounds 4-6): Evan Engram, O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry
  • Very good (Rounds 7-8): Jared Cook , Eric Ebron
  • Start-worthy (Rounds 9-10): Mark Andrews, Jordan Reed, Delanie Walker
  • The rest (Rounds 11+): Vance McDonald, T.J. Hockenson, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Noah Fant, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Darren Waller, Tyler Eifert
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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